By Nick Jones – REBT Counsellor in training
You want to become an REBT counsellor. But you don’t have any prior experience or training. So where do you start?
Before you can sign up for a Diploma in CBT / REBT and start learning all about Albert Ellis’ school of therapy, you need to learn the basics of listening to and engaging with clients. That’s where CCBT’s ‘Counselling Skills & Ethics’ course comes in.
If you’re completely new to therapy and counselling, as I was, you may well have no idea of what’s involved, and what tactics you need to deploy to effectively listen, build relationships and ultimately help someone who has come to you for help. Is it really sitting in a leather armchair asking someone ‘how does that makes you feel’? (OMG NO, we were to learn!)
I attended CCBT’s Counselling Skills and Ethics courses over two weekends at Regent’s University in London with about 30 other prospective counsellors. There was a mix of CBT and counselling experience, with several students like myself with no psychology or clinical skills at all (my background is in digital and social media marketing).
What the course covered
Over the two weekends, we were shown the basics of working as a CBT / REBT counsellor. Whilst we did not go into great detail about the REBT model (that comes later on the Diploma course), we were introduced to the concept of emotional responsibility (and to ask ‘how do you feel about that’ instead!), the basic structure of a counselling session, the three-stage counselling model, and perhaps most importantly to a complete beginner like me, the art and science of active listening.
Whilst the content covering sessions and counselling models is vital and fascinating, learning how to listen, reflect and summarise when working with a client, and the subtle ways you can encourage interaction and strengthen the all-important therapeutic alliance was a revelation. From body language to the use of silences, open questions to paraphrasing what’s just been said, these people-focused skills were practiced in several role-plays over the two weekends.
If like me this isn’t something you’ve done much of before, expect some cringing and corpsing to begin with but you soon get into the swing of things. By the time the course is over, you’ll be method acting like James Dean and be much more confident about eliciting the right information from a client.
These active listening skills are also something you can immediately take away and start using in your everyday life, whether managing conversations at work more effectively or being a better listener and communicator for you family and loved ones.
As well as the above skills around structuring and managing sessions and working with clients, the course also covers many of the ethical questions you may face when dealing with people’s most personal issues. These range from the foundation concept of confidentiality and what that means in practice to discussions around more complex ethical dilemmas and how you, as a counsellor, should respond. These resulted in some lively debates where your knowledge is tested, and preconceptions challenged.
Upon completion, you are awarded a certificate and are then in possession of the basic skills you need to progress to the Diploma. But more importantly, you’ll have confidence in your own abilities to interact and work with others effectively and compassionately, and to believe that maybe, just maybe, you’ll be a counsellor one day.