On any given day, a counselor faces a myriad of clinical practice experiences that can elicit strong emotions not only from their clients but on a personal level as well. Emotions are considered to be responses that help prepare the human mind, body, and spirit to adapt to various challenges that might arise. While the primary focus of therapy will always be on the client, it is important for a counselor to be cognizant of the impact that their emotions can have on the counseling process if they are not properly regulated or managed. A counselor should be aware of potential triggers or contributors to emotional distress and be able to access tools to best address these situations when they arise.
Counselors have emotions similar to their clients. The presence of emotionally charged situations have the ability to create feelings of anxiety, anger, and other unpleasant feelings, particularly in professional settings such as during the counseling process. The counseling process is one that requires a high degree of emotional investment and a counselor has to determine how they plan to approach/address each client experience, in addition to knowing how to best handle the emotional stress that can result from their profession.
How can you demonstrate empathy towards a client and not allow your emotions to override the therapeutic process?
This is a question that many counselors struggle to take to heart and address prior to engaging in any therapeutic relationship. Counselors can feel a sense of responsibility and duty when it comes to knowing how to manage their own emotions so that it does not interfere with the care provided. A balance has to be achieved with providing empathetic care and genuine concern, while not allowing the circumstances of the case to overwhelm one’s own emotional state.
For example, a counselor can potentially experience extreme anger surrounding the circumstances of a client’s case because there are limitations to what can and cannot be done. In situations such as this a counselor can recognize the seriousness of the situation and take the necessary steps to offer assistance in areas where they are able to contribute their knowledge and skills. The adoption of:
- mindfulness exercises
- deep breathing
- engaging in physical activity
these are examples of healthy ways to maintain emotional well-being and overall wellness.
Additionally, in order to maintain that emotional regulation that is needed to be an effective counselor it would be best to enter the process through a subjective lens but delve deeper to demonstrate empathy and become more objective by having a perspective that is outside of their own.
A counselor must learn to adjust to the changing tide of emotions that comes with the therapeutic process, and interacting with clients from all walks of life. However, given the dynamics of the counseling process, a counselor has to be vigilant in order to not allow their emotions to be negatively impacted. Counselors are humans too, and can experience moments of strong emotions. The best tool to address this is awareness. Being aware of these emotions and recognizing their influence on one’s personal life.
Ways to Regulate Strong Emotions
When it comes to techniques that can be employed to regulate strong emotions, it is best to always make it a point to practice, for them to become second nature. For instance, if a counselor has observed that there is a tendency to elicit strong emotions in and out of counseling sessions, a counselor should examine ways to calm their system before it reaches a heightened state.
A helpful resource could be to share the development of these strong emotions with a trusted colleague, which can sooth the emotion and lead to improved regulation. The ability to connect with a professional colleague who is able to provide advice on how to achieve better control of these strong emotions when they do arise, can prove to be instrumental in bringing about a change with future reactions.
In the event that a counselor does exhibit strong emotional reactions that become a pattern of behavior, an important element to achieve regulation is to find useful methods that help you best understand the experience and lessons that can be taken away for future use.
Recommendations for the Future Emotional Regulation
Regardless of whether someone is a counselor or not, emotions will be a factor that is considered with daily interaction. Given that counselors are in a professional role, it is crucial that emotional regulation is a skill that is adopted and practiced throughout the life of your career. An effective counselor is able to practice awareness and access methods for emotional regulation to address what they are experiencing, which allows the primary focus to remain the client. This has to be kept at the forefront of any counselor when they encounter a situation where their emotions might overpower logic.
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