Skills & Qualities Required for a Counselor
The child must trust that
1. You will not harm them.
2. You will be supportive of them.
3. You will look after their basic needs.
Important things to keep in mind so you have the best rapport with the child
- Explain to the child simply and briefly in basic terms what will be happening to them in terms of therapy.
- Introduce yourself and explain what you do.
- Check if the parent has given consent for the child to participate in counseling sessions.
- If you are seeing the child alone, let them know where the parent of the child or anyone who they trust is waiting.
- If the child has traveled from far or has been waiting for a long time, ask the child if they are hungry or thirsty. Take care of their basic needs.
Basic skills to help You better Communicate & Understand the Child
1. Listening skills – The child needs to know that you are giving them your complete attention and you’re listening to them carefully. They are being extremely vulnerable in front of you and it is important for them to know that you hear them.
2. Understanding skills – Summarize what you’ve understood and clarify what you don’t understand. This way the child knows that you are trying to understand their situation and what they’re saying. It makes them form a bond of trust with you, which enables further communication.
3. Problem solving skills – Help the child define the problem to you. You are not telling them the problem. They are telling you. Listen to what they are saying and reflect it back to the child so they are telling you their story and you aren’t imposing yours on them. It shouldn’t be your definition of the problem. It should be theirs.
Qualities of a Counselor
- Empathy – You should be able to understand what the child is feeling and be able to reflect it back to them.
- Respect – The child needs to know that you think they are worthy of your attention. You have to communicate this to the child.
- Genuineness – Be honest with yourself and your thoughts and feelings and be honest with the child. Let the child feel and understand that you really want to help them.
- Acceptance – The child’s culture and beliefs are very important to them, so their beliefs should be important to you as well. Allow the child to cry, be angry, vent whatever they have pent up in them.
One of the reasons your role is so vital is that the agencies and individuals your child will be dealing with generally have fragmented responsibilities. Most likely no one individual will be overseeing the big picture. So even if the only thing you do is monitor the child’s case and make sure he/she doesn’t fall through the cracks, you can save their life literally and figuratively.
Another reason your role is pivotal is that although most individuals in the system will be helpful to the child, there are still a significant number who are hostile. It only takes one such hostile official to disillusion the child back into isolation and despair. It is in encounters with these individuals, that quick intervention on your part will make all the difference in the world.