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Facing These Challenges in Your Career Counselling Sessions?

Manisha Bapna

Career guidance at its core is a form of counselling and, therefore, requires clients to open up to their counsellors. But, people often view career counselling as a mechanical process that just tests aptitude and provides results and so, aren’t able to fully benefit from the experience. This usually lies at the root of some of the most common challenges you can face as a career counselling professional.

Many clients - knowingly or unknowingly - refrain from opening up about their interests to counsellors. Therefore, a large part of counselling requires you to get clients to trust you and see you as someone they can talk freely to.

There could be various reasons behind this behaviour -  fear of taking responsibility, fear of the counselling process, fear of acceptance, fear of rejection, etc. Even the best of counsellors have to deal with such issues, and responding in the wrong way — by pushing back at the client or withdrawing — can affect the client's progress, and your reputation as a counsellor.

Here are some situations that you’re likely to come across during sessions and how you can go about dealing with them smoothly:

Situation 1 - The client is not willing to talk and share details.

If the client is not willing to talk to you, try to help them see that they can trust you. Here’s what you can say -

I can’t force you to talk about anything. It’s completely your choice. In fact, if I ever try to force you to talk about anything, please do point it out to me”.

If there is still no response from the client, try to relate to what they must be feeling -  

You know, counselling can be a really unusual experience - you’re supposed to walk in here and meet a total stranger, sit down with him/her and share the important stuff in your life. Well, I really don’t expect that. Instead, what I’d like to do is to begin by telling you about all the positive things I’ve been told about you and you can tell me if they’re right or not.”

Situation 2 – The client has been forced to attend the counselling session, and hence may lie or show disinterest in communicating.

If the client does not show any interest in the session, you need to remain calm and patient. Your focus should be to give enough space to the client, so they can open up and start communicating. You could share some stories related to your personal experiences and make the client feel comfortable. You could also pick up a topic of their interest, like sports and encourage them to participate in the discussion.

Situation 3 – The client and their parents get disrespectful during the session as the assessment and the counsellor had a different perspective on the client’s career choices.

It is a herculean task to maintain composure when someone is insulting you. In such a situation, getting defensive may not be the best solution. If you feel like they aren’t going to be on the same page as you, it’s best to find a way to terminate the session. Based on the exact issue they have, you can put them in touch with the relevant person at Mentoria who will then solve it for them.

Situation 4 – The client gets angry or upset.

The best way to calm angry clients is to avoid arguing, making excuses or justifying actions and reactions. Instead, validate the client's feelings by saying, "You're angry with me because …." and asking "Am I hearing you right?" And even if it doesn't feel fair, apologise to them, tell them you're sorry to have made them angry.

But, keep in mind that expressing empathy needs to be done properly and without challenging the client. You should acknowledge the emotion that is driving their behaviour, and then emphasise that it's not acceptable for them to make threats or swear, refuse to pay for services, or simply not show up.

Situation 5 – Some clients say they really want to change, and then fight every inch of the way to make sure they don't.

When the client is resisting and you retaliate with irritation, it affects the process of counselling and becomes a war.  Instead, you can praise the client's resistance by saying,

You are making headway into the process of change, just focus on small steps to make it happen. You will surely achieve success".  

You should collect clues from the client’s behaviour and explore how they generally behave towards others. Treat this as an opportunity to work on something and avoid getting defensive.

Situation 6 - Clients who think that the counsellor is terrible at their job and they have every right to question credentials, challenge session decisions or even decide to end the relationship.

It’s best to make clear from the beginning what kind of help your clients can expect from you, so that they don’t come to you with problems you’re not equipped to solve. However, if you still come across a situation like this, keep your calm and tell them that you are not the best person to give them the information they want, and maybe refer them to someone else. If the client is still unsatisfied, you can tell them,

It seems like we're not on the same page about our expectations and our mutual responsibilities. I am aware of my responsibilities towards you (client) and towards my work and process. However, if you feel like this is not working for you, please let me know what I can do to end this smoothly.

As a counsellor, you will deal with many such people and situations. The best way to go about it is to maintain your composure and professionality. If you still find it difficult to deal with certain kinds of clients, you can attend the workshops that we organise for counsellors to equip you to deal with any tough spots you may find yourself in as a career counsellor.



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