Assuming no prior knowledge of counseling techniques, this highly interactive text takes students step by step through the acquisition of the skills and techniques for effectively helping their future clients. The author's straightforward writing style, clearly stated instructions, and numerous practice exercises prepare students to use assessment information, plan treatment, and implement helping strategies. Coverage encompasses the full complement of commonly used techniques, from basic "building block" skills to more advanced therapeutic skills.
Praise for Learning the Art of Helping
“Young’s long experience as a therapist and training mentor is evident throughout as he leads the novitiate into the essentials of helping….the inclusion of structured reflection opportunities permits the learner to become a participant/observer along the route the author has taken.”
– Deborah J. Youngman, Boston University
“[The text] stands out as a result of the nice flow between the chapters [which] actually mirrors the students’ learning process, the dialogue style that addresses the reader directly, the numerous [opportunities for] self-assessment, [and its] liberal use of client-helper dialogue with examples of good and bad responses. It is a one-stop shop for the beginning helper.”
– Brigitte Matthies, California State University, Los Angeles
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Mark Young is a Professor at the University of Central Florida. He received his doctorate from Ohio University. He has trained helpers for more than 20 years and worked in community mental health, private practice, college counseling centers, and corrections for more than 15 years. His professional writing has focused mainly on therapeutic methods and techniques, wellness, and counseling couples.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
An overarching metaphor is used in this book: that learning the art of helping is a journey with a beginning but no real end point. Those who embark on this quest find it to be a lifelong process of discovery rather than a destination. There is always more to learn about human behavior and the process of change.
Let us take the metaphor one step further. Let us suppose that two people are traveling to a foreign country to learn more about it. One is an engineer and the other is a historian. As they travel together, the engineer will notice and respond to the bridges and buildings, while the historian looks for monuments and clues to the great events of the past. If you were the tour guide for these two people, you would want to know something about each person's interests to accommodate them on the trip. Learning words and phrases that incorporate engineering feats or historical situations might increase interest and make each learner feel that his or her field is important. Similarly, in your journey to become a helper, you bring along your life experience, family history, and cultural background, as well as your biases and prejudices, likes and dislikes. At every stage, you will test your new learning against what you already know. You will accept most readily those things that fit within your present way of looking at the world.
Not every learning environment can achieve this kind of tailor-made curriculum. Your teachers will probably not have the time to really think about the background you bring to this new experience. But you can be responsible for your own learning and integrate new thoughts with what you already know by the process of reflection. In every chapter, there are opportunities to stop and reflect and to engage in additional learning activities. The decision to present the material in this way is based on the philosophy that, as an individual, you carry with you a set of assumptions about the world that affects what you learn and how you assimilate new learning. New material becomes connected to the storehouse of information you have already collected and the skills you presently possess. Reflecting on new material helps you integrate it with what you already know, but it also lays bare your prejudices and untested assumptions. For this reason, the process of reflection is not as benign as it may first appear. If you really become involved in reflecting and make it a habit, you will have made a giant step on your journey. You will have made a commitment to-understanding yourself as well as those you are trying to help.
Reflection means thinking about new learning through writing, contemplation, or discussion with others. It is particularly important to reflect on issues that cause you emotional distress, that clash with what you already know, and that you have trouble grasping. Learning to reflect is a skill that will serve you well in difficult situations on the journey to become a professional helper. Helping is filled with difficult diagnostic, ethical, and practical problems. By incorporating a reflective process early in your journey, you will avoid many of the pitfalls caused by making snap judgments.
There are several effective methods for reflecting. They include discussing your thoughts with a small group, bouncing your ideas off another person, or e-mailing your views to fellow learners and teachers. One of the best ways to learn to reflect is through the use of a journal. A journal is not just a collection of emotional reactions. It should include your feelings about the material, but it should also contain a serious consideration of alternative viewpoints or competing voices. In other words, use reflection when you find yourself at a crossroads between two points of view. Learn to state your current thinking on a particular topic and then write down an alternative-viewpoint as well. For example, you may have learned that advice giving is a very helpful technique in dealing with friends and families. In this book, it is rather strongly stated that you should consider retiring this skill for now because it is not very effective and can, at times, be dangerous. Before deciding on this dilemma, perhaps you could write a bit on the virtues of each argument instead of blindly accepting my premise or rigidly sticking to your own point of view. See if there is a way to integrate these divergent positions.
There is a Japanese exercise called "the pillow technique" that illustrates good reflective thinking. Each corner of the pillow represents an area to ponder when a controversy arises. The exercise begins when you can identify two contrasting viewpoints on a topic; A is true or B is true. For example, A = giving advice is extremely helpful, and B = giving advice is not helpful. In reflecting on the issue, move methodically from one corner of the pillow to the next, giving each point of view due consideration. In the first corner, think of all the reasons you believe that giving advice is extremely helpful. In the second corner, think of all the reasons why advice is not helpful. At the third corner, think of all the reasons why neither A nor B is true, and finally in the fourth corner, list all the ways that A and B might both be true.
Of course, it is not necessary to go through this entire process when you reflect on the material in this book. But it should be a conscious process for which you set aside time. That is why Journal Starters have been included in each chapter. If you wish, you can choose one of the starters and write a new journal entry for each chapter as you go along. Alternatively, you can choose to write in your journal when you experience a conflict or wish to test out a new idea. Try to write about those things that interest, excite, or trouble you. Share your writings with others and reflect together.
Organization of the Book
This book contains 15 chapters and teaches 21 basic building block skills and several more advanced skills as well. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce you to the book, its organization, and its approach. Chapter 3 delves deeply into the therapeutic relationship, perhaps the most important ingredient for producing change. Chapter 4, new to this edition, introduces the topic of differences between helper and client that create challenges and barriers. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 teach the basic helping skills, including nonverbal skills, opening skills, reflecting, and advanced reflecting. Chapter 9, entitled "Challenging Skills," teaches how to give feedback and how to confront inconsistencies in a client's story. Chapter 10 is an overview of basic assessment techniques to collect data and gain a clearer picture of the client and the client's problems. Chapter 11 adds goal-setting skills so that you can narrow down the list of client issues and focus on the host important. Chapter 12 is called "Solution Skills." Solution skills are techniques to assist clients in creatively solving problems. Chapter 13, "Outcome Evaluation and Termination Skills," explains how to set and measure outcomes and how to deal with the final phase of the helping relationship. The final two chapters of the book, Chapters 14 and 15, are organized around curative, or "therapeutic," factors. These are the "megaskills" that helpers from different persuasions commonly use to enhance client growth. In this book, we describe six factors. The first is the therapeutic relationship, which is covered in Chapter 3. It is so important that I decided to address this early in the book. The remaining curative factors are enhancing efficacy and self-esteem (Chapter 14), practicing new behaviors (Chapter 14), lowering and raising emotional arousal (Chapter 15), activating client expectations, motivation, and hope (Chapter 15), and providing new learning experiences (Chapter 15). Under each of these therapeutic factors, you will learn standard helping techniques such as role-playing, relaxation, and refraining. Although these techniques are more advanced, once you have established the foundation with the building blocks, you will be ready to construct these more elaborate methods.
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