One of the expectations in my ethics course is that each student will examine the values that guide his or her life and will thus ultimately guide them as they counsel others. One reason this is so important is that as counselors we will each eventually counsel someone who happens to have values that conflict with our own. As counselors it is not our role to impose our personal values on the client, nor to place undue pressure on the client to make choices of our—the counselors’—choosing. Rather, the goal is to facilitate learning, to encourage the client to evaluate their own values and how faulty thinking may lead them to violate their own values. The hope of both client and counselor is for the client to learn to make healthy choices, maintain healthy boundaries, and to become fully alive and fully functional contributors to the community in which they live.
This is all very tricky to accomplish (which is why I’m in school for three years learning the hows, whys, what fors, etc. to becoming a licensed professional mental health counselor.) Today I decided to post my course discussion for this past week. I have elaborated a wee bit on three guiding values in my life (but by no means the only values).
Identifying and Assessing Values—Cecelia Futch (as posted in Professional and Scientific Ethics for Counselors/Therapists at Capella University)
Service, humility, repentance; these three are the values that I would consider to be among the most important values in my life at this point.
Service is about what we give to others. Service recognizes that we as individuals are part of a larger whole, and that none of us is here solely of our own volition. We go through stages and periods of our lives, and at each juncture we rely on others to varying degrees for support. It could be reliance on the farmer who grows our food, the collector who carts away our garbage, the nurse who watches our vital signs, the parents who gave us life, and so on. Whatever and wherever we are, we are part of a larger community. At times we have to rely on the community to help support us (I know it sounds socialist—oh well, it is what it is) whether for material goods, or for spiritual or mental sustenance. At other times, when in a position to do so, it is important that each of us “give back” or support the health of the community. That may be through volunteer work, or possibly through our livelihood, or maybe in our religious community. However we do it, service is the activity we participate in that acknowledges we are part of something bigger than our individual self.
Humility is the recognition that we are not all powerful, all knowing beings. Humility reminds me that I am but one person in a sea of humanity, and that there are worlds of information and systems of which I know nothing. Humility also allows me to recognize my strengths, talents, knowledge and ability without overstating or understating (false humility) who I am and that which I bring to this world. Humility also helps me guard (as does service) against a sense of entitlement, which is a form of abuse.
Repentance is what this work, counseling, entails. I do not speak of it in Christian terms, but as Jewish woman, repentance is about turning around and going in another direction. It involves recognizing the errors we have made, resolving to correct those errors, and to change our life for the better, or more holy, way of living. This is essentially what psychotherapy involves. A person recognizes that there is something wrong in their life, that as a result they are experiencing pain, discontent, depression, the list goes on. They seek counseling to clarify what is causing the pain, to consider options that will set them on a new path toward healthier living, or to acquire the tools necessary to walk a new path.
To my understanding, these values tend to be universal but may be expressed in different terms by differing groups . Realizing that these are my personal values, and that others have different values, I tend to think that I would counsel someone according to their values as long as it did not entail harming someone else. Remaining neutral allows the client to form and hold to their personal tenets which guides them in their daily lives which takes place outside the counselor’s office. At the same time, it would be impossible for me to completely hide my values from the client for the simple reason that it is these values that guide my life.
Obviously there is much more to examine and expound upon when it comes to values. As previously stated, these three are not the only values of importance to me, but they are certainly three “biggies.” I encourage you to think about your values and if you feel comfortable in doing so, please share. Feel free to comment on my posting, too. I welcome your feedback.