Psychological Counselling Skills Workshop, 9-13 Apr 2012
Report by Pallavi

Day 1

a) The opening talk on counselling was very nice.

b) The powerpoint presentations could improve in terms of the look ... dark colors make them hard to read.

c) Self awareness module:
  1. It was quite interesting and done nicely in the beginning.. To be specific, we were made to do exercises for finding our qualities, and then finding and sharing our unique quality.
  2. The johari window of self knowledge was not clearly explained and was done in a bit of a haste. The concept could have been dealt with in a better way.
  3. Questions on '3 reasons why we consider ourselves lovable' and '3 reasons why we consider ourselves not lovable' were quite helpful in the context of self-awareness.
  4. The encouragement to introspect and ask ourselves the above kind of questions was done nicely.
  5. Listing down 5 skills, 5 weaknesses were also quite helpful for us to know ourselves better.
  6. After this, we were asked to write down lots of questions on self and answer them. The time given to do this exercise was very less and it was conducted in a haste.
  7. The final question on 'what are we thinking' and 'what are we feeling' after having done this question answer round was a good way to finish the mini-session. From here the discussion moved to feelings, thoughts and emotions.
  8. Distinction between emotions and feelings was not clearly explained and was not clearly understood by many of us. We were read out a list of feelings/thoughts and asked to recognize each of them as thoughts/emotions/feelings and we were asked to understand feelings and emotions as one category. This made the exercise ineffective in my perception since at the end of it, we were not really sure of which ones were thoughts, which ones were emotions and which ones were feelings. We did an exercise on 'what have been our predominant feeling in the recent past'.. this question was very helpful in understanding our recent feelings.
  9. The discussion then went on to handling emotions. We were asked to share 'how do we express our emotions' and then 'how do we manage our emotions'. Anger was taken as an example. This discussion was helpful too. It made us more aware of our behaviour.

Day 2

  1. Stages of counselling: Initial phase - Giving introduction, rapport building, asking feelings-level questions and not curiosity questions, developing sensitivity – this part was good.
  2. Stages of non-directive counselling presentation - As said earlier, the ppt could be improved for better readability.
  3. Rapport building – there was some overlap with the first session such as asking the right type of questions. Otherwise, the session per se was very good.
  4. The live demonstration of cases we can expect in case of students and senior-citizens was very hepful and thought-provoking.
  5. Empathy – we did many activities to explore and understand empathy. They were all helpful in understanding what it means to be empathetic. The last section on 'how to build empathy' was important and perhaps, some more time could have been given to it.
  6. Communication skills – listening- The exercise on listening in pairs was good as also the next exercise of calling 2 volunteers and demonstrating listening. The chinese whispers game was also useful in demonstrating how poor we generally are in listening. The next activity of closing eyes and following instructions from the facilitator to demonstrate the many perceptions we can have was quite revelant and useful too. The importance of this exercise could have been summarised more.
  7. Communication skills – Non verbal communication – The activity done to demonstrate how much we communicate non-verbally was quite good.

Day 3

  1. Powerpoint presentation on ‘Step for a moment and think’ was quite good to make me introspect about our feelings and how transitory they are. The distinction between emotions and feelings was made sufficiently and understood.
  2. Various types of counseling were briefly described and the common thread among all of them was talked about. This was explained well.
  3. Counseling children: This session was very useful. It could have been more interactive by involving one or two activities. But nevertheless, it was well conducted. The importance of rapport building was stressed upon. The summary was also done very well.
  4. Counseling children - Play Therapy: This session was a lot of fun, with lots of activities that could be used when counseling children. It was well conducted.
    Probably, a mini-session on ‘how to create your own activity’ could also have been useful.
  5. Perceptions: This session was quite revealing. We did a few activities and All of them demonstrated how biased we usually are. And how we tend to generalize feelings. The importance of congruence in the context of counseling could have been a little more elaborate.
  6. Paraphrasing: The distinction made between reflecting, re-phrasing and paraphrasing was well explained and understood. The importance of paraphrasing was evidently demonstrated. The real life example taken by the counselor was a very useful and interesting case study to understand and practice paraphrasing.
  7. Positive strokes: The meaning of positive strokes and its need was also briefly talked about while we were discussing paraphrasing. Also, few donts while counseling were briefly discussed which was very helpful in understanding what should not be done and why. The relevant time to give positive strokes could have been elaborated upon.

Day 4

  1. The powerpoint on Mental health and about various aspects of it was very informative.
    The frequent sudden moving on to the next slide by mistake and then back to the previous slide are a little disturbing to the viewer. The activity to recall when in the recent past did our mental health go down was an interesting demonstration of how much stigma we attach to mental health in our nation.
  2. Talk on adolescence: The changes that occur when a child becomes an adolescent and the 4 aspects of self that were discussed in detail. It was a very informative and introspective session. And it was very inspiring too, considering the speaker and his keen interest in helping out his students in issues of adolescence.
  3. Empowering and Positive strokes: This was a very useful session on how to go deeper into the issue and help the counsellee set goals for himself. Some of the issues that we did not touch upon in the previous sessions were also discussed. Positive strokes was again discussed, this time in detail. The activity of giving positive strokes sitting on our right hand side was very similar to the activity of giving positive strokes in pairs which we did yesterday, so the activity could probably have been different today. Various examples of positive strokes were given along with the various times at which they can be given. This was very much required. The importance of smile and touching was also explained.
  4. Workplace counselling: This was a touching talk explaining the various aspects of the work done by Helping hand volunteers in government hospitals and some insight into the poor conditions in government hospitals. The importance of detachment was also evident.
    The basics of touching the heart of the other person, accepting them and recognising them was very well explained. Kudos to all the Helping hand volunteers for their extremely tough and commendable work!
  5. Goal setting: A couple of practical cases were taken to explain how to go about goal setting. Also, what to do when a counsellee is absolutely clueless about how to go forward was discussed which was very useful. The importance of clarification was highlighted. A real time demonstration could also be done to make it even more clear. The summary was done well.

Day 5

  1. Exercise in the counselling process: The counselling exercise that we did in pairs was very useful. Asking the counsellor and counselee to express their feelings was also very relevant. The other question of asking the counselee if the counsellor understood their issue was needed too. The summary of this exercise was done quite well. Many things such as body language, how to terminate, not rushing into goal setting, checking with counselee what all he has tried already before getting into goal setting, the ultimate goal of building mental health were briefly discussed during the question and answer session that followed. It was very helpful. It would have been even better if we were provided such an opportunity to experience real time counselling once more in the last 2 days.
  2. Qualities of a counsellor: This was a good exercise in becoming more aware of the qualities we need to inculcate or grow further as counsellors. In the end, a few more things such as the importance of intonation while communicating and the appropriate distance to be kept between a counsellor-counselee were also briefly well discussed.
  3. The sharing of experiences of the guest speaker followed by a FAQ session which allowed the participants to ask their concerns was useful but could have been better implemented.
  4. Transference and counter transference: Was explained well. Could have been discussed earlier in the course before qualities of a counselor were discussed.
  5. Activity of matching the qualities you and your partner write about you: It was helpful in making us understand the differences between what we are and how we project ourselves to others. The need to understand self and be congruent is what was emphasized during the summary.
  6. Encouraging the counselee towards a spiritual practice if he/she has such a bent of mind was a very helpful advice.
    And becoming aware that only a very small percentage of married couples go to counsellors and hence not becoming prejudiced towards marriage was an important point that was made.
  7. Session on rapport building by guest speaker: I applaud the work done by the guest speaker. Since it was on rapport building, I think it could have been done earlier in the course.

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