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Summary:
Week 5 Assignment 2: Student Workbook Exercises for The Skilled Helper – Part 1

Complete the assignment chapter in your Egan workbook.  Type up your responses and number them accordingly.

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Chapter 7

HELPER SELF-CHALLENGE

Inviting our clients to challenge themselves is a deeply personal and difficult process. Invitations should be framed within a caring, genuine, and empathetic therapeutic relationship. Further, inviting clients to self-challenge can be enhanced by fully understanding clients’ experiences, promoting responsibility, and focusing on outcomes. The following exercises are aimed at enhancing your ability to invite clients to self-challenge. You need to challenge yourself before inviting others to challenge themselves. Read “The Guidelines for Effective Invitations to Self-Challenge” before doing these exercises. EXERCISE 7.1: EARNING THE RIGHT TO INVITE CLIENTS TO CHALLENGE THEMSELVES One of the principal ways you put yourself in the position of inviting clients to challenge themselves is developing and maintaining a decent collaborative relationship with the client. Reread what is said about an effective therapeutic relationship in Chapters 1 and 2 and earning the right to invite clients to challenge themselves in Chapter 7. Then evaluate how effective you have been in developing your relationship skills. 1. What have you done both inside the training group and outside to become better at building relationships? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 2. What about you gives you the “right” to invite clients to challenge themselves?

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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 3. Share what you have written with a learning partner. Try to find one who knows you well. See if you get any new insights from this discussion. EXERCISE 7.2: INVITATIONS TO SELF-CHALLENGE THAT PROVIDE “CHOICE STRUCTURE” Reread the parts of Chapters 5 and 7 dealing with nudging, choice structure, and decision making. When clients face difficult decisions, your job is to help them face up to these decisions. How you provide

 

“choice structure” and “nudge” them toward life-enhancing decisions is critical. The following cases involve, directly or indirectly, invitations to self-challenge. Evaluate them by discussing your reactions with a learning partner. Case 1. This client is in dire financial straits. He has been discussing the possibility of filing for bankruptcy with his financial counselor. At one point the counselor says, “I know that you want to do everything possible to avoid bankruptcy. If it is inevitable, I think that you might want to choose it rather than be forced into it. I wondering if this is a good time to discuss both the upside and the downside of bankruptcy. It might put you in a better position to make a choice.” Discuss your reaction to this invitation with a learning partner. Upside? Downside? Case 2. This client has been talked into an abortion by both her parents and her boyfriend. Since then she has manifested many of the symptoms of PTSD. “I know that you’re really feeling awful about the abortion. It might help to explore what’s driving your feelings. You can’t keep refusing to discuss why you feel so bad. Do you think you caved in to pressure? Or is it something else? If you don’t talk about what’s making you feel so bad, you won’t get anywhere. But I’m not sure you’re ready to do that or not. How can I help you?” Discuss your reaction to this invitation with a learning partner. Upside? Downside? Case 3. This client sees his brief affair with another woman as one of the worst mistakes of his life. He has kept it to himself, but it is haunting him. “I can understand why you want to tell your wife about the affair. You really want to ‘come clean’ as a way of putting the affair behind you. You see it as a way of being honest, not just with her, but with yourself. But you do seem hesitant to tell her. It might be useful to explore your hesitancy, especially because you don’t want to cause her any further anguish.” Discuss your reaction to this invitation with a learning partner. Upside? Downside? EXERCISE 7.3: EFFECTIVE VERSUS INEFFECTIVE CHALLENGE The way in which you challenge clients is extremely important. You need to challenge others in such a way that they will respond rather than react to your invitations. In this exercise, you are asked to practice on yourself. It goes without saying that you should not practice ineffective challenging on others, even colleagues in your training group. 1. Choose an area in which you feel that you need to challenge yourself. It can relate either to a problem situation or some unused resource or opportunity. 2. Write out a self-challenge statement in which you violate the principles of effective challenging outlined in Chapter 6 & 7. 3. Then write a self-challenge statement that embodies these principles. Example. This therapy trainee is challenging himself on a certain lack of discipline in his life. Poor invitation to self-challenge: “You’re disorganized and lazy. Your room and your desk are continually messy and your excuse is that you are so busy. But that’s a lame excuse. You waited until the end of the course to do the required papers and therefore their quality is poor. In some ways it is worse in your interpersonal life. You’re always late. Others have to wait for you. It’s a way of saying you’re more

 

important than others. You’re just inconsiderate. Since all of this is so ingrained in you, you’re not going to change—unless something drastic happens.” Effective invitation to self-challenge: “You do reasonably well in school and your social life is quite decent. However, there is the possibility that both could be even more satisfying. At school you tend to put things off, sometimes to the point that rushing affects the quality of your work. For instance, end-of semester papers. Since you pride yourself on giving your best, putting things off like that is not fair to yourself. You keep telling yourself it’s time to get better organized, but you need to come up with a plan for doing so. What would some of the elements of such a plan be?” 4. Share both forms of self-challenge with a learning partner and discuss. The flaws in the poor self challenge could be subtle or quite evident. Identifying what makes the “appropriate” challenge effective is important. EXERCISE 7.4: CHALLENGING YOUR OWN UNUSED STRENGTHS Inviting clients to challenge unused or partially used strengths rather than weaknesses is one of the principles of effective challenge. In this exercise you are asked to challenge yourself with respect to your own unused or underused strengths and resources, especially those that would help make you a better therapist. 1. Briefly identify some problem situation or unused opportunity. 2. As in the example, indicate how some unused or underused strength or strengths you have could be applied to the management of the problem situation or unused opportunity. 3. In addition, indicate some actions you might take to make use of underused strengths. Example 1. Katrina, a trainee in her early 20s, is concerned about bouts of anxiety. She has led a rather sheltered life and now realizes that she needs to “break out” in a number of ways if she is to be an effective counselor. The counseling program has put her in touch with all sorts of people, and this is anxiety-provoking. She lists some of the strengths she has that can help her overcome her anxiety. Description of underused strengths or resources and some possible actions: “I’m bright. I know that a great deal of my anxiety comes from fear of the unknown. I’m intellectually adventuresome. I pursue new ideas. Perhaps this can help me be more adventuresome in seeking new experiences involving relationships.” Actions I can take to develop and use these resources: “The best way to dissipate my fears is to face up to situations that cause them. New ideas don’t kill me. I bet new experiences won’t either. People find me easy to talk to. This can help me form friendships. My fears have kept me from developing friendships. However, developing more relationships is one of the best ways of preparing to be with clients.” 4. Now apply the same procedure to one problem situation and one unused opportunity. 1. Problem situation. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

 

Underused strengths as applied to the problem situation. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Actions you could take to make use of this underused resource in this problem situation. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 2. Unused opportunity. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Underused strengths as applied to the unused opportunity. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Actions you could take to make use of this underused resource to develop this opportunity. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ EXERCISE 7.5: TENTATIVENESS IN THE USE OF CHALLENGING SKILLS As noted in the text, invitations to self-challenge are usually more effective if they do not sound like accusations. Therefore, in challenging clients, don’t accuse them, but don’t be so tentative that the force of the challenge is lost. 1. Return to Exercise 6.8 on advanced empathy in Chapter Six. 2. With a learning partner, review the responses you wrote there in terms of tentativeness. 3. Improve responses that would benefit from more or less or better expressed tentativeness. 4. Share your redone responses with a learning partner and provide mutual feedback. DEALING WITH RELUCTANCE AND RESISTANCE In order to recognize reluctance and resistance in clients, it helps to first be able to recognize the same tendencies within yourself and learn how to manage them in your own life. These exercises help you look at your own reluctance and resistance.

 

EXERCISE 7.5: MY OWN RELUCTANCE IN EMBRACING DEVELOPMENTAL CHALLENGES Since living more effectively requires hard work, is sometimes painful, and entails risk, all of us express reluctance from time to time. This exercise targets your own reluctance to become more than you are. 1. Review the developmental challenges in your life you identified in EXERCISE 6-1. 2. Identify three areas or ways in which you have been reluctant to grow or change. Spell them out in some detail. Note the difference between reluctance and resistance. First area of reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Second area of reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Third area of reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 3. Have your learning partner pick one of these areas, one that he or she thinks might stand in the way of being an effective helper. Have a 15 minute counseling session with him or her. During the session find one or more opportunities to invite him or her to self-challenge. Video it. 4. Use the video in debriefing the session with your learning partner. Get feedback on your communication style and your ability to invite clients to challenge themselves. 5. Switch roles and repeat the exercise. EXERCISE 7.6: IDENTIFYING AREAS OF RELUCTANCE RELATED TO BECOMING AN EXCELLENT PROFESSIONAL The assumption is that you want to be more than a run-of-the-mill professional. However, most professions, including psychotherapy, are of their very nature very demanding. Therefore, it is not uncommon to feel some reluctance to dive into the work needed to become a top-notch professional. This is not about competition. It is about excellence. In this exercise you are asked to take a good look at your own areas of reluctance.

 

Example. Michaela, 19, a first-year student in clinical psychology, has this to say about developing a sense of responsibility: “The more I learn about the world, the more I see how comparatively easy life has been for me. Everything has been given to me. I’m a product of the American dream. I had an easy time in high school. College was a bit more demanding, but I eased by. But the first months of graduate school have been jarring. Becoming a really good professional is very demanding. As I look down the road I see that grad school more accurately reflects the real world. Without getting into useless guilt trips, I realize I’m spoiled. I also realize that old habits do not die easily. I still expect things to be handed to me on a platter. I’m reluctant to face up to the realities of imposed schedules, competition, demanding work, and budgets. It is very difficult for me to accept that some of my learning is going to come from making mistakes, being challenged, and having to do things over. And research seems to be such a tedious occupation. Am I in the right place?” Now identify three areas of your own reluctance to face the demands of becoming a first-class professional. First area of reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Second area of reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Third area of reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 3. As you share these instances of personal reluctance with a learning partner, see if you can identify any underlying themes that run through all three areas. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 4. Choose one of the areas or the theme that runs through all three and indicate what you might do in order to overcome your reluctance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________________________________ EXERCISE 7.7: MY OWN EXPERIENCE OF RESISTANCE Recall that resistance is a reaction to someone’s trying to force you to change when you don’t want to. The other person may or may not be pressuring you, but you feel pressured. You may even think that the other person has a point, but the fact that he or she is telling you what to do causes you to react negatively rather than respond constructively. 1. Recall two instances when you resisted growth because you felt you were being forced into it. 2. Indicate how you could have transformed that negative experience into a positive one for yourself. Example. Manfred, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work, recalls being badgered by a former girlfriend: “Elise was out to reform me. It’s not that I was not in need of reform during my college years. But the way she went about it turned me off. For instance, I drank too much. But she lectured me in private. Then she embarrassed me in front of my friends—her way of getting my attention. Before going out to major events like the homecoming dance, she laid down rules and made me promise to keep them. Otherwise she wouldn’t go out with me. Things like that.” When asked how that negative experience could have been turned into a positive one, he had this to say: “The substance of what she was saying actually made sense. But I would have done better if she had backed off a bit, quite a bit at times. For instance, instead of laying down rules to prevent disasters, she could have quietly left the scene if they did occur. If she had said that she was no longer having fun and was going home and then just did it a couple of times, I think that would have been a real wake-up call for me. I could have said all of this to her, but I never did. I just reacted.” One instance of resistance in your own life: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Indicate how that negative experience could have become a positive one for you. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

A second instance of resistance in your own life: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Indicate how that negative experience could have become a positive one for you. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ EXERCISE 7.8: YOUR ROLE IN CAUSING CLIENTS TO RESIST Resistance in clients is often prompted by real or perceived coercion on the part of the helper. As a helper, you may not think that you are putting any undue pressure on a client, but he or she might feel that you are. That is, you don’t intend to be coercive but nevertheless you come across that way. For example, let’s assume that you are very open about yourself. That’s the way you grew up. However, when you place a demand on others for higher levels of self-disclosure than they are ready for, they may clam up. Therefore, there is much to be gained from knowing what aspects of your own style might come across to others as subtly, or not so subtly, coercive. Example: Marisol, 42, is an experienced counselor working in a health-care facility. Recently, she transferred within the hospital from the emergency room where she handled individuals and families in crisis to the oncology unit. She talks about how her emergency-room style has caused problems in the oncology unit: “Down in the ER we had to work fast and I got good at making things happen. Now I’m in oncology and I’m getting on people’s nerves. I feel like I’m out of synch. I want to help both staff and patients make decisions but our timetables are all different. I’m moving fast, you know, the way I did in the emergency room. And I want people to move at my pace. I’m scaring some people. Others are grateful for my assertiveness and candor. I need to tailor my style to the unit, to the different situations, and to different people. I have to pay close attention to what people need and then pace myself.” 1. Jot down some aspects of your interpersonal style that might be seen as coercive by others. If you see none, don’t invent any. Just say so. Coercive aspects of your style. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

 

Changes that would help. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 2. Discuss with your partner what aspects of your helping style could be a problem for at least some clients. Finally, talk about ways of changing or softening your style.

 

Egan, Gerard. Student Workbook Exercises for Egan’s The Skilled Helper, 10th (Page 91). Cengage Textbook. Kindle Edition.

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