The Leader as Counselor
2-1. To be effective, counseling must be a shared effort. Leaders assist their subordinates in identifying strengths and weaknesses and creating plans of action. Once an individual development plan is agreed upon, leaders support their Soldiers and Army Civilians throughout implementation and continued assessment. To achieve success, subordinates must be forthright in their commitment to improve and candid in their own assessments and goal setting.
2-2. Army leaders evaluate Army Civilian job performance using procedures prescribed under civilian personnel policies. Use of DA Form 4856 is appropriate to counsel Army Civilians on professional growth and career goals. The servicing civilian personnel office should be consulted when using a DA Form 4856 to counsel an Army Civilian concerning misconduct or poor performance.
2-3. Army leaders conduct counseling to help subordinates become better team members, maintain or improve performance, and prepare for the future. While it is not easy to address every possible counseling situation, leader self-awareness and an adaptable counseling style focusing on key characteristics will enhance personal effectiveness as a counselor. These key characteristics include:
- Purpose: Clearly define the purpose of the counseling.
- Flexibility: Adapt the counseling approach to each subordinate, situation, and relationship.
- Respect: View subordinates as unique, complex individuals with distinct values, beliefs, and attitudes.
- Communication: Establish open, two-way communication with subordinates using verbal and nonverbal actions (such as body language or gestures). Effective counselors listen more than they speak.
- Support: Encourage subordinates through direction, guidance, and supportive actions.
The Qualities of the Counselor
2-4. Army leaders must demonstrate certain qualities to be effective counselors. These qualities include respect for subordinates, self-awareness, cultural awareness, empathy, and credibility.
2-5. One challenging aspect of counseling is selecting the proper approach to a specific situation. To counsel effectively, the technique used must fit the situation, leader capabilities, and subordinate expectations. Sometimes, leaders may only need to give information or listen, while in other situations a subordinate’s improvement may call for a brief word of praise. Difficult circumstances may require structured counseling followed by definite actions, such as referrals to outside agencies.
2-6. Self-aware Army leaders consistently develop and improve their own counseling abilities. They do so by studying human behavior, understanding the kinds of problems that affect their subordinates, and developing their interpersonal skills. The techniques needed to provide effective counseling vary from person to person and session to session. However, general skills that leaders will need in almost every situation include active listening, responding, and appropriate questioning.
2-7. Military leaders are trained to analyze missions, identify required tasks, and take appropriate actions. Some of these skills apply to counseling as leaders use problem-solving and decisionmaking skills to identify and apply the proper counseling techniques to specific counseling situations.
2-8. To be effective, counselors must have these basic counseling skills:
- Active listening.
- Appropriate questioning.
2-9. Active listening implies listening thoughtfully and deliberately to capture the nuances of the subordinate’s language. Stay alert for common themes. A subordinate’s opening and closing statements as well as recurring references may indicate personal priorities. Inconsistencies and gaps may indicate an avoidance of the real issue. Certain inconsistencies may suggest additional questions by the counselor.
2-10. Active listening communicates that the leader values the subordinate and enables reception of the subordinate’s message. To capture and understand the message fully, leaders listen to what is said and observe the subordinate’s mannerisms. Key elements of active listening include:
- Eye contact. Maintaining eye contact without staring helps show sincere interest. Occasional breaks of eye contact are normal and acceptable, while excessive breaks, paper shuffling, clock- watching, and repeated mobile telephone checks may indicate a lack of interest or concern.
- Body posture. Being relaxed and comfortable will help put the subordinate at ease. However, an overly relaxed position or slouching may be interpreted as a lack of interest.
- Head nods. Occasional nodding indicates attention and encourages the subordinate to continue.
- Facial expressions. Keep facial expressions natural and relaxed to signal a sincere interest.
- Verbal expressions. Refrain from talking too much and avoid interrupting. Let the subordinate do the talking, while keeping the discussion on the counseling subject.
- Check for understanding. Paraphrase or summarize points back to the subordinate for confirmation; for example, “What I heard was…”.
2-11. Leaders pay attention to the subordinate’s gestures to understand the complete message. By watching a subordinate’s actions, leaders identify the emotions behind the words. Not all actions are proof of feelings but they should be considered. Nonverbal indicators of leader and subordinate attitude include:
- Interest, friendliness, and openness. Be aware that counselor actions must be context and situation specific. For example, leaning toward the subordinate may be considered as expressing interest or being aggressive—the counselor must be able to understand how the subordinate will interpret this action.
- Self-confidence. Standing tall, leaning back with hands behind the head, and maintaining steady eye contact.
- Anxiety. Sitting on the edge of the chair with arms uncrossed and hands open.
- Boredom. Drumming on the table, doodling, clicking a ballpoint pen, or resting the head in the palm of the hand.
- Defensiveness. Pushing deeply into a chair, glaring, or making sarcastic comments as well as crossing or folding arms in front of the chest.
- Frustration. Rubbing eyes, pulling on an ear, taking short breaths, wringing the hands, or frequently changing total body position.
2-12. Leaders consider each indicator carefully. Although each may reveal something about the subordinate, do not judge too quickly. When unsure, leaders look for reinforcing indicators or check the subordinate to understand the behavior, determine what underlies it, and allow the subordinate to understand the conditions that led to the behavior and to take responsibility.
2-14. Although focused questioning is an important skill, counselors should use it with caution. During professional growth counseling, leaders should ask open-ended questions to obtain information or to get the subordinate to think deeper about a particular situation. Questions should evoke more than a yes or no answer and not lead toward a specific answer or conclusion. Well-posed questions deepen understanding, encourage further discussion, and create a constructive experience. Too many questions can aggravate the power differential between a leader and a subordinate and place the subordinate in a passive mode. The subordinate may also react to excessive questioning, especially if it resembles an interrogation, as an intrusion of privacy and become defensive.
Counseling techniques are methods that leaders can use to achieve a desire impact on the soldier. ATP 6-22.1 provides the following information.
2-35. The Army leader can select from several techniques when counseling subordinates. These techniques may cause subordinates to change behavior and improve upon their performance. Counseling techniques leaders may explore during the nondirective or combined approaches include:
- Suggesting alternatives: Discuss alternative actions that the subordinate may take. Leader and subordinate together decide which course of action is most appropriate.
- Recommending: Recommend one course of action, but leave the decision to the subordinate.
- Persuading: Persuade the subordinate that a given course of action is best, but leave the final decision to the subordinate. Successful persuasion depends on the leader’s credibility, the subordinate’s willingness to listen, and mutual trust.
- Advising: Advise the subordinate that a given course of action is best. This is the strongest form of influence not involving a command.
2-36. Techniques to use during the directive approach to counseling include:
- Corrective training. Teach and assist the subordinate in attaining and maintaining the required standard. A subordinate completes corrective training once consistently meeting standards.
- Commanding. Order the subordinate to take a given course of action in clear, precise words. The subordinate will face consequences for failing to execute.
Read The Mentor: Everything you need to know about leadership and counseling for more information about Counseling, Leadership, Corrective Training, and Separations in the Army.
What Is Humanistic Therapy?
Humanistic therapy describes a range of different types of therapy that focus on a person as an individual with unique potential and abilities. Instead of concentrating on what is wrong with people, this type of therapy is more focused on helping them overcome their difficulties through personal growth.
Humanistic therapy grew out of humanistic psychology, a perspective that stresses that people are innately good. This approach tends to be more holistic and looks at the whole person rather than just a single area of a person’s life. By emphasizing a person’s skills and positive characteristics, it encourages people to heal and find personal fulfillment.
Types of Humanistic Therapy
There are a number of different types of humanistic therapy. Some of these include:
- Client-centered therapy: Also known as person-centered therapy, this approach involves the therapist taking a non-directive approach to the therapy process. The individual acts as an equal partner, while the therapist offers empathy and unconditional positive regard.
- Existential therapy: This is a philosophical approach to therapy that works to help people better understand their place in the universe. It works by helping people explore the things that bring meaning to their life. People learn to accept responsibility for their own choices and recognize that they have the power to make changes in order to bring more meaning and purpose to their lives.
- Gestalt therapy: This form of humanistic therapy focuses on a person’s current life and experiences rather than looking at their past. It places a great deal of emphasis on how the individual perceives and makes meaning out of their experiences.
- Logotherapy: This type of therapy focuses on helping people find ways to endure life’s difficulties and find a sense of purpose and meaning. It proposes that finding meaning in life can help improve mental well-being and relieve symptoms of conditions including depression, grief, and trauma.
- Narrative therapy: This approach to therapy helps people identify their values and skills by focusing on their personal stories and experiences. It strives to help people see that they are separate from their problems.
Humanistic therapy is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different types of therapy. The specific type of humanistic therapy that is right for you may depend on your goals and what symptoms are being treated.
Humanistic therapists use a number of techniques that are designed to support people as they work toward change. Some of the main techniques that are frequently used include:
- Congruence: This technique is essential to humanistic therapy and involves the therapist being authentic, open, and genuine as they interact with the individual who is in therapy.
- Empathetic understanding: This involves the therapist not only understanding what the client is feeling and saying, but also communicating that understanding to the client. The individual should feel heard, seen, and understood.
- Reflective listening: This involves actively listening to the individual and then summarizing what the client has said in their own words. This strategy can help reinforce what the client is saying, allow them to reflect back on their own words, and clear up potential misunderstandings.
- Unconditional positive regard: This technique involves the therapist accepting the individual without judgment. It is characterized by a caring attitude that plays an important role in fostering self-worth, personal growth, and self-awareness.
Because humanistic therapy is focused on the present, it may also utilize a practice known as mindfulness to help people become more aware of themselves and their environment.
Therapists utilize these techniques to support people as they develop greater self-awareness. These techniques are focused on solving specific problems; instead, their goal is to encourage people to view themselves as capable of directing their own behavior and achieving their unique goals.
What Humanistic Therapy Can Help With
There is not a great deal of research on the efficacy of humanistic therapy for specific conditions. This may be in part because these approaches focus less on measurable symptoms and outcomes. However, humanistic therapy has been used to treat a range of different mental health conditions. Some of these include:
This approach can also be helpful for people who are not focused on treating a specific condition. Those who are interested in maximizing their potential and growing as a person may benefit from humanistic therapies.
Benefits of Humanistic Therapy
One benefit of humanistic therapy is that this approach can be a great source of empathy and support. Because therapists are trained to be non-judgemental and listen with understanding, you may feel more comfortable opening up and sharing your feelings.
Humanistic therapy also allows the individual to play an active role in their treatment, while the therapist acts as a knowledgeable, trusted guide.
Because humanistic therapy focuses on a person’s positive qualities, it can help people feel more empowered and active in the process of making changes in their lives. Rather than feeling overwhelmed or dragged down by problems, it encourages people to focus on their strengths and use those skills to fulfill their needs.
This approach to therapy can also be a good way to learn coping skills—including problem-solving and stress relief—that will be helpful whenever you are faced with problems in your life. Because it fosters self-esteem and self-efficacy, you’ll feel more capable as you deal with challenges.
Research suggests that humanistic therapy can be an effective treatment approach when dealing with a range of disorders and other difficulties.
- A 2013 review of the research found that client-centered therapy was an effective approach in the treatment of depression, psychosis, relationship problems, and trauma.
- A 2017 study found that young people experiencing psychological distress showed improvement in emotional symptoms after receiving humanistic counseling.
- A 2019 exploratory trial compared client-centered therapy to trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy in the treatment of mothers and children who had experienced trauma. While the results indicated that client-centered therapy led to significant symptom reduction in children, CBT was found to be much more effective at reducing symptoms in mothers.
Things to Consider
Humanistic therapy is a type of talk therapy. It is holistic, so expect it to cover many different aspects of your life. However, it tends to focus more on the here-and-now rather than delving into the burdens and difficulties of the past. Some may find this challenging because it emphasizes taking personal responsibility and direct action to make your present life better rather than placing blame.
Because humanistic therapists are often less directive than other types of therapists, you will play an active role in guiding your treatments. Your therapist will act as a supportive and empathetic guide. Rather than viewing your therapist as a teacher or authority figure, they will instead be equal. This may be difficult if you prefer a more structured approach.
It is important to recognize that humanistic therapy doesn’t address specific problems. If you are having problems that would be better addressed by a more problem-oriented, structured type of therapy, then humanistic therapy might not be right for your needs.
Humanistic therapy can help you achieve personal growth, but it doesn’t tend to focus on solving specific disorders or symptoms. You should consider your needs and goals before deciding if humanistic therapy is right for you.
How to Get Started With Humanistic Therapy
If you are interested in trying this type of therapy, your first step is to find a therapist who practices humanistic therapy. You might ask your primary health care provider for a referral to a professional in your area. Another option is to search an online therapist directory.
If you prefer to try online therapy, check with the therapy platform or look for providers in your area who offer an online therapy option.
If possible, ask for an initial consultation so that you can decide if the therapist is a good match. A therapist who is non-judgmental, empathetic, warm, and understanding can help build a stronger therapeutic alliance. Research suggests that it is this rapport between the therapist and the client that plays a critical role in therapy outcomes.