One of the biggest concerns for counselors in the area of grief counseling is how to work with strong emotions as they arise in clients. Many clients will experience strong emotions as part of their grief. This chapter explores the role that emotions might play in the grieving process and how counselors can help their clients benefit from working constructively with their feelings. It discusses the importance of focusing on emotions in the counseling process. The chapter defines emotional intelligence and describes a model of working with emotions based on emotional intelligence. It identifies how a feeling vocabulary can be used in counseling practice. The chapter explores the four main feeling states and their function in human experiences and discusses the role of the counselor’s feelings in the therapeutic relationship.
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Counseling is a unique form of support that occurs within a relationship between the counselor and the client, occurring within specific boundaries with the goal of supporting and empowering the client through difficult times in life. Counseling may occur with an individual client, a family, or a group of individuals who share similar loss experiences. Grief counselors help individuals as they work through the grieving process in a way that is congruent with the grieving individual’s personality, preferences, values, and goals. This chapter explores what counseling is and examines some of the more common misconceptions about counseling. It also looks at the therapeutic relationship that develops between the counselor and the client in the counseling setting, considers the different contexts in which counseling may occur, and briefly discusses the goals of grief counseling.
- Go to chapter: The Practice of Presence: Compassion and Self-Awareness in the Grief Counseling Setting
Learning how to be fully present with one’s client is foundational to the ability to be effective in working with grieving clients; however, it may also be one of the biggest challenges to beginning clinicians. Counselors need to find ways to cultivate their ability to be aware, focused, and engaged with themselves and their clients. Awareness and therapeutic presence can be cultivated through reflective and contemplative practices. The chapter defines what is meant by the term therapeutic presence and describes the components that form its foundation. The chapter explains the relationship between contemplative practice and therapeutic presence. It discusses the role of compassion and self-compassion in the counselor’s ability to be fully present to clients who are experiencing pain and suffering. Exercises are provided to assist counselors to enhance self-awareness, self-reflection, and the cultivation of a sense of presence.
Counselors who work primarily with bereaved individuals need to be aware of the issues that are raised by new research in the field and to stay abreast with clinical practice implications and recommendations from the research and literature in the field in order to provide support to their clients that is informed, relevant, and responsive. This chapter discusses the implications for a strengths-based approach to grief and identifies when grief counseling is indicated. It describes current issues related to competence and identifies aspects of neurobiology that are relevant to the study of grief and grief counseling practice. It discusses the diverse ways that grief can be manifested and the implications for counseling practice. The chapter identifies various ways that technology is being used to support grieving individuals, along with ethical concerns regarding the use of technology in grief counseling.
Being a skilled counselor requires a great deal of discipline, focus, commitment to self-awareness and understanding, and compassionate engagement with clients. Reading about these skills and the counseling process is interesting, but actually having the opportunity to “practice the process” and to spend time immersed in therapeutic encounters helps refine the counselor’s abilities and skills. This chapter describes common attending skills and their importance in the counseling relationship. It identifies ways in which the counselor can verbally track the client’s story. The chapter explains the purposes of both open and closed questions in counseling and provides examples of each. It defines what is meant by empathy and advanced empathy in the therapeutic alliance and why empathy is so important in counseling.
Through the work of bereavement researchers, clinicians, and academics, the present-day thinking about the grieving process has been extrapolated. This chapter defines grief and describes common factors that affect the grief response. It describes the main features of attachment theory and the relationship between attachment and grief. The chapter explains the dual process model of grief and the overlap of attachment style onto this model. It reviews current theories and models of the grieving process and discusses the process of meaning making after significant losses. Grief counseling serves to facilitate the natural unfolding of the grief process as it is experienced by an individual. It is important for counselors to remember that the main goal of grief counseling is not to make someone feel better, but to provide support and assistance, and journey alongside the bereaved so that the person will not have to go through this painful process alone.
- Go to chapter: The Social Context of Loss: Social Expectations and Cultural Considerations Surrounding the Grieving Process
The Social Context of Loss: Social Expectations and Cultural Considerations Surrounding the Grieving Process
While grief is often described as an individual’s unique response to loss, it is shaped and molded to a great extent by the social context in which the grieving individual identifies and resides. These contextual factors have a profound influence on how loss and grief are viewed, including expectations about how grief should be expressed and experienced, and the supports and resources that may or may not be available to grieving individuals. This chapter describes how the social context and spheres of interaction have an impact upon the grieving process. It distinguishes between micro, mezzo, and macro practice in the context of grief counseling. The chapter identifies social norms and expectations as they apply to grief in Western-oriented industrialized societies. It distinguishes between cultural competence and cultural humility in relation to grief counseling. The chapter details ways in which grief counselors can acknowledge the social context in their work with clients.
- Go to chapter: When Grief Goes Awry: Identifying Complicated Grief and the Need for Professional Intervention
Currently, there is a great deal of research and interest in the description, diagnosis, and treatment of complicated grief. Counselors need to stay informed as new research findings are released and to keep current on present-day thinking regarding appropriate support and focused intervention to address these life-altering losses and grief responses. This chapter reviews some of the terminologies often utilized in the discussion of grief that has veered away from what would be considered a normal trajectory. It also describes some of the main features of “difficult” grief. The chapter explores some of the clinical implications for complicated grief and for grief that is intermixed with exposure to traumatic events. Finally, it provides an overview of the treatment modalities that are being proposed for therapeutic work with individuals who experience complicated grief.
Ethical practice as a grief counselor involves an ongoing commitment to self-awareness, self-care, and professional development in the areas of counseling and bereavement. It is important to protect the trust that our clients place in us and to ensure sound and competent practice by our adherence to published ethical standards and guidelines in our professional association(s). This chapter explores some of the ethical issues that are pertinent to the counselor, the therapeutic relationship with clients, and the profession of grief counseling. It describes why counselor self-awareness is critical to the counseling process. The chapter discusses the role of boundaries in the counseling relationship and how the counseling relationship differs from other types of relationships. It covers guidelines and procedures for protecting client confidentiality and general guidlines identified with counselor competence.
- Go to chapter: Caregiver Issues for Grief Counselors: Navigating Occupational Stress and Practicing Self-Care
Counselors are professionals who are also human beings. The profession of counseling relies upon the ability of the individual counselor to nurture and cultivate a capacity to care and connect with clients empathically. Counselors who work primarily with individuals who have faced painful losses, traumatic events, and the death of loved ones will be exposed to levels of human suffering and pain that can profoundly affect them at a personal level. This chapter identifies three different sources of occupational stress in helping professions. It explains how the counselor’s personal experiences of loss can be both strength and a potential liability in working with bereaved clients. The chapter distinguishes between the experiences of burnout and secondary traumatic stress in helping professionals. It identifies guidelines for reflective practice and self-care strategies in grief counselors. The chapter defines what is meant by self-compassion for counselors and identifies three components of self-compassion.