HIV/AIDS

Updated 24 June 2014

Qualities of an effective counsellor

To be an effective HIV/Aids counsellor, you need the following qualities or values:

To be an effective HIV/Aids counsellor, you need the following qualities or values:

1. Respect
The belief that every person is a worthy being who is competent to decide what he or she really wants, has the potential for growth, and has the abilities to achieve what he or she really wants from life.

A counsellor can show his or her respect to clients in the following ways:

  • Accept the client by showing unconditional positive regard. This means that you as counsellor accept the client as he or she is, irrespective of the client's values or behaviour and of whether you as counsellor approve of those values and behaviour or not. A judgemental counsellor who condemns clients or who makes clients feel that their sexual behaviour is offensive to the counsellor, will not be able to facilitate healing, and will only do harm.
  • Respect the client's rights. Individuals have a right to be who they are, a right to their own feelings, beliefs, opinions and choices.
  • Respect the uniqueness of each client.
  • Refrain from judgement. Counsellors are there to help their clients, not to judge or to blame them. Since HIV﷓infected individuals often already feel that they are “guilty” or “bad” before counselling even starts, only non﷓judgmental attitudes on the part of the counsellor will facilitate understanding and growth.
  • Remain serene and imperturbable and never react with embarrassment, shock or disapproval when people discuss painful situations or their sexual practices with you.

2. Genuineness and congruence
Genuineness refers to being honest and transparent in the counselling relationship. A genuine or congruent counsellor demonstrates the following values or behaviour:

  • Be yourself. Be real and sincere.
  • Be honest with yourself and your clients.
  • Don't be patronising or condescending.
  • Keep the client's agenda in focus. Don't pursue your own agenda or inflict yourself on others.
  • Don't be defensive. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Strive towards achieving openness and self﷓acceptance because these qualities will enable you to accept people whose behaviour conflicts with your own personal values. Remember that it is impossible to hide negative feelings from clients. No matter how hard you try to conceal them, clients will sense your incongruence.
  • When clients react negatively to you or criticise you, examine the behaviour that might have caused the clients to think negatively.

3. Empowerment and self responsibility
One of the values underlying counselling should be the desire to empower clients to take responsibility for themselves and to identify, develop and use resources that will make them more effective agents of change in the counselling sessions as well as in their everyday lives. The empowerment of clients should be based on the following values:

  • Accept the principle that the client knows himself or herself better than anyone else, and that he or she is therefore in the best position to explore, expose and understand the self.
  • Believe in the clients' ability to change if they choose to do so. Trust clients’ ability to manage their lives more effectively. It is the task of the counsellor to help clients to identify and use their resources.
  • Refrain from “rescuing” the client. This means that you should not take responsibility for another person's feelings, choices or actions. Allow the client to take responsibility for him or herself.
  • Help clients to see counselling sessions as work sessions. Only the client can make change happen. The counsellor can merely make suggestions about how the client might change.
  • Help clients to become better problem solvers in their daily lives.

4. Confidentiality
Confidentiality in the counselling context is non﷓negotiable. A counsellor may under no circumstances disclose the HIV status or any other information to anybody without the express permission of the client. Confidentiality is an expression of the counsellor's respect for the client.

 

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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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