Language is powerful. We use language to understand experiences, express ourselves, and communicate with others. When we engage in dialogue, our words express not only our ideas but also our intentions, emotions, and even personal biases.
For those in the professional counselling industry, developing a sense of awareness about our language and word choices is absolutely essential. The right words can make all the difference when it comes to helping others overcome personal challenges. The right use of language can make clients comfortable, motivate them to take action, and help them realize new and exciting possibilities.
If you’re interested in becoming a counselling professional, compassionate language skills will help you guide each of your future clients toward lasting, positive change.
Understanding Compassionate Language: Why Do Words Matter?
Professional counsellors are responsible for helping clients manage their mental health, through specialized exercises and interviewing techniques. In each and every client interaction, these professionals are expected to use language that supports their clients’ mental wellbeing, strategically avoiding pejorative or triggering word choices.
According to the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPS)’s Code of Ethics, the language of counsellors should always support the “dignity and rights of their clients.” For example, in the professional counselling community, outdated racial or cultural terms are not tolerated.
CCPS asserts that in all instances, “counsellors must actively work to understand the diverse cultural background of the clients with whom they work, and must not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, colour, culture, ethnicity, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital, or socio-economic status.”
When counsellors speak insensitively or use language that perpetuates discrimination (intentionally or otherwise), it reflects poorly on their own professional abilities and the Canadian counselling industry at large. That’s why training institutes like Rhodes Wellness College focus on helping students like you develop a compassionate vocabulary and a sense of professional responsibility as you work to become a counsellor.
Compassionate Language in Action with Professional Counsellor Training
In counselling school you’ll develop the skills you need to counsel others affected by trauma and abuse, addictions, family and relationship problems, and more. British Columbia-based counsellor and trauma therapist William Bratt says choosing your words with purpose and intention will be key to connecting with many of these clients.
He says that “negative, judgmental, condemning responses” are quick to put up barriers between counsellor and client, and may even cause secondary harm to individuals already working to overcome crises. “On the flip side, those who are met with compassion, understanding, support, safety, and other positive responses are likely to recover with far greater ease,” he explains.
In addictions counselling training for example, you’ll learn how to compassionately engage with clients who may be resistant to change. You’ll develop supportive, motivational interviewing techniques that encourage those facing addictions to make meaningful progress. You’ll learn to use your language to heal, not harm – reserving any personal judgements and remaining patient and professional when relapses occur.
You may be the first person in a client’s life to take their mental health seriously. Your compassion and sympathy will help them realize their worth and fulfill their potential.
Teaching Clients to Practice Compassionate Self-Talk
Bratt believes counsellors’ language skills have an important part to play in bettering the overall mental health of their communities. “By being more intentional with the words we use, we can help foster a culture that is more fair, safe, and socially just.”
As you’ll learn in counselling school, every transformation must start from within. As you learn about practicing compassion to others, you’ll also learn about the importance of being compassionate to yourself. You’ll then be able to teach your future clients the power of compassionate language and self-talk.
This involves changing negative, self-deprecating thought patterns into positive, encouraging ones.
These simple, language-based changes can have profound effects on clients from all walks of life. With the right skills and a compassionate attitude, you can help make their transformations possible.
Are you interested in pursuing professional counselling training?
Visit Rhodes Wellness College for information about launching your own counselling career.