Loss is an inevitable human condition that occurs for everyone in numerous ways and at various points, and no person is completely immune from it (Hunt, 2009. p. 1). Although a counsellor may not be able to completely free clients of their feelings of grief and bereavement, they can offer mechanisms through which clients can cope and heal over time.
Here’s how you can use what you’ve learned in counsellor training to help clients with grief.
How Clients Deal with Grief Can Depend on Their Personality
When a person loses someone close to them, they can experience the grieving process in a number of ways. How each person copes with the loss can be dependent on their personality; for example, someone who is easy to anger can carry that anger into their coping process, and those who are quiet can be equally nondescript with others about their grief (Hunt, 2009. p. 1). They can be affected by other factors pertaining to their life experiences, such as prior losses of loved ones or pets, or if that person endured grief and loss during developmental phases of their lives (Hunt, 2009. p. 1).
In some cases, clients experience “complicated grief”, where feelings of loss don’t dissipate over time as they would under normal circumstances, and certain symptoms make them unable to move past those emotions after long periods of time (“Complicated grief”, 2017). The cause of such prolonged and persistent feelings of grief and loss is unknown, but it may be attributed to one’s personality, chemical makeup, and inherited traits (“Complicated grief”, 2017). In this case, approaches such as complicated grief therapy (CGT) can help clients with their symptoms, including focusing on the client’s personal goals and exploring their loss through different techniques (Wetherell, 2012).
Talk With Clients About the Person They Have Lost
One can easily feel uncomfortable when discussing a person who has died with someone who was one of that person’s loved ones. These feelings can apply to counsellors, as well (Tyrrell, 2015). However, remember that the person grieving will likely want, or even need, to open up with you about the person they have lost, and what they’re experiencing. Therefore, a counsellor can try asking the client about that person, and the memories the client shared with them, so long as it won’t needlessly upset them (Tyrrell, 2015).
Those doing their counsellor training should know that grief counselling can help clients navigate emotions they’re experiencing following their loss, and part of this includes encouraging clients to recount the loss to the counsellor to help them toward healing. Once the counsellor has created a safe environment for the client, the two parties can communicate effectively with each other (Ackerman, 2019). Letting clients talk about their deceased loved one can not only allow them to be more open, but both parties can also talk through any feelings of guilt the client may be experiencing with regards to how they acted, or didn’t act, prior to the death of their loved one (Ackerman, 2019).
Your Counsellor Training Can Help Clients in Coping with Loss in Various Ways
While training to become a counsellor, you can learn about the core principles of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wellness, and assessing a client’s status for each area, and how to provide counselling services for them (“Rhodes Wellness College: Professional Counsellor Diploma”). Grief can affect clients in all of these areas.
Their emotional wellness can be disrupted by feelings such as guilt, sadness, anger, and yearning. Mentally, they can be affected by cognitive reactions such as confusion or absent-mindedness, or changes in behaviour such as restlessness, issues with sleep or eating, or drug and alcohol misuse (Hunt, 2009. p. 2). Their physical wellness can be affected through shortness of breath, weakened muscles, crying, or an overall lack of energy. Spiritually, they can find themselves questioning their purpose in life, or the meaning of the loss itself (Hunt, 2009. p. 2).
In counselling, you can help clients cope with grief by using various strategies. These can include allowing the client to talk about their loss as often as they want; accepting their feelings of anger or sadness without trying to censor them; using methods such as journaling, drawing, relaxation techniques, or meditation to explore their feelings; and much more (Hunt, 2009. p. 2).
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Ackerman, C. E. (2019, November 19). 3 Grief Counseling Therapy Techniques & Interventions. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/grief-counseling/
Complicated grief. (2017, October 5). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374.
Hunt, B. (2009, April). Helping Clients Deal with Grief and Loss. The Counselor Education Newsletter, 3(2), 1 – 2.
Rhodes Wellness College: Professional Counsellor Diploma. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2019, from: https://www.rhodescollege.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Professional-Counsellor-Diploma-Program-Outline-April-2019.pdf
Tyrrell, M. (2015, June 1). 3 Techniques for Good Grief Counselling. Retrieved from https://www.unk.com/blog/3-grief-counselling-techniques/.Wetherell, J. L. (2012). Complicated grief therapy as a new treatment approach. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 159–166.