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Counseling Skills

Kris English, PhD

March 19, 2001

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Question

The term ''counseling skills'' is appearing in more audiology literature, but specific information on the nature of counseling skills is often lacking. Could you describe the basics of counseling as they apply to audiology?

Answer

''Counseling basics'' for audiologists begin with the renewed appreciation that patients (and their family and friends) experience emotional, psychological, and social/interpersonal stressors as a result of living with a hearing loss. If our attitude is, ''What's the big deal, it's not like cancer,'' or ''This mom should be over her grief by now,'' we are not ready to engage in nonprofessional counseling.

The next counseling basic is accepting the responsibility for providing support in these areas, primarily by providing an opportunity to talk about them. As patients (and parents of children with hearing loss) talk, we as nonprofessional counselors engage in two communicative acts:
(1) listen carefully to what they tell us, and (2) respond appropriately.

On the surface, this sounds like day-to-day conversation. What makes counseling different? This brings us to the next counseling basic: the commitment to ''listen with a third ear,'' which means that as we listen,
we determine WHAT is being said. Specifically, is this person asking
for information, or is he asking us to attend to a personal adjustment problem? Our response is not automatic, but instead is determined by
what we hear.

For example, what is our immediate response to this situation? A parent
asks us, "Do all children with hearing loss get in trouble in school?'' Is this a request for information, or is it a request that we attend to a personal adjustment matter? If this is a request for information, our response is an easy one: we provide the information. But if this is a request that we attend to this parent's personal worry about her own child, our response is not so straightforward. If we miscalculate and provide information when information was not being requested, the perception will be that we are useful information warehouses but we are not very personally interested in the patient or parent. Since this interaction was not satisfactory, this parent may not broach a topic of personal concern again.

This dynamic of mismatched communication may explain why patients and parents report that audiologists do not come across as ''people-oriented.'' How can this be, when of course we care deeply about the people we serve? Why the misperception? Does this misperception contribute to ongoing dissatisfaction with and even rejection of our efforts to help (i.e., amplification)? Can we change this perception, and will that effort enhance our ability to help? These questions are worth exploring!

In summary, a starting point for ''counseling basics'' are:

  • renewing our appreciation for the psychosocial and emotions impact of
    hearing loss;

  • accepting responsibility for our role in helping in these areas;

  • learning to ''listen with a third ear;'' and

  • matching our responses to what we hear.


  • BIO:
    Kris English, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Duquesne University in
    Pittsburgh, PA. She teaches an on-line counseling course for the Central Michigan University/Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center Audiology Doctorate
    (Au.D.) program, and has written several articles on counseling in audiology. Her book, Counseling Children with Hearing Impairment and their Families, will be published in Summer 2001.


    kris english

    Kris English, PhD

    professor at the University of Akron/NOAC

    Kris English, Ph.D., earned her doctorate from San Diego State/Claremont Graduate Universities in 1993, and is a professor at the University of Akron/NOAC.  She has authored, co-authored or edited 6 books and 19 chapters, and has presented over 200 workshops and papers in the US, Canada, and Europe, primarily on the topic of audiologic counseling. She recently completed 5 years of service as a Board member for the American Academy of Audiology, including a term as President in 2009-2010.  none


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