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Running Head: PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

Personal Theory of Helping


Fatima Elali
Counseling: the Helping Relationship
Professor Dennis Sheridan, Ph. D.
April 2, 2014

Nature of Personhood and Wellness


Helping others is essential because every person is worthy of being guided towards a
solution to his or her problem no matter how small or big it may seem. Each person carries with
him or her potential for achieving goals and ultimately in becoming a better person in the
emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, and social areas of life. However, this is not always the
case because God allows us to have free will. For instance, someone can choose to ask for my
help and I can decide to offer my assistance or not. I would most likely offer my help either way,
yet it will look differently because the persons willingness to solve his or her problem is really
beneficial towards solving the problem.
A well person is defined as someone who is able to live a balanced life in the physical,
financial, intellectual, and especially the emotional, social, and spiritual areas. There is never
someone who is great at all these areas but a good amount of support in each can make a positive
difference. People should have passions for something such as practicing a certain sport,
cooking, and singing; this falls into supporting the intellectual and physical aspects of wellness.
Working is a big component that many engage in either through necessity or for intrinsic motives
and this could be highly beneficial to ones esteem; this falls into the financial and intellectual

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

areas. Working too much, however, can affect someones family life negatively because he or
she may find it hard to spend time with family. The social arena can include independence,
which refers to having the freedom to speak ones mind, do what one wants, and be able to be
who one truly is without impacting someone else in a negative way. There are limits to ones
independence; a person might want to rob a bank and be fully ok with violating the law and
hurting others. I definitely do not agree with this example and others that are similar since they
are destructive to society. Some examples that support social and emotional health are when
someone who has a different faith than another respects others who may not practice the same
faith and a child that expresses his or her feelings to his or her parents no matter the situation.
These are examples of ways of being authentic and being emotionally and socially healthy.
Culture informs my ideas of personhood in a variety of ways. People of a particular
ethnicity typically carry values and norms that differ from others of different ethnic backgrounds.
In particular, some may hold an individualistic rather than a collectivistic way of thinking.
Those who identify with an individualistic culture tend to strive towards individual achievement
and less on what is best for the family, friends, or another group and as such dependence on
others can be seen as embarrassing. The collectivistic culture is geared towards the harmony of
the group and is the opposite of individualistic culture. Ultimately every person has values that
are unique to his/her experience and that is ok because one culture is not better than another, yet
it needs to be considered upon helping.
Nature of Change
I think that anyone has the ability to change and this is so because there is always room
for growth or quite the opposite. There are many historical examples that have shown proof that
a once sinful and evil person can repent from his wrongdoings or that a kind and generous person
can be revengeful and filled with hate towards others. Change occurs when a significant event
that challenges ones way of viewing the world occurs. This is where crisis and conflict

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

influence change to take place because it forces us to stop, think about ourselves and feel
vulnerable. For instance, my uncle changed his attitude and destructive behaviors for the better
after miraculously surviving a car accident. He had to stay in the hospital for one week, suffer
physical symptoms, and feel like he almost was going to die in order for this change to happen.
He no longer drinks alcohol after experiencing the car accident and that is a huge change due to
his past history with it. These significant events can also make people change for the worse too.
Traumatic experiences like rape, abuse, or witnessing a horrific accident can make others feel a
lot of fear. They would need professional help and someone who can be their emotional and
social support to reconcile what happened. In particular, they need to talk about what occurred in
a way that is appropriate to their needs and lived conflict/s, crisis or crises.
As a whole, change does not always happen and there are some reasons for why that is
the case. Pride and arrogance can get in the way because there has to be thoughtful and honest
reflection and feelings of vulnerability. It is less about doing and more about reflectively
thinking and pride is not necessarily compatible with looking within. Ignorance can play a role
in cases where change does not happen. Some people do not believe that change can occur and
this belief ultimately hinders them to experience it. For example, Anne wants to be more patient
but if she believes that it is highly unlikely to happen than she will most likely be correct. Her
behaviors and feelings will be influenced by these beliefs and she probably will not read books
on the topic, create, and implement goals that would help her become more patient. She will be
completing a self fulfilling prophecy just by not believing that she can be more patient.
Community encourages change because we all live in one. The grocery store we shop in,
church we attend, our school, friends, and/or social organizations we belong to are part of our
own communities. I believe change is more likely to happen when the right people are in ones
community. Living in a place where most people are friendly by saying hello when they see you

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

or respectful by not blasting music after seven o clock fosters a positive living environment
where one can feel valued. Most importantly, friends are highly influential for change because if
they truly care then they will be honest with their friend even if it addresses their insecurities.
Nature of Helping
The helping process is about making the other person feel more at ease through my
assistance. As an illustration, I would ask a student who is sad to explain to me what happened.
I would then ask questions to clarify anything I am unclear about and would be empathetic as it
is my natural inclination to make others feel good. By empathizing I hope to make the person
feel supported and accepted. Acceptance means that even though his/her experience might be
something I never have encountered, he/she can still feel like their situation has been endured in
some way, shape, or form by others and that I can understand what they are going through.
In practicality, one of my strengths is to be available for my friends when they most need
me and when helping situations arise. With no doubt, I will be there for my students when I
become aware that they are in need of my help, especially if it is urgent. Another strength of
mine is attentive listening as I tend to have a good memory. This is helpful in understanding the
other person and thus realizing what he/she needs from me.
Limitations do exist when being an ethical student affairs professional. As much as I
want to help the other person and have them trust me, I need to be aware of what constitutes as
ethical and vice versa. Confidentiality is important to maintain when students tell professionals
personal information because it builds trust and rapport in a relationship. However, when a
student says that he or she is going to harm him or herself and/or another person than I need to
report the student to my supervisor and, consequently, to the police.
The role of faith and meaning making also plays a big role in helping. Parks says, Faith
is not simply a set of beliefs that religious people have; it is something that all human beings do
(Parks, 2011, p.18). It is part of how we make meaning of everyday experiences, including
ones where we are called to help. Being Catholic very much compliments my reasoning of

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

helping and how I choose to help others. I believe that helping others is what God desires for me
to do. He wants me to use my gifts to shape how I go about helping others as well. For instance,
I am more equipped to serve others in need than to give a speech about motivating people to
donate to a worthy cause.
Theoretical Knowledge
I think that we all use defense mechanisms for coping with life stressors and have an
unconscious state of being along with our conscious selves. I can relate to using some of the
defense mechanisms Freud talked about. I personally have been in denial when I had a family
conflict and did not want to deal with it at all. In addition, there are some actions that we
participate in where it seems as if we did not think or feel anything beforehand defined as the
unconscious (Reynolds, 2009, p. 84). It can be explored to figure out the why behind what we
do. I can apply this knowledge through observing how my students act when they are
undergoing a lot of stress or conflict and to let them know that their coping strategies may not be
effective.
I can connect with the cognitive-behavioral theory a bit more. I believe that people do
carry with them particular assumptions that can be irrational and unproductive. There is room
for changing those perceptions and homework assignments like thought diaries are great methods
to learn about a students thought processes (Reynolds, 2009). I think that the way one reacts to
circumstances is more important than the circumstances themselves and this theory correlates
with this really well. I would like to encourage my students to think about why they see a
situation a particular way. They could be mind reading or having irrational thoughts that distort
reality.
Moreover Carl Rogers Humanistic theory contains some concepts that I connect with.
People should be held accountable for their choices and accept any implications that may arise
(Reynolds, 2009). The equal relationship between counselor and student where trust and being

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

genuine take precedence is something I agree with (Giammalva, Hale, & Lopez, 2014). I would
like for my students to feel that we both have an equal opportunity to build rapport with each
other. I see them as the experts of their lives and that I am someone who can help them find
insights about their problems.
I most identify with solution focused theory for various reasons. I like to think that those
I help have the potential to be helped and changed for the better (Elali & Perez, 2014). In fact, I
believe people have the potential within themselves and that I can be a guide in helping them
achieve their potential. The focus on solutions rather than the causes to problems through setting
goals is something that I like about this theory too. I agree with the counselor client relationship
having an emphasis on the client rather than on the counselor. The exception and miracle
techniques seem effective and I can see myself using them in the future.
Lastly, the family systems theory allows me to consider the family context of my students
in assessing their situations. A problem can come up as a result of a family members behavior
and thus affecting the family unit (Reynolds, 2009). The sociocultural context such as gender,
class, and race when working with students needs to be considered. There is a reality of
differences and power in todays society and I should be that student affairs professional who
advocates for social justice.
I plan to implement my reflecting skills in my work with students as it is something new
but effective for my counseling style. Using SOLAR is something that is good to know. It
emphasizes the idea that listening is not only internal but external in terms of exhibiting
appropriate body language. Summarizing and asking good questions are other skills I plan to use
in my work with students. They are great ways to get a better understanding of what a student it
telling me.
Self Knowledge
I am in a helping vocation because it has always been an interest to help others directly. I
have always wanted to make a difference and know that I can be more impactful through being

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

in a helping vocation than through other vocations in the arts, business, engineering, or computer
science. Also I prefer to interact and build relationships with students in a helping profession
than in becoming a computer science engineer whose main focus is not to build relationships.
On the other hand, I can easily model a helper role because of my strong sense of values. I value
integrity, trust, respect, and compassion and these convictions make me more likely to act upon
them. Caring about who I am helping makes a big difference. In regards to skills, I am good at
summarizing when counseling or listening to others, as well as, with attentively listening as I
tend to have a good memory. An area for improvement is to continue keeping eye contact with
my students throughout the conversation. Perhaps this is because I am not used to being given
eye contact for a long period of time when interacting with my family. Reflecting is another skill
I would like to increase my skillset in because it is hard to find out what the other person is
exactly feeling. Also questioning and clarifying is something that I always do but would like to
continue improving.
One area I find challenging is confrontation due to not having a good amount of
experience in confronting college students and my lack of effective confrontation skills in my
personal life. Keeping students accountable for their actions on a consistent basis is something I
recognize as a challenge. Role play, getting out of my comfort zone, and talking to my
supervisor about it can help improve my confrontational skills.
I have learned in a deeper way that my story and interpretation of it is meaningful.
Dialoging with others about it and referring back to it when asking questions like those in this
paper is beneficial because it is personally important to increase my self-awareness. I hope to
model this sense of being to my students so that they can see me as a positive role model who
strives to become a better person.
Part II: Application

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

Firstly, I would attempt to establish rapport with Andrew by attentively listening,


reflecting, and summarizing when appropriate. I would show him this respect because I value
him, his story, and his potential for finding the solution to his situation, which is part of solution
focused and person centered theory. I expect him to find the answers to his situation gradually
by using effective questions when needed. While doing this, I will have an open and accepting
attitude in that he has a unique story that is influenced by his support system dynamics. Using
family systems theory in this vignette is useful because he has just recently lost his mother, holds
a dysfunctional relationship with his father, and just started a relationship with Samantha. His
mother, father, and Samantha play a crucial role in what he is feeling right now and I would
address them. I would ask him questions such as, Do you think your mothers passing has
influenced your grades and feelings of distress? and How has your mothers passing effected
you daily life?
These questions can give me insight into what is going on and I can choose what other
questions to ask. When doing this I also plan to empower Andrew, a part of feminist theory, to
keep being hopeful because he has been courageous enough to look for help and go back to
college. I would also ask him if there has been an exception where he did find a sense of
purpose, a technique from solution focused theory (Elali & Perez, 2014).
Lastly, confronting and challenging Andrew will be next. I would empathize with
Andrew at first because he has gone through a lot of transitions and then gradually challenge him
to think of small steps or goals he thinks can help him find a sense of direction. Once those
goals are created I would ask him if he would like to set up another appointment. I would like to
motivate him along his way to feeling better.

PERSONAL THEORY OF HELPING

References
Elali F., & Perez, K. (2014). Solution Focused Theory.[Powerpoint Slides].
Giammalva, A., Hale, A., & Lopez, R. (2014). Person-Centered Theory. [Powerpoint Slides].
https://sakai.apu.edu/portal/site/
Parks, S.D. (2011). Big questions, worthy dreams. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.
Reynolds, A.L. (2009). Helping college students: Developing essential support skills for student
affairs practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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