Helping Process
Psychology 478/578

Course Overview


Overview: Constructive helping is a collaborative process through which an experienced helper (counselor) empowers a person seeking help (client) to define, strategize, and implement meaningful change.  The counselor-client relationship is grounded in trust and respect.  The helping process typically moves through the following: 


Active listening - the counselor listens carefully and empathically to the client's story to 1) gain an understanding of the client's problem, 2) learn how the client thinks, feels and acts, 3) discover the client's strengths, assets and personal power, and 4) build rapport with the client.


Problem identification - the counselor, using such techniques as open-ended questioning, reflecting and paraphrasing, assists the client to identify and clarify the problem.


Problem solving - the counselor assists the client to 1) define goals (what the client wants, how the client would like things to be), 2) generate strategies to accomplish these goals (how the client may attain these wants and make things be the way the client would like), 3) examine each strategy for potential problems and outcomes, 4) review support, strengths and resources, and 5) decide on a plan of action.


Follow through - the counselor provides the client with ongoing support and encouragement and opportunities to 1) examine actions taken for what did and did not work, 2) restrategize actions based on this examination, and 3) recognize and own personal strengths and assets.

Goal: Learn about the helping process to establish a foundation for constructive counseling.



Describe the helping process.


Explain the importance of self-awareness in one's personal, professional and cultural life.


Demonstrate strategies to maintain one's own physical and mental health.


  1. Readings from course and supplemental texts.

  2. Discussion questions.

  3. Exploration of relevant web sites.

  4. Interviews with local professionals.

  5. Class discussions.


  1. Complete the assigned text readings.

  2. Participate in class discussions.

  3. Submit complete and thoughtful answers to questions 3-6 at the end of Chapter 1 (page 14) in your Cormier and Hackney text.

  4. Complete two of the following exercises:

  1. Explore a minimum of four web sites that provide information on the helping process.  Write a 3-page paper on what you learned about the helping process, including brief descriptions of the sites you visited as well as your reactions to, and your opinions about, the usefulness of the information provided at each site.

  2. Interview local professionals who provide counseling services in the local community. These might include mental health professionals, alcohol/drug counselors, licensed psychologists, licensed professional counselors, social workers and/or school counselors.  Write a 3-page paper reporting on your findings, including the roles of the professionals you interviewed, the types of problems they typically encounter, their counseling style and philosophy, and their view of the helping process.

  3. Attend a minimum of two meetings of a local Coalition (or Alliance or Task Force) working to assist a needy, underserved population in the local community. Better yet, become involved.  Write a 3-page paper reporting on your findings and describing the meetings and your reactions to them.  Describe in some detail the extent of the problems the group is dealing with and the strategies they are implementing to address these problems.  What local community constituencies are represented?  What positive outcomes are they anticipating from their efforts, and how are they measuring them?  In your opinion, is the Coalition being effective?  Why or why not?  What would you do to improve it?  How does what you have learned about the helping process fit with/relate to the work of the Coalition?