Emotions have an important role in communicating information about ourselves to others. We communicate our feelings through facial expressions and other expressive behaviours. The emotions that we express will evoke certain emotions in others.
For example, an expression of sadness and grief may evoke empathy and helping behaviour in others (Izard, 1989). If we do not openly convey our emotions, others must guess our feelings. They may guess wrongly or may even fail to notice. The outcome can be that the individual feels misunderstood and unimportant.
Some people are at the other extreme. That is, they are overly emphatic in the way they express their emotions. The recipient may feel confused and overwhelmed by such overly expressive behaviour. They may find it difficult to gauge how the other person really feels.
Social skills training programs have been adapted to the counselling process as a means of enabling clients to become more aware of their interpersonal and emotional skills.
Influence on the Counselling Process:
It is important that the therapist always denotes emotions as being something normal that happens to the individual rather than something to be afraid or ashamed of. However, speaking of emotions as something that happens to people, as though we cannot influence or change them, might only increase the client’s sense of helplessness before strong emotions. While the counsellor will encourage clients to acknowledge and accept their emotions as part of their experience, the client will also be encouraged to recognise the link between their affective experience, their thoughts and their behaviour, which then provides a basis on which the client can change and influence his or her emotions where such change is appropriate and desirable.
Since the mind, body and behaviour are all active ingredients of emotions, sometimes, asking questions such as ‘how does that make you feel?’ will not allow the client to express themselves adequately. The various components of emotions in themselves should not be confused as being the emotions. It is how they relate to one another and how ultimately, they relate to the subjective experience that we call emotion that is important.