All of us at certain point of our lives will face challenging or tough circumstances. Even though our family and friends could be a great source of support, at times we may require a person with relevant skills to talk to. It is at this moment that counselling comes in handy especially when dealing with anxiety, depression, grief, stress or strained relationships. And then there are times where we need a person with the necessary skills to help us in exploring the person that we are and the meaning of our lives. A counsellor is someone who is able to provide us with a supportive environment to give us an opportunity to make the changes that we want in our lives or help us to explore our problems and solutions with confidentiality. There are many approaches to counselling but what is vital in the counselling process is having a counsellor whom we are comfortable with. Clients would look for someone who would make them feel that they are being heard and respected. Counselling may not always be about techniques but it is important that we feel that it is working for us as we are all unique so what may work for a person may not necessarily work for another person. Thus, here I am presenting an approach that integrates the theories that I have learned in this course and based on my own personal life experiences. I call it the Xtina theory!Assumptions on human natureThe Xtina theory proposes that people are spiritual and priceless beings as we are created in the image and likeness of God. In the bible it is stated in Genesis 1:26 that human beings are made by God as male and female in His image and likeness. For Catholics, we believe that knowing, loving and living in communion with Him and other is the main purpose of Him making us in His image and likeness. We believe that designed in His image and likeness includes having intellect, free will, self-determination as well as spiritual and immortal soul.Thus, the first assumption of human nature is that we are relational beings as God who is a relational being designed us in His image and likeness. In 1 John 4:16 (New International Version), it says that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” The Divine essence which is love unites God’s existence in the relationship as Father, Son and Spirit. So, when Christians profess that God is love it is from the belief that God becomes love upon existing in this form of community whereby the love they (Father, Son and Spirit) have for each other is unconditional. This forms the need for people to engage in relationships as God’s relational likeness is found in a relationship of love. We were created to be in a reciprocal relationship whereby we appreciate the giving and receiving of each other and thus living in communion with God. Therefore, people find their lives to be fulfilling from loving others and receiving love.The second assumption which is important in the life of a person is the acceptance and approval received from others to define one’s self-worth. A person feels secured when someone accepts and approves of him despite his failures or limitations. Due to this nature, individuals do everything in their power to avoid the pain of rejection. As one works hard to get the acceptance and approval from people he may at times overlook other needs that really matters. We recognize the need for approval and acceptance but at times we fail to give them to others and sadly to ourselves even. Psalm 27:10 (New International Version) says, “Even if my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me” and in Ephesians 1:4, it says “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” These two quotes tell us that people will be able to find their true self-worth on the love and acceptance of God who loves us unconditionally. God’s approval and acceptance means the freedom and peace felt in the absence of judgement and we feel ourselves being embraced and truly connected to another being. The notion that people are spiritual beings means that we are powerful and conscious beings. Powerful here is nowhere close to the worldly definition of it but that having the freedom to make a choice even when it may look like we are weak or defeated. Mother Teresa met with many obstacles and oppositions in her quest to care for the poor but each one was met with gentleness and that’s how this small frail woman made such a deep positive impact in our world. For Christians, being spiritual refers to allowing God to emanate through us in our body, soul and mind. A spiritual person produces the fruit of spirit which is love, peace, joy, faithfulness, kindness, meekness, chastity, goodness, modesty, self-control, patience and generosity (Gal. 5:22-23). The word “conscious” according to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary means awareness of one’s own thoughts, environment or existence. So, being conscious involves being aware of the present moment and having our actions directed by our awareness of our thoughts, surroundings and being itself. The movie “A Beautiful Mind” is a good example of how we can be deceived by our minds when we are not conscious of our own thoughts. In this movie, we were taken on a journey of a genius who was not aware of his own insanity. I too became aware of him being insane when the main character, Nash later realized that he was indeed insane. It is when I am aware of my thoughts, environment and being that I am able to stay in the present moment and deal with it consciously. Discussion on human problemsPeople rely on each other for survival and well-being in every aspect physically, mentally and emotionally. Our needs for belonging, friendship and love are fulfilled through relationships that we form with each other. We are influenced by our family environments during our growing years in forming relationships with people. Those who are able to have healthy and open relationships with people may likely have grown up in a supportive environment. They grew up learning that they could express their feelings and needs as they are important. I remember when I was young my family went out with my aunts and uncles for window shopping a few days before Christmas. I wanted to have a doll which I saw in one of the shops and I told my one of my uncle how much I liked it. My uncle told me that it was too expensive for him to buy for it me, but he was able to give me a dollar. He said that I could save money so that I could later buy a doll that I wanted. Of course, I was disappointed that I could not get what I wanted but now coming to think of it I see it as him acknowledging my desire for a doll and comforting my disappointment at the same time. What I am grateful for is that his honesty in telling me of his financial constrains rather than just disregarding my wants or telling me that I should not have such desires. Unfortunately, there are those who grew up in families that were not able to cater to their needs emotionally and physically. They learned that their expressions of feelings and needs are restricted from the families’ form of communication. Due to this factor, the children from these families may develop low self-esteem and perceive that their needs are not important to others. These people would likely to become adults who have difficulty in forming satisfying relationships. In relation to the above personal experience I had another experience which was similar but with different reaction. I had asked my mother for a new pair of school shoes as the ones that I had was torn. After getting my new pair of shoes, I realized that my older brother’s school shoes were of the same size as mine when I put mine on the shoe rack. I told my mother about it and we found out later that the shoes were too tight for him. So, my mother decided to take my new pair of shoes back to replace it with bigger ones for my elder brother. I on the other hand, would have to use his shoes since I could fit in into his shoes. I was really upset and, so I did what most girls would do to cry in my room. My mother upon seeing me crying scolded and hit me and told me to stop crying. I wonder how one could stop crying after being hit in the head, but I think I might had stopped crying to avoid getting hit again. So, this incident could be one of the reasons why I don’t express my emotions freely for the fear of the reactions that could hurt my feelings.Most of us base our self-worth on the thoughts of others have of us, things that we possess, the achievements and successes we have attained and even by the organizations that we are associated with. We grow weary or may even lose our true identity in the pursuit of being accepted and approved by our family, friends, colleagues and peers. Tolan (2003: 4) explained that a child has conditions of worth transmitted to him upon learning that his behaviour, thoughts and feelings affect how others accept and love him. Therefore, we grow up learning the things that we need to do from the people around us in order to be accepted and gain others’ approval which leads us to have it become part of our self-concept. Instead of looking at it as an opinion, we regard them as truth.Goals of counsellingThe goals of counselling in this approach is to assist the clients to experience liberation and healing. The counsellor believes that the whole counselling process and journey come under the hand of God who wants to restore the relationship between Him and the client. In Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) it says “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” The counsellor directs the clients to reconcile themselves with God so that they would find the true significance of their lives through their relationships with God and thus leading to mending broken human relationships. In my own personal experience, I found that when I allowed God to take hold of the broken me to restore me so that I could function again, it leads me to have my broken relationships healed. A person whom I trusted betrayed me once and it led me to stop trusting everyone around me. I was truly hurt that the things that I shared with the person was not only used against me but was taken out of context to discredit me. I stopped talking casually to those around me and I only talked for functional purposes. During the counselling process, I realized that I had stopped trusting God as well because of the painful experience. When I reconciled myself with God, I became aware that I had started to let my guard down and slowly began to allow myself to trust people again. Besides that, this counselling approach works towards helping a person to develop into an emotionally wholesome person and live consciously of oneself and the surroundings. People who seek counselling are ordinary people who require assistance in coping with their personal problems. They need help in getting deeper self-knowledge, making changes in their attitudes, modifying their perception of themselves and others. By tapping their potentials and using their resources, they will be able to make personal adjustment and grow in maturity. According to Rogers (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2014) people have the capacity and inclination to grow, heal and move toward their true potential at their most ultimate level upon using their own resources to understand themselves. Based on my own personal counselling experiences, I found this to be true for me. I never that I would be the one to actually find all the answers to the questions or problems that I had. The healing process began as I began to understand myself which then led me to begin to understand the people around me. This change of thought was truly mind blowing for me and I wanted others to have similar experience themselves. It was liberating to know that I became a prisoner of my distorted thoughts that I had about myself and others. Realising that made me determined to change my thought pattern so that I will no longer be trapped by my irrational thoughts. And so, I could say that the goal was to become an agent of change myself. Roles of a counsellorOne of the roles of the counsellor is to create counselling relationship grounded on trust and build rapport with the clients. So, in order to carry out this role, the counsellor needs to have integrity. BACP (2013) defines integrity as being straightforward and honest when dealing with clients. “The paradoxical combination of vulnerability and confidence that makes work on character possible” is also defined as integrity by Palmer Barnes (2001:85). Thus, an effective counsellor needs to be a real human person by offering the clients genuine human relationship. What the counsellor does and the manner the counsellor does it define that relationship more than the techniques used by the counsellor. The counselling will be effective when the counsellor is able to establish a trusting relationship with the clients who need to trust that their counsellors will not take advantage of them when they are in a vulnerable state. I had encountered a counsellor whom I failed to trust because of her lack of integrity. After sharing with her about how I used food to deal with stress, she openly talked about it in front of my friends. I was upset because it was something that I was struggling with and to have others to give me ‘the look’ whenever I had a second helping made me feel like I was being judged. Due to that, I stopped revealing details of my struggles for the fear that it will be used against me again and thus it stunted the counselling process. I also felt that she was not being genuine when she showed concern for me in the initial session. During my counselling programme 5 years ago, one of the lecturers was the professional counsellor that I had seen a year before that. I appreciated her integrity of not revealing that I used to be her client. It was strange and funny for her to greet me as if it was the first time we met but I thought that that is what a real counsellor should be. It was only when I was alone with her that ‘she let down her guard’ and asked me how I was progressing. I felt very comfortable updating her about how I was coping with life and continued to check on myself not to fall back into my old thinking pattern. The counsellor also need to help the client to develop a healthy relationship with himself and finding fulfilment in his own being. Gandhi said that our greatness does not lies so much on being able to remake the world but in being able to remake ourselves. This quote tells me that we have to first define ourselves as we truly are by having a relationship with our own being. Here I remember that I started being honest with myself and seeing the good and ugliness that was in me. That led me to make conscious effort in making changes in myself which was not helping me to be who I truly am. When I was able to look at myself as a whole, I no longer define myself based on my limitations. My self-worth was based on how God sees me which was someone who is precious and loved unconditionally. It was when I was able to accept myself in this manner was I able to start being able to accept people in what I would say a forgiving manner whereby I no longer defines the person by certain aspects of their lives but allowing myself to see the goodness in them as well.Counselling Techniques The counselling process for the Xtina approach uses the Carkhuff’s model of counselling which was presented by Fuster (2005).The preparatory stage: This initial stage is adopting the approach introduced by Carl Rogers in the Person Centered Approach. The counsellor creates a therapeutic environment with the client whereby the client will feel that they are able to trust the counsellor. The counsellor achieves this by being congruent, empathetic and providing positive regard to the client. The skills required in this stage includes the attending which is being attentive to the client to show that the counsellor is genuinely interested in the client. The counsellor must also be varied of non-verbal messages that are conveyed during the session as they will be perceived by the clients as to whether we are interested in them or we do not have time for them. The counsellor will facilitate interpersonal interaction by using relevant social skills such as greeting, kindness and politeness. These skills will enable both parties to have a chance to explore each other and determine the goals of the relationship. This stage is vital in enabling both the counsellor and the client to start the course of understanding and accepting each other. My second experience with counselling was with a counsellor who made me feel comfortable during the first session itself. After explaining the process of counselling that would take place, she gave me the chance to ask questions to clarify any doubts that I may have. When I told her the problem that I was facing at that time, she responded in a warm and non-judgemental manner which made it easier for me to reveal some personal details. Her body language showed that she was attentive as I shared my problem with her and the questions that she posed were not interrogative nor intruding but it made me feel that she was interested in understanding me and the situation that I was in better.The exploratory stage: This stage gives the client the chance to tell their story and be heard. The counsellor gathers information to understand the client’s problem and how it affects the client and his environment. The counsellor will also explore on the factors that probably cause the problem and aspects which may relieve it. Lastly, the information gathered is to assist the counsellor to know the client’s understanding of the presenting problem and efforts to resolve the issues. In this stage, the counsellor uses the questioning skills in getting the client to open up matters for discussion and to clarify that may seem vague to the counsellor. The counsellor will try to avoid too much of questioning which may seem like the client is being diagnosed by the counsellor or that the counsellor is taking control of the counselling session. The counsellor uses open questions to motivate the client to share their concerns and provide the counsellor the chance to get information about the client and their issues. On the other hand, the counsellor uses the closed questions when he needs the client to focus or provide specific details. In the following session that I had, I talked about how my problem was affecting me in my relationship with people. The counsellor got me to explore my family dynamics and how I perceived my relationships with the members of my family and friends. Through the exploration, I was able to be aware of the way I relate to people and how my automatic negative thoughts had affected my relationships with people and also the way I see myself. Since my counsellor is a catholic, I also was able to explore my relationship with God which had a big impact on my life. I discovered that I had stopped trusting God because of the bad experiences that happened to me and I also felt bad about the mistakes that I had made which made me feel that I had disappointed Him. At the end of this stage, the counsellor had gathered sufficient information to help her to understand the problem that I was facing and what I wanted to achieve from the counselling session.