The Symbiotic Relationship of Counseling and Unconditional Positive Regard

As another school year ends I look back at all the clients I’ve worked with during the school year and a good majority have made major changes. I’ve seen teens who could barely stay in school for a month because of getting suspended, end up having zero discipline issues for the last five months or more. I’ve seen kids with alcohol and marijuana problems minimize and some totally quit using and even more importantly I’ve seen kids I thought would take years to make positive gains make dramatic changes over a few months. 

I give all my clients surveys before discharging them so that they can voice how I have helped them or didn’t help them so that I could better myself in the future and this year I became emotional as I read over some of their responses. Some kids wrote things such as

  • “You helped me have a better relationship with my mother”
  • “You helped me realize that killing myself isn’t the answer”
  • “You helped me learn to love myself”
  • “You helped me learn how to get along with my baby’s father and take better care of my baby”
  • “I’ve learned to control my anger and how to express my emotions”
  • “You helped me learn how to get along with my baby’s mother and get more into my son’s life”
  • “You helped me realize how valuable my life is and how stupid and irresponsible ending it would be”
  • “I don’t smoke or drink any more and started liking myself”


This comments really touched me and made me feel blessed to have had such an impact on these kids and they have had major impacts on me as well. I’ve learned just as much about them about patience and the importance of bringing the family into counseling whenever possible and appropriate. I look back and try to reflect on all the things and activities I’ve done with these kids and while I’ve used a lot of counseling techniques, I think the one thing that made the biggest impact is the unconditional positive regard I’ve showed these kids. Unconditional positive regard is accepting someone as they are and not judging them and I showed these kids throughout the year that I liked and accepting them despite anything they did or said. Sure they often did things I didn’t approve of, but I always let them know that it was the act that I disapproved of and not them. A lot of these kids have never had anyone they could just talk to who accepted and didn’t judge them and I think building on that relationship overtime had the greatest impact.

A lot of times I hear interns and new counselors saying that they are afraid that they are afraid that they won’t always know what to say and I always tell them that it’s okay, sometimes I don’t know what to say and so I say nothing, I just listen and show unconditional positive regard and empathy instead of not being present in the situation because I am busy searching for the right thing to say when there likely isn’t. In a good counseling relationship it is symbiotic. I learn from them and they learn from me and that is one of the things I love best about being a counselor. I learn from even the most difficult of clients and hopefully they learn from me as well. 

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