The Egan “Skilled Helper” Model : Some Notes by Peter Beven
Origins and Key Features
One “Model of Help” which has potential to be effective a wide range of professional planning situations is that suggested by Gerard Egan in his book The Skilled Helper (8th edition, 2007).
Theoretically there are a range of antecedents to Egan’s Skilled Helper model. For example, for the first stage of the helping process it draws upon the ideas of Carl Rogers which emphasise the adviser / client relationship as being critical. It is also influenced by Carkuff's theory of high-level functioning helpers, which indicates that those with the skills of empathy, respect, and immediacy are most effective; additionally Strong's Social Influence theory which explains that helping is a process whereby clients are influenced by others and this influence is powerful when the adviser avoids coercion and is instead collaborative, and empowering; and Albert Bandura's Learning theory, in which individuals are seen as acquiring skills through coming to understand the processes of learning and developing appropriate ideas about self-efficacy - that is expecting to achieve their goals by learning useful behaviours.
Helping is understood as a three-stage process – see outline below. Different skills and strategies are appropriate at different stages.
1. Present Scenario
B. Challenging Discrepancies
2. Preferred Scenario
3. Strategy: Getting There
B. Best fit
From this simple plan Egan goes on to suggest a range of strategies for helping individuals in a variety of situations. It is a very useful starting point from which you can begin to look at your own communication skills and professional development planning structure. The model is flexible, adaptable to a range of individual needs and situations. The approach works best if attention is paid to Carl Rogers's 'core conditions', the helpers approach to the client being based on genuineness, respect, and empathy, and if principles of good active listening are remembered throughout.
Using the Egan Model in Practice
The cliché “first impressions are lasting impressions” rings particularly true in the professional development planning session. The opening will probably determine the course and effectiveness of the whole discussion. It is therefore important to be able to start well. The first stage is therefore the introduction.
1. You should (re)introduce yourself clearly to the client. It is a mistake to assume that they will automatically know who you are, and what the possible functions of the session might be.
2. You should try to put the individual at ease and establish a rapport.
3. Ascertain whether the individual has any expectations of the meeting, and, if s/he has, discuss these - ending with an agreement, or CONTRACT as to what the next stage of the discussion might be about.
4. If you are to take notes make sure that the client agrees to this, is reassured, and understands the reason for note taking.
Stage One: Getting at the Story
The stage one skills of the Egan Helping Model are based upon the exploration of the client’s situation and they broadly match the counselling skills of the Person Centred Approach. The purpose of stage one is to build a nonthreatening, purposeful yet supportive relationship and help the person explore their situation and then focus on chosen issues. In this stage the Skilled Helper helps the client to identify and clarify problems and opportunities and assess their resources.
The function of this first part of the discussion is to try and find out more about the individual, to get her/him to “tell their own story.” Often, in order to help the individual you may need to find out quite a bit about them. You may have to investigate their interests, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes as far as their work, education and training background is concerned, their motivation behind any ideas, perhaps any relevant health issues.
Remember, the type of information you will need to elicit will vary according to the specific’s situation. It is therefore impossible here to dictate what order this discussion might take. The idea is it flows as naturally as possible from the agreement reached with the individual at the outset. You should reflect back on the agreement reached with the client at certain points during the discussion to review how far your initial agreement has been met. In some cases you will need to re- contract with the individual a new set of objectives in the light of new information.
Stage Two: Development: Possibilities for change
In this part of the discussion you might try to elicit any ideas the client might have had, and how they had developed the ideas. Then you might add in possible options based upon your own knowledge. You might ask questions that “reality check” the potential of the ideas discussed. As part of this you will need to explore with the person any pros and cons of different possible options, challenge effectively any apparent contradictions and explore fully what is important to the individual concerned.
As you go, you should attempt to summarise at various points. This will help you to clarify the main issues, as well as showing the client that you are listening and giving him/her the chance to correct any misconceptions you may have picked up.
Stage three: Strategies for change and closing the Session
The third and final stage is closing the session.
Some of the main points might be:-
1. Identifying, summarising and emphasising the main issues discussed. Review how far the contract agreed has been met. This will be much more effective if the client is encouraged to take an active part in this.
2. Agreeing an action plan for the next stage. This can be reinforced in some settings by written “Action Plan” documentation if appropriate to your role.
3. Sometimes closing the session by way of an agreed contract is a good way to ending purposefully. For example, the adviser might agree to act as advocate for the individual provided that they agreed to investigate an information resource.
4. The discussion should draw to a clear and definite end, avoiding any tendency to let the discussion drift to an unclear conclusion.
Egan, G. (2007) The Skilled Helper 8th edition Brooks/ Cole
Bandura, A. (1991) Human agency in social cognitive theory American Psychologist, 44, 1175 -84
Bandura, A. (1997) Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control New York: W. H. Freeman & Co Ltd
Carkhuff, R. R. (2000) The Art of Helping in the 21st Century Amherst, MA: Human Resource Development Press
Rogers, C. R. (2003) Centred Therapy London: Constable