Counseling 1. Help with personal or psychological matters usually given by a professional. 2. Meetings with a counselor to receive help with personal problems. (Encarta World English Dictionary)
Counseling does not imply that something is wrong with a person. It’s like when a car is stuck in the snow. There’s probably nothing wrong with the car or driver, but the driver needs someone else to push, or put cardboard under the tires so the car won’t just keep spinning its wheels and digging a deeper rut. A good counselor is like that helpful person, like a good mirror or a trusted friend who’s not afraid to be honest with you for your own good.
Counseling is needed when a person or family are not functioning well on their own, don’t know why, can’t solve a problem, when time and energy are being wasted, when there is no energy, or when relationships are not working or communication has broken down (including communication within a person him- or herself).
What exactly is involved in the counseling process?
The Encyclopedia Britannica Online describes counseling as “the process of helping an individual discover and develop his educational, vocational, and psychological potentialities and thereby to achieve an optimal level of personal happiness and social usefulness.” (retrieved 20Aug05 from Encyclopaedia Britannica Premium Service, http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9026462)
“Counseling is a growth process through which individuals are helped to define goals, make decisions, and solve problems related to personal-social, educational and career concerns. This process is carried out by a trained professional and a client. (from Spaulding University, Sisters of Charity, Louisville, KY, retrieved 20Aug05 from http://spalding.edu/studentlife/studentcounselingcenter/What%20is%20Counseling.htm)
The Agape Counseling Center says: “Counseling is a process in which the professional counselor uses his or her skills and experience to help another person or family explore, evaluate and clarify feelings and issues in his or her own life or relationships. It takes place in a safe, confidential environment. The aim is to give the opportunity to choose courses of action which can lead to greater growth and satisfaction.” (retrieved 20Aug05 from http://montara.com/Agape.html)
There are different levels of helpers or counselors:
Psychiatrist: is a medical doctor who has specialized psychiatric training or a PhD and can prescribe medications.
Psychologist: has doctorate in counseling or theoretical pscychology, and often trained and efficient in testing.
Family Counselors, psychotherapists, clinical social workers all have masters’ degrees and maybe more in counseling. May or may not be licensed to practice on their own.
Counselors with a bachelors and associate degree in counseling who practice under the supervision of a licensed professional.
Para-professional counselors are those without degrees who have received good training in counseling methods, also under supervision.
It should not be assumed that those at the top of this list are most effective in counseling. The research of Robert R. Carkhuff showed that there was often a reverse level of effectiveness-perhaps somewhat because of age and ability to establish genuine rapport.
Rapport or genuine relationship is crucial to counseling. The client is the speaker and the counselor the listener. The timing of probing must be set by the speaker. The speaker sets the pace by describing situations and feelings he or she is not dealing with well. He/she shares hopes and goals for the counseling sessions. Success in counseling depends on the motivation and insight of the speaker or counselee. The counselor must be careful to set proper professional boundaries and confidentiality.
Critical questions of the counselor may be: “What do you want from these sessions?” “How are you feeling about being here?” What’s happening to you and how are you feeling about these things?” “How are you involved in the pain or frustration you are feeling?” “Do you really want to get to the bottom of this so you can be free and functional?” “No matter how you were parented, how are you now parenting yourself, giving yourself the approval and love, while setting realistic goals and boundaries for yourself?” “How can we terminate assured that you will carry on this process on your own?”
As with all professionals, there are some weak counselors, good counselors and great counselors. The same style of counseling does not fit all who seek help. It is proper to determine if the counseling relationship can work in the first sessions together.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. How do you feel about entering a counseling relationship? What has been your experience with counseling? How well do you understand the counseling process and how motivated are you to succeed?
2. Do you think the article above is an adequate introduction to this subject? Why or why not? What is missing in your opinion?
3. At one point would you decide that counseling is right for you? When would you urge someone you know well to enter counseling?
4. When and how should families or youth groups discuss the matter of counseling?
5. What role do you see the church taking in counseling, especially in the area of lay counseling?
1. In an old movie, “Ordinary People,” (1980) counseling was clearly needed. So to in a somewhat similar, more recent (2004) movie. “Imaginary Heroes.” Effective counseling was shown to work in “Ordinary People.” The family in “Imaginary Heroes” struggled through their issues using pot and sex, rage and denial until crisis finally appeared to do its work-at least that is the final, if rather shallow, hope of the comic drama. In the film, “Antwone Fisher,” the naval psychiatrist (played by Denzel Washington) is counseling a troubled young seaman (played by Derek Luke). Brilliantly, sensitively, patiently and with tough love, the psychiatrist urges the young man to return to his family roots, the source of his pain and anger.
2. In the movie, “Lion King,” Rafiki acts as a wise counselor. Simba has been enjoying a “carefree adolescence.” Nala, Simba’s childhood friend, tries to call him home to face adult responsibilities. Simba is reluctant and confused. Rafiki wisely points Simba to a vision of his father who, before disappearing, challenges him with these words, “Remember who you are… my son, and the one true king.” Simba thus works through his identity crisis and more.
3. Fear of admitting to inadequacy as a person or family often keeps people from needed counseling. So does a vague sense of social stigma against “going to a shrink” or social worker. And yet the humility of recognizing a need and asking for help is often the necessary first step in solving a problem.
4. Some religious people feel that counseling is counter to faith or spiritual healing. Here is it wise to consider the analogy to physical ills. Most religious beliefs favor going to doctors with broken bones or serious pain, to dentists with bad toothaches. Physical, emotional, and spiritual problems all have proper sources of help. Good counselors of any faith will respect the beliefs and values of the speaker or counselee. But many will want to find counselor who share their particular faith.
5. Time can solve some growth and adjustment problems and heal most grief and pain. But good counseling can hasten the process and help us to learn important lessons as well. The goal of counseling is not just to help us out a rut, but to help us become more fully human and better functioning individuals or families.