Counselor as an Influence
Dr. Saju Joseph
“Leadership is influence; nothing more and nothing less” says Dr. John C.Maxwell. Counsellors are leaders. The ultimate aim of any ministry is the change in the lives of those who are ministered. Change must be for the better.
Salt and light are very good examples of influence. All ministries are intended to influence others for good. Counselling is only one of the methods in ministry. Good counselling is just the presence of the counsellor with a counsellee. It is the rapport between the counsellor and the counsellee brings about healing in the c ounsellee. It is the very presence of salt and light which makes change.
It would be better to know what is not counselling in order to understand what is counselling.
1. It is not problem solving. We can deal with the emotions, especially negative emotional expressions and actions related to those problems.
2. It is not advice giving. Through advice we are only blocking their growth or their own efforts. People will not use their potentiality. We ought not to take decisions for other people. Giving advice makes others dependent on us.
3. It is not giving suggestions. There would have been a number of options, but if he consults only the counsellor, he will be limited to one suggestion only. In giving suggestions there is also an implied forcefulness.
4. It is not just spiritual guidance. It is generally through preaching and teaching. Instead, it can be a spiritual talk using spiritual resources. Spiritual guidance is often one sided. Counselling is not so.
Counselling is the arrangement of a situation in which one can share his or her thoughts and emotions with one (Counsellor) who listens to him or her with full attention. Counsellor is one who understands the counsellee. In counselling one is given the opportunity for self exploration. It increases the self awareness of a person. In counselling the counsellor acts as a mirror, giving the picture of a person as it is. Decision on any topic or problem one faces should be taken by the counselee himself or herself, not by the counsellor. In short, counselling is a process in which two individuals engage in sharing and leads one person to increase self awareness and enable him or her to take decision for him or herself. According to Seeward Hiltner counselling is “help a person to help himself or herself.”
The vital aim of counselling is the wholistic healing of a person. There are certain very important marks of healing relationship. It is through these marks or skills in counselling a counsellor influences a counsellee. Crucial among them are listening, responding , empathy and use of spiritual resources.
Influence through listening
Understanding the client can only occur if the client is encouraged and allowed to talk and the counsellor is prepared to listen. This influences the counsellee to open up the suppressed feelings of pain and other emotions hindering his or her growth. Preaching is only a one way communication, but counselling is a two way communication. True listening involves much more than just hearing the client’s words, it means attending also to his actions and feelings. It will help to understand the facts of the situation as the client understands them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They don’t find it among Christians, because Christians are talking when they should be listening. He who no longer listens to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either.”
There is something called listening with heart. This cannot be learnt in training, but comes only from experience of dealing with sufferings and heart aches of many people. This happens during silent movements.
Influence through responding
Responding adequately to the counselee’s message is the other side of the coin to listening. For the counsellor, these are his two main functions, especially in the earlier stages of the interview.
According to Rogers, our understanding of the other must be communicated to him if it is to be of any help to him. After having sorted out the abundance of words and reading the ambiguous feelings expressed in them, the counsellor should respond to the message he has picked up, communicating his reading of the other’s experience. Being congruent, he is better able to speak clearly and objectively.
There is an ancient eastern tradition which says that naming a thing gives one control over it. Identifying and naming of the feelings enables the counselee to take a clear picture and perhaps discover their source and bring them under control.
Influence through empathic understanding
It is a super skill in counselling which leads the counsellee to speedy recovery or healing. To show empathy is to identify with another's feelings. It is to emotionally put yourself in the place of another. The ability to empathize is directly dependent on your ability to recognize your own feelings and identify them. The counsellor perceives, sees and understands the counsellee’s world from the counsellee’s frame of reference.
The art of reflective empathetic understanding is essential in all caring and counselling. The pastor or counsellor attempts to listen to feelings (as well as words) including feelings that are between the lines, too painful to trust in words. The counsellor’s aim is to achieve the maximum degree of what Rogers calls “empathetic understanding” of the person’s inner world.
Influencing through spiritual resources
For a Pastoral or Biblical counsellor he is privileged to have the most powerful resources which are spiritual. Prayer, Bible, Holy Spirit and so on are for the help of the counsellor to influence the client. Bible is the book which has influenced more people in the world than any other book. Along with the skills in counselling and psychology a Biblical counsellor prays for the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind of a counsellee. The influence of the spiritual resources is par excellent and highly effective.