What Counseling is NOT
Through many years of therapy/counseling practice, I’ve heard clients’ stories – not just about their problems, but also about their previous counselors – some of them downright shocking.
Because their experiences had such an impact on me, I thought I’d share them with you.
Here is a partial list of the errors that some counselors have made.
The counselor shares confidential personal information with another family member when there’s no compelling reason to do so.
The counselor labels the client: ‘you’re selfish, you’re a sinner, you’re a bully, you’re wrong’. This is disrespectful and unnecessary. There are more effective ways to identify an error than to hang a label on the client. But the bad counselor does this and is shocked that the client doesn’t cooperate.
The counselor forms a too-close relationship with a client and soon after the therapeutic relationship has ended, they have sexual relations.
The counselor takes sides in couples counseling, creating a two-against-one situation.
The counselor tells people what to do. Nobody wants this. Or the counselor gives unwanted ‘advice’. People prefer to work with a supportive – and sometimes bluntly honest – open-minded listener, not an advice-giver. However, when the counselor and client have developed a strong trust bond, the client may respect the counselor enough, that he/she will ask for and follow advice.
The counselor attempts to solve the problem, instead of cooperating with the client to find solutions and healing.
The counselor has all the answers. I don’t think so. The process is far more productive and interesting when the client and counselor are open-minded and curious together in their search for solutions and healing.
The counselor tells the client to divorce or to not marry. This is clearly out of bounds, and yet some counselors feel they have the authority and the right to tell people how to live their lives. There are plenty of ways to alert the client to potential dangers in a relationship without flat-out telling them what to do. Nevertheless, in rare cases a strong warning might be appropriate.
I’ve provided counseling and workshops, not only for clients, but also for caregivers such as ministers. As a result, I have pretty clear ideas about what not to do. One basic idea for doctors, going way back to ancient Greece is, “First, do no harm.” I believe this should guide all helping professionals.
Have you had a bad experience with a counselor or therapist? If so, I’d like to hear about it. And if that’s the reason you’re not reaching out, I want to reassure you that not all therapists / counselors are created equal. If you give me a chance to prove it, you’ll believe it.
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