A friend asked me the other day,”Isn’t it odd that we must go to a counselor or therapist to discuss our troubles?” This innocent question, barely thought about anymore once you have been a psychotherapist for as long as me, made me think. People used to speak to one another and perhaps they had been powerful, because people used to just care about each other.
What if professionalization, which is just a phenomenon of the past one to two hundred years, has taken that away from people? This has motivated my desire to impart counselling skills to you in this brief article. Obviously a lot of the info can be obtained elsewhere, but usually it is described in treatment jargon that the average person would not understand. So, here is my first attempt to rectify the imbalance, to return what might have been removed from you, the fundamental human ability to care and put it into action when another individual needs your time and would like to speak with you.
What are these skills?
First, inner space. To participate with another person you should have some internal space available to receive them. This means your own problems aren’t so pressing that you’re constantly distracted or that you aren’t as concerned about some impending disaster which you can’t concentrate. Create inner space in yourself through regulating your life, be aware that everything you do can lead to impacts that have your time and your attention. Try to plan and act in a manner that contributes to a desired result, rather than let life to conduct you.
Second, sensitivity. You need to be able to watch carefully and take note of how the other person is and what they might need through their behaviour and other signs. For instance, if the person you’re with is withdrawn do not scrape your seat when you sit down, reduce your voice to communicate a sense of quiet safety and do not expect them to look you in the eyes. Try to know about how the individual comes across and react in a manner that reduces the distance between you.
Third, listening. Listening is a skill with several levels of functioning. If you believe about it, it is true. You can listen to your own ears as everyone knows, but can you listen to your own heart also. Listening with your heart to another individual means feeling along together and sharing in their emotional experience. Often before some expression of feeling a persuasive tide of unmistakable emotion will spike up inside them and it is possible to be sensitive to this when you listen with your heart.
These 3 abilities: inner space, listening and sensitivity will be enough for you to actually be with someone else and help effectively. They’re a really good basis for actively caring for another. Just one more thing though. People want to speak and be heard. Don’t be too quick to problem-solve or intervene at all. You might feel the urge to do something about it (especially if you are a guy!) , but simply don’t. If you practice the skills I have been describing here patiently and consistently and you give another person the experience of being completely heard, it’s probable that they’ll figure it out for themselves and that is a superb experience for you, as a lay counselor – you let another person to find, from their internal resources, the manner through their issues.