Counselling is not about advising in the elevator or at a party

A strange inhibition clouds my otherwise confident self, when someone asks me what I do.

I imagine telling  a parent, that I am a child development consultant/ counsellor, and the inside of the parent’s mind getting into a kind of cosmic frenzy, tangles of guilt, generating a few hundred questions that need to be answered in the next couple of seconds and a thousand not- so- happy images of their child in their head.

Exhausting thought! The less talked about the better! I have begun to call my fear, a complex…  the counsellor’s complex!

I also imagine being expected to rattle out, 5 tricks to conceive a bright/ smart baby;

10 techniques to destress children;

15 tips to keep your marriage “alive” after your child’s birth;

20 games for children’s physical-mental-cognitive-spiritual development;

 25 things to look for when choosing a school for your child;

101 activities to occupy your child during summer vacations and so on.

And if I were to say, “Do nothing! Just be your normal, natural, instinctive self;  go with the flow, let the kids be, let them eat well, play well, touch sand, water-play, play in a park, enjoy the swing, slide down a couple of times, fly kites, twiddle with their electronic devices, do pillow fights, gaze at the stars and sleep well” , that would mean I need a therapist and some help myself!

There are no 5,10,15,20 ways and tricks to do anything with things that breathe and grow and develop and evolve. How could there possibly be a formula to development, when we are so different from the person next to us. Each child and adult is a unique, dynamic and extremely complex unit, connected to other such complex, unique beings through varied relations. How could something that works for me, work for my neighbour! How could a list of guidelines ever suffice to the dynamism around!

So what is counselling? And what it’s not!

First what it is.

Counselling is the art of talking therapies.

It is listening; listening to a person who seeks help.

It is about coming to terms with problems you are facing (for the client), with the ultimate aim of overcoming or overpowering them.

It is about defining your own goals and arriving at your own plan of action.

It involves setting aside time in order to explore difficulties and stressful emotional feelings.

It is a two way effort.

It entails mutual respect, confidentiality, responsibility and consideration between the client and therapist.

It is speaking to and sharing your thoughts with, someone who doesn’t know your past and is not going to be a part of your future; is not judgmental and has no bearing whatsoever on your existence or attitudes. The counsellor is a complete stranger in that sense!

Counselling is about equipping people to help themselves. As clich`e as it may sound, the ultimate objective of counselling is to help you, become your own therapist.

Getting “counselled” is about working around your own self – accepting shortfalls, recognising weaknesses, exercising your latent and apparent strengths.

Counselling supports you, brings forth your strengths and redirects you. It does not create a new you! The goals we work towards need to come from the client, for them to work.

What it is not!

Counselling is not direct advising. It is not giving instructions either. Direct advice seldom works long term.

It is not giving ideas in the elevator, during evening walks, at a party or social gathering.

It is not about getting emotionally involved with the client, looking at clients from your perspectives, based on your value systems.

It is not about getting bogged down by other people’s stress either.

Counsellors are not magicians or mind readers and sadly so (how I wish they were). The thing about magic is that one loves seeing it over and over again, even if you know the trick.

So counselling isn’t magic, no tricks to it and no repeat performances!

Each person is a new trivia and each session a new tale!

Counselling is also not about manipulating your environment and the people in it. It is about looking within and working around your own strengths and struggles!

Counselling is definitely not for those who don’t want to be helped or don’t think they need to change. It cannot be forced.

So if you haven’t been able to extract desirable behaviour from your child/teenager for instance, say 14 years of your association with the kid, despite being the biological parent  and caretaker for those many years, it’s unlikely that a child will respond to a stranger(the counsellor) or oblige the professional help and transform miraculously!

Counselling is about appreciating the human form and mind. It is about recognising that every child/adult is a complete opus, an entity. Each human creation has unique thoughts, feelings, strengths and responses packed inside them, to tackle most situations.

We just need to realise that!

Questions people asked and the response I meant to give but I didn’t !

“Don’t worry I know what you mean .. please don’t mind what I thought .. at least I didn’t say it .. but I meant to !”- rohini

Talk Child is rich with stories. Most stories are about real problems and concerns.

They are food to Talk Child. They help us grow.

Then there are those that are sauces and pickles. They add that extra flavor to Talk Child and life in general. They make you chuckle.. distract you from the serious business of living.

These stories are short. They ping into Talk Child’s inbox each day, as questions, queries, messages and mails. There are some verbal face-to-face exchanges too, that make you wonder.
You wonder what to say.. whether to say those first thoughts that come to mind or not say them.

Those are hard moments to manage.. yet in retrospect, they are the moments that make it to the ‘happy’ memory bank.

Sharing some of those.

[The client query is listed first and my thoughts which I didn’t share are written in italics].

Here they are :
1. “How old is the counselor at Talk Child?”

      Well, as old as me!

2. “How many years of experience do you have ?”

   My career just took off (yippee) with your question; you just added to my experience of understanding people!

3. “Do you have children ..”

      Would you trust me any less if I didn’t ..?

4. “Are you South Indian .. is your second name Sethi or Shetty ?”

      Why .. you mean you wouldn’t seek my help if my second name was Shitty ?? Oh  you made me sad today!

5. “Can you read my mind by looking at my face?”

      I can read you better by reading your questions .. please go on.. litter some more .. I’ll tell you more!

6. “Hey.. hi”. Period. Background information read as: bachelor.. rich joint family..big business.

      Well, I think you need a wife and a heir to your throne..not a counselor! 

7. “Do you help with adult problems?”

      Sure .. for starters, just don’t have kids till you are sorted!

8. “Counselling sessions are expensive. Do you have a package deal?”

      Yes water and coffee is free.. and if you behave well a candy too!

9. “How can you read someone’s mind through a Skype call/ online counselling?”

     HE-HE-HA-HA 💀.. mind readers can do anything 👻💀 beware !

10. “Whats the guarantee that you will help my child to perform better ?”

        Your warranty as a parent has expired. Please refresh .. And don’t have any more kids!

11. “Can we have a trial session?”

        So who is going to try whom? Or are we going to discuss an imaginary problem ?? Or are you just going to try the food I cook ! I’m afraid the trial plea is rejected!

12. “Is online counselling free?”

        Only the air you breathe is free my dear .. excluding the pure air in homes with air purifiers!

13. “My kid refuses to eat what I cook, but eats what anyone else cooks..”

        The kid either dislikes you or your cooking ..

14. “Can you tell me in one simple line how to tackle my teenager?”

       Can you please introduce yourself, your family, your child, your existence and your problem in one simple line..

15. A friend at a party: “I just need to know one small thing quickly ..”

     Any matter pertaining to your child isn’t small. Can you bake a cake quickly..? And I don’t want to know what all you can do quickly!

16. Can you occupy my child for one hour everyday..?

        Oops I don’t function as a television set, I’m afraid.

17. “How old are your children? They must be perfect kids ..”

    Oh yes no problems at all. Our address is Heaven, we eat clouds for meals and GOD tackles our issues first in queue, hands-on, for free! Being a counselor is sure a privilege!

Well, that much for now 😊. A chuckle a day, keeps our worries away. Your thoughts keep us alive. Loosen your grip on your strangest thoughts 🙂 .. let the queries keep coming .. let the craziness continue. If you don’t mind asking, I really don’t mind responding !

Love, Your counselor.

 Rohini Sethi                                                                                                                                 

Child Development Consultant