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!

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