I have opinions. Everybody does. Some opinions of mine may be controversial. Some opinions everybody will like. Some no one will like. As human beings, raised in a world of experience and learning, we can’t help but to form opinions based on our individual relationships that occur throughout our lifetime. As counselors, it doesn’t matter whether we think we are right or wrong, what matters is that when engaging in the practice of counseling, we must always remind ourselves that what matters is the person sitting in front of us, and the way they formulate their own opinions.
We should always refrain from "telling" our clients anything as this serves to get us into trouble. What if we turn out to be wrong? What if we turn out to be right? Let’s analyze those for a moment.
If we give our clients a wrong piece of advice, this opens us up to liability. “You should just divorce that guy.” “You shouldn’t be friends with that person.” “You should save your money for this.” “You should spend your money on this.” Then we turn out to be incorrect and something bad happens. The divorcee is litigated against and ruinous credit ensues. The person you stop being friends with wins the lottery and doesn’t give you your previously promised share of the loot. You blow money on a Lambo only to crash it into the sea. Then what? We both look like fools, and mistrust in future advice is born as well as the counselors new tarnished credibility.
Let’s say your therapist is correct. What have you gained? Nothing more than a lucky happenstance, only you additionally created a situation where our clients become reliant on us for future advice. Same affect as feeding the stray cat. It’s ok to do that if you plan on taking the cat in and giving it a good home. But if you don’t intend to do that you’ve created an animal who counts on you for sustenance, and when that supply runs dry, you’ve also created an organism incapable of providing for itself. While some of us have big hearts and would like to just "take in" all our clients, this is not the right road to take.
A good counselor will not do this. A good counselor will recognize the importance of giving you the tools to find your own way in life, not matter if we think the path you are going down is disaster. It’s the freedom of the mind, conscious freedom, that we must embrace.
In the movie Inception, our team of heroes recognized that their target’s best chance at changing his thoughts were to make him think that he arrived at the conclusion himself. While us counselors are obviously not advocating infiltrating people’s dreams and going about enacting these changes in a nefarious way, the principle is the same.
Our client’s best chance at change is to arrive at that change of their own accord. Synthetic change, manufactured by an idealist busy-body of a counselor and driven by streams of advice peddling, will only see temporary relief. Lasting and meaningful change is done by strengthening the individual, and that is our best tool as professional counselors.
Pursuit of Happiness
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