Counseling is Not Advise Giving was stated in bold lettering, on a poster on the wall of the cabin of the HOD of the Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations of Education of the NCERT at New Delhi. The poster was rather strategically placed. As you entered the cabin, it would most certainly catch your eye.. or so I thought, because it certainly did, mine. Each time and every time.
The first time I saw it, I was stepping into the cabin to be interviewed. Fresh out of college, still awaiting my PG Psychology results, here I was, having cleared the first phase -the all India written entrance exam and stepping into the second and final phase- the personal interview. I was one of many prospective candidates, seeking admission to the prestigious PG Diploma in Guidance and Counselling at the NCERT.
In the selection interview, I was asked to explain the difference between a clinical and a counseling psychologist. I remember doing a mental ‘jump of joy’.. to me, it was as if they’d asked me to defend my thesis. I had duly considered MPhil at NIMHANS ( aka India’s Mecca for aspiring Clinical psychologists) and had willingly chosen PGDGnC at NCERT ( India’s Mecca for aspiring Counseling psychologists) over it. I remember nailing it. But then, everything in that interview didn’t go as smoothly. I remember being asked, what must ‘not’ be done during counseling. I remember my heart sinking as I rummaged my brain for an answer. I remember looking up at 'the' poster. I remember answering ’no advice giving?’ I was being interviewed by true educators. They didn’t judge me merely for the information (or lack of it) in my head, but for my passion, resourcefulness, ability and willingness to learn. I got accepted into the course as a trainee counselor.
Little did I know then, that this would be my first formal learning towards becoming a professional counseling psychologist - Counseling is not Advice Giving.
All through the rigourous training at NCERT, I learnt so so much. I applied much of what I learnt there and continued to learn more and more, through the years, in my practice as a career counselor and counseling psychologist. However, that one thing that I learnt on my first day in the Dept. was by far the toughest to emulate ( it’s so tempting and so much easier, to simply go ahead and give advice). It was a learning, that was challenged repeatedly in my practice. You see, prospective clients aren’t aware that Real Counseling is not Advice giving! “Aap batao mujhe kyaa karnaa chahiye. You tell me what to do.” is the basic expectation with which most clients seek counseling. Well, If not advice giving.. then what is counseling? How does it help? 🤔
Counseling is not creating dependency, by giving advice, it is about Empowering you and Enabling you to be able to, confidently and independently, face whatever life brings on. It is not merely about giving you a fish and taking care of you for the day, Counseling is all about 'teaching you to fish', ie equipping you with the appropriate skills, so that you may be able to 'take care' of yourself in the days ahead too.
I've crafted a small verse titled 'Somehow', inspired by feedbacks from my clients (such as the one in the pic below). 'Somehow', is an attempt towards helping you understand how Counseling helps.
The challenges remain the same but are somehow a lot less daunting now.
The hurt is still there but somehow its bearable now.
The landscape remains unchanged but the gloomy darkness is replaced by a warm glow of hope, somehow.
I remain me but self doubt shame and guilt have transcended into love acceptance and care.. somehow..!!
I am now able to see and experience the very same world, in a whole new way.. dunno how..Somehow!
I’m blessed to have contributed to that ‘somehow’ in people’s lives. 💕
The pandemic had me shift from a hybrid service provider ( InClinic | Online | OnSite ) to an exclusively Online Counseling provider. This change proved more of an asset than an impediment.
I experienced the elation of noticeably smoother and shorter rapport building phases with new clients, apparently attributable to them feeling more relaxed, connecting from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Exchange of text messages during the interim period between sessions, proved a great way to share addendums, afterthoughts, check-ins and contributed significantly towards strengthening the Client - Counselor bond.
Being exclusively online, permitted me wider and more flexible working hours, thus according greater accessibility and availability towards meeting my clients' appointment needs.
In-fact, not just the clients, even I benefitted from this change. An exclusively Online arrangement, allowed me greater 'Me-Time' thus contributing towards boosting my efficiency towards being an effective and able Counselor.
'The old order changeth, yielding place to the new' ..Change is the only constant.. but then again.. I'm mindful that while the Online shift made the Counseling process more effective and efficient; it's the 27 years of relentless perseverance towards, diligently implementing my very first learning at the NCERT, into my practice as a Counseling Psychologist, that has paved the way towards these ‘somehow(s)’.
Well, seems like some things aren't meant to change, afterall. I revisit that learning today. Counseling is not just advice giving. Herein the old order stays put.
May we all continue to be blessed with many many more 'Somehow s' yet.
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