by Judy HarrowCounseling is based on the very Wiccan-compatible faith that each human being has within themself the full capacity to make and implement appropriate decisions concerning their own life. By that faith, the counselor's only role is to help the client to make such decisions, not to tell the client what to do, and certainly never to try to run their life for them. But, just what do counselors do? How exactly do they help clients? The core technique, the art, the spiritual practice of counseling is the process of active listening.
The easiest way I've found to explain active listening is to
it has three main components:
Most of the time, most of us listen with only part of our attention. While the other person is still speaking, we are thinking about what we want to say next. Or, sometimes, we are thinking of something entirely unrelated ... "I think I'll paint the kitchen green." When we are listening to emotionally intense stories, the kind we often hear in counseling sessions, we can get caught up in our own emotional reactions, how we would feel if we were in a similar situation, based on all those experiences that formed us, instead of on the experiences that formed the speaker. Remember always that the client is the world's greatest expert on their own experiences and feelings.
Let them know you're listening
Listening is absolutely necessary for counseling, but not sufficient. I could listen intently and openly -- and invisibly -- from the other side of a one-way mirror. That might well be instructive for me, but not helpful for the client. What the client needs is to know that they are being heard. This evidence that they are valued as a human being and supported in working through their issues creates the sense of safe space for their deeper internal explorations.
This is what Witches know that is not generally taught in graduate schools. As a counselor, you will hear a lot of stress, pain and grief. In offering the other person the comfort of being heard, in opening yourself to them, you are also absorbing energies that nobody needs to retain. Unless you discharge these energies, you risk "burnout," a condition in which the counselor just can't hear anymore. Burned out counselors may cease counseling activity or, worse, they may stay on the job but "shut down" emotionally, becoming the stereotypical bureaucratic social worker type.
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Originally published in the Covenant of the Goddess Newsletter,
The address of this page is http://proteuscoven.com/counsel/listen
Contents of this page are copyright © 1996, 1999, 2001, 2005 by Judy Harrow.