by Gwyneth Harrow

Advice to the reader: these notes are abridged from the workbook which we use for the Counseling Basics workshops. The Counseling Workshop was first taught as a series of five weekly classes by Judy and Marjorie, later as a series of two-day retreats by Judy and/or Gwyneth. Really learning to counsel takes much more than just a weekend, but even in the short time available for our workshops, we can work on acquiring some of the basic counseling 'survival skills.' The Counseling Workshop continues to evolve -- we invite you to let us know what we could do to improve it. Please email your feedback to Judy.

You will not become a counselor by reading these notes, or any other book. Real training in counseling is experiential, in-person and in-depth. On the other hand, most working priest/esses have learned a lot about counseling from the hard school of experience. Reading can help you put your experiences in context and integrate the skills and understandings you have developed through your work.

As you might expect from Wiccan High Priestesses, our primary religious vocabulary is Wiccan. But these notes are intended for Pagans of all Paths, and for anybody else who may find them useful. We hope that our Druid, Heathen, and Reconstructionist (and anybody else we may have missed) readers will not feel left out, and will make any translation that is necessary to suit their own Paths.

Opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and must not be construed as being the opinions, practices or precepts of any Tradition or organization. May these words and the manner of their sharing bring harm to none, good to many, and honor to the Ancient Gods.


from Marjorie's Notebook:


A definition of counseling

The central purpose of counseling is to facilitate wise choices and decisions. Counseling is initiated when the person faces a problem that s/he feels inadequate to handle without the assistance from a professional or helping person.

Counselors must have a genuine sincere interest in each client -- as s/he is now. The client must feel received -- make it clear that you are interested, you care, and that this person has your undivided attention. Turn on the answering machine. Turn off the phone. Make eye contact.

Make the client feel safe and respected -- confident in you. There is no simple way for winning confidence. This is an ongoing process, by demonstrating that you can be trusted. Don't express your views as you would in conversation with a friend. Be mindful of transference.

We should always remember our limits: we cannot help everyone who comes to us. Some people need help from psychologists, surgeons or other clinicians -- pastoral counseling is for them at best an adjunct to the help they really need, and at worst it may do them harm.

Common False Impressions about Counseling:

1) Objectivity - the assumption is that anyone is capable of total objectivity
(impersonal, free of bias, free of judgement, not influenced by personal history or feelings)
2) Truth - assumption is that we can see truths about the other person that s/he can't see him/herself assumes we have abilities above and beyond those of others -- more knowledge 
3) Power to Change Others - assumption is that we can change others, that this is desirable -- assumes we have the right to change others

zoom in on:
  • critical dimensions of counseling
  • ground rules
  • when not to counsel
  • working models: theories of counseling
  • religious counseling: what makes it different?
  • forward to willed change

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    Contents of this page are copyright © 1996, 1999, 2001, 2012 by Marjorie Nelson-Brambir, Judy Harrow and Gwyneth Harrow.