How to Counsel When You Don’t Have the Experience to Relate?

How to Counsel

Our guidance and counseling instructor asked us “Do you really need to be experienced in the field to have the right to counsel?” “Do you have to become a prisoner to relate to the prisoners?” “Do you have to be an addict?” And so on.

The answer is partly YES, it would be necessary to have a quality set of experiences and NO, you can’t be that stupid.

Yes, in the sense that Christ even had divested His eternal existence and decided to experience mortality in order to relate to our human infirmities and downward degenerative pull. If that was not enough, He even willingly surrendered Himself to go through the most excruciating and horrible death. Christ had undergone physical, mental and emotional tortures for the sole purpose of saving you and me from dying eternally.

Having surpassed of course and coming out victorious over death, Christ now serves as our High Priest or Mediator whenever we appeal something to God the Father.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

It would surely bring relief if we are assured of being understood when we pour our hearts out to the God of the Universe, right? When we are insured with the reality that God can truly relate and can exact fairness because He has gone through it all, right?

This is what God applies and so, having the ability to relate to others is truly an advantage in counseling because people are guaranteed of you not being judgmental, sincerely merciful and would accept and understand them in spite of imperfections and possibilities of committing the same mistake again and again.

Apart from learning from God, it is also wiser to approach those people who really had gone through a LOT in life. Walk with the wise and you shall be wise, as the Proverb says. I would consider this a “cheat” or “shortcut” because those types of experienced people have surely acquired timeless wisdom and much life “tricks” of which solutions are better, if not best. Be sure to take advantage of these wise people’s availability. Soak everything up that they teach about the topic we called “life.”

The no-you-can’t-be-that- stupid approach can be done two ways:

  1. Read good books or memoirs and other stories which can be used as indirect references for the client. You can use a “backdoor” method where you entertain the client with a moral story but subtly bringing him/her to the realization of relating to the story’s character. Hence, you give him/her the idea on how to face his/her challenges and the consequences that his/her choices entail with respect to comparing with your story’s character; and
  2. Decide to reach out, observe and converse with different kinds of people. Expose yourself to different backgrounds and may be conflicts (with precautionary measures) that a person has undergone or is undergoing. Remember, people are good stories to read and learn, too. You could draw out their experiences and use them as handy tools for your future clients to relate. Help them solve their problems by learning from others in case you have not yet encountered what they needed help for. It’s always good to be equipped with knowledge, understanding and wisdom if you plan to be a teacher or counselor someday, all the time.

So, what are you waiting for? Store up NOW more how-to tools in order to counsel without having the need to experience many different things in order to relate.

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