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What To Do In Difficult Counselling Situations? - When Your Counsellee Or Client Finds It Difficult To Talk About The Actual Problem(s) Affecting Her Yet Talks About Everything Else!

Counselling is a process of empowering the counsellee to introspect, understand her situation, and cope with or resolve her own problems. But even experienced counsellors can find themselves in difficult counselling situations as I sometimes do.

Like all, this person also walked in and expressed a desire to talk to somebody confidentially. Initial pleasantries over, I asked what the counsellee wanted to express and what was it that was troubling him.

The counsellee was forthright in talking about many things, and then came to a halt by saying, "I am deeply disturbed and distressed about something that has happened in the recent past, but I am not able to express it." All my ingenuity and skill as a counsellor did not make him feel free to talk - he talked about many things but would not open out about the actual problem.

Image Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões, cc-by-2, flickr.com

The consequence of his distress was that his performance in college had drastically dropped and sleepless nights were a common occurrence. As a result he had become totally withdrawn and depressed. His friends' circle had reduced and there was a sense of dejection in him.

Over quite a few sessions in the next few weeks, no effort was spared to paraphrase and make the counsellee talk about the issue in question but nothing seemed to work. There was nothing to do but carry on the listening process so that he could at least freely share whatever he wanted to share. Many a time it also crossed my mind that I should perhaps stop the sessions and accept the fact that no progress could be made. The counsellee went on reiterating that he was comfortable talking to me and that he did not want me to pass him on to another colleague.

I was very much aware that I needed to have a lot of patience and compassion towards the counsellee in order to make any headway. An opening came by way of the counsellee making a statement that only one other close person knew about his distress. My immediate reaction was to probe who that only other person was and how he had come to know about it. He was open to telling me that it was his cousin in faraway U.S.A. and that he was very close to the counsellee. That cousin had been informed about this distress-causing incident through e-mail. But even after I was told about this, again I failed in all the efforts to make him talk to me about the incident.

At last it dawned upon me to suggest to him that he could write a few lines about the incident and give it to me so that I could read about it instead of his narrating it to me. I assured him that I would not be speak about it unless he was ready to discuss the issue and even suggested that the piece of paper would be shredded right in front of him.

This suggestion made him write down the incident and I could see the relief on his face. For others it might have been a common incident but for him it had been very distressing as the esteem with which he had been holding the person concerned had been shattered because of the incident. All his hopes about humanity and its values had been questioned. After this opening, it was quite smooth taking him through the process of catharsis and to make him work on the options available to resolve the issue.

Please NOTE: The approach outlined in this article is not the only way to address the problem discussed. As a counsellor, you can chart your own way of tackling such issues, keeping in mind the guidelines that we share with you through such articles and our online and classroom courses in counselling skills - guidelines to help you be an effective counsellor.

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