Counseling - A Three Stage Process

This is a simple three-step approach to counseling. This method is used when someone comes to you with a problem or wants to discuss something. This is for normal neurotics, like me and you" but not intended for dealing with patients suffering from serious mental disorders.

It does not give advice (a common mistake for any counseling approach). If you stick to this approach you will do no harm and will probably do much good.

Stage One: Listening

Listening is the act of knowing the meaning of the text and the emotions that accompany it.

Cerebral understanding is not enough.

Don't make statements that determines the problem or other person's feelings; ask instead. Not, "You're feeling . . . " but instead, "Are you feeling . . ? ". It's not, "The issue is . . ." but instead, "You think the problem is . . ." Or "The method you think of it . . . ". At this point, it might suffice to be able to say "uh-huh" or shake your head.

The process ends when the person begins to talk about the root of the issue. You will know you have done well when you get agreement to your suggestions of the problem and the feelings behind it.

Stage Two Stage Two: Exploratory Listening

If the person who is talking to you feels heard they will move on to deeper things. At this stage you can begin to ask questions. You can ask if they've ever had this experience before. what they've attempted to do in similar situations, whether it worked or not and if there are any thoughts or emotions that are going on for them. You can, if you are able to clearly observe something make observations of what you see. Things like, "You seem happy/sad/angry . . ." and etc. And so on. better to ask a question rather than make statements.

The critical issue in this moment is to remain in touch with their emotions at the level they are feeling them.

If you aren't able to do this, inform them; don't fake it. It could be something like, "Sorry, I can't manage this at the moment." They will appreciate this more than Amanda Smith pretending (and they'll know for sure that you're not really pretending).

This phase is finished when the issue is seen differently, a new insight is achieved.

Stage Three: Doing Different Things

When they begin to see things differently, they may begin to think about things differently or at least plan to.

When someone is contacting you with a concern is to try and jump to this stage immediately. This is a mistake. What is needed is time to explore what is happening and to look at it in a different way.

At this point, you may suggest what worked for you.

Don't be enticed by the phrase "Yes But . . . ".

If they give reasons that your suggestions aren't working Don't debate. Instead, ask them what they've tried, why it failed, and what they can do differently this time.

You may want to organize that they can check in with you so you can keep track of how they are doing with their new way of doing things.

This stage ends when they test their new behaviours with you or when they have plans for the new behaviour they wish to share with others.

This is mostly about listening.

The other person always knows more about their situation than you do.

Do not give advice on what people should do. In the final stage, you may wish to say what has worked for you when you've had to deal with similar issues yourself.

With a little practice you'll become quite proficient quite quickly at this process. You could end up becoming someone people come to 'for advice'. If you stick to this process and don't give suggestions, you'll do much good and help numerous people.

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