IT’S NOT WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU’RE DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING, IT’S WHAT YOU’RE DOING WHEN YOU’RE DOING WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE YOU’RE DOING.
The “truth” is often clouded by the perception of the person. A client will always tell you one, or more, of three things when presenting their concerns to you.
- What they believe the truth is concerning the behavior of other people (husband, wife, relative, friend, etc.).
- What they believe the truth is concerning their own behavior in the circumstances presented.
- What their worldview tells them is true about life in general, especially about themselves (that they are victims, failures, unfairly treated, etc.).
People who have suffered an event early in their lives will tend to view life from the perspective of the event. For example, a young girl who was sexually molested, by someone she should have been able to trust, will tend to mistrust close relationships in her life. At the same time, your own perceptions will affect how you relate, understand, and respond, to the concerns of the client.
For example, if you suffered an event as a child, you will more likely sympathize with the clients, as compared to empathizing. Sympathizing (agreeing with them and possibly being on their “side”) will tend to make you ineffective as a counselor, in their case. Empathizing (understanding how difficult things are for someone else, without “siding” with them) on the other hand, helps the counselor better understand the problem and look for a healthy solution.
If you tend to be religious in your worldview, then you will tend to critically critique the client’s arguments, and are more likely to make judgments which will work against your helping the client. On the other hand, if you tend to be anti-religious, then you will tend to react negatively to the client’s religious assertions and beliefs. You will probably catch yourself arguing Bible with the client, instead of looking for solutions for their problems.
Your personal doctrine relating to God will also dictate how you tend to respond to the client. For example, if you believe that everyone was “healed” by His (Jesus’) wounds (1 Peter 2:24), then you will be rather hard on people who argue that God no longer heals, because it hasn’t happened to them. You will probably catch yourself scolding them for not having enough faith, instead of encouraging them to “test” the Word by obeying it and seeing the results.
If you are unmarried (or have not lived with a person of the opposite sex as a couple), your perspective will be affected by the lack of personal experience of these persons’ interactions with someone of the opposite sex. You may assume that something is true because it makes sense to you, but your lack of experience may cause you to be unaware of something that would argue with your conclusions.
If were the victim of abuse in a marriage, you have issues of unforgiveness and anger which would interfere with your objectivity. For example, if you were an abused wife, you may automatically assume that the accusations of a female client of spousal abuse by her husband are absolutely true without doubt, just because she accused him.
Our assumptions that we always see clearly and understand correctly will tend to make us less objective, and therefore less effective in counseling. Even if you do not tell yourself that you are claiming to always be right, your responses to the client will either be such that they lead the client to the truth, or lead them to your personal way of thinking. Take a look at the pictures above, one more time, and you will see that different people will come to different opinions of what the pictures indicate.
Your perception is your point of view. You may be one hundred percent right, or quite wrong. For example, you and I may agree that a car accident happened, and that we both saw it, and that we can each give an account of the accident. But, you will have seen it from your point of view, and I will have seen it from mine. We will end up giving some details of the account which will be different.
Be conscious of perception when you counsel.