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Can we counsel people we know, our family members, relatives, friends or colleagues?

I am sure every counsellor has faced this dilemma. How do we decide who we can and whom we cannot counsel?

The first thing the counsellor should ask themselves is, “Am I going to be affected by this counselling?” You can be affected in many ways by counselling close and well-know people. Your relationship with them could get affected. Your relationship with others in your circle may get affected by counselling this person. In counselling, information is going to be shared and you may not be comfortable with the information shared by someone close. They may share information that you were better off not knowing. The burden of carrying secrets may trouble your conscience. In all such cases, you cannot counsel the person.

The second thing to consider is “Do I have a vested interest in this counselling?” An example will make that clear. Suppose a colleague approaches you saying they have got an offer from another company and are wondering should they take it up or not. Can you really have no stake in their outcome? Suppose you feel you don’t want to lose that person’s company then bias is already built-in about your advice to them. In such circumstances, you cannot counsel a person as you have a vested interest in the outcome of the counselling process.

Genuine counselling can happen only when you are not going to be affected by the counselling process and you have no personal stake in the outcome of the counselling process. Authentic counselling can happen when you are working only in the best interest of the client. This is the meaning of ‘unconditional positive regard’ that is talked about in counselling.

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