By Glyndora Condon MS MFT NCC LPC
Counselors have a most difficult job as they meet each new client and listen to their stories. It is often similar to a detective who is attempting to find truth without any prior knowledge of the victim(s). They take the statements, inquire as to the onset, duration, frequency, and intensity and create a timeline of events. When the counselor is assisting an individual then the counselor basically only has what that one person is revealing, and understand that the truth is buried often underneath layers of defenses, distortions, and pain.
When there is a conflict between two or more then this complicates the already complicated process. As with a crime scene, counselors seek validity and reliability ; yet unlike detectives, counselors must work to keep an empathetic and respectful environment as he or she questions each client; with the intent to educate and aid in the discernment; so that their clients can comprehend how to do this process, and to arrive at truth themselves.
First, the counselors must help their clients to understand that they do not know it all. Often clients have gotten stuck in the use of many thought distortions and believe their own version of the situation is the only true one. Some jump to conclusions based upon their own personality, understanding, experiences, and beliefs; which completely denies and voids any other’s. This is when we teach them to seek evidence which supports their beliefs and also evidence that does not support it. We teach them how to think circumstantially: Who was there? Where did it occur? What happened from all perspectives? How? Having a quantity of circumstances is important.
We then listen to all of the eye witnesses and compare stories to find congruency, and to find discrepancies. Yet we have to remember that some witnesses lie, some are bias; each comes from a different perspective, each have their own personal story, each have differing communication styles, and also we must know if they are global vs analytical; as well as, if each are visual, audial, or kinesthetic learners In addition, there will be differences of how a male brain and female brain processes information. Each of these helps us to discern if there is agreement within the conflict as to the issues. We listen for motive and we see if these same issues occur outside the relationship. We also understand that not all memories are equal and that time erodes and skews memories. Therefore, we must understand what is important to each party and why. Last, we allow for human error since we know that all humans are fallible; including ourselves.
It is our intent to encourage clients to forgive, apply grace through Christ, and to seek the positives as each begin to make deposits into their mate’s, child’s, or other’s heart as we work to increase unity and love.