How Do I Help a Hurting Friend?
Rod Wilson is the President and Professor of Counselling and Psychology of Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia and he has more than twenty-five years of church and counseling experience. He is also the author and co-author of three books on counseling. This fourth book is a gift from him to church leaders and lay people who share his deep concern for helping those who are hurting.
How do you normally react when people with problems approach you for help? According to Rod, the chief tendency of helpers is to offer an immediate assessment of the problem and impose an advice or instant solution,
When someone has a struggle with self-image, we want it to disappear. If a member of our small group comes from a dysfunctional family, we want them to get past it. The fellow deacon struggling with depression produces in us a desire for the quick fix (p. 11).
The book aims to correct the inappropriate approach to helping those who are hurting. The author strongly advocates that the prior concern of the helper is to understand the problem before making decisions on the kinds of intervention to resolve the hurts,
The most important thing is for us to recognize that what people need most is understanding. While understanding always provides the foundation for other kinds of help, it is important in and of itself. Understanding is a wonderful gift to give others.
The act of understanding requires two skills. The skill of "listening" is essential to learn "how to pay careful attention-sorting the details, and shifting through the relevant and the irrelevant information" and the skill of "tuning in to understand the nature and content of the problem" (p. 16). In comparison, the skill of "listening" has received more attention and many books and resources are available to instruct the technique. The book emphasizes the need to train helpers to secure the second set of skill. In his twenty-five years of counseling, teaching, and pastoral ministry experience, he has identified five problem areas where people are hurting most in their lives and he believes that,
if you are involved in a local church, as an active member or a lay leader, it is inevitable you will cross paths with someone who is struggling with one or more of these challenges (p. 19).
The five problems presented include self-image, grief, depression, burnout and dysfunctional families (chapters 2-6). The discussion of the content in each chapter is organized under four major sections that helps to unravel the complexity of each problem to gain a better understanding of the hurt.
The section, "Definition of the problem," explains the meaning of the problem. The use of the term, "dysfunctional" to diagnose the state of a family is controversial. Rod defines "dysfunctional family" as a descriptive and not a diagnostic term. It is a term describing "a family where there is a lack of healthy functioning in ten areas" (p. 127-130). The explanation given for these areas clarifies the many aspects of the "problem." Next, the readers or helpers will seek the Scripture for a Christian view of the problem in the next section, "Understanding the problem from a biblical perspective." Following the consultation of the Authoritative Text, "What it is like to experience the problem" (Section 3) will enable the helper to empathize with the counseleeís situation. With a comprehensive understanding of the problem and need, the final section "How to help people who are experiencing the problem" contains principles for helpers to guide the counselee through the situation.
The book gives a different meaning to the word, "understand," in that it requires more than verbalizing, "I understand your problem." The real life case studies and situations presented in the book render it a useful resource for anyone interested in the ministry of being a friend to someone or people who are hurting.
Summary of Chapel Message on 23 Aug
Prof Teo Choo Soo 4/9