Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sharing Nugget #33

#33: Peer helping II

The most significant part of my training to be a peer helper happened during the class the week before. We were doing role-playing. I was the client, and F was my client. She was given a scenario (which was unknown to me), and I am supposed to ‘peer help’. She was emotional and straightforward, and she ‘dumped’ information on me. Her thoughts were confused and wayward. And she asked for my advice just halfway through. The session was intense. But I survived. Now, I can reflect on it. Here are some things I learned.

Firstly, it is important to go into a helping session with no expectations in mind. I generalized that most clients will be reluctant to share. Thus, I might have to consciously listen and probe to find out more. No worries, I though, the counselor had taught us how to do that. But when the session started, F fired away. Her thoughts translated with bullet speed into speech – I struggled to process them. I had no notepad to write on (it was to simulate a conversation with friend). I was thrown off the tracks. She asked me for advise (which we are not supposed to give). I was stunned.

Secondly, it is important to take control of the session, and not be as lost as the client. We were supposed to practice paraphrasing. But I hardly have to. For a while, the pauses in the conversation were too long. I picked myself up, and tried to fight my way back into the land of credibility. I did it by asking questions to help me (and F) organize her thoughts. I took control. I set the pace. I was back in action after the initial fall. It was almost like writing an essay, where we ended off with a summary.

Thirdly, I learned how to help without giving advice. I learned in class that after a session, we need to explore the options the client has, and let the client make the choice. F and I discussed her options, and the consequences that come with it. I consciously reframed from adding opinion. I succeeded. It was a revelation to me. This point is especially poignant because for a while (in the real world), I thought I was losing a good friend because she is turned off by the way I injected opinion into our conversations. It sounded like advice. I realized that I had unconsciously let my senior facilitator persona spill over to my Renjie-as-friend persona. It made me look like a big brother who wants to tell the sister what to do. It was a difficult time. Thus, this session opened my eyes on how refraining from giving advise makes a difference.

Anyway, on a lighter note, the role-playing client revealed that if she make a certain decision, her “dad” will storm the school with a butcher knife. And she is insistent (or should I say: hell-bent) on that course of action. My reply was, “in this case, would you consider talking to the university counselor?” Thus, my fourth lesson was, peer helping has its limits. Sometimes, some people need professional help. Imagine watching Channel News Asia one early morning and seeing an angry father waving a butcher knife at the crowd.

Man, there is no hole deep enough for me to hide in!

This is a journal entry for my MGMT course.


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