Counseling in one form or another goes on constantly as the leader works with the members of the group. Counseling can be used to encourage or reassure an individual, to develop a more effective member of the group, or to help solve a specific problem. Counseling is helpful when a person needs encouragement, should have more information bearing on his or her task, needs help in interpreting facts, or is uncertain about what to do, or the leader feels the need to correct a situation.
The counselor first must find out that there is, in fact, a needior counseling. The counselor must recognize that no two counseling situations are alike and that each person and problem is different. There are no pat solutions.
There are six keys to good counseling.
1. Listen carefully. Give undivided attention to what the person is saying.
2. Ask yourself, "Do I understand what this person is trying to say?"
3. Summarize frequently to assure understanding, keep on the track, and check what is being told.
4. Additional information might be all that is needed. The person might not have all of the facts, or might not know all of the resources available. The counselor must be sure to give information, not advice.
5. The person must be encouraged to think of different ways of handling the problem. The individual has the problem, has thought about it in greater detail than the counselor, and might have arrived at a solution. He or she might only be seeking confirmation of that solution.
6. Above all, the counselor must not give advice. The objective of counseling is to lead the individual to his or her own solution.
A general rule in effective counseling is to keep the individual talking. Many counseling sessions fail when the counselor attempts to arrive at a Solution before the individual has finished telling the complete problem. Use "trigger words" to keep the person talking. Phrases like "What did you do then?" or "How did that make you feel?" can bring out more details. Words of sympathy or understanding such as "Wow," "Oh my," or "That's a shame" are helpful. Only when the individual begins to repeat himself or herself will additional information be of value.
Some counseling sessions uncover problems that are serious and might require professional help. The Scouter involved in counseling must consider his or her efforts as "first aid" to a young person with obvious and serious problems. Be careful not to counsel above your abilities. Our objective is to help youngsters the best we can--not to become amateur psychologists. The leader should be prepared to refer a troubled young person to a competent professional in this field if it appears necessary.