Frederick Toke teaches that counselors should facilitate solutions, rather than focus on problems.
|CN PHOTO: Koh Meng Kwang
“Which of these four shapes would you choose? A square, a triangle, a circle or the letter ‘Z’?” After waiting for an answer, Frederick Toke, a psychologist by training, explained, “Those who chose the square are intelligent people, while those who chose the triangle are analytical. Those who choose the letter ‘Z’ are creative. As for those who choose the circle, you have a problem, a big problem. You are obsessive! You will need to take a walk down the street to visit my clinic. If you are not careful, being impatient will make you an ‘in-patient’.” The audience roared with laughter.
With that test, Toke, a man passionate about helping and training others, started the laughter-filled Effective Counseling elective workshop at the CGI-Asia Conference 2010. Not one 5-minute block went past that wasn’t met with laughter from the audience.
Toke explained that it is the duty of the counselor to “comfort” the client, and “com” means to “come along side,” while “fort” means to “give strength to the person.” He stressed that just as Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 23 that “even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for You are WITH me,” it was the duty of the counselor to give strength to the client, to help the client understand the situation, and not to remove “the mountains” on the client’s behalf.
Using the statistics from W.H.O., Toke explained that with the increase in workload and computer usage, the need to multi-task, coupled with the growing coffee culture, one in six people suffer from insomnia. Furthermore, one person attempts suicide in every three seconds with one succeeding every 40 seconds.
With increased emotional trauma, Toke mentioned that it is important for counselors to learn to facilitate solutions and not focus on their problems. He stressed that the moment counselors suggest solutions, they are taking on the responsibility of the clients and not empowering them to take up their responsibilities themselves.
He then encouraged the counselors to focus on the storyteller instead of the stories, and help the client function in the midst of crisis. He explained that all problems are universal, but what make the problems unique are the people going through them. As such, it is important to help the person and empower him to overcome the problem rather than remove the crisis. He also told the audience that as counselors, it is their duty to tell the client the truth as “the truth will set us free,” to remove the toxic emotions that cause dysfunction.
Next, Toke explained the three phases a person will go through. Phase 1 is the discovery phase, when a self-centered child rubs up against the world. In Phase 2, the preparation phase occurs when the child goes through crisis. After overcoming each crisis, promotion then comes and there will be a transformation from “I” to “We.” The child will then realize that he must learn to function collectively. If the child overcomes the crisis well, he gains wisdom and confidence. There will be maturity in his relationships and a development in his leadership skills. When he moves on to Phase 3, he will start to give back to the society. However, if the child does not learn well during the crisis, it will lead to bitterness and his confidence will be crushed, following which, he will give up.
“It was very interesting and his tips are very practical,” said Jennifer Chan, a 45-year old Malaysian customer service officer from New Life Church, Taiwan. “I now know how to counsel my children, as well as how to relate to my husband and the people around me.”