Eighteen volunteers of City Harvest Dialect Church attend the first of a three-part course on basic counseling.
Contributed By Woo Wee Leng
|PHOTO: Emily Loo|
On Aug. 25, 18 volunteers from City Harvest Dialect Church began the first of a three-part counseling course. Conducted by Maria Tok, an experienced counselor and the zone supervisor of the Dialect Church, the purpose of the course was to engage the participants in a time of self-discovery as well as to provide practical tips on how to become an effective counselor.
On this basis, Tok began her first session by sharing the importance of self-awareness and values. She did this by asking the students to do a quick self-assessment by listing the positive and negative aspects of their lives. Through this exercise, participants were introduced to the premise of needing to know oneself well before being able to help others—a foundation that Tok stressed contributes to being a successful counselor. She added that a person’s belief system is influenced by their upbringing and environment, which in turn shapes their life values.
More than that, Tok also reminded the students that there were certain ground rules which had to be observed at all times: Confidentiality of any information disclosed in class; active participation of every participant; punctuality for each session; respect for one another; and no further discussion of counseling cases outside class time. With these guidelines set in place, it allowed participants to openly discuss their personal views and opinions in a trusted environment. By keeping the class size small, it also ensured that students had maximum learning and interactive experience.
Tok continued the session by defining the term “counseling” and debunked some myths surrounding the subject. Some common misconceptions include the thinking that counseling is telling people what to do and making them dependent on the counselor for advice. Another myth is that counseling is nothing more than giving a motivational talk. Explained Tok, “Counseling is a relationship aimed at assisting others in problem-solving; it is a warm, understanding, caring and empathetic relationship between the counselor and the person seeking counsel.”
Going through several case studies, the 18 participants discussed some challenging situations which addressed topics such as abortion, extra-marital affairs and filial piety.
“Many times, as ministry workers, people come to us seeking help. Often, we are put in a spot as they want us to make decisions for them. But counseling is a process that enables a person to sort out issues in their lives and reach their own decisions that will ultimately affect their lives,” shared Tok. She also advised the class that they needed to exercise self-awareness with regards to their own value system which will in turn influence their role as a counselor.
Said Jessie Tan, 27, a Dialect Church volunteer, “This counseling workshop was very helpful as it provided me the ‘know-how’ in responding to different people from different backgrounds. I am eagerly looking forward to the next two remaining sessions.”
Emily Loo Pui Mun, 23, agreed that it was a good learning experience. “It was an eye-opening evening for me. I came wanting to know how I can help others better and left discovering more about myself and my values.”
The evening proved to be fruitful for the students as they left in anticipation of the two remaining sessions where topics such as communication, self-destructive belief, and micro-skills in counseling will be taught.