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# 7 When May The Helping Hand Strike Again?

There is something fundamentally wrong with this statement THE HELPING HAND (COULD) SRIKES AGAIN! We are all helpers, and we all know that helpers should not strike, we are there to help people who may need our help. This is certainly true of our intentions, but not always our actions. I will look through a person-centered lens this time at the helping equation.

There are definitely times when our need to be of help (this would be my agenda) interfers with whether the person we want to help actually wants our help at that particular time (a client's wants/consent). At these critical times it can be very difficult for us (because of counter-transferenc) to not impose my need to be of help onto others because I can so easily justify it. It just does not make it helpful because, consent matters.

There is no shortage of people, potential clients, who are wanting help. There is also no shortage of professional helpers from many different professions, already trained and ready to help when called upon. Here sits what can be seen as an occupational hazzard, someone who needs help, but does not actually want it at the particular time we offer it. Those of us with an especially intense urgency to help others are vulnerable to this hazzard because we often feel desperate about our being allowed to be helpful to others in our moment of personal urgency. It is our desperation at this point that is the problem. When my urgent need to be of help out weighs another person's desire to have help from me in that moment, something is seriously out of balance. We are out of balance, in this equation, they are not.

It is easy for us at times like this to actually confuse the urgency we are feeling to be helpful with an imagined urgency of the client to be helped, thereby justifying our proceeding without their consent, because we can view it as 'in the client's best interests'. The confusing of their needs with what would actually be our own wants just blurrs the issue in our favour.

NOTE: It is important here to confirm that there are special safety circumstances under which we may need to proceed without a client's consent: the 4 traditional exceptions to confidentiality. This discussion is about the regular issues of consent, not these exceptions.

We need to develope our own personal & professional honesty around these issues to know how to proceed when these type of urgencies arise in us, and I believe it is not as uncommon as we may prefer to think. We have all spent a lot of time, money and effort to become counsellors and therapists, and we all identify as professional helpers in some way, so it is not surprising that we would want to offer and provide our skills to those we encounter that may need and want help. But that does not justify proceeding as if we have their consent, until we actually ask them, and only then proceed after their confirmation that they do want our help at that time. This is the helping contract which forms the basis of an informed consent agreement between the client and ourselves to know and agree upon which issues we are working on together. That assures that we are both working from the same map towards the same destination. Our map may have more details of a genral nature, like how change happens, while theirs will have more details of a very personally specific kind, their personal history.

From this starting place we know how to proceed to building a treatment plan and offering it to the client for their consideration and approval. If we discover that we may in fact be at one of those personal urgency to help places with a person we have encountered, or an existing client, and we are wanting to go into their territory without their consent, what should we do?

In the most basic terms, we would need to pause and seek their consent by showing them how what it is we are proposing is related to the existing helping contract and their personal goals for counselling. We would articulate what it would look like and what they could reasonably expect from consenting to this course of treatment including the potential risks associated with this approach.

We would also need to be getting some help for ourself at this point, (but not in session) about where our urgency is coming from, and then, how to manage it so it does not overtake us while working with our clients, or around other vulnerable people. Typically this would start by getting some good supervision/consultation on this vulnerability of ours. It may also open some personal areas that would best be dealt with in our own personal therapy.

If you should encounter this issue in your work, my advice would be first, to forgive yourself for what you have discovered, then to follow the steps in the preceeding paragraphs and use it to move yourself forward in your career. If it has been, or remains, a blind spot for you, by acknowledging it you can convert it from a blind spot to a known sensitivity and get ahead of it. Please know that you are not the only clinician to stumble in this way, we all stumble on something, I know that I definitely have, and I used these steps to push myself forward and learned some personal lessons about being humble, not perfect, and a life long learner.

I will leave my discussion at this point and let it lead us to the next subject for next month, Perfection, does it actually exist in our profession?

I hope you find something in this edition of value, and I hope you will check in again next month, Ciao David

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