The setting of limits helps direct the counseling into meaningful and useful areas, these limits can enable the therapist to maintain an honest attitude of acceptance, empathy, and regard for the patient. The clear definition of acceptable or unacceptable behavior helps make both the patient and the counselor feel safer. In the matter of counseling parents or children, the setting of limits shows the parents the acceptability of establishing responsibility for the well-being of another. The child-patient has spent a great deal of time testing limits in an effort to find support. direction, and security. The setting of limits by the counselor can be interpreted by the child as evidence of concern and a commitment to protect the child.
A physician-counselor must avoid thinking or acting as if he is the patient’s lawyer. It is not the counselor’s responsibility to “defend” the patient against others, but rather to help the patient realign himself with society in a more functional way. This means that the counselor does not operate to prove his patient is right and a teacher or parent is wrong, but does seek to help his patient and the teacher or parent establish a more effective relationship. Too many people in society see authority as responsible for proving the right or wrong of matters. The physician-counselor as an authority figure cannot be pushed into this judgmental, defensive position. Counseling does not benefit from proving guilt or innocence, right or wrong, but from exploring alternative ways of dealing with situations to produce a new or different outcome.
Regardless of bow the counseling seems to be progressing, commitment to the needs of the patient must be sustained. The physician-counselor is an important person to the patient, and even though no apparent progress is being made, his continued effort and interest will produce results. If the counselor expects a patient to continue a difficult effort to produce change, then it is incumbent upon the counselor to manifest an equivalent interest in the patient. Proving this determination to the patient can be a very important step in the counseling process.
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