Just had the second session in my course in Pregnancy Counselling. Part of the course involves writing a journal: I, in my characteristically extroverted way, have decided to do this on this blog. I am keeping any personal information, or things said by other members of the group strictly confidential.
Obviously, feel free not to read on unless you are interested!
Session Three focused on the difficult moral basis for pregnancy counselling, and the balance one must strike between grace and truth, compassion and boundaries.
The second part of the session looked at the qualities needed in a counsellor, and the “three people in the room”, the respective roles of the client, advisor and the Holy Spirit during a counselling session.
As I’ve said previously, I am going to journal answers to set questions; if there is anything else I want to say I will put it at the end.
How did you find the course content, exercise and group work?
I was torn between wishing we had more time, and being glad we didn’t. Some of the exercises, and the “So, what did you learn?” were a bit long, and then others we needed double the time. Probably quite a good mix then!
The hardest exercise was one where we had to variate between being too compassionate, and having too many boundaires. The role play scenario: a 15 year old comes in, asking for an abortion.
With too many boundaries, you ended up just telling the girl that abortion is murder, and debating the ethics of life in an argumentative way. This feels horrible, and unnatural, and you can’t imagine being so insensitive to someone in such a difficult situation. I cannot believe there are Christians holding up billboards saying “Abortion is MURDER!” outside abortion clinics. Where is the love?
Being too compassionate, I suppose I was meant to end up saying to the woman “ah, this is so hard for you, quick, have an abortion!”. Instead I started feeling an immense compassion for the woman and her unborn baby. This left me in an impossible situation, and I was left unable to do anything at all.
The other big thing I learnt from the course content in this session was that the Holy Spirit is the most important person in the room. No matter how I feel about the situation, I cannot make the client do what I want. The whole point of Christianity is that its about free will: people making choices. So for me to make someone else’s decision for them would be wrong. All I can do is give people an unbiased presentation of all the information, and trust in the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
What are you reacting to and learning from the trainers, methods and members of the course?
This week was a little different, since it was the first time that my wonderful wife was on the course with me. So I was a little more aware of trying not to be too loud, and not to take over the group.
I think it is interesting that the course has stated that we all “know the truth”, and has assumed that we all share the same belief about the moral issues surrounding a foetus, and abortion. Whilst I’m not certain that we do, so far conversation has been very natural between all of us, with very shared values.
I think the most valuable thing I learnt from anyone was when I asked a leader – “So how does it feel when someone leaves a session still adamant on having an abortion?”, and they replied “It’s the worst feeling ever”. It was good to know that we won’t necessarily get to a place of complete separation. Developing true empathy means we might have to get a little hurt sometimes. Better that than an unfeeling distance.
What are you learning from your interpersonal encounters outside the course?
I just did some design work for a promotional gifts company, and I found that I had to take a lot of criticism and feedback on my design work. Whilst I’m used to this with clients, I found it surprisingly difficult on the first day. In the end though, we ended up with a great final product, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them. But I learnt a little more about how I come across to others.
Aside from that, I am standing to be Union President at Sheffield University. I am standing as a joke candidate, but this will be a good opportunity to make people laugh, have some fun, and recognise where the boundaries are of managing to upset/offend people, and hopefully managing not to do that!
What relevant personal reading have you completed?
I have just read the whole of “What’s So Amazing About Grace”. Book review to follow!
What aspects of your personal growth have been challenged?
- Attitude – I am realising that I will need to distance myself a little. Step back, hold things a little less closely in order to be able to be impartial, helpful and thus, ultimately, compassionate.
- Knowledge – I think I learnt a lot more today about the specific model of counselling we are using. I can tell that the concept of the “three people in the room” is something that will help me to shape my thinking.
- Skills – My previous experience as a medical student has definitely given me an advantage in role plays; both because in my training I have done a lot of role plays, and because I have had a lot of real one on one patient encounters. However, I have a long way to go, and watching videos of professional examples has hammered that home!