In what ways can the inherent power differences within a counseling relationship be reduced?
In a counseling relationship, the counselor has more power. This is by virtue of being highly educated, having a doctorate or advanced degree, and knowing more than the patient. However, there are things the counselor can do to make the patient feel more in control.
Counseling is about listening. Let the person talk, and fully explain what is bothering him or her. Let the person feel heard. Not jumping in and making assumptions or putting words in the person’s mouth is a great way to help the person feel more comfortable with you and able to open up. If you have a person who talks and then asks for advice, you can easily jump in and develop plans. But stress that it is a partnership, and you can’t help him or her until he or she helps himself.
If you have a reticent person that just sits there, you may have more of an uphill battle. The person might be nervous, or skeptical. In this case, you can try to find something the person does want to talk about, even if it is not related to the issue at hand. Sometimes just developing a rapport first will help. Some counselors won’t talk unless the other person does, but this can just make things more awkward. Find a common ground, and start from there.
If necessary, begin to ask simple questions that will lead the person toward a more active pariticipation. Again, stress the lack of judgement, and the fact that it is a partnership and you both need to work together to help the person get better.