Communication Strategy in Pastoral Counseling

CS in PC 1 Communication Strategy; Use in Pastoral Counseling Rosa Menchen COMM 200 Instructor B. Matts May 24, 2010 CT in PC 2 I not only plan on furthering my career, but attending post graduate school, and obtain a MDiv. My ultimate goal is to become a health care chaplain, and/or an emergency chaplain. Having previous experience in the health care field, as well as a chaplaincy in the American Legion for several years, I have found that pursuit of this goal would not only be of benefit for me, and my family, but also for the people I will eventually have contact with.

All too often I have found that people from all walks of life have faced tremendous trials at the least expected times. During these times of great distress, many people for some reason or another felt lost and alone; their spirits aching and their hearts in pain from fear and loneliness during their time of great need. On another side of the spectrum, we have people that for some reason or another have failed in their relationships, jobs, and other life’s journeys as a result of poor interpersonal relationship skills, (Collins, 2007). I have as a nurse, taken counseling and psychiatric courses, as well as Christian counseling courses.

I have discovered for myself the inherent value of achieving satisfactory interpersonal relationships by learning effective communication strategies. I desire to examine the effectiveness of these techniques for use during pastoral counseling. I also plan on teaching these techniques as an adjunct to pastoral counseling, to help those being counseled improve their interpersonal skills, (Collins, 2007), (Hybels & Weaver, 2007), (Stewart, 2006). Before the use of communication techniques can be effective, the barriers to effective communication must be assessed, examined and exposed. During this ime a sort of care plan can be developed, designed for the individuals involved in the counseling sessions. A game plan of sorts with exercises to reinforce learning of better communication skills can be implemented along with a customized plan to aid in emotional and spiritual recovery. This type of life skill instruction is instrumental in helping people to realize that they can be in control of their emotions’, and most of all their hurtful and alienating behaviors. For emergency circumstances, the emergency, people involved and their belief systems must be assessed, and the communication skills of the pastoral counselor CT in PC 3 ust be first kicked into gear as an active listener. For that plan of action, a general care plan that can be utilized in those circumstances (something that ALL pastoral and health care practitioners can use) is vital in order to provide immediate and consistent spiritual support. During the time of emergent distress, people react differently to the stressors. The pastoral counselor must be adept at active listening in order for counseling to be productive, and the needs and desires of the people involved to be known, (Hybels & Weaver, 2007), (Mottram, 2007), (Collins, 2007).

When people are in need of pastoral counseling, whether it be in a critical emergent situation, or a chronic persistent state of negativity, the purpose is the same; observe, evaluate, and create a plan that the clients can use in their lives to facilitate effective communication, and learn strategies for dealing with conflict. This conflict may be with interpersonal relationships, or with the individual’s belief systems. In the acute care cases, it very well could be with not only family members, but the hospital staff also, (Mottram, 2007), (Collins, 2007).

I plan on covering the barriers to effective interpersonal relationships, possible causes and solutions, assessing communication skills and how to improve them, managing interpersonal conflicts, and the use of active, passive, and empathetic listening on the part of the pastoral counselor, and its effect on those who learn it to deal with their own miscommunication problems as a therapy in counseling, (Stewart, 2006), (Mottram, 2007), (DeLashmut, Glover, & Patch, 2010). There are several barriers to effective interpersonal relationships. Not the least of which are highly charged emotional responses, but poor listening skills.

Any response that is charged with emotion, tend to be hurtful, aggressive, and abusive. These types of responses automatically put the receiver on the defensive, and effectively overshadow, and even deflect any future attempts at a reasonable solution. On the other hand, poor listening skills lead the speaker to believe that they are being ignored, dismissed, boring, and at the worst unimportant, (Stewart, 2007), (Collins, 2007). CT in PC 4 Before any assessment of interpersonal skills or methods of communication can begin, the counselor him/herself must be an efficient and purposeful “listener”.

The effective and therapeutic listener is an integral part of any recovery process, whether it be from grief, anger, hurt, or just plain bad judgment. The next step would be to take notes as needed, and sort through the emotional outpouring of words to get through to the “meat” of the real problem. With careful dissection, an effective listener can weed out the excessive verbiage, and help the speaker focus and concentrate on the problem at hand, (Collins, 2007), (Stewart, 2007), (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). There are three types of listening. The first one is active listening.

This is the type of listening that is indulged in when looking for directions, information, answers to critical questions; an example is listening to a lecture related to an area of interest or a class. This is also the type of listening used to obtain directions such as specific instructions, (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). The next type of listening is critical listening. This is the type of listening required to asses facts and distinguish them from opinions. This seems to be the primary type of listening used in the initial assessment of a client’s needs.

The initial motive behind a person’s complaints or problems must be determined and separated from any emotional aspect of a situation. The true meaning of a person’s problem or complaint must be challenged and questioned until an actual baseline is achieved. The revelation of truth is a primary goal in counseling, as it must come first before any plan of action can be made, (Hybels & Weaver, 2007), (Collins, 2007), (DeLashmunt, Glover & Patch, 2010). The truth involves not just the client’s situation, but the actual view of the counselor.

The counselor must be aware of the truth of his/her own belief systems, prejudices, and objectivity, or lack thereof. Only then can a counselor be effective, (DeLashmut, Glover & Patch, 2010). I believe that the most important type of listening is empathetic listening. This style of listening is characterized by identifying with the storyteller, as they tell their story, identifying with the emotional responses of the storyteller, listening attentively to the story and then paraphrasing the CT in PC 5 motion or thoughts of the story teller to insure accurate interpretation and the real meaning behind the story, (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). With those things being said, we will now move on to the use of these listening skills during pastoral counseling, and how their application can help to alleviate stress and promote better communication through better understanding. In most emotionally charge events, each side tends to blame themselves or others for the misfortune that has come upon their family or loved one. Various arguments occur with none seriously addressing the real issues at hand.

In these acute situations, the counselor must be attentive and listen to both sides, and the patient or client if they are able to speak for themselves. If the actual patient is alert and able to speak, they should talk with the counselor alone, so that the counselor can realistically assess their spiritual wants and needs. If the loved ones involved are left to speak for the patient or client, then careful listening, note taking, paraphrasing and discussion with the people involved is necessary to determine the best course of action in regard to what the patient or client would really want when they cannot speak for themselves.

At times this may require the counselor or chaplain to act as a type of referee and go between for the families and health care providers. The counselor may use this time to help the families stay focused on the real issues by setting the example of using paraphrasing and guiding the individuals to honest communication about their feelings. Sometimes this may involve helping families set limits in their discussions like, “Let us stick to the issue”, “no name calling”, “leave the past alone and deal with today”. Gentle correction in brotherly love, can go a long way in preventing a family crisis meltdown, (Mottram, 2007), (Collins, 2007).

The chaplain is usually the intermediary for the family and health care providers. During critical moments, families and other loved ones may have a hard time understanding what the doctors may say, or be in such a state of shock or denial, that nothing seems to get through to them. This is when the art of listening can be instrumental in reaching a person in crisis. It only takes a few words CT in PC 6 of sincere concern for the person’s wellbeing to initiate a dialog that will open the door of emotion, and allow a deluge of confusion and uncertainty to flow.

It is during this outpour that the counselor or chaplain must be ready to assess and invest; their time, effort, skill and compassion, in order to help the people they serve, (Mottram, 2007), (DeLashmut, Glover & Patch, 2010). In the acute setting, pastoral counseling usual does not occur outside the walls of the institution, but only during the crisis. The chaplain or counselor will work with not only the health care providers, but the social workers also, to insure that if the need arises, that continued care and support can be made available to the people who need it.

This relationship with social workers is invaluable, as this helps the families, individuals, and others in crisis maintain a support network outside of the critical incident, to bring wholeness and healing to those in pain, (Collins, 2007). In non emergent situations, where relationship dysfunction is chronic, or unresolved, the chaplain or counselor works not only as a counselor, but a mentor of sorts. Ideally, a separate mentor or close confessor of sorts is helpful to keep a person on track: in a faith setting this would be an lder, or pastor to be accountable to. It is in this type of setting, that the root of interpersonal dysfunction can be assessed, possible solutions explored, and outside intervention from a health care professional can be obtained; an example would be a family and marriage counselor, (although many churches do have licensed counselors on their staffs), other referral to specialists can be made as needed. The usual problem in most relationships is poor communication. Each side has the need to be heard, but has not found a way to do so.

Many times, people behave in the same way to any problem with the same result; nothing accomplished except more hurt feelings and a bigger wall to climb. This is when the pastoral counselor can make a big impact through active listening. Active listening involves the use of paraphrasing, and/or repeating key phrases to get to the root of the problem or problems, and guide the client to find their way to overcome their difficulties, (Collins, 2007). CT in PC 7 If the counselor lays out possible solutions, the client may not respond as well as they would if they were guided to a possible solution.

The client must feel empowered by making their own choices to change their behaviors, and must be willing to put forth the effort on their own to change their communication style, and use active listening. This will not come until the client realizes that there is nothing that they can do to make the other person in the relationship change; they have to be willing to change themselves. The important thing to get across is; if the reaction to the stimulus (the arguments) is changed, then the other person will be forced to change their response to effect a change.

During the counseling session, practicing effective listening skills is a start for a person who wants to better their relationships. By learning to paraphrase what is heard, the client is actively demonstrating that he/she cares. If this behavior is consistent, the arguments become less. More time will be spent in discussion and problem solving, (Hybels & Weaver, 2007), (Collins, 2007). As in any type of counseling, pastoral counseling takes time. The counselor must use active listening to get to the truth behind the problem and complaint.

During this time it is essential that the counselor determine if the client may be a danger to themselves or others, and call the authorities if necessary. The counselor must also determine if the client has a support system in place, or if one needs to be made. Teaching active listening can provide a lifetime skill that can be used not only for close interpersonal relationships, but business relationships, and future social encounters. Many churches have small group meetings with group studies on self and relationship improvements, usually based on their specific theological needs.

The nice thing about active listening is that it is not dependent on any theological perspective and is applicable to any walk of life or situation. This is helpful especially when a client is wary of religious based counseling. As for the chaplain, they are trained to reach the spiritual needs and respect people of all faiths in their counseling. Put the two together, and it is a win win situation for all those involved, (Mottram, 2007), (Collins, 2007). An important aspect of active listening includes observation of non verbal communication; CT in PC 8 his may be posture, grimacing, eye rolling, inattention or sounds. The counselor needs to be aware of his/her own behavior, as well as those in the counseling session. It is important prior to group counseling sessions, that guidelines are set concerning behavior. Not only does this help in reducing distractions, it also puts the responsibility of individual behavior where it belongs; the clients. This serves a double purpose; empowering the clients as well as promoting a “safe” environment in which the clients may speak freely and express their emotions.

Another rule is that no derogatory statements, name calling, or insults are allowed. My mother always told me, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing”. I think that this rule is still applicable, and a good one to use. It helps to keep inflammatory words out of the picture, and keep the focus on the issues at hand. It also allows clients to see themselves through the eyes of others, without the burden of emotional distractions. This approach also sets the example of conflict resolution without tears.

The average person really does not know how to approach conflict without fighting. Teaching someone to listen first, assess and evaluate the situation, then logically and compassionately consider possible solutions to the problem/s at hand. With an approach like this, there is no reason to become defensive or angry. The obstacles to resolution are removed, and the way is paved to mutual understanding, (Hybels & Weaver, 2007), (Collins, 2007), (Stewart, 2007), (DeLashmut, Glover & Patch, 2007).

The skill of active listening is essential for the pastoral counselor to enter the world of those in crises; acute and evolving crisis, or that of an ongoing nature. This approach conveys compassion, interest, concern, and hope. Active listening when used eliminates the negativity that is generally associated with conflict resolution, as well as promotes the well being of those in crises. It allows for emotions to be expressed in a non vulnerable manner, while allowing access by the counselor to the inner self of the person in pain.

For me, the key to compassion is being an active listener. Being an active listener will allow me to reach out to people of all kinds from all walks of life. Active listening will also help me to guide people through the toughest times of their lives, (Collins, 2007), (Mottram, CT in PC 9 2007), (DeLashmut, Glover & Patch, 2007). CT in PC 10 References Collins, G. (1997). Christian Counseling; a comprehensive guide, (3rd. ed. ). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson DeLashmut, Glover, Patch. (2010).

Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, Servanthood 2: A class for those seeking effective servanthood, retrieved May 21, 2010 from, http://www. xenos. org/classes/servanthood2/index. htm Hybels . (2007). Communicating effectively, (8th. ed. ). Boston: McGraw Hill Mottram, K. (2007). Caring for those in crisis: facing ethical dilemmas with patients and families, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press Stewart, J. (2006). Bridges not walls: a book about interpersonal communication, (9th. ed. ). Boston: Mc Graw Hill