Counselling a necessity, not a taboo

I applaud Mr Rajan Chettiar, a family lawyer, for recommending that couples facing difficulties in their marriages consider seeking professional counselling ("Counselling a must for couples before resorting to divorce"; Tuesday).

Counselling is an important aspect of our society today, but very much neglected.

Many people have misconceptions about counselling. Some think that it is only for people who are in trouble. For instance, in school, many children think that counselling is meant only for naughty students.

Counselling is also about strengthening oneself; it is about helping a person to pause and think, and be mindful of his response before taking action.

Of late, we have seen unfortunate incidents of people lashing out in the cyberworld and getting into trouble. We have also seen cases of road rage, child abuse, maid abuse, and teachers abusing their authority, just to name a few.

We live in a society where almost everyone is under tremendous stress, be it from work or school.

If organisations could have counsellors on hand so people could seek them out to talk about the challenges and issues in their lives before a tragedy occurs, we could be seeing fewer social ills in our society.

Reach Counselling, in its publication More Than A Chat, aptly describes the objective of counselling: "Counselling does not seek to offer a quick and easy fix. A counsellor facilitates the process of problem-solving by guiding the clients to discover solutions that are applicable to their unique situation.

"The focus here is not to 'solve problems' but to strengthen the client's internal and external resources and guide him or her to tap these resources to find solutions."

Once these resources are discovered, people will have the mental and emotional strength to better face challenges in life.

The late pioneer American social worker Virginia Satir cleverly stated that problems are not the problem; coping is the problem.

When we learn how to cope, we are able to live a more enriching life, and have healthier family relationships and a more cohesive society.

Shirley Woon (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Counselling a necessity, not a taboo'. Print Edition | Subscribe