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Counselling Tips

Suppose you want to give others some pieces of advice to help against doing the same old mistakes you once barely survived. Altogether, you are entitled to an opinion. How you voice it is quite another matter. We can learn from the best of counsellors. Sound skills from the arena of counselling is not necessarily a bad thing. It could even give some help, as fair counselling can come in handy in our dealings with others.

Here is a walk through some basics that sometimes apply and bring a measure of help:

Assess well. Know your subjects and approaches. Speak briefly. When you don't know what to say, say nothing. When in doubt, focus on feelings. Aim to get terminated from the beginning, and prepare for it in good time. Be as prompt as you can too.

Avoid premature problem solving. Pay attention. Use apt metaphors. You may summarise.

Change may not be simple. Consider a client's stated expectations. Existential counselors find that clients seek counselling to expand their psychological worlds (Meier and Davis 2011, 68): allow for that. Moreover, positive thinking does not always equal rational thinking. Assess aptly, and refrain from moralising a lot, if you can.

Do not assume much. Ascertain you are culturally competent. Refer carefully.

Persevere in conceptualising as well as you can, or as your client may handle. Be prepared; you may have to deal with your clients' feelings toward you.

Among the counselling approaches, chose and assemble parts of the ones with the best documented results. Cognitive counselling has good, documented results: "Cognitive therapies have been found to be among the most effective approaches for helping clients with depression, generalized anxi¬ety, phobias, panic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. (Meier and Davis 2011, 66)." Person-centered counselling has documented results to show for it too. A result of your efforts go assemble parts from different approaches is called Integrative.

Narrative therapy, NT, is an age-old possibility. (Brudal 1986). It focuces on stories in counseling, as "stories are powerful because all people actively seek to make sense of their lives through plausible narratives." Further, "One of the advantages of NT is that since all therapists pay attention to language to some degree, it can be combined with almost any other counseling approach." (Meier and Davis 2011, 75, 76).

(Main source: Meier and Davis 2011, passim)

An integrative approach

The benefits of counseling may derive from elements common to several therapeutic approaches. Discerning an underlying worldview could be fit (Allport, Becoming).

Consider some possible, common stages of change that clients may pass through toward betterments or whatever. Change may, theoretically, unfold through several stages:

  • Little or no awareness of the major problem.
  • Getting aware of the problem and beginning to think about how to remedy it, if possible.
  • The other intends to change and begins to take preliminary actions.
  • The other changes behavior or the environment in an attempt to remedy some voiced problem.
  • The other tries to continue the changes made.
  • The other has resolved a problem.

(Source, Meier and Davis 2011, 74-75)

Resolving problems of resolving problems

Sutton and Stewart tell us how formal counselling is neither advice giving nor persuasion, nor exercising undue influence (2009, 3-4). It should be fit for a counsellor to be genuine, show adequate regard, understand the other and his or her frame of reference, and respond tolerably. (Ibid. 27-42)

If it comes to helping another resolve a problem, basic handling in problem solving and helping the client become more assertive may backfire unless discussing at the client's pace. To draw several threads of thought together may be called for. A fit aim may be to help another understand one or several problems they experience (Ibid. 157-76, 196, 132).

Counselling in the common sense of 'giving advice', does not have to be formal. In a friendly or other exchange of views, many thoughts may be directed toward helping someone address and resolve main problems and work through his or her feelings. Main sides to the art are to explore, understand and resolve what comes up. (Ibid. 2). Yet, "telling people what they should do or ought to do, often conflicts with the essential meaning of counselling, for "counsellors seek to help clients look at what is possible, but they avoid telling clients what they should do." (Ibid. 3). Further:

Advice may be appropriate . . . when clients' thoughts are clearly confused or they feel overwhelmed following a traumatic event. At such times the counsellor will exercise greater caution than when clients are fully responsive and responsible. Advice offered and accepted when in crisis, and then acted upon, could prove to be . . . not totally apt to meet the client's needs. When people are in a state of shock or under stress they are vulnerable. For all those reasons, counsellors are wary about responding to a request for advice. (Ibid. 3)

As for persuasion, "it is "in direct conflict with at least one principle of counselling – self-direction – the client's right to choose for themselves their course of action." (Ibid. 4)

This concept of self-direction, based on personal freedom, is the touchstone of the non-directive approach to counselling but is present in most others. (Ibid. 4)

Also, influencing others against these sound principles, may smack of manipulation. Sutton and Stewart:

The dividing line between manipulation and seeking ways and means to resolve a problem may not always be easily seen, but the deciding factor must be who benefits? (Ibid 5)

And for all that, there may be exceptions to many a rule of the thumb. But sound and fair counselling skills may come in handy in many areas.


Being religious

In this collection, two persons share their views. Against the slogan that "Everything is politics," we may as well assess, "The sharing of ideas may serve as informal counselling, adequate or not."

Q: Can you please explain to me how people can anesthetise themselves?

Very bad conformity does it to many. Shared vanity also does much.

Q: Can you explain that?

I make a distinction between religious and spiritual.

Religiousness is rooted in conformity for most part. It includes ceremonialism, being together, praying together (OK too), having some books to rely on, and further.

I won't say that conformity is bad. It can be good or bad and both good and bad, depending on one's stage of development, stage of life, and what sort of conformism is demanded. People are not equally good or equally bad. Thus there can be quite good conformity and hence quite good religiousity - you know what I mean by these words that start with "religi-" or "conform-", I think.

Both Ramakrishna and Vivekananda thought that COMMON [and subsumedly all right] religiousness might act like a protection of the young tree (sapling) that was to grow. When young and tender, such protection could be a great help somewhere. In time the protection is done away with if the tree is all right and big enough. I subscribe to that over-all view. Thus, it is not an either-or but more of a both-and issue, if you understand me.

And here comes what I have gone against:

Bad religiousness is founded on awkward thinking, maybe outright lies and bluffs too, and gives neurotic adaptations or worse, and some who have ended up in cults or sects may know what bad religiousness may be.

I am against what thwarts the healthy development of the good and sane individual.

But here comes an addition: If a person has gone from bad to worse inside, maybe his or her range of activity and influence should be limited. A sect might then operate as an alternative to jail, and thus do "good" as part of its nasty business. A monastic setting works much like an asylum and jail too - being surrounded by thick walls far and wide, I mean . . .

Q: How a person can anaesthetise themselves, physically speaking.

I am not particularly interested in that. In deep meditation much energy is - for most part temporarily - "withdrawn from the body", as during dozing off. Such aloofness comes by itself as a "fruit" of going inside [see pratyahara].

Q: Kriya yoga, how does it work?

It induces calm. You could eventually reap benefits from the calm period(s) right after the kriya "slow, measured panting". And such calm is to be developed in prolonged meditation too. That's about the essence of it. Kriya yoga may be fine, but a sound Gate is needed too. That is in the teachings.

Q: I am getting sick and tired of playing the game of spirituality. If kriya yoga or Hamsa are techniques that produce sense-withdrawal, then that is all I am interested in.

Sense-withdrawal (pratyahara) is just the "first step" in the training of the higher yoga of Patanjali, yet a sine que non in his text (without which, none). Yoga Yajnavalkya refers to "five sorts of pratyahara". By such wording he speaks of five ways to have it. (chapter 7).

We should see to that we do not come to harm through any method, though.

Q: I cannot take much more spiritual jargon and lies.

Not only lies, but unfair ruling techniques are found in fairly many cultish circles too. They make old followers subservient, and not good old lions.

Alternative Remedies

Q: Do you have any remedies for rashes? . . .

Go and see a physician - first. Diagnosis. After that, try a homeopathic doctor - for homeopathic remedies are individualised to some extent. Harsh as this counsel is, it is free!

On the other hand, repertories (lists of troubles and remedies to try) exist . . . just be warned that the amount of remedies may be (too) limited:

I'm for self-help [and not against it].

Bach remedies may work even better in some cases.

Q: I am heavily interested in the mind-body connection and how the physical reacts when kriya yoga is done. Re rebirth. I will look at that report you mentioned with the link later today.

In fact, there are several articles, and there are links to them on the page you speak of.

Q: I still suffer from acute anxiety though.

[Very well chosen] homeopathic pills and Bach flower remedies might give some relief under proper, medical care. Several remedies may be combined, depending on the case.

Q: I thought that maybe a little meditation would help me in that area.

Meditation can affect health for good. I saw a report (study) on it the other day. Someone with acute anxiety must be monitored. Be on the safe side.

Taken Aback

Q: Yogananda's Second Coming of Christ commentaries . . . what do you think of them?

I am taken aback.

Q: I fear that he left out many of the Jesus sayings that you point out doesn't flow easily with Yogananda's work. Which reminds me, do you think the New Testament is a good place to start in terms of getting the religious "gate" around a person?


Q: New Age teachings on Jesus and Christ differ in their interpretations of the sayings in the NT, sometimes radically.

Agreed. Compare: [Link]

Q: I noticed that you commented on reincarnation in the NT on your website and that Yogananda had got it wrong concerning Elias etc.

I would say so.

Q: But do you not think that reincarnation is hidden in the Bible somewhere?

If it is hidden, where should it be?


Knowe thy selfe . . . knowe what thou arte able, fitte and apt vnto, and folowe that. [R. Ascham, 1545]

Q: I bought "Kriya: finding the true way" yesterday and am surprised at the information contained inside . . . He [the author] paints a good picture of Yogananda - that is, the 'Master' was highly devotional and emotional and often acted in surprisingly unsophisticated ways. A fews things to notice:

Yogananda didn't really write his own biography (there were several top editors involved) [More]

In some places he drew a little bit on material from the earlier S-R Magazines.

Q: - Yogananda learnt English and didn't spontaneously speak in good English as if a miracle had occurred (as he likes to make out in AY)

Kriyananda goes into a facet of that in the preface of a book ascribed to Yogananda, but with possible caveats: [◦Link]

Q: - he mentions usage of yogic powers and miracles a bit too often when it has been stressed time and again that the true Yogi sees these things as obstacles to realization . . . and tried in many ways to gain power over others in devious ways. . . . he knew hypnosis techniques and used . . . his whole life on others to gain power and control.

That's a rather drastic claim . . . You know how ardent devotees can be - (dubious sentence structure - I know)

Q: I think your surmission that he was a 'fisher of men' is quite accurate.

But in my experience it is fit to allow some (mental) space for mystery and unsettled issues, not unlike:

Who knows these things,
Who can here decide?

(Who verily knows and who can here declare it?) [Rigveda 10:129;6]

There are many gates (or masters).

Q: He [Yogananda] was probably a power and control freak that said many stupid things . . .

I had very little interest in telling . . . but somebody got to do something, and I might have certain privileges in that respect.

Yogananda and SRF is behind me . . . Tomorrow is before me.

Q: Yogananda must have been either deluded or a liar - but I cannot understand this. It makes absolutely no sense. Why would they lie?

Good questions. Now:

  1. One goal may be to bait and hook (fish) followers.
  2. They seem to be normal. But they hail Narada and suggestive devotionalism. [Link]

Q: It seems like they advance to the higher levels of Yoga but yet do not keep their yamas and niyamas [do's and don't's] intact.

Some of them hope they do not have to either. They think they rise above good and bad and that - that is even in Yogananda's public teaching, for example his poem "Samadhi":

. . . good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood . . . [Link].

Q: What on earth is going on there?

Apart from "blood-thirst"? I think man-fishing is a valid answer. "I will make you fishers of men," said Jesus to his (later) apostles. [Added: He meant Jews, for he said his mission was for Jews only, and depraved ones among them. Note well.] And Yogananda says Babaji is in communion with Jesus for Jews only, and he himself too.

Q: I understand what you are saying but I do not understand the bigger picture. It is confusing to me.

Yogananda says in one place - in the book Sayings of Yogananda - that man is confused and cannot reason out things like those.

YOGANANDA Man would go crazy if he tried to understand [this life] by reason alone. That is why I tell you to meditate more. - Yogananda (1980:66)

The Ananda Conflict

Q: I don't know what you think of Ananda, but I had a very intriguing exchange with a member last year. I wrote her that maybe sometime in the future Ananda and SRF would be friends, finishing off with one of ◦Yogananda's poems about friends. She wrote back saying I was ignorant and hadn't thought about Ananda's religious freedom! . . . I think I said too much.

Ananda has tried to befriend SRF for years. Maybe the one you communicated with had grown weary. And maybe she was realistic, conditions being as they are.

On 16 December 2002 SRF and Ananda came to terms on many issues after many years of battling in court (and off court).


Meditation counsel, Literature  

Meier, Scott. and Susan R. Davis. 2011. Elements of Counseling. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Sutton, Jan, and William Stewart. 2009. Learning to Counsel: Develop the Skills, Insight and Knowledge to Counsel Others. 3rd ed., amended reprint. Oxford: How To Books.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980.

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