Wednesday, 7 November 2012

That's what BFFs are for... Counselling crash course for best friends

LIFE is no bed of roses, so from time to time you'll need to provide an ear or a shoulder for a friend who may need to talk or cry. And so best friends or best friends forever (BFFs) are usually used as sounding boards, confidants, and advisors.
It is not always easy for one friend to hear the challenges of another, when they're not sure what to do or how to act. Sometimes best friends truly want to offer help but they might be at a loss as to the proper steps to take. This is especially true when your best friend is going through a rough time.
In times of trouble your best friend will not need you to have a degree in counselling but will more likely need your support.
The following guidelines should prove helpful to those of you who want to be there for their best friends when they need someone to share a pressing problem/concern:
1. Be confidential: The first rule in counselling/helping is confidentiality. Let your best friend know that whatever is shared will remain confidential.
2. Listen actively: When your best friend is relating something to you, listen intently and give your full attention.
3. Do not give advice: When best friends share problems with you, they are not always looking for advice. In most cases they only want someone to listen and understand.
4. Do not interrupt: You might find that you have the urge to interrupt, but just listen. Speak only when the friend prompts you to do so and you don't have to say much. It is better to empathise and show that you care.
5. Maintain proper eye contact: Try not to stare but look on your friend so that he/she knows that you are there and you are listening.
6. Watch the body language: If you really want to understand all that is said, you have to watch the body language. This will help you to understand what is said and what is not.
7. Be empathetic: As your best friend relates the story, try not to look surprised but try to put yourself in your friend's position and try to feel what is being shared.
8. Give affirmation: Try to find something positive to say to your best friend — affirm him/her.
9. Do not take sides: As you listen, try not to take sides and do not take on what is shared as a burden.
Jacqueline Champier is a counselling psychologist from Mandeville.