Summarised from Finding hope in the river of life: Community Counselling. A handbook for facilitating care and change. Part of an integrated response to HIV and AIDS by the Salvation Army. Revised March 1998.
For further information, contact : The HIV and AIDS Programme Facilitation Team, The Salvation Army International Headquarters, 101 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4P 4EP, England.
The purpose of this handbook is NOT a package for " educating the community", or for " running a workshop". Rather it describes community counselling, and shares some experience, in order to help teams continue to explore the process. It is intended to be used by teams, and to build on basic counselling skills. It is not a substitute for having counselling skills in the team. Key requirements for community counsellors are: respect, mutuality, ability to listen, and a belief that community can work. If the person does not possess these, no training will compensate.
It is intended to facilitate within programme teams an action/reflection cycle, which can help us recognise and overcome our barriers, just as you will see that community counselling does with the community.
The handbook is designed to work through the barriers to community counselling. Community counselling is a major tool for overcoming the barriers within a community. It differs from an education process and from participatory action methods alone in that the issues which emerge have powerful EMOTIONAL content, and facilitators are always challenged to be sensitive and responsive to the many kinds of emotions which can be generated. Community counselling is a process of listening and reflection within a community to acknowledge issues, losses and feelings related to HIV/AIDS. Through this facilitated truth telling, it is possible for the community to move beyond helplessness and into choices and agreements which result in change.
Community counselling is an ongoing series of facilitated community discussions, in which feelings and issues are explored and acknowledged, norms and actions are assessed, choices are considered, and decisions and commitments are made about the life of the community.
There are several main components to the handbook:
1. The concepts are introduced, to be absorbed, understood and finally shared.
2. Experiences from different parts of the world are shared, and
3. Questions for reflection on those experiences are posed.
4. There are exercises, to help you apply the content with a group of people who are exploring community counselling.