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close this bookEducation for Health (WHO, 1988, 274 p.)
close this folderChapter 4: Health education with individuals
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe purpose of counselling
View the documentRules for counselling
View the documentDifferent types of counselling
View the documentFacilitating decisions and follow-through
View the documentA sample counselling session
View the documentMore practice in counselling

The purpose of counselling

Through counselling, individuals are encouraged to think about their problems and thus come to a greater understanding of the causes. As a result of this understanding people will, it is hoped, commit themselves to taking action that will solve the problems. The kind of action taken will be a person's own decision, although it may be guided, if necessary by the counsellor.

Counselling means choice, not force, not advice. A health worker may think that his or her advice seems reasonable, but it may not be appropriate to the particular circumstances of the person receiving the advice. With counselling, it is the person concerned who takes the decisions so that the solutions adopted are more likely to be appropriate. An appropriate solution will be one that the person can follow with successful results.

Here is an example of the problems that arise when a person is advised and forced:

During a home visit one health worker saw a mother with three-week-old twins. The babies were so small that the health worker worried that they might not live. She scolded the mother for not coming to the clinic.

The health worker advised the mother to come to the hospital with the twins immediately and stay there with them until they became bigger and stronger. The mother nodded her head in agreement. While she was packing her things, she began to cry.

A brother of the woman's husband came to see what she was crying about. The health worker explained, but the man became angry. He said there were many good reasons why the woman was crying. She was worried because, if she stayed in hospital, there would be no one to care for her other two children. She had recently moved to another town with her husband. She felt that there would be no one whom her children knew and trusted enough to stay with. Also the mother was crying for fear that the health worker might refuse to help her in the future, if she did not agree to go to hospital now.