Individual Counseling

Instilling Change

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Many in the helping professions express some variation of the idea that their job is to instill a more appropriate set of values and a better philosophical outlook on life, to counteract all of the negative thinking and behavior patterns that were instilled by a client’s family of origin or by society.

This outlook makes the process of change and growth more like a pitched battle between two armies, both vying for the allegiance and ultimately the obedience of the person in question. The original way of seeing the world is shown to be wrong and then reprogramming occurs.

What is sad about this attitude is that these sort of helpers believe they represent good and that what they are doing is noble, but really from an existential point of view they are not much different from the forces they are battling against. Both at bottom are concerned with authoritarian control, although they wear different guises. When the goal is to instill information so that a person aligns with a set of external values that will determine thoughts, emotions, and behaviors what else can you call it?

The way to avoid this common pitfall is to cut below the superficial, offering clients a chance to understand the psychological mechanisms operating. The point of this process is to expand the sphere of individual freedom by helping to raise conscious awareness, not to trade one set of authoritarian guidelines for another.