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Question
Posted by: Maria | 2007/07/20

Practicing what you preach

Can a psychologist, counseller or even just concerned friend justify giving advice to someone if they are not following their own advice? If e.g. a therapist is going through a divorce, can he or she counsel couples with marital problems? Can someone who is a recreational drug user help a drug addict? It is unlikely that a counseller will admit to a client that "I've got the same problem and this advice didn't help me, or I didn't even bother trying". However, won't the incongruity shine through, obscuring the therapist's message?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

They CAN, and of course technically they are allowed to, but it may not be wise for them to do so. On the one hand you may gain some useful wisdom through personally enduring and coping with some probllems, and indeed some clients reject the perfectly good advice of a friend or doc or counsellor specifically because " you haven't been through it yourself, so you can't know what I'm going through". I've sometimes had to point out that I don't have to have fallen over a cliff to be able to help someone who HAS done so.
But then you'd expect the counsellor would need to be basing their advice on what works, in their own experience. The reason we frown on a counsellor dealing too deliberately in problems they are grappling with themselves is the risk that they will use the patient's problems as a forum for working out their own issues, rather than those of the client ! They need to maintain a good degree of objectivity in order to be helpful.
Then there is also the issue that its common experience that we know what works and needs to be done, but the difficulty lies in actually doing it oneself --- so your counsellor may indeed know what to do, and you would benefit from following the advice, even if the counsellor himself or herself was finding it difficult to take their own advice.
And aren't there an awful lot of richly paid football coaches around, who can't actually themselves play football ?

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Our users say:
Posted by: Chelle | 2007/07/20

Yes, I do think people who can't practice what they preach, can give advice. The advice can be solid and usable. It's up to the person receiving the advice to make use of it properly.

I think we humans often know what the right thing to do is, it's just that we don't do it - so encouraging someone to do the "right" thing even though you haven't done it yourself isn't necessarily harmful or doesn't make the actual advice invalid.

Reply to Chelle
Posted by: Jacqui | 2007/07/20

I suppose it is a question of "do as I say, not as I do..."

Reply to Jacqui
Posted by: sueanne | 2007/07/20

everyone is human and goes through experiences if you feel that the advise they are offering is biased and tooo emotional due to their own circumstances then maybe you need to move on and find some one else to talk to and get advice from.

Reply to sueanne
Posted by: Maria | 2007/07/20

Hi Sueanne
I agree with what you say, but you misunderstand my question. I'm talking about a situation where the counseller is still busy dealing with a problem unsuccessfully, or not trying to deal with it at all.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: sueanne | 2007/07/20

then in a perfect world find a marriage councellor that has never been divorced and get advise from a person that never took drugs. in my opinion people that have real life experiences and know the error of their ways or have learnt from their mistakes are sometimes the best people to get advice from. what you must understand is that it is marriage councellor job to try and mend couples relationships it is like a gynae being able to look at a women not in a sexual way but a medical way. if my friend has been through what i am going through their opinion will count because if they have truly dealt with stuff then their point of view is probably valid.

Reply to sueanne

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