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As a young youth pastor, Dr. Wright was at the center of a crisis in which one youth (Phil) died during an excursion (Wright, 2011). Being a young minister just from the seminary, he was helpless and distraught. Crises are inherent in our daily lives and as such, preparation to deal with them when they show up is necessary. Jesus Christ is the best counselor who ever lived (Wright, 2011). Anyone who seeks to counsel others effectively has to adopt Jesus’ approach wholesomely through applying relevant Biblical principles, which depict Jesus’ life and ministry.
After establishing that an individual needs counseling or guidance, these Biblical principles come in handy. Losing someone throws people into crises and in some cases, they cause trauma. Helping a person who has suffered a loss to accept it and move on underscores what counselors should endeavor to achieve. The same applies to grieving persons, as for them, the most difficult thing is to overcome the grief, let go, and move on. When an individual’s ability to cope with a situation is exceeded, that individual falls into a crisis (Wright, 2011). Crises fall into phases, which counselors have to distinguish in a bid to handle a counselee appropriately as some activities are only appropriate in particular phases.
Some unpleasant experiences are just repressed over long periods, but they are never resolved (Wright, 2011). Certain elements bring them to the forefront, thus affecting the concerned persons. Counselors need to wake up to the view that time does not heal all wounds and that such wounds could be responsible for a current crisis in a person’s life. Death is one of the major crises that people find themselves in, as it robs them of their loved ones. In the event that death occurs, the bereaved find it difficult to accept the loss at first, but when it dawns on them that it is true they have lost a loved one, anger takes over (Wright, 2011). Several other emotional and psychological shifts occur, but the bottom line is that the counselor has to be conversant with the changes for effective assist as some deaths are inevitable. Suicide is another major crisis, which like death, affects the victim and family members. It involves shifts in the psychological and emotional realms, which counselors have to be aware of and address adequately in a bid to assist victims and family members.
Children face numerous crises due to their innocence, which limits their ability to understand certain phenomena. Death, divorce, abuse, and abandonment are just but a few of the crises that children find themselves in (Wright, 2011). These occurrences affect their emotional and psychological development, and thus they need to be assisted to deal with the same. Guiding them by exposing them to some coping mechanisms can be very helpful. Introducing the concept of God can help reassure them that despite the unfortunate occurrence, someone still cares and loves them, and thus not all is lost. Understanding the characteristics of suffering children such as abused children is a huge step towards helping them.
Adolescents are another vulnerable group, which is often hit by numerous crises. At their transition stage, their emotional stability is volatile because they peg it on peer acceptance (Wright, 2011). This aspect causes them to consider trivial issues as crises. Understanding them in this sense is vital especially for someone who seeks to assist them in overcoming their crises. In all these endeavors, God’s word and His ability to help needy situations should not be overlooked as it adds a very important dimension to the entire process crisis resolution.
Dr. Wright’s book, “The complete guide to crisis & trauma counseling: what to do and say when it matters most!” is a guide that connects with anyone who reads it in some way. The book is so detailed and comprehensive that it is difficult to find anyone who reads it and fails to come across a portion of it that directly connects with an experience. Personally, it connected with numerous experiences in my life. However, the most outstanding is the case of my mother’s demise. She was one person I dearly loved and had never imagined a life without her. I literally adored her. Intriguingly, thoughts of her demise had started crossing my mind before it actually happened, but every time these thoughts would surface, I would push them right out of my mind.
When she actually died, it was shocking because her illness lasted only three days and she was gone. I was not in a position to make it to her bedside before she died so when the news of her death reached me, I was devastated. The heavy feeling of helplessness that descended upon me came to mind when I read the introductory portion of this book. As the youth pastor in charge of the excursion in which a life was lost, Dr. Wright was helpless and he did not know what to do or say. My first reaction was not to tell my colleagues because I did not believe that such a thing could happen. I firmly told myself that I could only believe the news after seeing her body.
Intriguingly, after receiving the news, my colleagues knew right away that something was not right. On informing them about my mother’s death, the first reaction was silence. Shortly afterwards, messages of condolence started flowing in. The messages from my friends broke me down as I must admit, some of them did not know what to say, yet they felt obliged to say something. My closest friend stayed away from me until I left for the funeral arrangements. At the time, I did not take such an action lightly and even though we talked about it after the funeral, I still did not understand why he chose to stay away when I thought I needed him most. However, through Dr. Wright’s book, I now understand the dilemma he was in at the time, as he did not know what to say.
Dr. Wright’s book addresses many questions that have bothered me for a long time insofar as overwhelming situations such as the brief account of my personal loss several years ago are concerned. However, in the process of reading the book, other questions come up. For instance, though most counselors may have a Christian orientation, it is not obvious that all counselors subscribe to the Christian doctrine. The question that arises from this realization is whether I would understand the deeply rooted Biblical principles that the author espouses and apply them to real life situations if I were a non-Christian. If this move is not possible, the issue of concern becomes whether it is safe to assume that non-Christian counselors cannot be effective. This concern stems from the view that according to Dr. Wright, Jesus is the best counselor known to humankind and anyone seeking to counsel others effectively has to emulate Jesus both in his approach to counseling and personal life (Wright, 2011).
The author suggests that counselees who find it difficult to control their tears when they recall an unfortunate occurrence can be assisted by helping them to set aside a designated crying time (Wright, 2011). The suggestion sounds easier said than done because normally, the crying and the tears are involuntary by products of painful memories. Under circumstances where a counselee finds it difficult to initiate the crying process at the designated time, how can the counselor go about it? Apparently, the crying time should not be part of the counseling sessions, which implies that the counselee has to do it on his/her own at home or so. This area could do with a bit more creative ways of making it happen. It might even seem outrageous to suggest to a counselee to set aside a designated crying time and adhere to it regardless of the preceding activities or mood.
Despite these two concerns, I strongly agree with the author that in cases of death, the first reaction is denial and it is followed by anger, which can turn to bitterness. These emotional and psychological shifts often take place when the affected individual is confused or even in shock. The author’s exhortation to counselors to be vigilant and sensitive when dealing with such persons is right on point as like in my case, my friends’ ‘consolation’ broke me down to tears. Knowing exactly what to do or say is vital under such circumstances.
In retrospect, there are numerous occasions in which I said things I was not supposed to say, or did things that were not right under the given circumstances. A good example is when in the middle of a death crisis, I told someone that there was no need to make it so much of an issue because eventually, a similar fate awaited all humanity. While such comments might easily come from people, the effect they might have on a grieving person can only be imagined. The weight of a losing a loved one is known only to the person who suffers the loss. Those who condole with the bereaved and console them might be out of touch with what such a person feels and might take it lightly in a bid to cheer up the victim.
A number of lessons have been learnt through reading Dr. Wright’s book. For instance, it is not right to assume that the feeling of helplessness that engulfs people during crises is normal. Though crises and traumatic events are often met with shock and disbelief among other reactions, Dr. Wright points out that there is a need for people to prepare for the same (Wright, 2011). The preparation is necessary as it helps us in knowing what to do or say when a crisis hits. I intend to be more careful and considerate with words and gestures in the face of crises for I have learnt that words and actions are critical during counseling and in the face of crises.
Another key lesson that stems from Dr. Wright’s book for me is that it is important to intertwine personal life with the counseling approach that one takes. According to Dr. Wright, Jesus is the best role model in counseling (Wright, 2011). He thus exhorts counselors to counsel like Jesus did and he is keen to point out that it can only be achieved through following the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. I intend to make the Bible a benchmark for my personal life where my relationship with people shall be guided by the relevant Biblical principles. This way, my personal life will improve for the better because I will be in a position to handle life’s challenges with understanding and patience.
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I further intend to conduct an in-depth self-assessment to determine if some wounds in my life have not healed with time and follow Dr. Wright’s step-by-step guide to resolve them and let them heal. If need be, I will seek professional assistance over the same. I realize that I might not have moved on from the loss I suffered because I have always repressed any thoughts that remind me of the same. My eyes water with tears whenever I observe a loving mother relate with a son or daughter, but again I feel a sense of relief whenever I witness fighting between a mother and her son or daughter. Reading through the book has made me realize that there might be something I have not done right yet.
Additionally, prayer stands out in Dr. Wright’s book as a vital component of every activity we undertake. At the end of his book, he talks about how prayer fits into the counseling process. Prior to that, he mentions prayer on several occasions within the text especially in cases where a situation seems to be overwhelming for the counselor as well. The author supports this line of argument by noting that Jesus was a prayer warrior and nothing less is expected of us. I thus intend to incorporate prayer in my personal endeavors to experience the power of God in my tasks.
Wright, H. N. (2011). The complete guide to crisis & trauma counseling: what to do and say when it matters most. Ventura, CA: Regal/From Gospel Light.