Just before vacation I caught a PBS television show on how economic development (funded by international aid) often ends up hurting while trying to help. Here’s a link to the documentary website. The show covers two areas of Kenya and the pros/cons of trying to raise the living standards of those who live there.
This is not a new problem and reminds me again that there is a book I need to read (When helping hurts).
As a counselor who has traveled to Africa to try to help, I am very interested in finding appropriate methods to provide emotional support and care to traumatized peoples. What are some of the ways we counselors might unintentionally hurt those we want to help?
1. Pressuring clients to do something we think is important (e.g., stand up for yourself, say no to a violent spouse, speak the truth about your abuse, etc.) without considering the consequences. I once read about some African women who sought counseling for rape. Problem was that by going to the rape counseling center, they communicated to their village that they had been raped–and were later killed for being defiled.
2. Assuming that counseling can only be done by licensed professionals. We could train counselors in another country but if these folks couldn’t get paid to counsel because their clients are all subsistence farmers, we have only created additional frustrated individuals.
3. Similar to the last point, if the trainers are all westerners, then they will likely fail to understand culture specific resources/challenges and may reinforce the assumption that only westerners are competent to provide the care.
What are some other ways you have seen western counselors unintentionally harm the helpee?