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Helping the Hurt in Others
Lenn Harris Milam
Staff Therapist
Samaritan Counseling Centers

When someone close to us is hurting, our natural inclination is to render assistance and seek resolution to the problem. We find it hard to remain unaffected by the pain or hurt of someone else; we hurt with them and for them. We want to solve their problem as quickly as possible so that the person's pain will stop. So how might we address the hurt in a caring and concerned manner without taking on another's problem?

First, set boundaries. Take stock of how much of yourself, your time, and your energy you want and are able to invest in their process. Setting limitations and operating within those limitations is important when it comes to caring for yourself and others. It is important that the person grows and gains insight. When we establish appropriate boundaries, we can avoid taking on the problem and making it our own. Doing so would deprive the other person of the opportunity to experience the problem fully and learn from it.

Secondly, effective boundary setting will enable you to listen attentively without being eager to fix the problem. One of the approaches counselors often take in play therapy with children is to verbally reflect what the children say as a way for them to hear themselves and know that others have heard them too. Every person wants to be listened to and understood. When we are able to listen without offering a solution, the other person feels as if their thoughts and emotions are valued. Moreover they feel that they are being accompanied on their journey rather than overtaken.

After setting boundaries and listening, it's important that we discern the appropriate time to refer. Assisting another person by encouraging them to continue their journey with the benefit of counsel from others helps both the person who is hurting and the person trying to help by creating new opportunities for insight.

Finally, throughout the process of helping another in their movement towards resolution, utilize prayer as a resource. Prayer as an intervention tool, alongside other techniques, is readily available and accessible throughout the problem-solving journey.

Living in community often creates moments of involvement in the lives of others. With each encounter, we must seek clarity of purpose as we decide how much of ourselves is appropriate to invest in the hurting person's journey.

Find out more about pastoral counseling.

Copyright ©2004 Lenn Harris Milam


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