Your job isn’t to be a counsellor – stop the mothering and dumbing down

Many of us go into homeless and disability services to make a difference. Instinctively, in the process, we often adopt a counsellor role. But even with the best intensions, this isn’t the best way help them.

The secret to their growth is empowerment. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What does empowerment mean to them and how are they actually going to achieve this?

  • Choice and control
  • The confidence to take calculated opportunities – avoid risks as it makes people retreat.
  • Being involved in the decisions that affect their wellbeing, functioning and that of their families
  • Taking action, not just talking about it
  • To live within their own standards and expectations and actually know what these are.

Level the playing field

The key to empowering your client is through a two-way relationship. In this line of work, serving people with complex issues and come from diverse backgrounds, is part of the job.

Poor lifestyle choices, substance abuse, and mental health issues are common roadblocks. These behaviours will require your active and conscious intervention. And while you can be an important person in their growth, empowerment is critical for real, long-term change.

Overcoming a conflict in perceptions is one of the first steps you can take. You can achieve this by making time to understand each other’s story and going in with a clean slate. Often, it’s our assumptions and how we deliver the client end to end experience that stops a relationship forming.

Keep these things in mind to avoid playing the counsellor.

  • Check your tone, style and manner
  • Ask yourself this: how do you want to come across? What image are you creating in the mind of your client?
  • Be confident but not condescending
  • Be very clear as to why you want to work on addressing these concerns and issues together and the benefits of doing so to the client. Be authentic in your approach.
  • Have the client be proactive and make their own recommendations about how they would resolve these roadblocks. Allow time for reflection – you do not need to be talking all the time.
  • Provide time for the client to think about solutions – what action can they take which matters to them right now, what support will help them achieve these solutions, what could de-rail the road to solutions and how to avoid potential derailments?

Clients believe certain myths about what they will receive from you and your service. Identify and respond to these “myths” asap if you want any shot at a useful and meaningful relationship.

Find out whether they’re accessing other support services. Get your client to describe them. What’s their family life like? What’s their lifestyle like? Their interests? Skills gaps?

By getting to know your client and creating an open, mutual space for growth, you prevent any mothering of them. Instead, there’s room to really help them.

At Kiikstart, we’re dedicated to helping people have more choice, influence and control about how they live, work and learn. If you’d like to hear more about what we do, contact us today on 0428 593 400 or