Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 26, 2009
Counsellors provide listening ear in a way friends cannot
BY LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Edmonton — Psychologist Fred Leger reaches for a handy resource when a client tells of the gut-wrenching impact of being unemployed.
“I’ve never had one complaint about this group,” says the counsellor in Catholic Social Services’ employee and family assistance program.
The resource is BGS Career and Development.
Funded by the province, the agency offers a plethora of free courses, from everything such as career planning, to work search and interview techniques. Courses run from one to three days and require participants to be 18 or older, an Alberta resident, and have a Grade 8 reading level, says manager Christine Murphy.
“The wonderful thing too,” says Leger, “is everything is centralized, everything a person needs is right in the one spot.”
Money trouble is usually the main issue when a couple’s relationship breaks down so job loss or downsizing fuels many a marital breakup.
“They try to control one another rather than control the situation,” says Leger. “And it just snowballs. And the kids can be neglected in these times.”
Leger describes his role as a therapist when dealing with the emotional distress surrounding money matters as being a tool, adding that he says a silent prayer before every session for both himself and the client.
Beset by anxiety, the clients are bursting to talk, says Leger and “in the process of their talking, they reprogram the way they are thinking and acting and come to realize the premise is faulty and form conclusions not serving them well.”
Too often friends find a distraught friend crying on their shoulder.
Leger cautions, “If friends can recognize friends are in need of help, they cannot be both a counsellor and a friend.”
Counsellors are much more objective than friends and they have to keep the information confidential.
“But a friend could blurt it out accidentally and there goes the friendship.”
For the already poor people, the economic downturn has not made that much of a difference, says Leger, because they are already linked into the social assistance network.
“But many professional people are traumatized.” And with them, Leger’s goal is to have them “talk out instead of act out.”
This is also the time when they can reach out for help from agencies such as the food bank and support networks – groups that they in all likelihood supported when they were earning their professional wages.
Leger adds, “ Who is to say this (unemployment) is not in accord with God’s plan? That’s the true test of faith we can sometimes only see in hindsight. Maybe they were meant to change careers.”
While Leger sees counselling, workshops and reaching out for whatever help is needed for a job seeker to “get some traction in their lives, and develop a positive plan,” he also urges, “Maintain your contact with your spirituality.”