It is a critical moment: anxiety, heart palpitations, sweating, gnawing in your stomach—the only person who knows is sitting on the other side of the table. What do the results say? How the news is delivered is just as important as the messenger. A counsellor has a pivotal role in relaying life changing information.
The aim of pre and post test counselling is to help people with the risk of HIV infection make changes in their lifestyle, help people make informed decisions, prepare them for a possible positive result, support people with HIV to prevent transmission, help them understand available treatments, help them deal with problems and emotional stress. As you can see a counsellor’s job is really about helping the client.
In order for a counsellor to do a good job of helping they need to have a number of important qualities: respectful, caring, a good listener, maintain confidentiality, good knowledge about HIV and Aids, clear and unambiguous, open-minded, sensitive and understanding. This is a special set of skills. Not everyone is cut out to be a counsellor.
Truth be told, people can be very judgemental and quick to form opinions. And that is a terrible trait in a counsellor. During counselling, if a client is being honest, they divulge all kinds of personal information. People make different lifestyle choices, a counsellor passes no judgement, no disapproval on a person’s behaviour or decisions. That’s not easy, especially when the behaviour puts people’s health at risk! It’s so easy to say stop sleeping with prostitutes, stop having unprotected sex, but such language is not helpful! Not asking questions that are accusatory like why did you do that or why did you do this?
Common counselling errors also include downplaying the clients problems, giving them false hope and unrealistic reassurances. The golden rule of counselling is to help the client decide for themselves.
It’s not an easy job. Those moments during counselling can change someone’s life. A counsellor is extremely influential in helping a person make important life decisions.