Philosophical underpinnings of Buddhist counselling
How does Buddhist counselling differ in practice from any other form of counselling ? And how does this difference show itself ?
In Buddhist counselling, the setting should be, as far as possible, ordinary, and everyday, as opposed to clinical, or medical. A quiet living-room, a study, or an office, with chairs and a table, books, and pictures, as opposed to bare rooms with couches, beds, or any other clinical furniture. The starting point is the ordinary world, and even if the spoken content of the session moves beyond that, the endpoint will be the ordinary world as well.
It cannot be denied that some people derive comfort from the medical model of counselling, and it may even be easier for them to assume the role of patient, rather than client. They may feel better supported by a quasi-medical framework; and feel more secure in their belief that a form of medical knowledge is being used to bring them back from ‘illness’ to ‘health’. But the main problem with the medical model is that it encourages passivity and submissiveness, and the client has an expectation that everything is going to be done for them. It gives the client a misleading idea of their situation. They think will be prescribed the intellectual equivalent of a handful of pills, and things will work by magic. They do not see that effort is required on their part, and that at least part of the solution must come from them, and from no one else. This is not to say that one burdens the client with the idea that they have to do everything for themselves, but there should be an implicit understanding from the outset that the client is a fully-functioning and responsible human being, and that counselling consists of finding ways and means for them to move – however slowly – towards self-reliance.