Why I Chose Listening over Counseling
When we describe our compassionate listening work, we often get the comment, “Oh, so it’s counseling;” we then reply “No, it’s not exactly counseling”. What exactly then is the difference between listening and counseling?
The dictionary definition of counseling is “the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties, especially by a professional”. In contrast, the definition of listening is to “attend closely for the purpose of hearing.”
Daily, we see the global impact of those who do not feel heard — war, protest, wails, and silence. Human beings need someone to listen, not someone to speak. They need ears to hear their story.
As a person who has been interested in and taken classes in the counseling realm, I have chosen to work with Someone To Tell It To in compassionate listening for a variety of reasons. Counseling offices often have a clinical feel which does not provide a sense of comfort. We choose to meet people where they are most comfortable — a coffee shop, via email, at their home, or over Zoom. Someone To Tell It To provides a distinctive model of caring for others and encourages the world in developing their listening skills. Working in pairs is a unique characteristic of Someone To Tell It To, which facilitates our listeners’ ability to focus on the individual seeking our services.
Counseling also tends to focus on problem-solving. People often logically know how to proceed through trauma or a difficult time in their life, but need relational support and encouragement. Listening provides this support, and many times, people feel relief simply by sharing their stories.
Someone To Tell It To strives to provide an open, safe, and compassionate space for deep and genuine relationships to develop. We listen to people’s stories, their heartaches, and their triumphs. We share joy and sorrow together. This sense of relationship is often absent in a counseling context.
Our work does not replace that of counseling. Counseling has a place in helping those who seek direction and guidance. Compassionate listening provides a space where people can share in a safe space when there is an absence of someone to tell it to.