Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Something to Remember about Trying to Help Someone

Most people try to be helpful to others. (At least I believe that to be true.) But what does it mean – “to help someone?”

According to the dictionary, help means “to give assistance to; aid: I helped her find the book. He helped me into my coat. And according to “Answers,” there are other considerations to “help” in the verb form:

1. To contribute to the furtherance of; promote.

2, To give relief to: help the needy.

3. To ease; relieve: medication to help your cold.

4. To change for the better; improve: A fresh coat of paint

will help a scarred old table.

5. To refrain from; avoid or resist. Used with can or cannot:

couldn't help laughing.

6. To wait on, as in a store or restaurant.

In my personal life, I try to be helpful to people around me. In my long term careers as a counselor, teacher, professor and licensed psychologist, moreover, I also was in a position to help others. And when our intent is to be helpful to someone, it can be uncomfortable, disappointing and at times even painful when we think out attempt to be helpful wasn’t helpful. And in view of this, my mom was very helpful to me (no pun intended).

In my latest pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ‘Em, I discuss a conversation I had had with my Mom and a pivotal pearl of wisdom she gave to me. Here it is below (under the heading, “Cooking”):

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In the summer of 1971 when I first began teaching at the post-secondary level at Murray State University, I also became a licensed psychologist and had a small private practice. When I was visiting with my parents a few months later, my mom asked how the practice was doing.

“Quite well, Mom,” I replied. “At least, as well as could be expected.”

My mother waited for me to continue.

“It’s interesting – I saw this one client about four or five times and really thought I’d helped her. In fact, we both agreed that she didn’t need to see me anymore.”


“Well, about a month later, I accidentally found out that after seeing me she began seeing another psychologist.”

My mom picked up on my dismay. “Well, I sure don’t know anything about psychology and psychotherapy…”



Sometimes it takes more than one chef

to prepare a meal.

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Question: Have you ever struggled with not feeling that your attempt to help someone didn’t help them?



DH said...

Yes, I have tried to help someone that was desperately in need of help. I guess it depends on the relationship, but it can be very painful. I have strong faith in God. I believe the offer to help is far more important than whether the other person accepts the help or not. I think we all have our own path to follow in front of us. If our heartfelt offer to help is in front of them, we are still allowing them their chosen path without actually interfering. DH

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH, good to see you again!
Yes, I hear you. And your Comment reminds me of the proverbial question many psychologists ask each other, tongue-in-cheek: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?”
Thanks again, DH… you know you’re welcome back at any time,
P.S. The answer is: “One – but the bulb has to be willing to change.”