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The Art of Helping

On Sunday, January 4, 2009, Dr. Peter Lin, a psychologist and long-time Buddhist practitioner, gave a talk at Chan Meditation Center entitled "The Art of Helping: A Problem Management and Opportunity Approach to Helping".

This practical model for helping others is based on an approach developed by Gerard Egan and can be used to help people who are going through difficulties or to tap into unused opportunities for growth and change.

While there are helping professionals, such as counselors, psychotherapists, and social workers, who are specially trained to help people, most people seek help informally from those who are not specially trained and may or may not be qualified to help, such as religious workers, family, and friends. Everyone, at one time or another, may have found themselves in the position of trying to help someone informally.

Through his professional work and Buddhist practice, Dr. Lin has found many parallels between Western psychology and Buddhism. Helping others is the essence of the bodhisattva path. In order to effectively help others, people must be guided by wisdom and act with skill and compassion.

Below is a summary of this 3 stages process:

1.) Identify and Clarify Problem Situations and Unused Opportunities
· Help individuals tell their story.
· Help individuals challenge themselves.
· Help individuals work on the right things.

2.) Help individuals determine what they need and want
· Help individuals explore possibilities for the future
· Move from possibilities to realistic and sustainable goals
· Help the individual commit to the goals

3.) Help individuals work for what they need and want
· Help individuals come up with strategies for accomplishing their goals
· Help individuals determine which strategies fit best
· Help individuals come up with an action plan or strategy

As potential Buddhas, everyone already has the innate ability to understand their own problems and arrive at the solutions to these problems. This process should foster empowerment and self-responsibility for the person being helped.

Reference: Egan, Gerard. Skilled Helper: A Problem-Management Approach to Helping.

(by Chang Jie)

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