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Appropriate and inappropriate help - Comments

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Some ways of helping are:


Paying attention to the person, showing you understand and accept how she or he feels, giving them the space to think about the problem and come to their own conclusions


As above, but also help the person to fully express how they feel and consider the problem from other perspectives. Counselling helps the person to gain new insight into her/himself and the problem and to formulate a plan.


Passing on skills and knowledge from the helper to the client. This works best when the person wants to learn this way.

Giving information

Giving the person information so he or she can make a choice. Information that the person wants and can use is the most helpful.

Helping practically

Doing things for the client. This is most helpful when the client asks for the help and cannot do it him or herself.

Changing the system

Many problems arise from the way a system operates. Solving an individual problem, though desirable will not prevent it affecting other people. If we want the problem to stop occurring, we have to deal with the system that causes or sustains it. A head teacher could demonstrate and support values about students taking care of each other and valuing differences. This would oppose the conventional values of toughness stoicism and conformity that feed bullying.


You will probably find, like me, that you are more comfortable with giving and receiving some of these forms of help than others. However, all can be helpful in the right circumstances so it may be useful to extend our range. We need to understand other people's needs and situation before we can decide what "help" to offer, so listening is crucial.

Inappropriate help is not very helpful, but is usually better than not trying to help at all!

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