He needs to learn social skills; to be able to look at himself without undue distortion or bias; and to function
smoothly in his work and social relationships. This requires guidance, education, and practice in
communicative relationships. He also needs access to social opportunities where he can practice his new skills
and obtain rewards. The prisoner must also understand and avoid the negative aspects of his personal and social
situations that have failed him in the past. To help the prisoner meet his social needs, the counselor works with
the prisoner to first identify his problems and then to overcome them. Generally, counseling follows a definite
pattern and progresses step by step in a logical process. However, these steps are not to be regarded as strictly
limiting; they serve only as a guide in the process.
a. A Request for Help. Until the prisoner asks for, or at least accepts, the offer for help, there can be no
effective counseling. But, the request for help may take many forms. It may be written or verbal, or a prisoner
may act out his request for help. Too many times an attempt at suicide is not a legitimate attempt to end life but
nothing more than a cry for help. No normal human being finds it easy to publicly admit he has a problem that
he is unable to handle. For this reason, the counselor should always be easy to approach and should always
look for the opportunity to offer assistance. It is very common for a prisoner to engage his counselor in
seemingly meaningless conversation, rather than openly admit he needs advice. The counselor must never shut
the door while talking to a prisoner.
b. Preparation by the Counselor. Before a counselor can function efficiently, he must prepare himself. If
time and circumstances permit, he should acquire thorough background knowledge of the prisoner. If he is
stopped in the hallway and asked a question that requires an immediate response, there may not be an
opportunity to prepare. But, on the other hand, if he is initiating the contact, he should research the prisoner's
background. There is nothing more demoralizing to a prisoner than to have a counselor ask basic questions
such as how long have you been in confinement? Also, the counselor prepares himself to have a proper
attitude. A prisoner can sense if the counselor is not in the frame of mind to counsel. Greeting a prisoner with,
"Well what problem have you thought up now?" will effectively kill the contact.
c. Rapport and Ventilation. Rapport is defined as a relationship marked by harmony, accord, and affinity.
It may be simplified as a common trust and acceptance between two people. The counselor may accept and
trust the prisoner, but until the feeling is returned, there is no rapport. Ventilation is defined as discussing freely
or publicly. In other words, when a prisoner is ventilating, he is talking without hedging or holding back. This
is why obtaining rapport and ventilation is the hardest step in counseling. The counselor must gain the
prisoner's trust and get him to talk and discuss his problems. Once the counselor gets the prisoner to ventilate,
he may feel the prisoner is overdoing it. However, the counselor must allow him to let off steam without
influencing their relationship. This will allow the prisoner to see his problems more realistically.
d. Analysis of the Problem. The key or critical step of the counseling process is helping the prisoner to
correctly analyze or identify the problem. First of all, if the prisoner does not identify the proper problem, then
all effort expended on solving the wrong problem will be a waste. For example, too many times Soldiers go
Absent Without Leave (AWOL) because they are unable to accept authority. They cannot face the harassment,
so they run from the problem by going AWOL. But, if the counselor asks what the problem is, many prisoners
will tell him about sick parents, trouble with girlfriends, or alleged prejudice by the first sergeant. If the
counselor spends time and effort on these imagined problems, he will never reach the basic problem of the
prisoner not accepting discipline.
A second area of caution in this step is that the counselor should allow the prisoner to identify and
analyze his own problem. In some cases, an impersonal observer will be able to identify the problem while the
prisoner is still sorting out facts in his mind. The prisoner must feel that he was the one who discovered this
problem, for then he will feel it is his to solve. If the counselor attempts to present the problem to a prisoner on
a platter, the prisoner may well expect the counselor to solve the problem for him. The counselor's job is to