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February 23, 2017

The Issue Is The Issue, But The Issue Is Not The Issue

By Dr. Richard Boyum

As counselors, we know the importance of facilitating both minimal change that may be of short-term duration and long-term changes that may stay with a client for most of their lives. To do this, we need to be able to define the meta issues in the children, adolescents and adults we deal with. Meta issues are the basic issues for creating behavioral change.

To define a meta issue, a counselor must not only look at the content of a specific behavioral situation, but the process behind it as well. For example, an individual may be sent to a school counselor to deal with a situation, such as striking another student. As counselors, we first deal with this type of content situation. We explore what caused the student to strike out, and we look at ways of creating behavioral alternatives that keep the child out of difficulty in this school situation. On the other hand, the meta or process issue involved may be one of anger management/displaced anger against a parent.

As counselors, we ask ourselves-is this situation a symptom of a greater problem that is inviting change. Questions such as where has the child learned this behavior. Or is the behavior a form of ego defense. By taking a few minutes to explore these process issues, we may, as counselors, save ourselves a great deal of time and energy that is a part of the “repeat offender” syndrome.

By making contacts with other individuals who know the child such as parents, teachers, club supervisors, etc., we can examine to what degree this behavior is a process and/or content issue. Information can lead to transformation. Awareness can lead to productive change. The more clients and counselors are aware of both content and process issues, the more likely change will be lasting.