Listening Helpfully Jeanne Ellin Souvenir Press £9.99

There is an obvious difference between the roles of counsellor and lawyer. The counsellor encourages the client to find his own solutions. The lawyer must find the solutions for the client.

This book is principally about what counselling should achieve. One learns swiftly that problems can hardly be resolved unless they are first identified. One is quickly disabused of the idea of a counsellor merely sitting in a controlled atmosphere and listening. The premise of the book is that having defined the contract and the boundaries, it is the client who must remain master of his own destiny.

As an introduction to the science of counselling, this is an excellent exposition. The author readily permits of other views and of the necessity for "supervision", which in this context is consultation and guidance rather than a visit to the headmaster.

There is a wealth of essential information about what is required in the counselling process, but at the end, the reader may just feel a slight sense of uncertainty. Just what is counselling? Being a receptacle of troubles? Being a purveyor of solutions for all ills – even if the counsellor persuades the client that the client has thought of the solutions? Being an enthusiastic but nevertheless amateur psychiatrist? Or a mixture of all these things?

Perhaps there is no precise definition.

The vital concept that the good counsellor must also understand himself is admirably described and future practitioners of the art would do well to learn that the physician must not only heal himself but also keep himself healthy.

This is a thoroughly readable and thought-provoking book which tests those who would practise a discipline where, granted that a cure may not always be possible, positive harm may result if sensitivity and perception are not devotedly applied.