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Can’t force counselling

senatordeanharoldcrichlowGovernment’s efforts to keep families together might be well intentioned, but some marriages are so torn apart and trotted that mandating counselling before divorce will be difficult to enforce.

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Harold Crichlow, a former longstanding Anglican cleric and a counsellor himself, also said being a religious leader should not automatically qualify you to be a counsellor.

He was contributing to debate on amendments to the Family Law Act when it was discussed today in the Upper House.

The changes include a legislative requirement that couples have to seek counselling before they allowed a divorce under the law.

But the former Dean of St. Michael’s said based on his own experience, counselling was important but it was unlikely to work if the affected couples did not do it willingly.

“I have done one case of counselling sent to me by a government agency and paid for by that agency and I promise never to do another. I say so because I don’t think that counselling can be enforced,” he said.

“The case I dealt with the couple wanted to part company and the love had gone out of the marriage and so when that happens it’s just a matter of going through the motions, but you can’t get much counselling done because people have really decided for themselves that they don’t want to be together anymore.

“But I do think that counselling is very important and it’s very painful for the counsellor because the counsellor has to give himself or herself to the couple and hearing both sides of the matter impartially and counseling a couple really pulls a lot out of you and you feel almost betrayed when a couple comes to you (and) they have already made up their minds.” Crichlow said the best form of counselling “is where one or both parties really want to make up their unhappy relationship, start again, and where they have come of their own free will to be helped”.

“Most of my ministry has been concerned with helping to restore relationships between couples. If I had to do that alone it would take up all my time, but it needs to be done and I think it is a pity that many couples allow their relationships to … drive them so far apart from each other, that they do not experience the benefit of counselling,” he stated.

The senator also said being a man of the cloth did not mean you would make a good counsellor.

“Because you are a priest or pastor it doesn’t mean that you are gifted in counselling. There are some religious leaders who are gifted in other areas, but really not that of counselling and people will tell from the way you preach or teach whether you have that sympathy and whether they can approach you about their personal matters,” he said.

“Of course they feel that they are the only people in the world that are experiencing the torture and they have to be told that millions of couples around the world are having the same experience that they are having. (SC)

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