Handbook of the Orphan Ministry

at the LBS Mwika (HUYAMWI)

paper 6: “Counselling in the situation of HIV-AIDS” - Christian Lay Counsellors

Released  20.12.04 – Source:  Klaus Temme, Germany[1]


 Recommandations of the workshop-group in regard to church-staff

a)    planning a project

b)    undergirding an existing project

c)    adding the aspect of christian/spiritual counselling to the existing project



-how to recruit volunteers / whom to watch out for

- checking the chances includes the question, whether local ‘wise persons’ can be integrated somehow in a CLC-project

-how to enhance networking and not competing among groups: Wise people/pastors/lay counsellors could make up for synergetic  effects

-how to rely on indigenous/local resources; 'own' counselling traditions and persons


-how to train them / which contents [f.e. --aids-basics --- basic counselling ‘attitudes’ -- basic training in 'pastoral' care and its tools -- basic psychological knowledge in regard to mental crisises, depression, suicide, ‘stages of the dying’  -- using role-play / intervision / work with case reports for integrating these different layers....]


-what are the main required attitudes, f.e listening etc.

-how to avoid 'traps' in the work the CLCs do [f.e. not overwhelming somebody..]

-how to give great attention to the respective language/tradition/cultur; i.e. to give specific attention, if 'cross-/inter-cultural aspects are involved in the working field


-how to built up a local information system; how to use existing systems to get to know the persons who might want to be visited


-how to deal with 'time' lay-counsellors can/should put in; their availability

-how to guarantee that the CLCs take care of themselfves: not to put on too much burden

-how to take care of (physical) security

-how to enhance self-esteem of being a lay-but-spiritual counsellor


-how to raise/enlarge acceptance and public recognition for CLCs (see below)


- how to set up the programm as a supervised acitivity of the church
-how to find and/or qualify persons/supervisors[2] for this task
[i.e. f.e.: to be aware of the CLCs’ abilities, capacities, limitations (“less is more” sometimes)…, among others]


-how to assess the job done; how to set up quality standards for CLCs




The “Triangle”

in regard to Counselling in the Sub-sahara-area



                                              HIV /AIDS









         wise man/





                                                              lay counsellor      





                           if those three work together

                           they will succeed !    



The traditional ‘wise-person-system’ failed in responding to the ‘new’ endemic of AIDS; so all the thrust was given to educational goals.
The present situation of pastors and churches in relating to these traditional persons was called
‘irritated/irritating’ in the group.
The question whether or not these traditional people could be ‘integrated’ in church/Christian projects has to be decided on a local level, knowing the persons implied!



“What a Christian Lay Counsellor has ‘to take with’

when visiting a PLW-HIV/Aids[3] the  first time”



  1. try to be aware of psycho-social aspects involved  [ f.e. concepts of mourning, death, illness; concepts of showing feelings of anger and hurt, pain, guilt and disgust; concepts about showing feelings to the outside at all. Watch out, if those concepts within you, within within your vicinity, within the patient, within his vicinity may be different!]
  2. make an assessment of the overall situation you encounter before or when starting the call
  3. it is ok and natural for you to be nervous at the first call!!
  4. the question should be answered “why am I here?” [i.e. in this project; doing this call.]
  5. what are your first steps to create a rapport [an appropriaste ‘climate’]
  6. try to become aware for needs of the PLWH [f.e. material aspects, physical needs, social circumctances]
  7. state the purpose of your visit clearly – look out for an agreement on the side of the PLW (if this is culurally ok, to do so)
  8. try to be able to ask short and simple questions
  9. try to be listening and accepting
  10. do you want to speak / do you dare to speak about the illness? Be cautious to raise this topic from your side. Be cautious to raise the question of a test from your side.
  11. after having built up the contact, you can try to find out, whether the PLWH is a Christian or not (unless you know him/her).
    a) if he/she is, you can introduce topics of faith, trust in God, religious matters, biblical aspects, prayer, Scripture [“be careful – not too careful” ]
    b) if he/she is not: think about offering a prayer / asking for agreement to do so [non-Chistians have spiritual needs, too]
  12. if the PLWH wants to speak about life after death, be prepared about your own position; try to share it friendly [perhaps you may want to call in a pastor,too]
  13. be aware that it is necessary for you to have matching what you preach and what you live: “Christ has no hands, but your hands”; without the ‘undivided’ personal presence of the Christian Lay Counsellor the presence of God cannot be communicated.
  14. turn to your supervisor for help, even if seems rather ‘little things’ to ask
  15. since it is a voluntary activity, you should freely decide on how much time, how much availability you are able to put in; feel free to set limits – or even to leave the project when time has come

Spiritual dimensions

which Christian Lay Counsellors can offer

affirming God’s love

laying hands on

caring for spiritual needs (cure of soul)

helping people in suffering, not to go on running away from God, but to try to turn closer to him

go with them on an inner ‘healing journey’



scripture reading and interpreting

making contact to institutions (like ‘call a bible-vers’)








Support the Supporters

or even ‘Counselling the Counsellors’

[Recommandations of the workshop-group in regard to church-staff]



we strongly recommend for the respective Church-Staff

to reflect the following issues before setting up a CLC-project

-- how to establish a system / way of public recognition and appreciation of the CLC [either in the church or in the local community; using rituals in the public community –by the mayor; using church rituals in the parish – like a ‘sendig out’, ‘ordination’, blessing of this work]

--how to establish a mutual support – system (f.e. peer-group / supervision group / informal support)

--how to guarantee that the CLC do not feel ‘to work alone’, but that they are working in a network, when actually working as CLC, and supported by a support group, when looking out for this other ‘sphere’

--how to guarantee the 'open'-space to cry, to do grief work etc.. for the CLC him/herself

--how to go on with qualifying / training / ongoing education, to keep up the mood and selfesteem or the CLC and a feeling for the quality of their work

--how to deal with / avoid / stop 'burn out syndrom' [if there is such a reality]


When –in our group- we applied the method of Intervision (see below) the group came up with these results in how they felt supported as supporters:

Č helps to “calm” (down) yourself a little

Č gives peer support

Č enhances listening attitude

Č gives “analysing” support

Č brings in some “distance”

Č is sharing of (mutual) “stupidity”

Č is a help for an emotional drain off

Č helps to become aware of cultural differences

Č helps to deal with the complexity (to break it down into smaller parts)

Č enables awarness and reflexion of “roles”



Training methods

       Role – playing


It is a method of training. The roles taken and the situations that were chosen for the moment, - they are ‘fictional’; but they should be taken from the general ‘reality’ of the work done by CLCs.


Role-playing is usually very intensive and ‘real’ because it includes self-experience of the involved people, especially on an emotional level.


You need more persons than you would need for the technique of intervision (see below) because you need role players [usually several, like the PLWH,  the CLC and perhaps members of the family or friends…], observers and an experienced leader.

The leader helps to arrange the setting, watches the ‘rules’ and moderates the evaluation and  discussion when the actual ‘role-play’ ended.


In asseigning observations tasks there are two possible ways:

a)     for every role player you asseign one observer who focusses on the ‘behaviour’ and the emotions of the given person.

b)    you asseign different group-members to different tasks of observation, like observing gender-aspects, intercultural aspects, aspects of faith and religion, aspects of family-influence, aspects of money/work etc.

It is useful to have one observer for the communication process between the ‘role-players’, too [observation questions might be like this: did the interaction go on fluently? Where, when and between whom - and why have there been ‘disturbances’ ore interferences.]


[VARIATION: The leader stops the role-play at a certain (critcal/crucial) point and invites the observers to tell their impressions (1st step) and then to discuss them (2nd step) for a given time; the role players only listen and then continue the play. This variation is called “ work with a reflecting team”; its origin is family-counselling with a group of counsellors: one person counsels, the others “reflect”.]


At the beginning of the evalutation-phase of the role-play-session every observer tells his/her impressions/observations (see above).

Then the ‘players’ share their experiences, emotions, thoughts, irritations which had appeared during the play.

Only when theses steps are accomplished, the group-leader may start a more general discussion and exchange of views and arguments.

Please, obstain from judging as much as possible! Please express all observations, remarks, comments  (even critical ones) on a very high level of esteem of the other!


Note: confidentiality among the role-playing group (all members) has to be assured!


Note: the role-players have to identify themselves with their role! But after the play has ended, it is absolutely necessary, that the players “step out” of their roles and move to the discussion level (“meta-level”) – in self-distance to their former ‘role’!


Role playing is a method suitable

for exercising and improving behaviour/attitudes necessary for counselling



Training methods


            INTERvision (peer-counselling group)


is a certain technique of case-study work in a small group,

existing of three or four people (here in our setting of CLCs).


Confidentiallity has to be assured!

No information that can be identified, must be given to the ’outside’!


One of the group members presents a case by reporting/telling,

a second one listens, asks, tries to understand, gives comments, advices, helps to identify the problem of the counsellee – or the problem which causes the peer-group member to tell this case-story here in the group,

and  the third and/or fourth one observe(s) the communication process between the other two.


After (about) 15 min. the conversation may be stopped by the observer;

He starts telling his/her impressions; this should include a focus on the counselling attitude/behaviour of the ‘second’ person and his/her actions and reactions.

In all this the ‘observer’ should try to respond  without judging.


Now the roles have to be changed, - the  ‘second’ person becomes the ‘presenter’ of a case and the others decide who counsels and who observes.


Everyone should have the opportunity to present a case if he/she wants to.



Intervision is a method suitable

as well for exercising and improving behaviour/attitudes necessary for counselling

as for getting support in ‘difficult’ cases or in moments of ‘need’ on the side of the CLC.





[1] This material has been produced by a group of  home-care-professionals of  some Central-African-States, invited by “United In Mission”, Wuppertal/Germany, in a special consultation on  “Church as a learning community” – the Church’s special taks in regard with HIV-AIDS, July 1 – 16, 2002.

[2] In using the term ‚supervisor’ there might be the danger of misconceiving concepts of supervisory work; so we are thinking of a ‘counsellor to the counsellors’ who underwent a supervisory training in this field – not of somebody just being in controll of the project.

[3] We use this abbreviation  PersonLinkedWith HIV/AIDS (=PLWH) in this text /


This ‘checklist’ is not meant to be a perscription!

It is describing issues which the workshop on counselling found to be important.