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Ranieri and Gurkoff adapt their therapy skills to create a self-help book for readers looking to help others. Sometimes, just being heard is all you need, claim the authors and trained therapists; “not all problems require dramatic solutions.” Of course, reading their book won’t make you a “professional helper,” but with practice, their techniques and exercises can give readers “confidence and competence in listening and responding” to friends undergoing a challenge.
Friend, in the authors’ usage, stands in for family, colleagues and acquaintances. Ranieri and Gurkoff’s combined experience leads to helpful case studies on identifying and dealing with friends going through all sorts of problems. First, three basic requirements must be assessed: a mutual desire of both parties to help and be helped, a defined relationship between the two and an established time commitment. Helpfully, also included are chapters on referring especially troubled friends to professional help, as well as guidance for “leaving the helping role” with the same discipline as in taking it on. In the author’s technique, allowing friends to put their thoughts into words leads to facts, which can be analyzed objectively before pinning down specific feelings. Once those are identified, working toward a solution means establishing a goal. “Contemplating action is the antidote” to the angst generated by isolation, inaction or confusion, since action helps restore a sense of control. The authors also recommend what they call “confronting,” which, although it sounds argumentative, Ranieri and Gurkoff mean as a kind of “reality check.” Despite the foreseeable risks, they claim it’s the most effective way to end denial and evasion, while enabling your friend to see “where she’s blocking her own progress.” Although Ranieri and Gurkoff tend to repeat themselves and overexplain some of their simplest ideas, they’ve laid out an excellent game plan in plainspoken English with an upbeat tone that encourages progress. Bullet points, sidebars and questions act as convenient yield signs along the way, giving readers a moment to recall and reflect. Even if “active listening” is second nature, it “can’t hurt to revisit the basics.”
As a primer, reference or for regular practice, this guide contains all the tools needed for friends in need.