SINGAPORE – After a year of training, 28 Catholics were commissioned as lay counsellors on Sat Feb 23 at Church of Christ the King, with Mass concelebrated by Fathers Peter Koh and Charles Sim, S.J.

This is the third batch of lay counsellors to be commissioned. They join the 21 commissioned last year.

Their training was conducted by the Family Life Society (FLS) headed by Father Charles, who is himself a trained family therapist with a Master’s degree from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, University of London, a group of four lecturers and therapists from FLS, as well as volunteer lecturers from the public and private sectors.

The basic course in lay counselling is divided into two key modules. The first module attracted 120 people who spent Wednesday evenings from January to May 2007 attending lectures at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre.

From this group, about 40 went on to the second module that is supervised by professional counsellors and that involved intensive group sessions with lots of role-play and exercises to sharpen skills learnt in the first module. Eventually, 28 were posted to parishes to act as volunteer counsellors.

The counselling service is available in 12 parishes. Counsellors help people gain insights into situations that trouble them, and empower them to make changes themselves.

At the same time, lay counsellors will refer clients to professional therapists at the Family Life Society when there is a need, providing a "first line" of assistance for people who need help, and provide a referral service to FLS for those who need more specialized attention.

Lay counselling is now available in Churches of St. Anthony, St. Bernadette, Christ the King, St. Francis of Assisi, Holy Family, St. Joseph (Bukit Timah), Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Risen Christ, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Anne’s and Blessed Sacrament, and soon in Our Lady Queen of Peace. Call 6382 0688 to make an appointment at a parish and time convenient for you. -By Isabel Chua

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