It’s interesting how a resident assistant is supposed to be a variety of different characters all within one person. Resident assistants are expected to be students, employees, teachers, mentors, counselors, guides, assistants, and even friends at times. They are meant to discipline, educate, assist, and guide. Within this one position, a multitude of expectations emerges and can sometimes become confusing or overwhelming. One particular expectation is that to counsel.

Many resident assistants believe that it is their job to counsel their residents. While this may be true to some extent, resident assistants are not qualified or expected to fully counsel someone like a trained and professional counselor would. Resident assistants are not in a position to analyze and diagnose their residents, but they are in a position to listen, help, and refer.

Active listening is an important quality that resident assistants must possess in order to truly help their residents. One must be able to listen to what a resident is saying, question for understanding, and repeat back in order to exemplify the understanding. Through listening, a resident assistant can discover more about a situation and learn more about a person. Listening is an incredible tool to use in order to retrieve more information and to understand more. Listening is key in order to help and counsel someone.

When counseling, resident assistants are expected to listen and offer advice in situations that they are comfortable and knowledgeable about such as depression, stress, and homesickness. These situations are common and are experienced by many, possibly even the resident assistant, himself. In these cases, the resident assistant can use prior knowledge and experience and recent training in order to assist the resident. When situations worsen, however, one may not be qualified to help the resident.

All resident assistants have attended training and have learned steps that may help in assisting one with a serious issue. When the resident assistant feels confident and comfortable enough, he may follow these procedures in order to help his resident and possibly even save a life. Sometimes, though, all a resident assistant can do is refer one to receive help elsewhere, such as from the Counseling Center or from a professional counselor. It is always best to resolve a situation in as low and casual of a state as possible, but sometimes it cannot be done.

With so many different characters to uphold and portray, sometimes a resident assistant can feel overwhelmed or feel that he is expected to accomplish many tasks, even ones that he is not actually expected to do. In some cases, it is appropriate for a resident assistant to refer a resident elsewhere for help, simply because the resident assistant is not properly trained or able to actually give help or because the resident is in need of serious, professional help. As part of their personalities, resident assistants often wish to help their residents in every way that they can, but when it comes to counseling, all a resident assistant can really offer is an active ear, a caring and compassionate heart, a thoughtful mind, and the true desire to help the person in any way possible, even if that means allowing him to speak with someone else.

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