(December 6, 2020) Dr Robert McQuillan, drawing on his current article in Counselling Australia journal, encourages taking windows of opportunity (Note: Although the article was aimed at encouraging professional counsellors, it’s full of Bible-based principles that every Christian should employ)…

Seems that newscasts share more bad news daily about the worldwide pandemic, increasing crime, rebellion against authorities, government opposition groanings instead of encouraging support… it’s rare to hear good news that makes you laugh, even smile.
So I’m urged to begin this article with a simple, good-news story that a friend shared with me (whether true or not, the point comes home)…

Evidently, a 93-year-old Italian wept when told his hospital ventilator one-day usage bill was 5,000Euro (approx. $8100AUD).
A doctor kindly advised him, ‘Don’t cry over it.’ To his surprise the old man responded, ‘I’m not crying because I have to pay. I cry because I’ve been breathing God’s air every day for 93 years and never had to pay anything. But for one day’s use of your ventilator, I must pay EU5000! I realise now how much I owe God… I’ve never courteously thanked him before for his free air!’
Doesn’t that makes you smile – and think?

It’s expected that believers thank God for his kindnesses.
But what about absent old-fashioned courtesy of individuals thanking individuals for services or kindnesses rendered?
So often in conversing with people (non-churchgoing and churchgoing), including leaders from various backgrounds and industries – whether during shopping trips phone calls, emails or Skype – I repeatedly observe individuals hungrily looking for a genuine ‘thank you’… and some meaningful encouragement.
… comes from the Old French word encoragier meaning ‘make strong, hearten; inspiring with spirit or hope.’
In our profession this is what we do as we attempt to persuade, stimulate, and spur on.
Again and again I encounter people needing to hear good news and an encouraging word. And, I have to say, even in my literati involvements, through counselling, mentoring, and encouraging, I find great personal enjoyment and satisfaction in inspiring people to move ahead.

Actually, anyone can encourage someone – but as Dr Philip Armstrong, ACA CEO, wrote recently: ‘This is a challenging time… one that has brought our profession… to the forefront of community awareness and need’ (Counselling Australia journal, Spring 2020, emphasis mine).
Classed as professional counsellors, we need to be aware of our responsibility to inspire people in these uncertain times.
And here I share something personal…
It so happens that I’m a believer and my kick-start morning prayer includes two desires… ‘Lead me to contact a needy someone whom I haven’t contacted lately so I may share encouragement’ and ‘Grant that a needy someone who hasn’t contacted me for a while does so.’
This isn’t some grandiose client-seeking ploy for personal gain – I’m an ACA venerable member and don’t charge fees – I seek only to inspire and support those in need. And, when such contacts periodically happen, it’s interesting who I end up heartening (like the lady mentioned later); even some ‘blast from the past’ individuals.

Covid-19 pandemic has caused deaths, employment/income loss, ensuing physical/mental problems, loneliness, suicides, depressive negativity, and motivation-less people with a confused sense of uncertainty regarding the future.

Sadly, many are just ‘hanging around’ aimlessly, some crippled by thoughts of ‘What’s the use? What future do I have?’… and no moving ahead.

I’ve found three major hindrances to individuals moving forward…

  • Lack of encouragement
  • Unawareness that someone cares
  • Missing sense of purpose.

1) Encouraging
We all need encouragement!
Several Facebook readers were surprised when I penned how a very thoughtful lady from my local RSL club regularly phones me enquiring how this ‘senior’ is, if I have any needs! She’s not a professional counsellor (nor my caring, following-up doctor) but she encourages me!
Whether someone contacts us because of our profession or we contact them, it’s imperative that we treat them thoughtfully, listen carefully and take the window of opportunity to speak inspiringly and meaningfully into their life.

2) Caring
Some people haven’t had a call from anyone for ages (friend, family member nor minister)! They’re feeling very lonely, isolated, cut off, depressed. Sadly, they’re thinking that no one is interested, no one cares, and life isn’t worth living.
We can give them some ‘meaningful kick-start’ that assures them we care!

3) Purpose
Everyone has a purpose in life. Sadly, some individuals are considering ‘giving it all away’ having lost their life-dream.
However a contact eventuates, we have a window to enthuse and inspire such depressed, negative (even suicidal) thinking individuals to fast-track forward, get it together again to seek achievement of something in their life… even in times such as recent lockdown!

Ensure no-one downloads you with their worries and cares!
Don’t allow anyone to offload heavy burdens on you – otherwise you too might come depressed! (Yes, transference can happen/has happened!)
That lady incident referred to above… When visiting friends interstate one time, I found only a very sad-looking babysitter, a counselling colleague. Sensing something was seriously amiss with ‘Lily’ (Not real name but obviously one of my ‘prayer-request-contacts’!), I enquired accordingly. She shared something extremely dangerous…
Heavily burdened about a client, ‘Lily’ had become so over-concerned, allowing his distress to become hers. And, wrongly believing she had to personally ‘experience’ his pain to help, she was completely unaware that a sort of factitious disorder had perilously gripped her, Now she was ill through ‘symptomatically feeling’ that pain!
Taking that opportunity window I straight-talked ‘Lily’ and freed her from that deceptive belief. Released of heaviness, no wonder she smiled a huge smile!

In this time of confusion and uncertainty, I encourage counsellors to consider the relevance of the three concerns highlighted above and, using both skills and experiences, inspire troubled contacts to regain lost enthusiasm and goals.
‘Aspire to inspire before we expire’ (Author unknown).

And think outside the box… there are few clients that consider asking counsellors how we’re going!
When Philip Armstrong invited me to speak at an ACA conference several years ago, I queried, ‘What could I possibly share?’ Philip’s response: ‘Robert, who encourages the encouragers?’
Guess what my topic was!

Dr Robert McQuillan, PhD, MA (Coun), DLitt, LHD, DD, Marquis Who’s Who in the World 30-year Listee, is director of Life Focus Ministries. Notation below by author…
Note : Asked by Australian Counselling Association (I’ve been a member for almost 20 years) to write an article on the Covid-19 challenge for December’s Counselling Australia journal, rather than miss an opportunity to slip in prayer as well as encouragement principles, I submitted my thoughts.
After all, Paul encourages us to ‘Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity’ (Colossians 4:5).

Led by the Holy Spirit I set my proposed article out as it would appear if accepted. Last month we had written that prayer causes things to happen… well, thanks to some faithful prayer partners it was immediately accepted and mentions of God and prayer weren’t deleted! Out of 10 contributors, only three – including myself – were interviewed by the CAj editor, Brad Collins. Here’s an extract from Brad’s editorial comments:  
Dr Robert McQuillan
, Melbourne suburb-based, greeted the Covid-19 challenge with his trademark response c’est la vie.

For Robert, a retired minister, ‘change happens’ and life is all about working with change. The personal philosophy that guides his counselling is to support people’s fundamental need for encouragement and hope – be they clients or fellow counsellors.
‘Every day is a new day and we just have to keep moving; knowing there will always be challenges but knowing also that we can get to the other side of those challenges. It is all about sustaining self-belief.’
(He added) ‘People think coronavirus has stolen their dreams… so we keep dreaming; build new dreams. We don’t know what is ahead, with the virus or something else, so making the best of every day needs to be not just a saying but a purposeful goal. Every day there are opportunities to make a mark in life, and these days even saying “Hullo” to a stranger, or asking someone how they are doing, can have a profound impact.’


  1. I am taking this opportunity to testify that Robert ‘practises what he preaches’ and I can say this as a person who has been a recipient of his encouragement over decades (I still live in Northern Ireland from where Robert emigrated more than 40 years ago) and he has often been used to shed perspective on issues with which I have been struggling and to bring spiritual refreshment to my soul.

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