Some people think that the only duty a shipís counselor has is that of a psychiatrist. A counselorís duties include counseling individual crewmen, providing periodic performance reports for each crewmember, as well as offering advice on command decisions. In addition they are to provide command officers with accurate assessments of the motives, emotional needs and desires, emotional stability and rationality of the alien life forms. Another duty, although not as important as the above duties, is that of the Morale Officer.
Although they cannot decide policy, they play a role in negotiating treaties or in situations involving potentially hostile forces.
Who makes a good counselor? Anyone with a desire to closely interact with other personnel and who has the ability to make objective evaluations of a given situation would make a good counselor. Personal prejudices have no place in a counselor. Does a counselor have to be empathic or telepathic? No. Although Commander Deanna Troi of the USS Enterprise, an empathic half-Betazoid, has made an indelible impression on the corps of counselors following in her footsteps, one must realize that her skill as a psychologist was not based solely on her ability to read emotions. Indeed, counselors who are empathic and/or telepathic have a more difficult path to follow.
In the time of James T Kirk, there were empaths. Their powers were not widely known and they were not used on star ships. One race of empaths that crossed the patch of the Enterprise was that of the Minaran, as in the planet Minara.
The individuals from this planet had nervous systems capable of absorbing the physical and emotional responses of another, permitting the empath to heal the injuries of others by transferring those injuries onto her (or his) own body.
Letís look at what first brought ship counselors to the bridge as an important crewmember.
After contact with the Betazoids, an intelligent humanoid race of Haven II, and the admission of Haven as an associate member of the Federation. It was made clear that this race of empaths had a unique contribution to make to the Federation. Betazoids can detect emotion and motives over distances without prior contact with the alien race. For instance, an empathic counselor is in the recreation area just as a young man walks in who just broke up with his girlfriend. The man is angry, hurt, and possibly feeling worthless. The counselor picks up on this, but must be able to decide if intervention is required. In most cases, it is not. These feelings are typical and natural reactions to a sudden termination of a relationship. A counselor who queries every crewman about every extrasensory perception the counselor intercepts borders on harassment, and is of value to no one. Additionally, just knowing what the person is feeling isn't enough. A counselor must then know how to deal with these feelings.
Given the importance of first contact, the Haven Accord of Stardate 4/18 mandated that members of the Betazoid race gradually integrate into the staff of Federation exploration craft of Class V and above and they will hold the honorary rank of Commander.
So while a counselor with extrasensory perception may seem to have a leg up on one who does not, it is not so. The quality of the counselor depends on the counselor's training and dedication to his or her position. And nothing less than a quality counselor is adequate for any ship.
Nowhere is a counselor more visible, or more influential, than while on bridge duty. Therefore, it is here that the portrayer must pay special attention to character work. Actions taken here can have far reaching consequences. A bad piece of advice or a flare of temper can destroy a counselor character's credibility instantaneously.
While on the bridge, the counselor's duty is to gauge the emotional condition of the command staff and provide the captain with insight and advice regarding command decisions. It is not the counselor's job to question every order the captain gives, but rather, to offer an alternative perspective if it is required.
Should the captain give an order that could be counterproductive to the mission, is fueled by personal concerns, or unnecessarily risk the safety of the ship and/or crew, it is the counselor's responsibility to discuss it with the captain.
Ideally, the counselor will talk with the captain privately. However, some situations require immediate action. In these rare instances, the counselor should be careful to be discreet, respectful, and non-confrontational when offering the captain the alternative advice.
Remember, as a counselor it is your duty to provide the captain with options. It is not the captain's duty, however, to abide by them.
As any counseling character soon discovers, you don't get many patients at your door. Few people are willing to admit to the type of flaw required to need counseling.
Therefore, it's a common tendency to try and find patients. This is rarely a good idea. As mentioned earlier, pouncing on every crewman who seems to be having a bad day borders on harassment. If others resent you for being a busy body, you've reduced your chances even further of having any significant interaction with them.
However, by simply paying attention to the happenings aboard ship, a counselor will find plenty of opportunities to get involved without cornering their crewmates. It is a matter of recognizing where counselor intervention is required.
The death of a crewman or a member of his family deserves counselor attention; usually in the form of a sympathetic ear for the bereaved. A counselor is also a logical contributor to any interrogation process to provide insight into body language and motivations. Likewise, a counselor should be included on diplomatic missions or other cultural exchanges. Crewmen, who attempt suicide or exhibit other extreme irrational and/or dangerous behavior, require serious psychological attention. And it is in these cases that the counselor is both expected and required to force interaction.
A component of counseling often overlooked is the role of morale officer. A necessary post on all long-range and/or battle-oriented cruiser, the role can also be vital to any ship that experiences high levels of stress.
Put simply, as morale officer, it is the counselor's duty to keep the crew relaxed. This is achieved through various diversions, such as concerts, classes, plays, and sports tournaments.
Another duty of counselor is to assist the executive officer with annual reviews. This duty requires attention to detail on the part of counselor, as it requires genuine knowledge of the crew and their lives. It also requires a counselor to separate his personal feelings toward another crewmember. Allowing prejudices to taint a crewmemberís review only causes rifts to deepen and the integrity of the counselor to deteriorate.
The populace of space is as varied as the stars themselves. And every species has its own unique psychology. It is up to the counselor to use common sense when dealing with species-related idiosyncrasies.p>For instance, Klingons are inherently aggressive. A Klingon officer who yells at his Department Head is a matter for the commanding officer, not the counselor. However, a Klingon Department Head that constantly berates his staff creates a morale problem and does require the counselorís attention. Determining how to handle any given situation requires common sense and thought on the part of the counselor.
As varied as the ship's crew, is the ship counselor character pool. We need to take into consideration the pros and cons of non - human counselors. The temptation of abusing a species' telepathic and/or empathic skills is often one hard to conquer. Remember, for every positive trait, there must be a minus. A telepathic counselor for instance, is restricted by ethical concerns over reading thoughts and acting upon them.
The role of counselor is a varied and interesting one. It requires a higher level of dedication from the person in that job. Not only does it require a commonsense knowledge of psychology, but an ability to walk a fine ethical line.
A counselor strives to keep the crew balanced by providing an alternative perspective and unbiased advice. Those who feel they can handle the burden on their shoulders will find themselves having a wonderful time.