Counselor & Counseling
Gary Collins has written a comprehensive counseling guide to assist Christian leaders. The author commences each chapter presenting a case history and biblical information to assist the reader with a biblical perspective of the discussion at hand. It is a valuable resource guide for professionals, pastors, individuals as well as students. It has a plethora of information for those who desire a greater understanding in regards to human behavior. It lucratively incorporates a biblical perspective that is quite necessary for those who desire to be “Christian Counselors”.
In the second chapter of his book the author discusses, “The Counselor and Counseling” He states; “Counseling can be gratifying work, but it doesn’t take long for most of us to discover that this also can be emotionally draining, difficult work.” I find this to be a true statement. Whenever you attempt to help someone you must always be aware of your motives. This will help you to keep abreast of your role. As a counselor one must also be aware of their limitations. It is advisable to inform the counselee of your role up front. This will provide the counselee with the opportunity to make their own decision to further engage in counseling. This also positions them in a posture to initiate control in their personal decision making process during counseling. There is a tendency in dealing with certain personalities that transference readily begins to formulate with the counselor. If not addressed they will relinquish and shift control to you. Understanding the nature of compulsive or addictive personalities will assist you in not becoming bogged down. This can also result in feeling drained. There is a great deal of emotional energy that is expended during counseling. The Christian Counselor has a responsibility to present and adhere to biblical ethics. We do not have the power to change anyone. We are to present viable options to assist one in their quest for emotional resolve. I believe that the counselee always has the right to choose even if it is contrary to what I think? God always allows us the right to choose.
The author states “It always is difficult to evaluate your own motives. Perhaps this is especially true when we examine our reasons for doing counseling. A sincere desire to help people is a valid reason for becoming a counselor.” God is aware of our motives. I believe for one to be an efficient counselor they must be certain that it is a “calling from the Lord” and not just a job. Prayer and continual personal Bible study is a necessary tool for the Christian Counselor. This well help you to keep healthy boundaries with your counselee. As a counselor we must be friendly but we should not seek to fulfill our own personal needs. The responsible counselor realizes that their counselee has a need for a professional relationship. The Counselor will help them pinpoint the problem locale and seek to assist in alleviating immediate areas of stress. Although the counselor must be friendly and compassionate they must remain objective. A friend is not always the best person to counsel professionally.
The author talks about varying counseling dynamics such as, the need to control or rescue the counselee. Both of these are dynamics that need to be examined. I personally believe as stated earlier in the counselee’s right to make their own decisions. Rescuing is equally dangerous because we can in fact create an environment where we become part of the problem rather than the solution. Rescuing results in dependency. Dependency results in enabling. The healthy counseling environment should never resort to manipulation. In some cases it is not until you further investigate that one discovers dependency tendencies. Some problem areas may be systemic and need the attention of a specialist. A ready willingness to refer the counselee should be embraced. Again the priority is to help the counselee. A competent counselor should make a conscious decision to keep the environment safe for both the counselor and counselee. I believe the Christian Counselor must be committed to Godly principles. The author states, “Counseling sessions are not likely to be effective if the counselor has a need to manipulate others, to atone for guilt, to please some authority figure, to express hostility, to resolve sexual conflicts, or to prove that he or she is intellectually capable, spiritually mature, and psychologically stable.” When the counselor examines and applies Godly principles this will keep them in check of who is in charge and where their obligation resides. The counselor must always seek to resolve any of their personal behavior issues; but not in the context of a session with their counselee. “Healing ultimately comes from God and a counselor is one of the many instruments used to facilitate the process.
As counselors we should ask ourselves “Why do we counsel?” The author states “Emotional over involvement can cause the counselor to lose objectivity, and this in turn reduces counseling effectiveness” I agree. As a Counselor we are to be involved. We should also be compassionate but not to the degree we loose our objectivity. We do this when we discipline ourselves to incorporate proper time constraints and practice proper guidelines. It is most helpful to let them know that you are a person with shortcomings as well. When I don’t have an answer I just simply tell them “I don’t know.” Then suggest perhaps either or both of us could further investigate information that would enhance and enlighten. I have adopted and freely share the thought “We are all becoming. We never arrive. Life is a continual growing process and when we have learned what the lord wants us to learn we ultimately go home to Him!” Again this is why the scriptures are so important when we desire to counsel. I firmly believe that counseling is a “Ministry”. The scriptures tell us that Jesus is a “Wonderful Counselor.” He is our only perfect example! I agree with the author that expresses “we are His agents doing His work, representing Him. His Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Guide and will lead us to deliver those He has brought to us for help.”
I believe that the Holy Spirit will alert you when a counselee may not have the proper intent. The author states “Regretfully this does not always happen. Some counselees have a conscious or unconscious desire to manipulate, frustrate, or not cooperate. This is a difficult discovery for the counselor who wants to succeed and whose success chiefly comes when people change.” People will often mistake meekness for weakness. They will misinterpret your desire to help. They can see this as an opportunity to manipulate you. That is why you must know that your intentions as a Counselor are honorable. (I learned a great deal working with the homeless.) Quite often there are those who can not financially afford counseling. I have found it important that they realize the value of my time even when it is a very minimal fee or pro bono arrangement. This is not to put myself in a superior position. It is because I have learned that there are those who will “help themselves to you, if you let them.” People do not respect what they do not value. This is why we must always keep and reinforce healthy boundaries. Counseling is often a plea for attention. I have a known case that taught me a very valuable lesson. In my attempt to mentor and counsel I had a scenario that almost got out of hand. It became quite clear to me that this person was trying to control me. They became very demanding. I calmly told them that it would not be a good idea to continue. That they needed help beyond my capacity to help them. I did find out that this person had extensive psychological problems. They appeared to be very sweet. This person initially approached me. They also attended my church. Keep in mind I had learned a great deal of information about this person in counseling. I had also committed not to share anything about them or anyone else unless they resulted to violent or suicidal behavior. They decided that they were going to make my worship environment a difficult place for me. To some degree they were successful. The church was already in an uproar for a number of reasons. However, I stayed before the Lord in prayer. I could not go to the pastor because she had his ear. I later learned she had a lot of information on many members including the pastor. She was an expert at manipulation. To make a long story short I have learned that people will believe almost anything; even in an environment that is supposed to be spiritual. You must continually pray for direction. When your helping is not helping you need to know when to refer them. I have a sign in the office that says “Character is who you are when nobody but God is watching.”
As a Counselor we must uphold Godly principles. We must not support or condone improper morals or conduct. We must learn to balance counseling, prayer, meditation and our personal life in order to prevent burnout. This is true of any profession for a Christian. I make a sincere attempt to help those who the Lord puts in my path. I continue to evaluate, read, take classes, attend workshops and listen to tapes that help my continued growth and education. I take very seriously my responsibility to minister via counseling. I will not compromise my commitment to the Lord or jeopardize the peace He has given me. My partner and spouse are my supporter and encourager. He helps keep me grounded. Collins concludes the chapter stating, “The Bible describes Jesus Christ as the Wonderful Counselor. He is the counselor’s counselor –ever available to encourage, direct and give wisdom to human people helpers.” It is my belief that all Scripture is the infallible Word of God! God is awesome! “To much is given much is required.” God does not entrust us with anything that we are not able to handle. When we finish our life’s quest we have to answer to God! God holds us accountable for our actions. A proper relationship with God is crucial in maintaining an effective counseling ministry.