I sat on the counselor’s couch, with eyes tightly shut, as he asked questions about my childhood. We had three sessions that consisted of this exercise until he announced at the end of this one:
“You’re fixed! We don’t need to schedule any more sessions.”
That was one several very real secular counseling sessions I attended. Some, like this one, traumatized me.
Thankfully, my Christian counseling sessions have been mostly positive. As someone who has sat across from many counselors, both Christian and secular, I want to share a glimpse into what those in my seat are searching for.
- Don’t be quick It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to see progress and declare a person “fixed.” You became a Christian counselor because you had a passion to see people become healthy and whole through Jesus Christ, so this is a natural desire.However, just as our process of sanctification is long with its fair share of winding roads, so is the process of a person becoming healthy mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.The baggage all of us carry as broken people is heavy. Whenever you are tempted to diagnose someone “fixed,” you have to set your mind on this: the work done in the person’s life does not depend on you; it depends on God’s power. There are no overnight fixes, but His strength makes slow and steady progress possible.
- Being different from the world applies in this context. Often times, the people walking through your doors are those who are not only broken down by their life circumstances but previous counseling they’ve received also breaks them. I had tried many different methods, counselors, and therapists before I stumbled into a Christian counseling session, utterly. The difference I saw was the HOPE sitting across from a Christian counselor brought me.The message was unlike any I had heard before. It was about Jesus healing me, not me healing myself. It was about sin and how it destroys, instead of only being dependent on my lousy life decisions. If you are ever tempted to give the fixes the world offers, remember that your gospel-rooted message takes the pressure off your client and shows them how to put their hope in Jesus instead. They can’t get this anywhere else.
- Work on their self-talk with them. To love others, we must first love ourselves. But for Christians, this looks much different. Many people who walk through your doors will struggle to love themselves for many reasons. The best thing you can do is assure them that because God loves them, they can love themselves in time.Don’t label people apart from the label “child of God.”The world wants to tell us who we are what we need to be. Self-sufficient, successful, put together, happy by chasing meaningless things, the list goes on. Your job is to walk your client into a world where they believe that they are valuable because they are created in God’s image. That they cannot become who they were made to be apart from Him. And that they have all they need in Him.
- Be wary of turning the conversation onto yourself. Many times, relating to a situation or struggle is very helpful. But when it comes to counseling, it needs to be done tastefully. Sitting down with a friend is where the opinion and relating experience comes in. However, a lot of the time, the people seeking professional help desire something more profound.Though reassuring your client that what they are dealing with is normal and felt by many, even yourself, oversharing and storytelling can sometimes take away from the session. On the other end of the spectrum, being too guarded hinders the creation of trust between you and your client. Professionalism and sharing can complement each other if you find a healthy balance between the two.
- Always bring it back to the Word. All scripture is profitable for the good work you are doing in a session with a client. Most times, they don’t need your words. They need God’s words. But do your best to stay away from preaching at them. Instead, walk with them. Use the Word as a light for their path and a guide for your session. I have experienced this in a clichéd way, with scriptures thrown at me out of context. But when done right, I have found comfort in the foundation my counselor has in the Word.
At the end of the day, remember that your work is not in vain. So many times, my life has been touched and even changed during a session with my Christian counselor. The message of Jesus is needed desperately in the field of mental health, and this work makes a monumental difference. It pushes back the darkness, and it brings forward the kingdom. You are immensely valuable.
Ana is a freelance writer and English Major who writes articles, devotionals, book reviews, and blog posts. She loves Jesus, reading, meeting with people in coffee shops, and writing her heart out. She was born and raised in Miami, FL and currently lives in Largo, FL. Catch her blog at https://anatheresann.wordpress.com
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