Month: September 2015

6 Strategies for Developing Proper Care in Counseling

There are at least six biblical strategies for developing a caring relationship with your counselees. They include trusted friendship, giving proper advice, expressing honor and love, demonstrating care through action, meeting their daily needs, and showing respect.

The first strategy is trusted friendship. The Bible includes many verses on friendship (Lk. 6:31; Rom. 12:10; Eph. 4:29-32) and examples, such as Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and Elijah and Elisha. One exceptional verse states, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Prov. 27:6).” When a friend tells you the truth about yourself, even if it hurts, they can still be trusted. It’s not the same as an enemy who desires to see you suffer. Biblical counselors are encouraged to confront sin, but to do this in a friendly way.

The second plan for developing a caring relationship with your counselee is through proper advice. Counselors are called by God to lead a person in the right direction, just like a shepherd leads his flock away from potential danger. The Bible says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (Jn. 10:27).” Jay Adams says when the sheep know the shepherd cares about their problems in an intimate way, they respond positively.[1] Therefore, proper advice must be accompanied with a genuine concern for one’s well-being.

The third approach to improving a sympathetic relationship with your counselee is expressing honor and love. The Apostle Paul exclaimed: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves (Rom. 12:10).” Honor is an important feature because it reveals your respect for a person. When you impart honor, you are essentially saying, “I am a sinner just like you.”[2] This reassures the counselee they are not alone.

Fourthly, care through action is a practical way to cultivate positive interaction with your counselee. Care expresses a serious concern for others and is prevalent throughout all of Scripture (Ps. 35:10; Prov. 28:27; Jn. 3:16; Eph. 4:32; Gal. 6:2). Simply spitting out Bible verses will not fully alleviate a person’s emotional pain. Counselors ought to be sensitive to their pain, call them if they miss appointments, pray for them outside of counseling hours, and develop a proper, personal relationship beyond mere professionalism.

The fifth tactic for building a strong bond with your counselee is through meeting their daily needs. It reminds me of the passage in James that says: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it (Jms. 2:15-16)?” You have heard the famous expression: Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Counseling is just the same. Go beyond superficiality and dig deep to resolve the person’s needs.

Finally, if you want to establish a deep connection with your counselee, display respect. Every human being deserves respect because they are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). They are intrinsically valuable. When providing advice for a counselee, indicate a respectful attitude through good eye contact, keen listening skills, and repeat their answers. These cues reveal to the counselee that you respect what they have to say.

Counseling is not a right; it is a privilege. We are called by God to be spiritual advisors, and this takes a tremendous amount of leaning on God’s wisdom and truth. I believe these six strategies: trusted friendship, giving proper advice, expressing honor and love, demonstrating care through action, meeting their daily needs, and showing respect, will help you on your journey to be a better counselor for the glory of God.

[1] Adams, Christian Counselor’s Manual, p. 226

[2] Paul Tripp, Instruments in a Redeemer’ Hand (P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ: 2002), p.147

Five Important Aspects to Establish in Christian Counseling

What issues should be covered in an introductory session with a counselee regardless of the counseling issue?

The first session is paramount to a healthy counseling relationship. It establishes a connection between the counselor and counselee. For instance, the counselee may actively discern if the counselor is congenial and willing to support them throughout the remaining sessions. Furthermore, it helps the counselor determine if the individual is earnest in changing their sinful behavior. Once trust and commitment is established, there are at least five issues which should be covered in an introductory session, regardless of the counseling issue.[1]

Firstly, the counselor will want to focus his therapy upon Jesus Christ and His word from the very beginning. Colossians 1:28-29 tell us “Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” It’s better to be candid with your counselee about your method of counseling than for them to find out a couple sessions later it’s Christian-based instead of secular-based.

Secondly, it is imperative to give hope to the counselee. What exactly is hope? Hope means to trust in, wait for, or desire something or someone, and to expect benefit in the future. The Bible tells us hope leads to joy (Rom. 12:12), boldness (2 Cor. 3:12), and faith and love (Col. 1:4-5). No matter what the counseling issue is, everyone needs hope to get them through the day.

Thirdly, the counselor may want to discover what the main problem is. The process involved is not esoteric knowledge. It includes gathering data and having the counselee fill out a sheet answering basic questions, such as: Why are you seeking counseling? What is the main reason why you are here? Now, in the introductory session, you may not find the real reason until you probe deeper, ask pertinent questions, and most importantly, ask for wisdom and discernment from God (Jam. 1:5).

Fourthly, a counselor should establish homework to cultivate spiritual growth between sessions. Spending one hour a week with a counselee is beneficial, but it is woefully inadequate to produce permanent change. In my opinion, the counselee will be more successful at overcoming their problem only when they take responsibility and set goals for themselves. For instance, when you go to a Physical Therapist once a week, they may teach you stretches and other mechanical techniques, but unless you do those exercises at home every day, you won’t get better. The same concept is true for spiritual success.

Lastly, to have an effective first session, the counselor must determine whether the counselee is a Christian. If there is any doubt, the counselor will want to clearly present the gospel. If the person accepts the gospel (1 Cor. 15:4) as true, is willing to repent of their sins (Lk. 13:3), and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 16:31), then the foundation has been set. Their spirit will be willing to accept the Holy Spirit as their advocate and primary counselor (Jn. 14:26). However, if the individual refuses to accept Jesus as Savior and the Bible as trustworthy, it is impossible to continue the counseling. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18).” Without the foundation accepted, the whole house will fall. It’s the same for counseling.

In conclusion, I believe there are five main aspects that every Christian counselor should cover in their introductory session: to focus his therapy upon Jesus, to give hope to the counselee, to analyze the main problem, establish homework for spiritual growth, and to determine if the counselee is a born-again believer. If you follow these guidelines, your counseling sessions will have a greater chance of success.

[1] Jay Adams, Christian Counselors Manual, p. 228-229. I chose five of the ten aspects from Jay Adams that were most pertinent to the introductory session.

Are Atheists Insecure about their Worldview?

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In this article, I am interested in observing the sociological phenomenon concerning the Atheist community as it relates to falsely labeling, and in extreme cases, deifying particular scientists against their will. Moreover, there is a pattern in the Atheist community to associate historical persons as having a nonreligious disposition despite strong evidence to the contrary.

For example, Neil DeGrasse is associated with Atheism, even though he has publicly stated his preference to be called a scientist. In addition, Carl Sagan was an Agnostic more closely aligned with the philosophical beliefs of Spinoza–Pantheism, than he would be of Atheism as we know it today. Not sure how Mr. Sagan would react today by the deification of his being, Saganism, and the wide following by Atheists.

The picture presented in this article is an example of false branding of historical persons by the Atheist community. Firstly, Jefferson was a Deist and antagonistic towards Christianity, but definitely not an Atheist. Secondly, Albert Einstein, similar to Carl Sagan, followed the beliefs of Spinoza and considered god to be impersonally detached from the cosmos. Thirdly, Abraham Lincoln revered the Bible. Not sure how he made it. Fourthly, Charles Darwin absolutely believed in evolution, but believed God was in control of the natural processes involved–Theistic Evolution. Fifthly, Mark Twain was certainly non-religious and despised the teachings of Christian Science by Mary Eddy Baker, but he wrote in his dialogue Three Statements of the Eighties, “I believe in an Almighty God, but not in revelation.” Lastly, Benjamin Franklin was a friend of George Whitefield, the greatest Anglican cleric and evangelist responsible for the spread of the Great Awakening.

My point is merely to observe the sociological phenomenon involved with Atheism as it relates to incorrectly labeling, profiling, and in extreme cases, deifying particular humans to legitimize their worldview. Of course, I am open to understanding more about the psychology involved in the Atheistic community and whether or not this sociological phenomenon directly affects their atheistic tendencies or not.