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

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