And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Overview of Biblical Counseling Part 4 The Role of the Weekly Meeting

The role of meeting in counseling

            One of the most essential factors for the process is the encouragement and training the counselee receives through weekly meetings.  These meetings will be structured to make the best use of time and to keep the counselee moving forward in the best possible manner.  The following elements serve both parties in the process toward this goal.

            Encouragement and hope are the essence of the promises of God.  As Christ has said that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”, the counselor is a conduit of this truth.[1]  God is glorified as the counselor points the child of God to the word of God and the sufficiency of God.  Most persons in counseling are there because of frustration, aggravation, or a recognition that they are in trouble.  In either situation they need hope.
            Hope may well be the most essential part of keeping a disciple on track for sanctification.  Each week as the counselee comes for discipleship the counselor is blessed to be the giver of hope.  The counselor sees that hope and encouragement help to motivate the counselee to continue in their efforts, even if there has been failure since the last session.
            Data gathering is a process that is always continuing in the weekly meetings and in homework.  Some homework is specifically designed to give the counselor more information.  It may look for patterns, repetitions, points of failure, attitudes, and other facets of thinking and behavior.  Data may be gathered in reviewing the homework or even the sharing of stories behind situations.  The trained counselor will also gather data in the passing comments or actions of a counselee.  These things are called halo data.  Reaction to questions by facial expressions and body language may also be considered as halo data.  This data is observed in the peripheral. Someone may change the subject or grind their teeth while discussing issues.  These responses often indicate areas that need further probing for data to make and effectual time of discipleship.
            When a counselee is weekly attending sessions a sense of accountability develops.  They know that the counselor will hold them to deadlines.  They also can expect that they will be giving answers as to their behaviors and homework efforts.   They are expected to build upon the lessons of the previous session.  Should they fail in some area they know that they will have to answer for their actions, but also, gain insights for improvement and encouragement.
            Objective opinions of the counselor will also play a major role in counseling.  Though the counselor is aiding the counselee, they are not taking sides.  Here is where biblical counseling differs greatly from secular thought.  The counselee is held responsible for their actions by the word of God as taught by the counselor.  The counselor will not allow excuses and yet will not be taking sides.  They simply will represent God and hold the counselee to the truth.
            One of the essential roles of meeting with the counselor is confrontation.  Though unpleasant, confrontation is the turning point of all counseling.  Adams suggests that there are three implications in confrontation; implication of a problem, the presupposition that an obstacle that must be overcome, and that something is wrong in the life of one who is confronted.[2]  It is here that the counselee faces the reality of their behavior resulting from sin and its ongoing consequences. They are confronted to make a life altering choice. Confrontation can be met with denial or repentance.  In many cases the counselee may shift blame and responsibility.  Either way, the counselor uses confrontation as a means of helping the counselee by getting to the very heart of their problem.
            The meeting time then plays an important role in the thinking of the counselee.  Because many come with a preconceived diagnosis, based upon what they have been told or heard on television, the counselor will also have the task of helping the counselee to think biblically about their life.  Biblical thinking about their condition is a critical step in the process.  Often the world calls sinful habit being bipolar, or a mental illness.  For example; alcoholism is the definition the world gives to a “disease” of failure to resist the temptation to consume alcohol.  The bible calls it being a drunk. Again, language is important.   As a counselor we can not treat the cause unless we properly aim at its target.  The world often seeks to treat symptoms, but the biblical counselor aims to see God change the heart of the person.  We can also use this to build hope in the counselee.  Once they recognize the problem as sin they can place hope in Christ to pay for and overcome that sin.  The world has recovering alcoholics; in Christ we can have new creations.
Praying with the counselee
            In counseling the role of prayer is imperative.  The counselor can build a great deal of hope in the heart of a counselee just by praying with them.  As the counselor prays with the disciple it will provide several helps.  First it helps them to realize the depth of the counselor’s care and compassion.  Second it models for them how to pray.  Many counselees will suffer from an inadequate prayer life.  After a few weeks it may be quite helpful to get the counselee to lead in prayer.  When married couples come for guidance we ought to have them pray together.  Thirdly, prayer puts the focus on God as being our helper, not the counselors.  Fourth, we can use prayer to teach on of the most essential doctrines of the church.  Therefore, participation in prayer equips the saint for growth beyond the counseling room.

[1] John 8:32
[2] Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel,  p.44.

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