I am often asked if “venting” is an okay thing to do in counseling. Because of the pervasive attitude of “therapy” often counselee’s assume we are here to listen to them vent and that we are their sounding boards to bounce things off of. It begins with the phone call when the caller tells us, “I just need someone to listen to me.”
What I find they really want is a trash receptacle for words and their feelings. They want to be able to say to us the things they wish they could say to the person who has hurt them. Venting is usually laced with malicious and slanderous talk about another person who is not there to defend themselves or to present the other side of the story. Venting is also gossip because the person being talked about is not there and is most likely unaware they are being spoken about. It is for this reason that marital counseling is done with both husband and wife being present.
The expectation of the person who wants to vent or tries to vent is that we will offer no counsel or rebuke or correction on this practice. Our counselee’s quickly learn this is not the case in our counseling center.
While talking is our methodology, we do not encourage or even tolerate venting. If a counselee tells me something and it contains unbiblical thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes I will challenge them.
Is anything profitable or edifying said when a person is “venting?” Usually it is not honorable or glorifying to God to be a part of a venting session. The person doing the venting often does not see their own responsibility for their part of the problem, and unfortunately they don’t like to accept any blame either. The person doing the venting is frequently justifying themselves and blameshifting the responsibility onto another.
The practice of venting is a creation of our psychological friends who wrongly believe that “getting it off your chest” is necessary for healing and growth. In this methodology, venting is encouraged in a variety of ways including writing a letter you never intend to deliver, and in that letter saying whatever you desire to say to someone who has hurt you or angered you. Another method is to set an empty chair in the middle of the room and picture the object of your wrath is seated there and verbally let it rip. What a cowardly method to deal with people. What an unbiblical method to deal with sinful anger, hurt, and pain.
Christians are to deal with emotions biblically, and we are to hold each other accountable when we see sin living large in the life of a fellow Believer in Christ. This does not mean we become spec inspectors in the eyes of our brothers and sisters in Christ without going logging in our own first (Matt 7).
Our goal is to help the counselee to understand what needs to change is their heart and then help them to implement changes that apply to the wrong behaviors and attitudes. We do this by the use of the Word of God in a practical and accurate manner.
If you wish to do so, you must be confident in God’s Word. You must truly believe that God’s Word is enough to change the heart and life of a person. You must believe that it has the answer to every single problem man faces and you must believe that God’s Word is the only unchangeable source of material we have written by an infallible Author. I encourage you not to apologize for making the Word of God your standard. His Word is all we have that is concrete and applies across the board.