Halo Data Introduction

Halo Data is a term coined by Dr. Jay Adams to define observable data gathered non-verbally. As counselors, gathering data is an important part of  providing godly counsel.  Data gathering depends upon communication.  The two main ways in which we communicate are verbally, through oral or written communication, and non-verbally which includes not only visual and auditory cues but tactile and olfactory as well.  This nonverbal data falls under the term, Halo Data.

Dr. John MacArthur expands Halo Data further by specifying the inclusion of paralinguistic communication.  He states, “This type of halo data has to do primarily with the manner in which our counselees speak; not in what they say, but in how they say it.  Does their tone of voice communicate hope or  hopelessness?  Does it communicate anxiety or peace?  Anger or forgiveness?  Love or hate? Interest or indifference? And does their voice portray them as rude, inconsiderate, or manipulative; or does it give other negative impressions that could be contributing to their interpersonal struggles? Paralinguistic communication also involves what counselees are willing to talk about and what they refuse to talk about.  Sometimes the issues they hesitate to talk about are the very issues at the source of their problems.”

A fascinating aspect of the human race is that in many instances our Halo Data is universal.  We can refer back to the beginning when God approached Adam and Eve when they ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. ~ Genesis 3:8

We commonly attempt to hide guilt, shame, and fear.  Adam and Even said nothing as they hid from the Lord but their non-verbal communication was notably revealing nonetheless.  Oftentimes, physical intimations are more reliable as to what is happening with an individual rather than their actual verbal communication.  This provides an opportunity to evaluate whether what the counselee has stated as their presenting problem is all that needs to be addressed.

Halo Data may give us insight as to the heart issues we are facing.  In Proverbs 6, Solomon warns us about the wicked man: A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech…  ~ Proverbs 6:12

But he doesn’t stop with just his speech:   …winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger…  Proverbs 6:13

Or Halo Data may provide an opportunity to get to the heart of the issue:  And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? ~ Genesis 4:4b-6

We know nothing escapes the Lord and if we discipline ourselves to take note of non-verbal communication perhaps less will escape us and in turn we will be better equipped to edify one another.

Dr. Bob Smith states that depression is one condition that exhibits substantial Halo Data:
I am bent over and brought low; all day long I go around in mourning.  ~ Psalm 38:

Keeping in mind this is subjective data, Dr. Smith goes on to explain the Halo Data of someone displaying depression:
“The first place to look is the most obvious — the counselee’s face. His face literally oozes a “what’s the use” attitude. His eyelids tend to droop, the corners of his mouth are turned down and seem to pull the entire facial expression down with them. His face is long, grim, and sad. He appears listless and generally expresses an air of helplessness or hopelessness. Written on his face is what is going on inside him.

All other visual and auditory clues or data follow the same pattern. His voice is quiet and his speech tends to be slow. His voice is a monotone with little or no expression. As he talks, tears may come to his eyes. He may not look at the counselor but at the floor. He sits with a droop to his shoulders as though pushed down by the weight of the corners of his mouth. His hands rest limply in his lap. There is very little motion of his body as he talks. He walks slowly and at times almost shuffles. There is little life, spring, or bounce that shows some expenditure of energy. He is interested in doing what he does with as little effort as possible. This describes the classic depression. All these things are not always present but there will be varying degrees of some of the signs present in most depressed people.”

And because the data is subjective, the indications may differ greatly from person to person.  One person may display a lack of hygiene, another may reek of alcohol, and yet another may show signs of cutting.

Halo Data is a valuable tool to utilize when considering progress, for example, in the instance of depression.
“Halo Data…like change for the better in appearance, cheerfulness, hope, growing confidence, enthusiasm… give strong indications of progress.”  ~ Dr. Jay Adams

It’s essential to reiterate that Halo Data is only a portion of our duty in gathering data and that each indication is not conclusive in itself. The indications that are common to someone experiencing depression are also common to those experiencing other issues.  Gathering data thoroughly and cautiously is the wisest way to proceed in being able to help one another.

“How we effectively build involvement with our counselees and inspire hope in them will be determined and directed by what we learn about them and their problems.  Understanding and counseling people biblically is a challenging and rewarding responsibility.  But sloppiness or neglect in gathering data can undermine the whole process.  That is why biblical counselors need to develop expertise in the endeavor.  We need to work carefully and prayerfully at improving our inventory-taking skills as though our effectiveness as counselors depended on it, because from a human point of view, it does!” ~ Dr. John MacArthur

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