Reflections of a Rookie Counselor, Part 2
In my last post, I shared with you some of the lessons I’ve learned about biblical counseling and discipleship as I’ve journeyed through my first few years as a certified biblical counselor. I had been in positions of leadership within my church, and had counseled many women over the years informally. About 10 years ago, I decided to pursue certification. Providentially, there were many circumstances beyond my control, and I didn’t actually receive my certification until just a few years ago. During these years of formal biblical counseling, I have learned a great deal, and I’d like to share these lessons with you, hoping to encourage a few of you to consider becoming certified.
There is a great need, both within the church and in the community for trained, qualified biblical counselors. One thing that hinders many inquirers from pursuing certification is a sense of inadequacy for the task. Here’s a typical response to my suggestion to a friend that she should consider certification: “Oh, I could never do what you do. I wouldn’t know what to say to someone who is grieving or struggling with anxiety. I barely handle my own problems, much less someone else’s! And what if someone is in unrepentant sin? I hate confrontation! Besides, who am I to point out someone else’s sin when I am a sinner myself?”
This confrontation issue is a big factor in hindering many believers from taking the next step to becoming a trained discipler. Regardless of the reasons on the surface, the true reason people shy away from confrontation is that they are giving in to fear of man. They are afraid the person will become angry with them, or will not be their friend anymore. They reason that, if they say the really hard things that need to be said, their friend will avoid them. So they tiptoe around sin issues and placate the person who is making excuses or rationalizing their sin. In doing this, they give tacit approval, and ultimately encourage the person to stay in sin.
My sisters, this should not be! The One who truly should be feared is God! Is He happy with your silence and refusal to speak truth into your friend’s life? Aren’t you concerned about His displeasure? If not, you’d better brush up on your theology and learn about the fear of the Lord! Biblical counseling training is the perfect place to do this. Not only will you learn theology, but you will also learn how to apply it to specific situations. This knowledge and understanding will give you boldness and confidence, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to lovingly confront those who are in sin, and to speak the truth in love to those affected by it.
As you know from my previous article, fear of man is a struggle familiar to me. How did I overcome it? By fearing God! Through my training with RGCC, I got a full and complete picture of who God truly is—His character, attributes, and His expectations of His children. As I learned more and more about how to do the “one anothers” of Scripture, my confidence in God’s ability to use my words to accomplish His purpose grew.
Counseling a stranger?
Another objection to becoming a biblical counselor is the thought of getting so deeply involved in the life of a stranger. Some believers think that discipling should be done by someone who really knows the troubled individual, and that definitely has its benefits in some cases. But often, a fresh set of ears and eyes on a problem can bring new insight and perspective. Also, sometimes the person’s friends and pastoral staff are stumped as to how to help the individual, and having a trained discipler to call on can be a real blessing in these cases.
So, when that stranger does come for counseling and she’s sitting in front of you, perhaps in a major crisis, how do you gain enough involvement to really benefit her? Well, at least at first, you have one job: Listen to her. Good listening will take you a long way toward knowing the individual well enough to begin to understand the problem. Asking for clarification on anything you’re not 100% sure of will give you a better picture, and it will also show that you care.
Once you believe you have a good understanding of the problem, you can find some common ground with her. Most people who come for counseling are here because of some kind of suffering. They may be troubled because of their own sin or someone else’s. They may be grieving, or they may have come to the place in their walk with the Lord where they are finally ready to deal with coping skills that are no longer working for them. Have you ever found yourself in any of these situations? If so, you have common ground from which to start with this person.
As believers, we all have struggles and we strive to respond biblically. Though that doesn’t always happen, our own failures and subsequent recoveries can be a great entry place into the struggles of another person. Sharing our own history of sanctification does two things: It shows the counselee that we are human sinners just like her, and it brings the intimidation factor way down. It also gives her hope that she too can grow and change through her trial.
Transparency is vital to building a relationship with a new counselee, and to sustaining the relationship throughout the counseling process. That struggling friend needs to know us almost as much as we need to know her! We build trust with the counselee as we are honest and open with her about our own lives. Unlike in secular counseling models, there is no need to keep a “professional distance” from our counselee. We are not professionals! We are sinners who are daily being sanctified, just like they are. Our training and experience are really the only difference. So, as counseling progresses, a real relationship is born, and true fellowship happens as confrontation, conviction, and comfort make their appearances throughout the process.
An amazing opportunity
Those of us who are privileged to be certified biblical counselors are in a unique position to speak the truth in love to those who are hurting. Marriages, families, and individuals benefit from the experiences that God has provided in our own lives. Time and again, I see my own suffering redeemed as I share what the Lord has taught me through it. I have these ladies in my life for a relatively short period, but when our time together is over, it is always hard to say goodbye. Just last week I finished up with a young gal who had grown by leaps and bounds during our time together. I was so proud of her, and so grateful to the Lord for the work he’d done in her life through His Word and the power of His Spirit. What a great blessing to be a part of that!
How ‘bout you? Are you ready to be used by God in helping people to grow and change? If not, what’s holding you back? Leave me a message in the comments. I’d love to talk with you about your concerns. If you are ready to be certified, the best place to start is rgcconline.org. Click on the “training” tab, and learn about our program. I hope you will prayerfully consider becoming a part of this biblical counseling movement that is helping to change lives, families, churches, and communities through true heart change!