Previously, someone who knew of my long term involvement in counseling asked me to write on how I prepare for my counseling sessions. I started to do that and then I was distracted away from completing my answer by other issues that were suggested or requested by some people in the comments section of our blogs. I return now to some unfinished business about preparation for counseling. In my first blog on this subject, I mentioned some of the things I do before the person ever meets me for a counseling session. In this present post, I want to continue to talk about what I do before I actually meet with the person and then in another blog I will write about what I do when we actually begin to counsel. Incidentally, if you’re thinking about tuning out at this point because you never intend to be involved in formal counseling, please don’t do that. Please don’t tune out because most of what I’m writing is appropriate and necessary not only for those involved in formal counseling, but also for all of us as Christians who are supposed to be involved in helping others with their problems even if only in an informal way.
I believe that one of the most crucial aspects of counseling (i.e., helping people) involves fervent, intelligent prayer prior to the counseling session. Prayer before the session is not merely a formality; it is an absolute necessity in that as a biblical counselor I recognize that God is the real counselor and that I am just a privileged servant. Some of the things I seek from God as I counsel anyone are wisdom (James 1:5) to be able to accurately understand the person and the person’s problems, compassion to let the other person know I care and that I’m not there to beat him/her down and deal with them in a cold, mechanical fashion, ability to adapt my manner and method of counseling to the individuality of this person so that the way I relate and how I counsel will not unnecessarily be a stumbling block that prevents this person from receiving the help that he/she needs, boldness to forthrightly and plainly speak the truth when it is needed, patience and humility to really listen to the person without committing the errors of Proverbs 18:2 and 13, recollection of relevant Biblical passages that will help me to understand the person and his/her problems biblically, the ability to communicate God’s relevant truth in a clear and convincing way, a receptive spirit in the person who is coming to me for help – a willingness to hear the truth and then obey it, and an awareness for me of appropriate homework assignments (i.e., appropriate Bible passages for the person to study, books, tapes, etc.) that I will assign for the person to complete prior to the next session and through which God who is the real counselor will continue to counsel the person between our sessions.
A second thing that I do prior to actually meeting with the person is that I review the Personal Data Inventory form I mentioned in the last blog. This PDI form will give me a lot of information from various areas of the person’s life. It’s a means of helping me to avoid violating the principles taught by Proverbs 18:2, 23 and 15. According to these verses violating the principles taught by these verses prevents real understanding and leads to folly and shame. So because I want to gather all the information I can about a person I carefully review the PDI forms and then select items on those forms to discuss and about which I will ask more questions that will help me to make sure I really know the person and am really dealing with the most important issues and answering the most important questions.
Then having prayed and reviewed the PDI, I plan a tentative agenda of what I think should be done in the session; I think about possible questions I want to ask (perhaps even writing them down so that I don’t overlook them); and I think through some potential homework assignments I might give the person depending on how they answer the PDI question about what is the problem with which they want some help. Keep in mind that I have used the words “tentative” and “potential” and “possible”. The use of these words indicates that what happens when the actual session begins may cause me to change what I planned to do in any of these areas. But, at least, though I will be flexible, I do have some plans when the counseling begins.
Well, that’s enough for now. Lord willing, I’ll write more about what I actually do when the counseling session begins in a future blog or blogs. Questions and comments are welcomed. They are a way of knowing whether what we’re writing is being helpful to anyone or whether what we’re doing is a waste of time.