Every counselor — every Christian! — needs the basics on how to come alongside the hurting.
While most women are nurturers by nature, wives of pastors, seminarians, and ministry leaders are often led to the role of counselor. This is what happened to Sherry Allchin, whose husband founded Biblical Counseling Center in 1989, a nonprofit counseling center strong in the Lord.
The caller sounded agitated, nervous. She said she suspected her teen was making bad choices–missed curfews, a ticket for speeding, back talk. Was she into drugs? Sex? Something worse?
The mom wanted counseling from another woman.
Since helps is also one of Sherry’s spiritual gifts, she embraced biblical counseling as intensified, personalized discipleship that includes loving correction, and she began counseling hurting women and children as the need arose … often.
Women seek counseling when they feel bad or when they’re acting bad. Here’s a helpful download on faith versus feelings.
Why do people act bad and feel bad? Because their belief system is contrary to God’s gracious instructions and loving commands.
Hope comes when your counselee realizes she can change sinful thoughts, words, deeds, and attitudes to peace, joy, love, gentleness, humility, patience, kindness–all fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
Basic #1: Change Model
Every biblical counselor needs to communicate how people change according to the Bible. The counselors at Biblical Counseling Center use the Bible as well as handouts like the Change Model to show how a believer is commanded to change by correcting wrong thinking and then correcting wrong behaviors. Always in Scripture, when we are told to “put off” or stop a sinful behavior or belief, we are also told how to specifically correct the wrong by “putting on” the right.
Basic #2: Sanctification Process
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.. Philippians 1:6, ESV
Basic #3: Know the Five Elements to Encourage Change
These elements are:
- deciding to get involved
- gathering data
- determining the problem
- determining the solution
- facilitating practical next steps
Sherry advises that a counselor shows she cares enough to help and gains her trust. Then the counselor needs to ask good questions to discern the real problem, not just what she first says is the problem.
Every counselor also needs to know biblical answers to common problems of life.
She also needs to help the counselee establish a plan to correct the problem through true heart change that is reflected in behavioral changes. To this end, homework is assigned to help in the sanctification process.
Aiding these practical next steps is accountability. Accountability encourages follow through in establishing new habits in thoughts, words, deeds, and attitudes.
Sherry also encourages you to take training in biblical counseling.
Basic #4: Finish Well
A common question of a newer counselor is, When do I know a counselee is done with counseling?
You know she’s finished when she is growing more like Christ regularly and on her own.
When you see this in your counselee, encourage her to comfort and disciple others!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV
Three red flags:
1. If you as her counselor believe she just wants your approval of her sin or your empathy for her pain, discontinue talk.
2. If she rejects biblical counsel and refuses your help, she may be an unbeliever. Or, she may be a rebellious, discouraged, or ignorant. Your role is to respond accordingly and with patience.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV
3. When a professing believer continues unrepentant in sin, church discipline is the next step. You can read more about church discipline here.
Ready to Counsel?
Are you a good candidate to counsel other women? How do you know?
A helpful tool is a spiritual gifts questionnaire. Fill it out and see which spiritual gifts you have. By the way, every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has at least one spiritual gift. Do you know yours? How are you using it in the Church?
Question: Which of these Basics do you need to work on? How can we help you?
We know you call us to carry one another’s burdens. Help us to remember that you enable us to comfort the hurting, who we come across daily. May we not ignore those in emotional turmoil. You have given us a spirit not of fear but of love and power and self control. Grant us boldness to be like the Good Samaritan and see, care, invest, love. Amen.
photo credit: joanna.babinska via photopin cc
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