Amy Baker

New to Counseling? Plan to Face Discouragement

May 10, 2011

Amy Baker

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Amy Baker

Plan To Face Discouragement

I’ve had the privilege of counseling for a number of years, and I now have the privilege of sitting with new counselors as they begin their first counseling cases. I haven’t forgotten what the early days of counseling were like for me.

A Biblical Counselor in Utter Despair

When I began counseling, I had the privilege of having Dr. Bob Smith sit with me. Since I consider Dr. Smith to be one of the wisest men living, that was a significant blessing. It was especially a benefit because, although I had received biblical counseling training, I didn’t feel competent to counsel. That was borne out every week when I met with dear women who came to the counseling ministry because of struggles they were facing. I could talk with these ladies for about 5 minutes and then I was out of wisdom. I would look at Dr. Smith and say, “Dr. Smith, do you have anything you want to add.” Dr. Smith always did have something to add, much to my relief.

Even though Dr. Smith bailed me out, none of the ladies whom I counseled as I began counseling ever returned for a second appointment. None. I can’t tell you how many ladies that was, but I know it was a lot.

Beginning counseling was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. At the time, I lived almost 2 hours away from the counseling center. I would spend most of the drive home in tears. I felt utter despair about my ability to ever become a competent counselor.

Cry Out to God and Persevere

I wish I could tell you that I discovered a book and that reading the book changed everything. That didn’t happen. I simply had to persevere through those hard days.

Some of you may be naturally gifted in counseling, but there may be some of you like me. Counseling doesn’t come easily or naturally. You may spend 6 hours preparing for a session and then find you have nothing to say. You may feel as if you’re doing more harm than good. When I would express my distress to Dr. Smith, he would wisely say to me, “Amy, you’re giving them God’s Word, and God’s Word won’t hurt them.” This was wise counsel, even though what I wanted was some magic potion I could drink that would make me perfectly wise and fully competent in my counseling.

Let me encourage you to persevere. It’s good and right to continue to get training. It’s also good and right to prepare (even though frequently when you prepare you’ll find that the counseling session goes a very different direction than you anticipated). But don’t expect that the process will become easy simply because you have done those things.

God is faithful. He’ll walk with you through this fire, but He won’t necessarily quench the fire. Persevere. Cry out to God for help. Again, persevere. (Isn’t this exactly what you’ll be asking those whom you counsel to do?)

At some point you’ll realize you didn’t cry all the way home. At some point you’ll realize you were able to go for longer than 5 minutes. At some point a counselee will come for more than 1 session. But even if that never happens, you’ll have experienced God’s faithfulness and have had Him holding you with His right hand as He directed your steps so that you can be a vessel for His glory.

A passage that speaks this message of perseverance may help you as it has me. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).


Join the Conversation

To what degree has your counseling experience, especially as a beginner, required perseverance? What passages and spiritual life principles have helped you to persevere—to not grow weary in well-doing?

7 thoughts on “New to Counseling? Plan to Face Discouragement

  1. Amy, thank you for being so candid. I have been so scared of trying to counsel, afraid that I would not even make it five minutes!! It is good to be reminded that we are not alone. That others have struggled as well.

  2. I have been struggling with this feeling myself. My struggle stems from the weight of what we are doing. It is one thing to speak into people’s lives and another thing to have them actually hang on to what you say for direction, hope, and truth. “Who do I think I am that I can attmept to do this?”- comes to mind at times.The reality of this weighs heavy on me as I see the impact of what I am saying has on others. I am often praying that God would get me out of the way and simply use me to speak HIS words. Yet I know God has placed me right there in their lives and the reality of it is is that they help me change too. My faith grows as I also depend on God for help.

  3. A passage that has helped me recently is 1 Corinthians 15:56-58: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”n

  4. Thank you for your openness. I have been counseling for years and know firsthand the feelings that you shared. Every time I get discouraged that someone doesn’t come back or doesn’t change, I remember what Mark Dutton said, “There is no room for a 4th person in the Trinity”. I am not their savior or their holy spirit. It’s my job to plant the seed and it’s His to make it bear fruit. n

  5. When I graduated bible college in 1996, I started in a counseling ministry to a specific group–those in the life dominating sin of addiction. I persevered for 12 years watching men who would enter this residential program go through, graduate and only months later find them calling again to return because they had relapsed. Often times, I would question my skills, methods, etc. Some days it would be so discouraging, I would even question my calling into the ministry. But I soon learned that my goal in my counseling is not contingent on whether those I counseled lived lives free of their addictions, but that I was faithful to accurately present the truths of scripture. And as mentioned above–the word of God can’t hurt them. I’m now serving in a church as a counseling pastor and oftentimes see the same thing with members of the community and the church. They may come for one or two sessions and think they now have their answer but I’ll usually get a call to set up another appointment a few weeks down the road because they find themselves back in their problems again.

  6. Amy, thank you for this. I appreciate you telling me things that I have experienced myself. Doc is right sharing God’s word will never be wrong. I especially appreciate the verse you shared. This will help my early years of learning.


  7. Woke up this morning feeling very discouraged about my abilities as a counselor. I understand and know in my head that it is the Holy Spirit that causes people to change but knowing that in my heart is another story. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share, it has been a wonderful encouragement to me this morning. Thank you

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