Note from the BCC Staff: This is the second in a series of periodic posts by biblical counselors regarding what they have learned during their years of ministry in biblical counseling. Read Part One: Hayley Satrom: Reflections after Two Years. Today Pastor Deepak Reju shares what he’s learned after ten years as a biblical counselor.
Growing in Knowledge and Grace
Good counseling training requires growth in both knowledge and grace. Many counselors expend a lot of time growing in their head knowledge—understanding counseling theory, growing a cadre of biblically sounds methods, and, most importantly, expanding their knowledge of the Scriptures. But no matter how deep it is, head knowledge can do more damage than good if it is not grounded in love, grace, and hope (1 Cor. 8:1; 12:31; 13:13).
Biblical counselors must exemplify God’s grace to struggling believers. To grow in grace, counselors need to learn how to put their biblical knowledge into practice in real-time, real-life situations. As a loving heart equipped with biblical knowledge runs up against real life, redemption comes to life.
Remarkably, I’ve been a biblical counselor for a decade. Ten years. Ten years moves fast. I’ve learned much from my older and wiser mentors; and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed mentoring new, idealistic, eager-beaver students. Stepping back, it’s a fascinating exercise to think about my mistakes and where, by God’s grace, I’ve grown as a counselor.
What Were My Mistakes?
As far as counseling mistakes go, mine have been too numerous to count, but let me name a few:
- When I first started, I didn’t schedule enough time for clients.
- I didn’t think wisely about how to protect my family time and life margins. I let the “mob” (i.e. demanding, needy clients) too often take over my schedule.
- I didn’t know how to handle the worst marriages.
- I didn’t know how to say really hard things to hardened people.
- I didn’t know when to pull others in for help.
- I tried to help everyone, which is not possible. I’ve heard others refer to this as “the Savior complex” or being a “mini-Messiah.”
- I didn’t know my own weaknesses well enough.
- I didn’t get people connected with others in the church.
- I didn’t make good use of homework or reading assignments.
- I didn’t check on the homework or reading assignments the next time they came in.
- I let people become too dependent on me.
- I didn’t pull other folks into the counseling room for training purposes or support of the counselee.
- I relied too much on my own wisdom and didn’t spend enough time exploring and applying the Scriptures with people.
- I didn’t know enough Scripture, so I didn’t have the right verse to say at the right moment.
Need I say more? The list could go on and on. I am a sinner, with blind spots, who needs to grow in my dependence on God’s grace, and to grow in my abilities to make better use of God’s two primary means of grace—His Word and His people. I hope someone out there reads this and doesn’t repeat my mistakes!
Growth as a biblical counselor has been slow and deliberate. And, by God’s grace, I am getting better. For example, take a look at the same list today:
- I have a much better sense of how to schedule clients and how much time to give.
- I’ve have a much better sense of how to protect my personal time.
- I’m doing better in handling the worst marriages.
- I still struggle with saying hard things to hardened people, but I can do it and I’m better at it.
- I regularly pull others in for help.
- I know my limits better and I don’t try to help everyone. I’m much better at saying, “No thanks; I think you might be helped better by another counselor.”
- I know my own weaknesses better, but I’m still growing in this area.
- I usually try to get people connected immediately with others in the church.
- I make good use of homework or reading assignments.
- I try to make sure I’m not counseling alone. Either I’m training a pastor or another counselor; or I’m getting an advocate (small group leader, close friend from church) to join the counseling sessions. I don’t do it all of the time, but I’m doing it more often.
- I rely more on Scripture and less on my own wisdom.
- I work hard at my study of Scripture, so I will have better knowledge of the Word and greater abilities to apply it at the right moment.
Remarkable, isn’t it? There is nothing that I can boast about here, for it is God at work (1 Cor. 1:29; 4:7). If you have never done this before, take some time this week to write out your mistakes as a counselor and how you have grown in handling these things. Don’t make this an act of self-glorification, but an act of worship—praising God for the ways His grace has grown you as a biblical counselor. To God be the glory, great things He has done.
Join the Conversation
Whether you have been a biblical counselor one year or forty years, which mistakes or areas of growth resonate with you? What have you learned from your years of biblical counseling ministry?