Lights! Cameras! Action!: Using Video in Counselor Equipping

August 13, 2012

More From

Greg Cook

Equipping Counselors in the Local Church Mini-Series Part 5

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 5 in a BCC blog mini-series on equipping counselors in the church. Read Part 1: Do You Offer a Lab with Your Instruction?, Part 2:Transformational Small Group Labs, Part 3: A Proactive Plan, and Part 4: 6 Benefits of the Weekly Training Meal.

Observation Extravaganzas

Training is an ongoing and multi-faceted process. Much of the training process begins in the classroom with “head knowledge” but we cannot fully equip a counselor through classroom training alone. Though we incorporate role plays in the classroom setting, nothing seems quite as effective as the live observation or watching a live session to demonstrate what was taught in the classroom. As a minimum, we require that prospective lay counselors observe 10 or more sessions before meeting individually with a counselee. Even after beginning to see people as the primary lay counselor, we regularly encourage our experienced counselors to actively participate as observers.

Those who come to counseling are told in advance that most of the sessions will have an observer (it helps that we offer this as a free service). Unfortunately, accumulating 10 sessions can be a long process for some of our students and some need far more than 10 sessions.

Scheduling and availability can be issues. To expedite the accumulation of hours, we also allow some of the observation hours to be accumulated through watching taped video/DVD sessions. We find that watching the sessions is even more effective when done in a group session.

We offer group observations of taped sessions in what one of my staff fancifully named Observation Extravaganzas (OE), typically on a Saturday morning. We invite our trainees (many experienced counselors also like to come) to observe sessions done by others allowing for plenty of interaction and questions. We show a full counseling session and then discuss, with a focus on both what went right and what would the observers would do differently.

Some helpful hints:

  • Do not be surprised if over a three to four hour period there is not time for more than 2 videos. Allow plenty of time for sharing questions and comments after each video. The discussion is every bit as important as the video – if not more.
  • Pay close attention to the comments made or questions asked by potential counselors. It will gave you a great deal of insight as to what kind of counselor they may become, or give you insight into what needs to be emphasized in the training.
  • Consider using someone else’s videos. We are indebted to Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana for producing some well done, taped live sessions (available at One of the distinct advantages of using videos produced in another state or region is that it dramatically reduces the likelihood of ever meeting the person counseled in the video.
  • Doing this as a group of about 12-15 at a time alert the individual participants to things they may not have noticed watching the video by themselves.
  • Encourage the participants to take session notes and then discuss what is appropriate and inappropriate to include in the notes.
  • Do not let the sessions become too negative. As my XP is fond of saying, “It’s much easier to critique than create” and we do not want to create an unduly (and un-Christ-like) atmosphere. Monitor self-righteousness and critical comments. Oppose the pride and give grace to the humble!

There are a number of places that counseling videos can be found. It is not imperative that the sessions be from a biblical counseling perspective (though preferable) since the purpose of the videos is to have the group develop and awareness of positive and negative examples of counseling practices.

How Else Do We Use Video?

We have the luxury (or is it a necessity?) of recording every session with security monitoring cameras placed in all of our counseling rooms (note: because the systems do not normally record audio, we had to add that feature). Though we have been fortunate that false accusations have not surfaced, we have all heard that this can happen. The video serves as a helpful safeguard for those doing counseling. It also provides needed accountability for the counselor. Lay counselors or supervisors can readily review appointments. Insist that counselors look at their sessions – especially when they are first starting out. Please note that we have carefully included phrasing on our informed consent stating the presence and intended use for the video. If we ever want to use a session for training purposes we use a separate agreement form to make clear that permission for such use is freely offered. If we film a session for use as an observation tool, we always try to get the counselor and counselee in the same frame. Filming only the counselee or counselor gives only part of the story – especially if training counselors.

A Suggestion

Let’s consider developing some training videos and share them with other churches. It is much easier for a counselee to agree to show their session if observed by someone that they will never see or encounter than by someone that they may see at church.

Join the Conversation

What role do training videos play in your equipping of biblical counselors?

One thought on “Lights! Cameras! Action!: Using Video in Counselor Equipping

  1.  Just for clarification, the Faith Baptist videos are not recordings of live counseling sessions. They are staged performances with staff members playing the role of counselees.

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