When you meet with someone for counseling, it is always good to remember that you, too, are in the counseling room. Our hearts are always active and counselors are not above getting caught up in the situation. It shouldn’t surprise us that we can get in the way of the work going on in the room. Our focus must be on what the Lord has called us to. We have been given a ministry by the Lord and we must follow Him. He is working in our own hearts, too, in the midst of the counseling session. There are surely many ways a counselor can get in the way when counseling. Here are three common ones.
Probably one of the most harmful times a counselor gets in the way is in the area of assumptions. It is easy to do. We hear a story, and we start filling in the gaps with what we think people said, did, felt or thought. At that point we are no longer fully with the person in front of us; we are bringing our own narrative to the circumstance.
When we start making assumptions, we stop asking good questions.
This will cripple any counseling relationship. Proverbs 20:5 can help us to remember to avoid assumptions and seek to draw out the person we are with. In order to really care for people, we have to get out of the way and stay with the person, not our assumption of the person or situation.
Counselors are exposed to significant sins. Most of the time the people committing these sins are blinded, to some extent or another, to how damaging their actions really are. You don’t have to be an angry person to be tempted as a counselor to take up offense for others that people are hurting. But anger must be carefully watched. Being angry or even annoyed at the person we are caring for can hijack the direction the counseling needs to go.
Anger is always revealing—take the time to see what it is revealing in you.
If you find yourself not liking the person you are talking with, it is time to do a personal heart check. Our anger will never produce the righteousness that God requires (James 1:19-20). Properly dealing with our own sin helps us to be in a much better place to lead others to properly deal with theirs. In order to really care for a person, we must get out of the way and deal with any anger or annoyance we feel towards them.
Another way we can get in the way is in avoiding. In effort to incarnate “love bears all things,” we can avoid bringing loving confrontation. Several things can lead us to avoid saying the hard things that need to be said in a counseling meeting.
One trap that leads to avoiding is a desire to be liked by the counselee. We can stifle the counseling relationship when our desire to be liked by our counselee has more influence over us than speaking the truth. Another way avoiding takes place is when we don’t want to be hated by the person. This isn’t so much a desire to be liked as it is a desire to avoid being the object of that person’s displeasure. Maybe you have seen how ugly the person can be towards those they despise, and you just don’t want to be included in that lot.
To be brutally honest though, probably the reason we avoid gracious and appropriate confrontation is because we love ourselves too much. It is uncomfortable to have to be the one to bring exposing truth to a person’s life. We like being comfortable.
When we avoid, we are loving ourselves more than others.
This is contrary to the call we have in Philippians to love others better than we love ourselves (Philippians 2:3). In order to care for a person well, we have to get out of the way and lovingly address the hard things when the timing is appropriate.
Leaning on the Wonderful Counselor
The best way to get out of the way is to be fully dependent on the Lord in our counseling. Spending time in prayer outside of the counseling room can make the time inside the room line up with what the Lord has in store for everyone, including the counselor. Jesus Christ is the change agent in people’s lives so relying on Him will get ourselves out of the way so He may use us for His redemptive purposes.
Join the Conversation
What are ways that you find yourself “getting in the way” in counseling?