A Plan, Please
When starting with a new counselee, the first session is a most important one for both counselor and counselee. A wise counselor once said, “When you start, have in mind how you want to finish.” For us as biblical counselors, we desire that there will be God-like change in the heart of our counselee. This kind of change points to the glory of our God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and is good for the counselee (Hebrews 5:14). From the first session, we should clearly have in mind the end goal that we desire for the counseling.
With this goal in mind, we should plan our first session and follow through with our plan. Another wise counselor regularly says, “Proper planning prevents problems.” In like manner, “Proper planning promotes progress,” and progress refers to growth in Christ-likeness. Since the first session can be emotionally charged for all present, having a proposed plan will help us stay on track with what we believe God wants us to cover. However, if it becomes evident that God has something different planned as the session unfolds, we can then flex to adjust our proposed plan in accordance with His plan.
For our consideration, here are some broad categories to use as an overall structure for outlining a plan for the first session. These categories are framed around “4 G’s.” Using these “4 G’s” has been useful to me as I seek to provide help to my counselee. The “4 G’s” are:
- Get hope
- Gather data
- Give help
- Give projects for growth
Today, we will discuss the “Get hope” category together. In future blogs, ideas about the other 3 G’s will be presented for your consideration.
We all know that two of the major elements of biblical counseling are giving hope and help from the Scriptures. By the time a counselee starts with us they are often desperately hopeless. Their faith in God and His ways is non-existent. They deeply need an infusion of hope to keep going spiritually.
Sometimes a counselee is so hopeless they need to ride on the counselor’s hope for them. Yes, we should constantly communicate our own hope into the session through our positive words and body language (“halo data” for the counselee). But we also must not forget to intentionally “get hope” from the Scriptures for our counselee. The phrase “get hope” sounds awfully strange. This is intentional so as to remind us to regularly seek hope from God’s Word for ourselves and our counselee. Our positive words and body language are of some value, but it is the Word of God that is “alive and active” and “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
A first step to getting hope is to develop a list of hope-filled passages to use in counseling. When selecting passages, a good place to start is with verses God has already used in your own life to provide hope at a time when you were desperate for a word of encouragement from Him. When you teach a hope-filled passage that is meaningful to you, a contagious excitement about God and His ways will flow to your counselee.
Here are just a few passages the Spirit has used in my life to encourage me to press on another day:
- God is always with me in my trial (Psalm 73:28)
- My Father will never give me more trouble in life than I can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- Jesus has a plan for rest and peace for my soul (Matthew 11:28-30)
- There is a way to live this chaotic life that will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, Matt 7:24-27)
A Plan to Get Hope in Your First Session
When planning our first session, we need to have decided on 2 or 3 hope-filled passages to have in our heart and on the tip of our tongue. Since we usually already know something about our counselee’s need, we can prayerfully choose purposeful passages fit for “their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).
At the appropriate time during the session, we will be ready to share these words from our God. Getting hope is not a time to announce, “Now we are going to talk about why you should have hope.” Rather, we should intentionally season the session with hope-filled Scripture. Also, remember that getting hope is not just for the first session, but hope should be sprinkled through all the sessions our Father has planned for us to be with our counselee.
So in our first session, we probably have not solved their presenting problem or uncovered the idols of their heart. But for our counselee, we have kindly given hope; a confident expectation of future blessing from our Father, based on His character and promises. May our counselees’ joyful confidence in God and His promises continually grow today and all their tomorrows (Romans 15:13).
Questions for Reflection
Do you have an overall plan that you find helpful for your first sessions? Today, how is our God strengthening your hope from His Word and your circumstances (Romans 5:1-5)? How can you use this beautiful work of God in your life to “get hope” for your counselee?