I am often reminded of God’s grace and love for me when I spend time with my 5-year-old daughter, Jane. There are many blessings from God wrapped up in her endless supply of energy and play. One of the blessings that can often be overlooked is my own sanctification. God in his kindness has, in one way, given me a daughter to care for and shepherd in order that I might grow in holiness.
In one of my recent conversations with Jane, I started to have somewhat of a déjà-vu experience. It turned out that many of the things I was sharing with my daughter were shared earlier in a counseling session I had with a church member. And it got me thinking about the similarities between counseling and parenting. In some ways, Counseling 101 is much like Parenting 101.
Here are some of the similarities between counseling and parenting, as a means to remind and encourage us as counselors.
Just as we pray for our children, we also pray for and with those whom we are counseling. When we pray, we are asking our sovereign God to break into the situation and make a change, for His glory and the good of the counselee. Perhaps the struggle is anger, or anxiety, or poor communication. We pray to God because He is the One who saves and also the One who sanctifies.
We Rely on God
Often in parenting, there are times when our strength is on empty. We are busy serving kids and exerting energy, which rarely gets replenished throughout the day. Counseling sessions, which require intentional listening and focus, can have similar effects. We must rely on God and serve in the strength that He supplies. We are not super parents and we are not super counselors either. We need God’s help in our work.
We Speak the Truth in Love
Counseling, like parenting, is heart-focused. With my daughter, I am often peeling back the behavior onion to better understand her heart desires. I want to love and care for her by speaking the truth to her heart and mind. Love knows no bounds when it comes to our children. Can the same be said about our counselees? Do we see the people we counsel like God sees them? Do we view people in our counseling (even the hard cases) as people with incredible worth and dignity? Do we love enough to speak the truth and correct? These must go hand in hand.
We Apply the Scriptures
As parents, we want to be faithful in shepherding our children according to God’s Word. We also want to use and apply the Scriptures in our counseling meetings. Scripture is sufficient to deal with our counseling topics because only Scripture can rightly diagnose the root problems.
We Cast Vision About the Greatness of God
One of goals I have with Jane is to help her see that this world does not revolve around her but that there is a great and glorious God who is much bigger. In a similar fashion, we as counselors are trying to help people have a God-centered view of their situation. We want them to know and embrace that God is absolutely trustworthy in every area of their lives and that He has richly provided for us in Christ.
We Provide Encouragement and Hope
Ephesians 6 makes clear that we are not to provoke our children to anger, but instead to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Providing encouragement to our children can help them grow in multiple ways. The same is true in our counseling. We want to speak words that build up and point our counselees to a greater hope. Giving encouragement along the way, even for baby steps, can be tremendously helpful.
We Exercise Patience
There is not a week that goes by in which I do not have to remind myself that my daughter is 5 years old and not 25. My expectation level starts to shift to an unhelpful place when I forget this basic truth. Sometimes our timetable does not line up with God’s when He is working in a counseling situation. It’s helpful to remember to have patience with people as God has had much patience with us.
As biblical counselors we are called to provide care to those we meet with. In parenting, we are called to provide care for our children. It has been helpful for me to see some of the overlap and how God has used both to teach me about the other.
Questions for Reflection
Are there other areas in your life in which your counseling provides an overlap? Are there helpful similarities that can be found to benefit you and your work?