What is purpose of counseling?
In my opinion, counseling’s main purpose is to help the counselee find release from his or her problem and to achieve a sense of peace for the counselee. In counseling, the counselor helps his patient to find peace; a satisfaction of one’s self that he or she will not be burdened, either mentally or emotionally. Its purpose is also to generally help the counselee come to terms with his or her problems and to seek a solution to address the said problems. These problems may come in a variety of ways i.e. emotional problems, mental pressure, trauma due to past experiences and so forth, and it is the purpose of counseling to help the counselee to come to terms with these traumas and to carry on with life. However, in Christian Counseling, the purpose takes one step further: the main purpose of counseling would then be to help the counselee find God and come to terms with his or her problems through God.
Is there a difference between Christian and secular counseling?
If yes, what?
Yes, there is a difference between secular and Christian counseling. There are a few distinctions in Christian counseling. In Christian counseling we have: –
Unique assumptions – in the sense that we can rely on such ‘assumptions’ as prayer (James 5:13-16), the power of the Word of God (Isaiah 55:11) and the ministering of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-27) to work and to aid in fulfilling the purposes of counseling. This is the opposed to the secular way of counseling which neither relies nor even considers the aforementioned. It relies on what modern science has to offer i.e. psychology, medicine etc., which by itself would be inadequate to bring a person to a holistic healing.
Unique goals – Secular counseling aims to solve the person’s problems in the quickest and most efficient way possible, often just curing the symptoms and not the root. On the other hand, Christian counseling also solves the hurts and the problems but it takes the process a step further. In Christian counseling, one goes to the root of the problem: the soul and spirit of man. The goal of Christian counseling is primarily to help the person find God and to bring about spiritual growth.
Unique methods – Secular counseling would use methods available through science like psychology and chemistry (usage of medicines and drugs) and/or sometimes unconventional methods such as hypnotism. However, the Bible would govern methods used in Christian counseling. Furthermore, Christian counselors rely on God ultimately. Therefore, methods like prayer and the usage of the Bible would be present during Christian counseling sessions and would hardly be seen with secular counseling.
Fundamentally, Christian counseling differs from secular counseling because it relies on God and its primary purpose is to aid hurting people to find God whereas the latter does not involve God in its process of healing and it ultimately aims to just solve the problem and stem the pain.
Why do people have problems?
Man, being man, is born of a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5) and is therefore susceptible to sin. And it is because of this sin that man experiences problems. According to Dr. Larry Crabb in his book ‘Finding God’, problems arise as man decides to do things his own ways and disregards God. I believe this is one of the reasons as to why man experiences problems.
Secondly, I also believe that man experiences problems as a result of the free-will that God has given all of us, and it is with this free-will that some people choose to hurt another person. Satan controls this world and has influence over those who give themselves to him and that he may provoke such intentions.
At times, it could also be a wrong perception or thinking in relation to God and His Word, leads inevitably to wrong behaviour. People who have been hurt sometimes blame God and in the course of doing so misunderstand and /or have a wrong thinking about God. This will lead to a separation from God, which would bring wrong behaviour. From this wrong behaviour would come sin and problems.
Can people change?
Yes, I believe that a person can change IF THEY WANT TO.
How? What must be done for a person to change?
First of all, two things have to be established; first, a person can change provided that he WANTS to change and second, it is not the counselor who changes the person. Instead, change occurs when the counselees are in agreement and submission to the Holy Spirit for it is the works of the Holy Spirit to convict and change (John 16:8).
Therefore bearing those two facts in mind, how can a counselor lead a person to the point where he or she wants to change? I would suggest the following guidelines:
Prayer (James 5:13-16) – Praying for the counselee would be asking God’s help in this matter of which He is the best Person for the job! A counselor can pray FOR the person and not OVER the person that the Holy Spirit would accomplish His purpose in the counselee’s life. Praying for the hurt and the need will also bring about a change in the person that can only be accredited to God. Another approach would be to pray WITH the person in a request and petition to God to reveal Himself and His purpose through the hurt and the pain.
Bible (Isaiah 55:11) – The Word of God is power and is more than able to initiate change within a person. It is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword and judges the thoughts and attitudes of man (Hebrews 4:12) and is therefore a sound method to go through a few Bible promises, verses of comfort or Biblical examples with the counselee and through the Word of God, bring comfort and reassurance. The Bible is adequate to speak meaningfully to every human problem. From this method, it would be recommended that the counselee read the verses himself/herself and allowing the Word of God to speak to the counselee PERSONALLY.
Holy Spirit (John 14:25-27) – The Holy Spirit is the only person who can truly bring about change in a person. Therefore it is always wise to remember to rely on Him through petition and prayer, trusting on His leading and guidance.
What are the ethics that should govern our counseling?
Our counseling needs to be governed by ethics such as the following…..
Listen – Primarily, we should be listeners first, before everything else. Listening build rapport, which is very important in counseling as it is the key to build trust that a united stance may be taken. We listen then only do we have the right to speak and counsel.
Scripture – the Bible should govern all our ethics. Any form of conduct trespassing the Bible should not occur.
Confidentiality – All information and details shared during the counseling session is to be kept in confidentiality. It is difficult enough for the person to seek counseling without having other social problems. However, there is the question of dangerous confidentiality which needs to be addressed i.e. what if the counselee confesses to be a murderer or a rapist? In such instances, tact and wisdom is encouraged.
Respect – All in all, the counselee MUST be treated with respect as a person; an equal Child of God. All preconceived notions and prejudices are to be disregarded.
People-helper – Counselors are people helpers, helping the person and not the problem. The counselor addresses the person and not the problems.
Unqualified advice – As counselors, we should refrain from giving unqualified advice. Matters that are beyond us like medical problems or spiritual problems need to be addressed to the appropriate channels that is, the doctor or the pastor.
Manipulation – Knowing all the methods in the book, it is easy to start using methods to manipulate the counselee into a certain point of view. This is not to be practiced by the counselor. We, as counselors are not to manipulate our counselee.
Judgmental – Not being in the situation and being on the ‘correct/holy’ side, it is easy to become judgmental and to start judging the counselee. This will bring to preconceived notions and prejudices that will hamper the efficacy of the counseling, if it does not totally defeat the purpose of the counseling.
Telling – Counselors need to beware when they start telling their counselee what they should or should not do.
Generally speaking, our ethics as counselors are governed by the Bible and that in all that we do, we are to act in ways that honour God.
Counseling is more than just finding out what is wrong and provide what seems to be a way out. Counseling is to lead he counselee to find God and in doing so, understand the purpose and plan of God through the hurt and the pain. The only way out is Jesus. The counselor’s role and duty is to facilitate that journey to find God using the resources made available to him. The basic resources of a Christian counselor to effect a Godly change are sincere, diligent prayer, the ministry of God’s Word – the Truth and the Ministry of the Holy Spirit.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. Therefore we implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled with God.”
II Corinthians 5:20
This is yet another assignment that I did during my tenure at the Asian Institute of Ministries (AIM) way back in 1997. This was a paper on, after going through the class, my personal view of counseling.
Copyright © AIM 1st Trimester 1997, Wong Giok Leigh. All Rights Reserved.