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The counseling process”I Cor. 13:3-8a :Bro. Johan Smulders

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1.  As a person in need comes to someone for help a process is set in motion that will hopefully result in that person being helped with their specific problems.

2. The first step in the process is for the counsellor to accept the person coming for help and this acceptance needs to be felt by the counselee. What you say at the beginning of your counselling is vitally important. If the counselee feels that the counsellor is sympathetic and accepting then a relationship of trust begins to develop. This does not mean that the counsellor approves of what the counselee may have done but it does mean that the person coming for help is accepted as a person created by God. We have to see people as God sees us. (Rom.5:6) God loved us in spite of our sin and sent his Son to die for us. (Jn. 3:16/17)

3. As a relationship of trust begins to develop it is important that the counsellor listens ‘carefully’. This will include asking question, seeing the body language of the counselee and listening with insight. This will help the counsellor to identify the real problems and it will also help the counselee to clarify their thinking. At the same time listening shows an attitude of caring. At this stage it is important to state the principle of confidentiality.

4. As the counsellor listens and begins to understand the problems it becomes possible to start planning a strategy that will help to solve those problems. Often the counselee already knows what they need to do but at the same time they do not have the power to effect that action. The counsellor should explain carefully what can be done in the counselling situation so that the counselee knows what to expect. People coming for counselling often/usually have unrealistic expectations.

5. Exercise in opening statements: Take the list of possible problems (addendum1) stated by the counselee and for each one formulate a response. Take turns and write them down. Report back with you answers.

6. The temptation at this stage is to try to sort out the problems in a simplistic way. Telling the person ‘If you do this then that will happen’ may sound easy but in real life it is not quite so simple. The person coming for help is part of a complicated system and this system has developed over a long time. During this time a lot of harm has taken place. Healing the damage will take time and so often the process is a long one. Many other factors possibly need to be identified and worked on. In marriage counselling working with both people is essential and often new skills may have to be developed in the area of communication and conflict resolution.

7. God has created a world that works on specific orderly principles and if those principles have been violated then harm is done. The counsellor needs to have a sound understanding of those principles/laws and be skilled in helping the counselee to correct their perception of that order and then how to apply it in their life. Learning how to be a person takes place from an early age in the home and often the example that is set in the home is not a healthy one. In contrast to this often faulty way is God’s way that is perfect. So these new principles needs to be learnt and applied.

8. Group exercise: In any relationships certain basic God given principles apply. If you had to explain them to someone battling with relationship problems what would you say? Condense them into three short sentences and report back.

9. As the counsellor and counselee identify the problem it then becomes necessary to formulate a strategy to solve that problem. Here it is better to help the person to ‘work it out’ than to tell them what to do. The problem with telling them is that you as counsellor have only a limited understanding of exactly where the person actually is. Jesus could read the minds and hearts of people (Jn.4:27) but we have to work on limited information. If the individual can be guided to solve the problem then they have learnt a skill that they can use again and this avoids dependence on the counsellor, something we want to avoid.

10. It is important that as a strategy is developed it needs to be specific and possible to measure. Exactly what action needs to be taken and when such action must be taken needs to be planned carefully. Vague goals like ‘be more loving’ may sound good but what does it actually mean in reality. What action will you need to take to put that goal into practice?

11. As the counselling process continues the principle of ‘agape’ love needs to be applied and Paul’s definition in 1 Cor.13:3-8a is useful.

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