The four counseling factors are essential when helping others.
Dealing with individuals and their needs is more a matter of getting across a message than following a single established method.
Each person will follow his own distinctive way and use his own choice of words. Many times it is like kneading dough. It takes effort to make sure the truth penetrates the counselee’s entire thinking, attitudes, and feelings. But even so, the following basic factors are essential in effective counseling:
Counseling Factor 1: Be Compassionate
To be an effective counselor, you must be a loving, compassionate person. You must love the counselee enough to present him with God’s truth regardless of what the truth may suggest for him. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21).
But you must not force God’s solution on the counselee. Remember that the individual has the freedom of choice. He can reject or accept God’s answer to his problems. The rich young ruler “was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
He rejected what he had heard.
Factor 2: Listen to the Problem
If you are a compassionate person, you will want to listen carefully to the problem presented by the counselee. As a “specialist” in spiritual problems, you will seek to discover the individual’s attitudes and reactions toward people and circumstances. The process cannot be hurried.
You need not probe endlessly into the counselee’s past. No one can change what has happened before. Counselor and counselee should be concerned with the counselee’s current behavior and attitude, which reflect the past. As counselor, you will listen for evidences of the sinful nature. Do not hesitate to do this, for you know that the blood of Jesus Christ can wash away sin and that the fruit of the Spirit can replace the acts of the sinful nature. You should have the same confidence in the benefits of God’s message as the surgeon has in the benefits of an operation.
Listening is an art. Therefore, seek to improve your asking and listening skills. Read literature on techniques of listening and interviewing. Then as you gain experience in counseling, your interviewing ability will improve. Obviously, your one-hundredth counseling interview will go smoother than your first.
Factor 3: Point the Counselee to a Solution
Be sure you correctly understand the person’s situation and his attitudes and reactions toward it. Do not jump to a solution hurriedly before you are sure of the exact nature of the problem. Many people will talk first about a surface problem, which is not their real problem at all.
When you and the counselee agree on his real problem and understand his attitudes and reactions, you can then use the Bible as a mirror so the individual can see himself reflected there. At this point you need to be firm, but not stern. You need not strive with people, but faithfully, gently, patiently, and lovingly declare the Word of God. After all, doesn’t the Bible give God’s answers to people’s basic problems and needs? You should present God’s solution from the Bible–and then it is up to the counselee to accept it or reject it.
If the individual is not a Christian, this is the time to present the plan of salvation–God’s offer of forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ as one’s personal Savior. If the individual is a Christian, this is the time to teach him that he is not walking in the Spirit. It is surprising how often Christians will gradually drift away from the Lord and accept their carnal emotional condition as normal.
The next step is up to the counselee. He may repent, or he may not. He may want to go away and think about it. Or he may go away quite upset. Or he may ask to return for more help on clarifying the problem and understanding its solution.
Factor 4: Use Other Counseling Tools
At this point the we have other tools to use in helping the person ponder the truth about himself. He can introduce the individual to a group in the body of Christ.
A trend in the counseling field today is the use of group therapy as a supplement to the counselor’s personal contact with his or her counselee. It is believed there are insights to be gained by the counselee as he listens to the views of other people in his group that cannot be gained as readily by interacting with the counselor only. In a number of experiments today, selected lay people are being used to do counseling and group therapy.
You should take a new look at the “spiritually therapeutic” value of the total church body life. Look at other tools–the sermon, prayer groups, Bible study classes, youth groups, men’s and women’s groups, worship services, and retreats.
The entire church body and small groups within it can help individuals judge the wisdom of their choices and attitudes. These contacts give individuals a point of reference from which to judge themselves.
Be a specialist in helping people discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. Your basic tool is the Scriptures, which accurately mirror the soul. You have the happy task of showing disturbed people the way to–
the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, [which] will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.