Counseling is an important decision. Once you begin, it is helpful if you are committed to several practices during the counseling process. Below are a few suggestions that I have found to be important in cultivating the most effective counseling experience.
This may seem obvious. Why would someone invest time and, in some cases, money to meet with a counselor and not be honest? It might surprise you to learn why this happens, but what may be even more surprising is discovering that you might relate to these reasons. Honesty is not just about what you reveal but also about what you conceal. You may feel you are being honest because what you shared in your session was the truth. However, what was not shared can be equally or even more integral to present an accurate picture of the situation. Candor is risky but necessary in counseling.
One reason people may withhold information is fear of man, a temptation common to all. It is not that you are afraid of your counselor; rather, you may be afraid of giving your counselor reason to dislike you or think poorly of you. Another common reason for withholding information is pride. Pride encourages the keeping up of appearances. Even in the midst of seeking help from a counselor, the desire to save face can sabotage your steps toward help and healing if you are tempted to be less than entirely honest.
Scripture tells us that keeping silent about our sins or transgressions before God will bring misery (Ps. 32:1-8). We must be honest before God, but we should also be honest with those who God provides to help us. In counseling, lean into honesty and participate in the accountability and wisdom that can come from trusting your counselor enough to be fully honest.
Those who are curious about the counseling process may ask how long it will take. They want to know how many counseling sessions will be necessary until they feel better or until their situation will change. This is not an unreasonable question, but it often reveals an incorrect view of counseling and the process of change. It is important to remember that you are not a problem to fix or solve. You, like me and everyone else, are a complex individual. Your situation is complex. You deserve the attention of careful exploration. Counseling deals with the deepest issues of the heart; it takes time to draw out what is there (Prov. 20:5).
God is not in a hurry. He knows what you need and knows the best timing to bring about what is required. You are going to counseling because you desire change, and change is a process in which you learn more about yourself and God. The process of slowly uncovering fears, desires, and beliefs is necessary. It is the process that is often the point. It is in the process that you begin to see what God is teaching you. Trust the process and avoid the rush to get through it.
The Bible says that prayer is powerful in its effect (James 5:16). Prayer changes things, and one of the most important things it changes is your own heart. Pray before, during, and after your session. Pray for your heart to be changed through the time with your counselor. Pray that you would be sensitive to God and His Word. Pray that God would encourage and strengthen you as you seek to work through the challenges you face.
Pray for your counselor, too. I feel so strongly about this that I considered making this the only point of this post. Counselors fight their own battles with fear of man in the counseling room. They, too, can be tempted to rush toward change and overlook moments where a long look at Jesus is once again needed.
Your counselor is human, just like you. They have good days and bad days. Your prayers for them are invaluable. Pray that they would be fully dependent on the Holy Spirit. Pray that they would counsel out of a life that is abiding with Jesus. As a counselor, I have been shown many kindnesses by those I counsel, but the thing I am most grateful for is prayer. Make it a priority to pray for your counselor (1 Thess. 5:25).
Certainly, there are more things you can do as a counselee to maximize the counseling process, but if you take these three things to heart and revisit them often, you will get far more out of your counseling sessions. So, if you are currently in counseling or if you are thinking about starting counseling, commit to these things and consider sharing them in a conversation with your counselor to talk about how you are doing in each of them.
Questions for Reflection
- As a counselee, are you committed to being honest, slowing down, and praying throughout the counseling process? What other practices help make your counseling experience most profitable?
- As a counselor, what other practices of counselees have you found helpful for them to cultivate the most effective counseling experience?
This blog post written by Eliza Huie was originally published on the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC). Visit the BCC for helpful information and resources related to biblical counseling.