Counseling is Not a Bad Thing

Posted: January 21, 2012 in Christian Discipleship

For most of my life, I’ve viewed counseling as a “last resort” option.  If things are really messed up, then you see a counselor.  Therefore, if you see a counselor, that’s a bad thing.  That means there are major problems and fixings are necessary.

I’ve also viewed counseling in a very “fix-it” type of way.  You have problem A, here is solution A.  It’s like going to the hardware store.  You broke something at home and you jet to the hardware store for the quick “fix-it” solution.  And the solution works.  Unfortunately, many forms of counseling cater to such ideas.  But people aren’t projects to fix like broken faucets.  We’re broken people and each of us has a different, complex story.  Morever, we’re all broken.  We’re not “above” counseling.  Counseling isn’t reserved for the really messed up people, because we’re all in the same boat here — broken and in need of ongoing healing and redemption.

It’s evident that many of our presuppositions concerning counseling are naive and need to be debunked.  A major example of this is seen in how pre-marital and post-marital counseling are viewed differently.  It’s amazing that whenever couples subscribe to pre-marital counseling, everybody is so affirmative.  “Oh, that’s great.  You’ll learn such healthy foundations even before you’re married!”  But when a couple goes to post-marital counseling, alarms sound.  “Oh no!  What happened?  Who did what?!”

Frankly, in the marriage counseling arena, I believe post-marital counseling to be of much greater value than pre-marital, because when you’re engaged, you’re infatuated and can’t wait to snuggle 24/7 and do…other things.  But you have no idea what the reality of marriage is really going to be like.  After you’ve been married for awhile though, reality sets in and you realize you can’t base a marriage on happiness and infatuation.  You realize how selfish you are, you grasp that marriage isn’t always easy, and you perceive that you’re somewhat clueless.  You’re then in a much better place to receive counseling.  My wife and I have certainly learned this!

That rant hopefully paints the picture of how skewed our perspective towards counseling can be.  We stiff-arm counseling and resort that it’s only for people with “issues.”  Not only is that seriously prideful, but it is also naively foolish.

I’m not saying everyone needs to go sign up for counseling right now, but I think it should be an option we consider way more than what we do.  And we also must select our counselors wisely, because counselors that give quick “fix-it” solutions aren’t digging to the root of the brokenness.  They’re just patching up things with a band-aid.  What is ultimately needed is biblically-shaped counseling, where the themes of the Bible are foundational.  Otherwise, we may just end up being another project to fix.

I’ve been dwelling on these thoughts quite a bit recently due to a pastoral counseling class that I’m in.  I thought the class would teach me how to deal with various issues (i.e. Here is what you do when someone has a struggle with depression…).  But my presuppositions have been ignorant.  This class has helped broaden my perspective and I’m now seeing the unfading value that biblically-shaped counseling has for each and every one of us.

  1. Tom says:

    Saw Julie last night with girlfriend and told them that they had good hubbies. That be you.

    I too have been thinking much about the concept of counseling and its value. Even is we weren’t broken (that is if Adam hadn’t fallen), we would still need counsel. His name has always been “Wonderful Counselor”. He didn’t create it after the fall. Sin and brokenness just adds another layer to the complexity of His work. God created the angels with no need, with no ability to grow. He created them to exhibit His unbridled power. He created us with all need and with the ability to grow. He created us with all weakness so that He could show Himself strong. We need to learn how to interpret our condition and our circumstances in the light of this and learn how to appropriate grace and mercy from Him.

    Have been thinking about the 2 realities. One is the tangential and visible reality which everyone has. The other is the unseen reality that is found in Him. Though unseen, it is not un-heard. And that is the mission of the counselor to bring the reality of the Word to bear on peoples heart. Jesus said in Mark, “be careful WHAT you hear.” and in Luke, “be careful HOW you hear.” Faith is dependent on both what and how.

    Counselors have the same privilege that preachers have to speak words which creates faith and hope into hearts. But where the minister can only impart the word in His congregants, a counselor, due to the relationship, helps walk his client thru the process God uses to make that word effective and fruitful in his life and a source of blessing. The Catholics have had this for centuries and call it “spiritual direction” and have people trained as “Spiritual Directors”. Same concept.

    By the way, I too have seen the imperative of post marriage counseling. I think the real of pre-marriage counseling is to develop a relationship with the engaged couple which gives them a resource after their marriage. One of my internships will be centered around pulling together a pre and post marriage program for the counseling center I am going to work at.

    • Tom,

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I certainly gleaned from them!

      What you said about pre-marriage counseling was really helpful; that its goal should be: “to develop a relationship with the engaged couple which gives them a resource after their marriage.” That is SO needed. Unfortunately, I think most young married couple think the counseling stops once they’re married. But it would be beautiful to see more of the dynamic you mentioned, because AFTER a couple’s married is when counseling becomes much more deeper and central.

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