Question: I’ve been thinking about going to a counselor to work on some things I’ve been going through, but I have no idea what to expect. Can you give me an idea of how this works? Will I be judged?
Answer: I’m not surprised at your confusion. Your exposure to counseling may be limited to what you have seen on TV or in a movie. Those counselors ask their clients to lie on a couch. They give advice. They ask, “How does that make you feel?” In reality, I give advice only in matters of client safety, my office doesn’t have a couch, and I have yet to ask anyone, “How does that make you feel?”
When our clients arrive for counseling on their first visit, there are two important questions they must answer:
1. Why are you here?
2. If counseling is successful, how will things be different?
In the process of answering these questions, the client creates a baseline. First, this is where they are now—the struggles, losses, and unrealized potential. The answer to the second question reveals where they would like their journey to take them. The counselor and client then work together to build a bridge between questions one and two, between where they are, and where they want to be.
This bridge is the dynamic adventure of counseling: slippery inclines, crumbling footholds, and the rocky road home. This journey is often as long as it is difficult, and if successful, equal parts pain and growth. On this perilous and exhilarating bridge, our unhealthy patterns and past meanderings are revealed. We learn to accept, forgive, and to experience the goodness of God.
Our goal is to approach our clients in the way Jesus comes to us. He meets us where we are in our struggles, he hears our prayers, and he listens. God is the judge of our human failing and poor choices; this is not the work of a human counselor. After all, you have come to counseling for help, to admit you have a problem, not to be judged. God comes to us, speaks truth to us, and guides us from where we are to where he wants us to be. Along the way, if counseling is successful, we realize Jesus is not limited to waiting for us at the finish line. He is our bridge.
Mark McCormick is director of clinic operations for Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services.