We talked about the phrase “Tell me about it,” which is one a faithful counselor will be regularly asking because he is interested in facts—not in guesswork. But there’s another phrase, heard too often, that he should learn to avoid.
The phrase is, “How do feel about that?”
“What’s wrong about that phrase? Aren’t you in the business of helping people feel better?”
“No? Then why do you counsel people?”
First, please understand—if, as a result of counseling someone feels better, that’s usually a good thing—a plus. But that’s not the goal.
“Aren’t you concerned about people solving their problems?”
“Then, isn’t that the same thing as helping them feel better?”
Not as a goal—often, as a byproduct, yes.
“Now, I’m really confused. Can you explain further.”
Sure. Our goal—above all else—is to help people honor Christ in their problem, by thinking and acting in ways that will please him. Often people come for relief from their problems—they’re not concerned about pleasing God—they want relief, a solution to some problem. But we must aim at helping them honor God by whatever He wants them to do about it—that is the top goal of all. If they happen to get relief—good; indeed, it’s all for the better.
“Well that sounds a little better. So getting relief from the problem is a secondary goal.”
Yes, if in doing so, he pleases God according to the Bible.
“What if pleasing God doesn’t bring relief?”
In the long run, it always does; sometimes in the short term it doesn’t. Then we must also teach godly patience—trusting in His providence.
“Does God’s providence always bring relief?”
Ultimately—but sometimes not before having to undergo some difficult matters. Sometimes not until death. So, then, we must teach about providence in order to achieve patience—which is part of the fruit of serving Christ faithfully.
“It sounds like things can get tough for people in counseling.”
Usually when things are that way, they are the result of not living as the lord requires in the first place; difficulties he encounters are of his own making. When people get into various messes, often the way out—that is the way out that pleases God—isn’t all that pleasant either.
“I see. So, “How do you feel,” isn’t particularly relevant?
Usually not. Most of the time it’s obvious how one feels before counseling begins. The feeling isn’t his problem. It’s the result of the problem. You can feel better in a lot of ways that don’t please God. So we don’t begin by focusing on how one feels.
Sounds different from the counseling down the street.
Right! How do you feel about that?
Check out our online courses, including, Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling and The Use of Scripture in Counseling, taught by Jay Adams!
Books related to counseling others:
- Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams
- The Christian Counselor’s Manual by Jay Adams
- How to Help People Change by Jay Adams
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The Christian Counselor’s New Testament and Proverbs, translated by Jay Adams
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