Monday, March 13, 2006

Describe the importance of language in counseling. Give examples.

Language is a vital aspect of counseling as it is the basis for our communication and ability to gain Involvement with the counselee as well as being the means to indicate how men define the parameters of their thinking. The counselor’s ministry will consist of using words that are filled with hope, seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6), and driven with the message of the Spirit rather than the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 2:13). The world uses language to minimize sin or use non-sin, made-up titles to describe sinful patterns (i.e. schizophrenia, bipolar, mental disorders, etc…) but the counselor is to retrain the counselee to use biblical terminology to define problems and sins (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim.3:16).

It is also very important for the counselor to watch how the counselee uses his or her words. This is particularly the case when addressing the counselee’s use of labels. The counselor should be alert for danger phrases that people will often use when being counseled, including “I just can’t”, “He makes me angry”, and “It’s not fair”. These debilitating labels indicate a shift of blame or abandonment of responsibility, and reveal heart idols. Generalizations that embellish and distort the truth (i.e. “this always happens”, “He always…”, “It never works out”) could also hinder the counseling process. Ultimately the use of language will indicate the counselee’s heart, “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Write a paragraph or two on the problem of eclecticism in counseling and your position in reference to it.

A Biblical Counselor will use all the data and information given and known to bring a person into Christ, with this one mandate: that it is only by the washing of the Word that man is able to change towards godliness (Ps. 19:7-9; Eph. 5:26). A counselor who uses extrabiblical ideologies to influence their counseling ministry is guilty of eclecticism. Mixing false ideologies is dangerous and voids the Word of God because it dethrones the truth of the Word and makes man the final authority over what man needs and how he may change. Eclecticism of Biblical Counseling and psychology (integrationalism) is most dangerous at the theory level as it has diametrically opposing presuppositions about the nature of man as well as a completely different belief structure.

That said, it is possible for a Biblical Counselor to use the observational data that psychologists have made on human behavior and still not be eclectic. The Biblical Counselor is able to use observations and not be an integrationalist as these observations reflect common wisdom issues and not a belief structure. For example, a psychologist who suggests more sleep when a counselee presents multiple times with chronic fatigue is simply matter of wisdom and common sense. This use of common wisdom is not exclusive to Biblical Counselors. Rather, Biblical Counselors are distinguished from psychologists in that they counsel from only the Word with the aim of a heart change in the individual.

Delineate the difference between true and false guilt. Is there such a thing as false guilt? How is guilt to be handled in counseling?

Delineating the difference between true and false guilt is difficult due to the varying usages of the word ‘guilt’. The biblical understanding of guilt is that of an objective legal liability or culpability to punishment. However, people today describe guilt both in terms of a feeling and also as an objective failure to meet a determined standard. This presents a fundamental problem however, because feeling guilty and being guilty do not always go together. A person may commit sin but not feel guilty. Regardless of their feeling about that sin they are still guilty and liable for it before God.

False guilt then refers to the idea that one feels guilty for no reason. This term is really a misnomer because one cannot feel guilty over nothing. If a person feels guilty it is because they have violated a standard. The question then becomes whether that standard is biblical or self-imposed. To determine this, the Biblical Counselor must never minimize the counselee’s feeling of guilt. The first step is to discover the underlying reason for that guilt - whether it stems from an improper understanding of the Scriptures or from holding oneself to a standard that is irrespective of the Bible. A Christian must evaluate their guilt from the standard of Scripture. For that reason, once a counselor has discovered the counselee’s false standard, they are to inform the counselee of the scriptural standard and seek to renew their mind to that of Scriptural standards (Rom. 12:1-2). Once informed, the only way a counselee will find resolution to their guilt is to seek forgiveness. If the guilt results from holding themselves to a false standard then the counselee is to ask for forgiveness for both holding to the wrong standard and also for violating their conscience. Conversely, if the guilt is because of a real sin then the counselee is to ask for forgiveness because of the sin. In either scenario God is the remover of guilt as we confess and repent. This is the reality a person faces before to come to their conversion (Luke 24:47) as well as afterward as a believer (Matt. 6:12).

Explain the need for homework in general, and for concrete, not abstract homework, in particular.

There are two main important reasons for Biblical Counselors to give homework. Firstly, homework builds the counselee’s understanding daily of how to deal with the problem. As homework requirements are fulfilled, they are then able to see immediate and tangible ways in which their homework is developing their biblical perspective on the problem. The counselor can use the homework assignments at the beginning of each session to encourage the counselee. Homework is also an additional avenue for data collecting.

Secondly, because the homework requires time away from the counseling session itself, the counselee should begin to gain a reliance on the power of the Word of God rather than a reliance on counseling. Counseling sessions are not to be considered the counselee’s weekly “power hour” where they get rejuvenated after a week of failures and ready to face the next week’s challenges. The homework provided will allow the counselee to be sanctified by the daily renewal of the Word (Rom. 12;2), while providing the counselee with notes that they can use for future reference.

The homework that is given by a Biblical Counselor is to be specific and concrete so that the counselee can understand the reason that particular homework assignment has been given. The more concrete the homework the better it is for the counselee to understand their responsibilities and the expectations of the counselor. Homework should always be geared towards putting on specific godliness according to the Word (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:5-10; James 1:22-24).

What is data gathering? Why is it important?

Data gathering is the process of strategically collecting information from the counselee. This includes not only verbal communications but also “halo data” that is presented by the counselee when relying information. Halo data comprises observations regarding wardrobe, hygiene, gestures, tone of voice, body language, and such information that may not initially be provided from a PDI form. The counselor is to gain data relating to the presentation problem as well as a general overview of any complicating problems that may indicate heart issues. Data gathering moves from the broad picture of the individual (i.e. age, sex, marital status, believer, presentation problem, etc…) to questions that focus on gathering information specifically pertaining to the trouble areas of the person’s life. Data gathering is necessary for the counselor to make wise use of the Scriptures and its relation to the counselee’s sanctification (Pr. 18:13).

Describe how to develop involvement with a counselee. What, if any, is the difference between being empathetic and showing empathy?

Biblical Counselors are focused on building up the whole person towards Christlikeness not merely being problem-fixers. Sin has a noetic effect on man. The counselor is unable to properly gather the data about the counselee’s life if the counselor is focusing only on the problem and not the whole person (Jer. 17:9; Heb. 4:12). Therefore the counselor is to develop a helping relationship with the counselee, one that is focused on building each other up into Christlikeness. The counselor will help facilitate such a relationship by purposefully practicing the one anothers as described in Scripture, displaying compassion (Phil. 1:8), praying for/with them (v. 9), having unhindered communication (2 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 4:25, 29), and listening (Pr. 18:2, 13).

Involvement is the counselor’s responsibility in the counseling relationship. Paul demonstrated involvement by not allowing himself to be hindered by his own actions or affections (2 Cor. 6:12). So too also the counselor must not merely show sympathy but empathize. Using Paul as an example of Biblical Counseling, it is clear in Acts 20:18-20 that he had developed a close relationship with the Ephesians, describing his own ministry there in the following terms: “You yourselves know how I lived among you….serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and house to house” (emphasis mine). Paul sacrificed himself, both emotionally and in time commitment to minister to and reach the Ephesians, individually, door to door, and through public meetings. If Paul was only sympathizing, he simply would have pitied the Ephesians but not stuck around when apposition was raised publicly. He would not have conducted time-consuming house visits for the sake of individuals who were not living correctly. The genuineness of Paul to the Ephesians is to be mimicked by the Biblical Counselor and genuine love for the counselee is to be shown. Mere going through the motions and words of empathy alone leave the believer cold and unlikely to hear the counselor. Paul was willing to “become all things to all people” for the sake of being able to minister to them. In the same manner the counselor must be the loving friend necessary to aide the change of the counselee as needed (1 Cor. 9:22).

What are some of the important needs in the first session?

There are three, or better, three and a half, important needs that the counselor must have as a goal when meeting with a counselee for the first time. The counseling process is most easily facilitated when there is involvement between the counselee and counselor. The first session is an important time to begin the development of the counseling relationship which is done by the counselor communicating concern, compassion, and a genuine desire to help the counselee (1 Cor. 9:22; 2 Cor. 6:11-13; 1 Thess. 2). The second need is that of data gathering, as the counselor does not have the ability to give counsel until he knows the nature of the counselee’s problem, as perceived by the counselee (Pr. 18:13, 17). The first counseling session will primarily be a data gathering session which helps involvement by communicating to the counselee a genuine interest and concern on behalf of the counselor. The final need of the first session is conveying hope to the counselee. The inspiration of hope is done by focusing on the promises and certainties given to us in the Word of God. This will only come by lifting up the promises of Scripture and showing the counselee that the problem or sin issue is not bigger nor is it beyond God’s control (Rom. 15:4).

The half-point is closely associated to conveying hope, as the counselor should try to ascertain whether the counselee is a believer. As the data is collected from the first session, the counselor should ask himself whether the counselee demonstrates genuine faith. Through appropriate questioning the counselor will discover whether this is true or not. If the counselee is not a believer, it is important for the counselor to give the counselee the hope of the gospel message, particularly as it is possibly to be the last counseling session.

Are the Scriptures sufficient for all counseling?

It is important to understand that the Bible is not sufficient for everything possible eventuality that could result in the world while concurrently believing that it is sufficient for everything to which it claims to be sufficient for, namely for “life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). As Biblical Counseling is an aspect of the church’s ministry of the Scriptures, it deals primarily with matters of life and godliness and in this capacity, the Scriptures are sufficient. The Bible claims its own sufficiency for building up good theology, admonishing, correcting, and instructing in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). The Biblical Counselor may then use the Scriptures in counseling for evangelism, developing wisdom for godly living, bringing the joy of the Lord to the hearts of men, and restoring vitality in life (Ps. 19:7-8).

What are the goals of Biblical Counseling?

The goal of Biblical Counseling is to assist the believer, by the ministry of the Word and through prayer, to move toward Christlikeness through sanctification. In cases where it is revealed or blatant that the counselee is not a believer the counselor should use the time for evangelizing the non-believing counselee. Paul described the goal of his own ministry in Colossians 1:28 thus: “Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” As Paul stated, the goal of his personal ministry was to influence the church so as to present it complete in Christ. To do this Paul had a preaching ministry with the Word, but also a discipleship/counseling ministry with the individuals in the church. This is why he reduced his ministry down to the individual level, that of presenting every man complete in Christ. The Biblical Counselor helps the counselee’s sanctification process by developing the counselee’s dependence on the Word and Holy Spirit for godly living through repentance (2 Cor. 7:10-11), renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2), and by putting off fleshly living and putting on living through the Spirit (Eph. 4:22-24). This makes Biblical Counseling distinct from the worldly forms of counseling because Biblical Counselors rely solely on the Scriptures for counseling, as the fully sufficient guide for “everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). It does not merely address the believer’s behaviors but, using the Scriptures, addresses the heart issues that dictate the believer’s actions (Heb. 4:12). The goal of counseling is to restore believers through the hope provided by the Bible (Heb. 6:19) by responding to each believer in their particular sin or situation, with the standards of the Bible (1 Thess. 5:14).