Although I am not a counselor, I spend a lot of time with counselors, pastoral counselors and therapists and count a number of them as friends. I have taken a number of counseling and psychology courses as an undergraduate, seminarian, and graduate student. I have also served on the board of a pastoral counseling center and regularly attend the continuing education events the center offers. I have even done a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education.
One of the things I have learned in all this is that I do not have the gifts to do long term counseling. I have great appreciation for those who do and support their work every chance I have to do so, but it is not my calling.
Most of the counselors I know are Christians, but they do not necessarily market themselves as “Christian counselors.” Even so, they bring a theological perspective and world view to their practices that are informed by their faith.
First, they have encountered a God of grace and love who seeks to redeem each person—supporting what is good and moving beyond the bad. They have experienced this in their own lives and wish to share it with others.
Second, they recognize that each person is at a different place not only in their lives but in their faith journeys. These counselors step up and walk alongside people where they are rather than where they wish that they were.
Third, they have the patience to work with clients, realizing that the client did not arrive at this place in his or her life overnight and will not change overnight. Change requires both commitment and support.
Fourth, a counselor may be the first person who has exhibited unconditional acceptance to the client. Of course, a good counselor does not want the person to continue harmful behavior or remain burdened with past experiences, but he or she adopts the attitude of Jesus in John 8:1, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and live a new life” (my paraphrase).
Thank God for calling such women and men to this special ministry of counseling.