Does Christian Counseling "Really" Work? by Phillip Fields
My answer might shock you. Counseling cannot and will not help everyone who tries it. The American Association Christian Counselors opened their world conference 2015 with this statement: "Traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not working. People need authentic, powerful experiences that cause deep transformation in their to overcome life's battles." In other words, sitting around talking about your problems does not produce growth!
If counseling is going to work then 2 things MUST HAPPEN:
1. The counselor must lead the process in cooperation with the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. The leader is the Lord and the follower is the counselor.
2. The client must exercise vulnerability and responsibility. They have to be willing participants in the transformation process. There will be NO progress until resistance and self-protection are surrendered in exchange to be loved.
Here's what I think counselors need to know:
I have seen a bunch of techniques come and go. Thirty years later you could say I have heard it all. This is not about science as much as it is about relationship. Counselors need to know how to flow with the Holy Spirit. He is speaking and maneuvering in the client's heart. My number one responsibility is to pay close attention to what God is doing in a person's life. I can't afford to lead with head knowledge. I have to do what I expect my clients to do. I lead the process with vulnerability and discernment. I lean very heavily on God's voice at work in my own heart.
Clients this is your responsibility:
If I do my part to partner with God in the counseling process then I can expect my clients to open up to God during a session. We have to get beyond talking about the problems. You can talk all day about what is "not happening" in your life. But that will not set you free. Freedom begins when you take responsibility for your situation and open your heart to God's solution. You will remain stuck in your problems as long as someone else holds the key to your freedom.
They only way counseling becomes a road to freedom and fulfillment is if you are willing to be transformed from the inside out.
Your motivation and perception matter more than the severity of your struggles. Here's what I mean. You cannot move forward until you are willing to receive from others.
Guess what? I can't force you to find freedom. I'm not that good. You can't blame me the counselor because you are not experiencing break through. I'm reminded of the woman who rudely interrupted me demanding that I stop asking her questions. She was reacting to the questions out of hurt because she was unwilling to face the pain in her heart.
Vulnerability requires courage. I know how it feels. I spent my twenties and thirties working out the deep wounds of physical and emotional abuse that I experienced in my childhood. I continue to need grace to go deeper and deeper in my journey. You have to be willing to open your soul to the healing process. Healing requires us to grow up and take full responsibility for our lives.
The only way Christian counseling works is if we have a radical encounter with God's love. The living Jesus must be welcomed into the counseling process. I'm not talking about some religious Jesus that's hanging on a cross in history. I'm referring to the resurrected Lord who overcame all the stuff sin created. The encounter must involve more than a theological thought. You need the tangible presence of God to show up in the place where you need Him the most.
God knows exactly what you are struggling with, how you got there and the path to overcome. He is ready to exchange your pain with His love. God will not push into your broken places uninvited. He must be invited into your ugly, shame-filled heart. You have to stop hiding and covering up your heart. Don't let the lies win! Pain is inevitable but suffering is something we choose because we resist healing and freedom.
Christian counseling does and will work "IF" the counselor follows the lead of the Holy Spirit. If the counselor knows how to partner with the Lord in the process then the door is open for break through. The courageous one receiving counseling needs to practice vulnerability and responsibility. Stop giving away your power to change. Open up and own your stuff. This becomes a target for grace to transform your heart.
Our brand of counseling and coaching is Spirit-led. We would be honored to play a role in partnering with God to see you become the person you really want to be. This is why we offer extended sessions that have no time constraints. We will spend the entire day with you to empower you to walk out your courageous journey!