What Should You Expect from a Christian Counselor?
When it becomes necessary to seek a professional Christian counselor either for yourself or to recommend to someone else the following criteria may benefit you in determining that choice.
- A Mature Christian. The apostle Paul directed the churches in Galatia to seek those who are “spiritual”, or mature in their Christian faith, to “restore a brother overtaken in a fault” (Gal. 6:1). It is highly unlikely the immature ever effectively counsel another to maturity. It is impossible for an addict to aid another in overcoming their addiction.
- A Gifted Exhortor. Effective biblical counseling is a spiritual ministry facilitated by the Holy Spirit. More than mere erudition and experience the Christian counselor must possess the gifts of exhortation (Rom. 12:8), wisdom and knowledge (I Cor. 12:8).
- A Student of Word. King David began the book of Psalms with the words “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, . . . but his delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psa. 1:1). He understood that what separates godly from ungodly counsel is the adoration and application of the Word of God. The consequences from these two sources of the wisdom is profound. James noted that ungodly counsel, “the wisdom from below” results in “strife, confusion and every evil work” (Jas. 3: 13-16). Godly counsel, “that which is from above” is “pure, peaceable, gentle, yielding, merciful and beneficial” (Jas. 3:17-18). It is significant to note that James prefaces this discussion on the types of wisdom with the question “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good life his works with meekness of wisdom” Jas. 3:13
- A Skilled Practitioner. While every maturing Christian is expected to counsel or “exhort one another . . . to love and good works” (Heb. 10:22-25), profound personality disorders and mental disturbances require specialized education and training. Just as we would expect a medical doctor to be thoroughly trained in the treatment of physical pathologies so we ought to expect the same of those who treat psychological, mental and personality disorders. Appropriate education and licensure should be sought.
- An Empathetic Listener. C.S. Lewis compassionately comforted those who sought his counsel by noting “I’m in the same hospital you are. I’ve just been your little longer.” The grace received in the midst of the counselor’s personal afflictions equips them to comfort others (II Cor. 1:3,4).
- A Diligent Professional. Like any professional the Christian counselor must care for each client with the utmost respect and dignity, ensure confidentiality, maintain accurate records of the sessions, and comply with codes, ethics and laws which govern mental health professionals.
- A Team Player. Church leadership often refer members of their congregation to Christian counselors for specific help and care. The counselor, like a sheepdog, is called upon by the pastor, or shepherd, to care for the sheep. Where this relationship exists, it is essential, as the counselee permits, for the counselor to work with pastors, elders, and other professionals in the care of the counselee.