Ep. 188 The Vital Importance of the Counseling Window
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Shows Main Idea – Biblical counseling is formulaic in many people’s minds. What I mean is that the conventional thought is that if you can get a person to a counselor, the counselee will change. This idea is not necessarily accurate; transformation depends on several things happening while the counselee is inside the counseling window.
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All counseling sessions have a start and end time. Meaning, there is a season that a person is receiving counseling and then it’s over. The hope is that while the person is going through the “counseling season” (window), he will change. But this perspective is the tension that I’m bringing to you because being with a counselor (discipler) does not mean guaranteed change.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. – 2 Timothy 2:24-25
Transformation is a gift granted by God, whether that change means that God saves someone or is allowing repentance during the person’s progressive sanctification.
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? – 1 Corinthians 4:7
Two vital things must happen for a person to change: God must grant repentance (Primary Cause), and the individual must respond to the work that the Lord is doing in his life at that moment (Secondary Cause). The counselor in this scenario is merely a voice that shares the truths of God’s Word, but not the agent of change—no discipler has that kind of authority.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:6
Four Components to Every Counseling Session
- The Spirit of God – The Counselor, who is the only one who can penetrate a person’s heart to bring change.
- The Word of God – The primary tool that the counselor uses to provide practical instruction so the person can learn what right living is.
- The Counselor – The messenger of God who faithfully practicalizes God’s Word in such a way that the person understands and can change.
- The Counselee – The person who needs to change, as he cooperates with the Lord about what He is working into the counselee’s heart.
Sobering Fact – Most counseling seasons do not end with long-term, effective change. The majority of all counseling sessions are watering and planting opportunities, which may position the counselee for future change. (See 1 Corinthians 3:6)
Things to Remember
- Don’t put your hope in counseling but in God, the only one who can bring change to any of us.
- Don’t misjudge any counseling session as being inadequate because you did not get the outcome you hoped to see—whether your the discipler or someone who has an interest in seeing the person change.
- Don’t misjudge any counseling session as being adequate because you felt good about it.
- Counseling success is not necessarily a person changing according to your expectations or timetable. Counseling success if faithfully sharing God’s Word in practical ways.
- A biblical counseling context is similar to all other relational contexts where a Christian is helping a person change. Here are a few different change contexts that are equivalent to Christian counseling.
- Husband and Wife
- Parents and Children
- Small Groups in Churches
- Pastors and Congregants
- Though a biblical counseling context typically has a higher degree of formalization and giftedness from the counselor, it’s not a given that change will happen only under the condition of so-called “professional counseling.”
- If you are a Christian, you must be helping others change, whether the person is a believer or unbeliever because it’s the commission that the Lord gave to us (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 15:14)
Signs of Not Understanding the Counseling Window
- Angry (frustrated or disappointed) at a person who is not changing.
- Demanding the person go to counseling because you believe that’s how the person will change.
- Worrying (fearful) if the person is not changing.
- Critical (or gossip) if the person does not change.
- Impatience toward the unchanging person.
- Self-reliance, as you lean to your understanding and techniques to bring change to someone.
- Manipulation, as you try to get a person to change.
- Reactive, as you respond to the unchanging person or the counselor who was doing the counseling.
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Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).