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Descriptive Psychology, defined in an elementary way, is the science of understanding a person and their problem, including all the interrelated parts, aspects, behaviors, hidden idolatries, and complicating factors.
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Case Study: Mable struggles with anxiety in response to Biff’s actions.
Bad Counseling: The counselor listens to the story, restates all Mable said about what Biff did, and Mable feels heard. She stays in her victimization. He gives her a few verses, a book to read, and asks her to be part of his Facebook Group for victims of [whatever happened to Mable].
Better Counseling: The counselor listens to her story. He draws out what happened, how she thinks about it, and more. He delves into their relationship and both of their lists of shaping influences. He assesses more in-depth Mable’s thought patterns.
Most people can’t do this. They don’t have the skill, insight, or biblical expansiveness. Minimally, they can restate in another way what the person said to them. The counselee “feels heard” and understood. Dangerous. In worse cases, the counselee will give the counselor authority to prescribe solutions. But if the counselor does not have a complete understanding, their counsel will be incomplete and, typically, skewed to one side, which usually tickles the hearer’s ears.
Courage: It takes a lot of courage to understand someone the right way. Too many “counselors” do not understand what the person needs to hear or understand but don’t have the courage (and compassion) to say it. Thus, they compromise the understanding that they could provide.
Self-esteem: There are many adverse side-effects from the self-esteem movement. One is this misunderstanding and misapplication of “being heard.” We only want to hear what we want to hear—esteeming ourselves most of all, which makes us feel better at the moment.
If the folks that came to Jesus only heard what they wanted to hear, it would have proven disastrous. Esteeming God more than ourselves positions us to hear the whole story—assuming the counselor has the character, competence, compassion, and courage to provide a fuller understanding of what is happening.
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).