I’ve had the privilege of counseling for a number of years, and I now have the privilege of sitting with new counselors as they begin their first counseling cases. I haven’t forgotten what the early days of counseling were like for me.
A Biblical Counselor in Utter Despair
When I began counseling I had the blessing of having Dr. Bob Smith sit with me. Since I consider Dr. Smith to be one of the wisest men living, that was a significant blessing. It was especially a blessing because, although I had received biblical counseling training, I didn’t feel competent to counsel. That was borne out every week when I met with dear women who came to the counseling ministry because of struggles they were facing. I could talk with these ladies for about 5 minutes and then I was out of wisdom. I would look at Dr. Smith and say, “Dr. Smith, do you have anything you want to add.” Dr. Smith always did have something to add, much to my relief.
Even though Dr. Smith bailed me out, none of the ladies whom I counseled as I began counseling ever returned for a second appointment. None. I can’t tell you how many ladies that was, but I know it was a lot.
Beginning counseling was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. At the time, I lived almost 2 hours away from the counseling center. I would spend most of the drive home in tears. I felt utter despair about my ability to ever become a competent counselor.
Cry Out to God and Persevere
I wish I could tell you that I discovered a book and that reading the book changed everything. That didn’t happen. I simply had to persevere through those hard days.
Some of you may be naturally gifted in counseling, but there may be some of you like me. Counseling doesn’t come easily or naturally. You may spend 6 hours preparing for a session and then find you have nothing to say. You may feel as if you’re doing more harm than good.
When I would express my distress to Dr. Smith, he would wisely say to me, “Amy, you’re giving them God’s Word, and God’s Word won’t hurt them.” This was wise counsel, even though what I wanted was some magic potion I could drink that would make me perfectly wise and fully competent in my counseling.
Let me encourage you to persevere. It’s good and right to continue to get training. It’s also good and right to prepare (even though frequently when you prepare you’ll find that the counseling session goes a very different direction than you anticipated). But don’t expect that the process will become easy simply because you have done those things.
God is faithful. He’ll walk with you through this fire, but He won’t necessarily quench the fire. Persevere. Cry out to God for help. Persevere. (Isn’t this exactly what you’ll be asking those whom you counsel to do?)
At some point you’ll realize you didn’t cry all the way home. At some point you’ll realize you were able to go for longer than 5 minutes. At some point a counselee will come for more than 1 session. But even if that never happens, you’ll have experienced God’s faithfulness and have had Him holding you with His right hand as He directed your steps so that you can be a vessel for His glory.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
Amy Baker is a counselor on the counseling staff of Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. She has been part of the counseling staff team for close to 25 years.