Winston Smith’s session at the CCEF (see their website at ccef.org) annual conference last year was my favorite session because he showed a video of some of his counseling where he encouraged his counselees to minister to one another. It was, in my opinion, outstanding. In fact, it was the most influential video of actual counseling that I have seen.
Some of you may have been helping counselees minister to one another for many years. However, my suspicion is that many counselors have not thought much about this or worked to implement this strategy into the counseling room. In this first post, I want to highlight some of the opportunities where this could be particularly helpful. In the second post, I want to talk about some of the risks and benefits in an actual session.
Opportunity #1: When one person is ready to admit that they were wrong.
I do not believe that it is wise to force counselees to ask for forgiveness in counseling sessions. If a counselee asks for forgiveness simply because I told him to do so, then great damage could be done in both the counselee’s relationship and in the relationship that I am building with them. However, if one person is willing to admit their part of the problem, then having them turn to their spouse or parent and ask directly is an opportunity for a very tender moment.
Opportunity #2: When more information is needed
As counselors, we are often the ones doing the asking. Yet, let’s take a case study for a moment. Let’s say that a couple has come for counseling and the wife does not understand why her husband gets so upset at her. She is, at this point, completely dumbfounded. It is possible for you, as the counselor to ask the questions. But maybe it would be wise to have the woman look into her husband’s eyes and ask herself, “What is it that encouraged you to respond that way last night?” Again, it is possible to garner the information yourself, but the value of helping them communicate openly, honestly, and with genuineness is so much more valuable.
Another situation might be a pornography case. Let’s say that a wife caught her husband in pornography and masturbation. She is crushed. “How could he do this? Does he think about others while we have sex?” she wonders. Many times, the husband is remorseful on several fronts, but to his wife it seems cheap. His actions speak louder than words, at least in her mind. So here is one of the questions that I like to have men in this situation ask their wives, “What can I do to help you believe that I understand how much I have hurt you?” Next week, I will share a bit about what has happened in moments like this.
Opportunity #3: When one person is really thankful for the other
I must admit that I have blown lots of opportunities in the last ten years on this point. At times, I have had counselees say to me how grateful they were for what God was doing in the life of their spouse or their children. At the same time, they have never made those thoughts personal. I just missed it. Those moments were encouraging at one level and they were moments to celebrate. But oh how much better it would have been to have that person say to his or her spouse, “I love you and I am so excited to see what God is doing in your life. I am one of the most blessed people on earth to have you.” So, ministry cannot simply be defined as gathering data or dealing with problems, but also to offer encouragement.
We would encourage you to look for opportunities to have your counselees minister to each other throughout the counseling case. After all, you will be out of the picture at some point anyway. If you have stories that you could share about how you watched your counselees minister to each other, then we would love to hear them.