I love partnerships. For someone who loves to get things done and check tasks off a list, partnerships are the golden ticket. A problem that seems daunting can be completed much more efficiently when more than one person is devoted to thinking through potential solutions. A project that is overwhelming can be broken down to divide the tasks based on skill and availability of time, if there are multiple people involved. Partnerships bring in creativity, imagination, skills, talents, time, and availability that might otherwise be lacking. Over the years, I have always been excited to see wonderfully creative solutions when dedicated teams of people are involved, working hard to come up with solutions, together, that would have never been dreamt of if we’d each tried to solve that problem separately. It is a privilege to work in partnership.
I also love people, and that same partnership approach can breathe new life and vigor into delivering effective counseling as well. We are often faced with opportunities to serve hurting people in situations that are challenging. Often the pain and problems are so intense and tangled that it seems impossible to sort through the it by ourselves, while also having the time and energy to provide the critically important education from scripture and accountability for our counselee to learn to practice that truth in their actual daily life. Working with others in counseling can open up great opportunities to serve our counselees more completely and effectively than simply trying to tackle those difficult situations alone.
Partnering with Mentors
One very effective partnership I’ve found in counseling is working with mentors who are trained to participate in the counseling process. I love having educated and experienced mentors sitting in on my weekly counseling sessions. I normally explain very early in the intake and counseling process with new counselees that their progress will be much more keenly experienced if they are willing to have a mentor serve them during the counseling process. Many of my counselees agree to involve a mentor to make as much counseling progress as possible. Titus 2 outlines multiple ways that older, experienced believers can be involved in helping Christians to mature, and many counselees want those engaging kinds of relationships that will help them to live out and adorn the gospel in their own lives.
If the counselee is from my own church, I offer them an established mentor from our church’s mentor ministry. One of my primary goals of counseling is to quickly, yet effectively, help that precious soul solve the problems that brought them to counseling to begin with and then quickly be reintegrated into the normal discipleship process of our church. Having a mentor from church who is already involved helps make that transition much more seamless.
If the counselee is coming from a different church, I ask their home church pastor to recommend someone who could effectively fill that role. That’s one of the ways I try to communicate with home church pastors and coordinate a partnership with their church to provide services to the one from their congregation. This helps the counselee stay rooted and involved in their own biblically sound home church while our counseling ministry is serving them.
Working together to accomplish common goals
I have found that one hour a week doesn’t feel like enough time to effectively serve some of the people who are assigned to my care that involve tough counseling situations. The complicated issues involved in addictions, trauma, life-dominating sins, or difficult marriage and relationship situations are often so life-encompassing that simply gathering information may take an entire one-hour session, especially in the beginning. That doesn’t leave much time for compassionately ministering God’s Word or thinking of creative application assignments within the counseling hour, especially if I have cases scheduled back-to-back.
The mentor sits in on each weekly counseling session, from as early in the process as possible, to observe the data gathering, teaching, and accountability that is discussed each week. We begin with the expectation that the mentor will meet with or talk to the counselee halfway through the week to encourage, challenge, provide accountability, or otherwise support the counselee in their counseling progress. I often direct the mentor specifically early in the counseling/mentoring partnership so they know exactly what to ask or talk about during their mentoring hour. Then, during data gathering at the beginning of the next counseling session, I ask for feedback from the mentoring time and use that to help direct where we go in counseling that day. At times, what I am told from the mentoring time provides a broader scope for understanding the counselee’s unique situation more clearly. This helps me to provide more concise help during the hourly counseling session.
The mentor uses their weekly time with the counselee, outside of counseling, to remind the counselee of truths discussed in previous counseling sessions. This helps hold the counselee accountable for applying some new biblical concept, to creatively brainstorm solutions to problems that come up in the middle of the week, or to provide encouragement and strength when it is really tough to love God and others in practical ways through the week. Some mentors are also willing to text encouragements to their mentees through the week, or pray with them on the phone or through email. By partnering with a mentor who has both the knowledge of what is happening in the counseling session and also the time available to devote to supporting the counselee through the week, amazing progress can be accomplished, especially in difficult or complicated cases.
I’m so thankful to be a part of a church that has both a counseling ministry and mentor ministries for men and women. I am privileged to be serving my counselees from the base of decades of investment from those who came before me. The counseling foundation that I work from was built by a congregation who focused on the sufficiency of Scripture, developing and establishing methods of effective biblical counseling from ministries for discipleship within the life of the church. It is a counseling approach designed to meet people where they are and to help them walk toward the rewarding life we find in Christ. By living out partnerships within counseling, with mentors who are trained and excited to serve individuals who have been derailed by the hard realities of life on a fallen earth, we are pointing people to Jesus. He is the solution to our ultimate and greatest problem. We are partnering with the Holy Spirit, the one who helps us accomplish any good work in the counseling process, for the glory of the God who was wise enough to dream up collaborative ministry to begin with.