Why Would I Seek Counseling?

by John Beeson

I’ve missed more annual well-checks to the doctor than I’ve made. It seems like a waste of time to tell the doctor that I’m not experiencing any physical difficulties, have him check my blood pressure only to confirm it is within the healthy range, and then pay on my way out the door for what I already knew.

Most of us feel the same way about counseling. Why would I go to a counselor unless things are falling apart?

There is a grain of truth in this impulse. Under normal circumstances, we should have layers of relationships that support us. Ideally, we have a strong network of godly Christian friends with whom we are transparent and who tell us hard truths. Ideally, we have mentors and pastors in our lives who we can seek out and who will speak encouragement and exhortation to us. Unfortunately, few of us have both godly friends and mentors.

Even those who do would still be blessed to have a good counselor in their lives.

Noted psychologist John Gottman reports that couples wait an average of six years before seeking help from a counselor.[i] Six years!

Here’s the truth. First, I ought to go to my annual well-check, even if I don’t think I need to. Several friends who have had prostate cancer have urged me not to take those check-ups lightly. Second, there is no one who cannot improve their relational, emotional, and spiritual health. No one wouldn’t benefit from having a wise and godly man or woman ask them penetrating questions and press them to consider ways in which they could improve their mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

I asked three godly friends of mine who are in the field to answer two questions:

  1. Why should someone who isn’t in crisis seek counseling?

  2. What should someone look for in a counselor?

My three friends are my wife, Angel Beeson, a biblical counselor at Whole Hope Christian Counseling, Gary Smith, a soul care provider at Journey Companions Ministry, and Mark Nichols, a counselor at Mark Nichols Counseling.

Why should someone who isn’t in crisis seek counseling?

Angel Beeson: “’The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?’ (Jer 17:9). One doesn’t have to be in crisis mode to benefit from the gift of dissecting the heart and mind. We all have room to die to ourselves, put on humility, and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. In counseling, we give the Spirit room to move in power in our hearts. In many ways, counseling when we aren’t in crisis is much more beneficial than counseling when we are in trouble. We are able to consider motivations, patterns, and strategies in ways that can help us see ourselves and God more clearly and experience his sanctifying work in our lives.”

Gary Smith: “Everything we do originates in our heart (Prov 4:23). There is ample evidence in Scripture of godly men being deceived by their heart. We see Abraham trying to preserve his own life rather than trusting God (Gen 12:11-13, 20:11-13). We see Moses, knowing God would use him to deliver Egypt, acted apart from God (Ex 2:11-12) (Acts 7:23-25). We have the account of Job, a righteous man, who still needed to repent after his encounter with God (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3) (42:5-6). It can be helpful to have another person help us see what is in our heart. ‘Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out’ (Prov 20:5). We all have blind spots. Others can often see what we cannot see in ourselves. Asking hard questions requires thinking more deeply about what is in our hearts. We all have sin in our hearts. God wants to shine His light on our sin. ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:8-9). Spiritual training and checkups can help us avoid a crisis in our life just as physical training and checkups can help us avoid a serious health issue. ‘Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come’ (1 Tim 4:8).”

Mark Nichols: “Significant changes in heart, behavior or thought rarely occur in crisis moments. Energy is diverted to management of the crisis, not change. Frequently, people will stop counseling once the crisis has subsided – the pain is diminished, calm restored, and there is a bit of breathing room so “things are OK, right?” Foundational concerns can be examined when the storm has passed, and conversations can occur with the information from the crisis. The disciples could hear Jesus after he calmed the storm. I encourage people to “begin the work” in order to prevent future disruptions and make lasting change, to learn how to be comfortable when it is uncomfortable, to avoid unhealthy behaviors/patterns/sin; and learn how to cultivate contentment and peace. This is the time to learn how to be congruent – insides and outsides matching – body and spirit.

What should someone look for as they consider what counselor to see?

Angel Beeson: “The counseling space must be a trusted space. Counselees must know the counselor is there for them. Look for a counselor who asks good questions with an intentional desire to know them well in a posture of love while able to guide in wisdom with discernment. One cannot speak into what they do not know. Look for a counselor who is willing to walk the journey alongside them, not afraid of the hard spaces, can speak hard truths in love, is reliant upon the Word of God, dependent on the Holy Spirit, and is able to maintain appropriate boundaries.”

Gary Smith: “Someone well versed in Scripture, well respected by others, and having the fruit of the Spirit. The character qualities of an elder provide a good basis (Titus 1:5-9) (1 Tim 3:2-7). Ask God to send someone to you. Agree to meet one time, then ask God if this is the one. You should be comfortable, yet uncomfortable; confident, yet willing to question your motives. Developing trust is essential which will allow you to tell the truth about yourself. Even though we all have similar issues, we are all unique individuals. There is no ‘One size fits all’ soul care provider. Find the one who will best help you see what is hidden in your heart.”

Mark Nichols: “Someone with a good reputation, credentials, experience, and someone who just doesn’t say the same things. Did the counselor hear you, give clear feedback and helpful strategies? Did they ask what you thought of the session – what is the take-away? Is the setting professional? Are boundaries clear and sustained? What are the assurances of confidentiality? Is there a plan or vision for the sessions? To seek someone who knows and follows Jesus is important because the Spirit, if sought, will guide the sessions, reveal what is important to heal from or to learn, and will bring lasting peace. Unnecessary clutter will not be introduced, worldly distractions will not be encouraged, and people should be redirected to what the Word says. Spiritual growth principals will be encouraged. Spiritual/church-hurts/wounds can begin to be healed. New understandings through new lenses can mend misconceptions, hypocrisies, and old abuses of power, control, legalism, and trauma.”

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[i] https://www.gottman.com/blog/timing-is-everything-when-it-comes-to-marriage-counseling/

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