Prospective clients have formed their expectations of counseling based on what they have heard from other people, read, and seen on television and in the movies. When a client comes to counseling, all of these previous experiences lead the client to have a certain set of expectations about what the experience will be like. If a person has watched One Flew Over the Coo-Coo’s Nest, they may fear that psychiatric and mental health services are primarily for the seriously disturbed, and that those services may involve abuse of the client. In recent years, society has come to view counseling in a more positive light. Counseling is now seen as a service that is socially accepted and not just for those who have severe emotional disorders.
Some clients come to counseling expecting the counselor to be a judge in settling relational conflicts. Clients who come with this expectation attempt to present their case in a convincing way, expecting the counselor to rule in favor of one or another. Other clients come to counseling expecting that counseling will involve the counselor listening only. This expectation has been fostered by the writings of Carl Rogers in his humanistic psychology. Most clients today find the client-centered non-directive approach disappointing, and do not find it satisfactory. Others who have read Jay Adams work Competent to Counsel, expect that the counselor hunt down “the sin” that is the cause of the problem.
The Christian Family Institute model of counseling involves listening to clients tell their story. Clients are asked in the early phase of the first counseling session what brings them to counseling. Clients are encouraged to share the distress of their life that has caused them to seek professional services. Clients are also encouraged to bring other involved family members to the counseling session when possible. Unlike individual approaches to counseling, a family systems approach attempts to respect each person’s unique perspective on the problem. Family and marital counseling also encourages family members to talk to one another and to resolve their disputes with one another. Individual counseling sometimes fosters a belief that the counselor is siding with one person against another and may put the counselor in a position of operating with only half of the facts.
As counselors listen to each family member’s perspective on the problem, the counselor attempts to establish counseling goals in collaboration with family members that meet their needs and expectations. In a marriage counseling session, one partner may complain that there is not enough communication while another partner complains that there is not an adequate sexual relationship. The counselor attempts to establish mutually agreeable goals for the resolution of the problem to both partners’ satisfaction.
An individual may come to counseling expressing a desire to overcome problems with depression. A counselor needs to hear their client’s own theory about what may be contributing to their depression. The counselor also may help the client investigate new areas they have not considered. In counseling, clients may be helped to discover their blind spots about the problem that brings them to counseling. After goals are established, the counselor then helps the client plan a strategy for resolving the problem.
Counselors use a variety of tools and techniques to help people change the things that they seek to change. At times a skilled counselor may ask a series of diagnostic questions or administer tests designed to assist them and their client in gaining greater insight into the nature of the problem. At other times counselors recognize that clients may lack life skills such as communication skills, conflict resolution skills, skills to enhance and sustain intimacy, and skills in the management of their thought life and emotions. Counselors may teach clients new skills to help them overcome the problem that brings them to counseling.
Counselors often use homework assignments as a tool for enabling clients to translate learning from the counseling session into their daily life. If clients are open to what the bible has to say, and if clients are receptive to prayer, the Christian counselor may utilize teaching from scripture, bible study assignments, and prayer as tools to assist people in growing in their knowledge of God’s will, and in their relationship to Him and others.
Occasionally a couple comes to counseling where the Christian spouse has coerced their non-Christian spouse to come to a Christian counselor. Occasionally the Christian will attempt to align themselves with the counselor, hoping they will side with them against their partner. Sometimes the Christian has been preaching and judging their spouse, and their secret hope is that the Christian counselor will join them in preaching to their non-Christian partner. It is extremely important that the Christian counselor assist these clients in learning a more effective way to disagree with their partner. It is also important for the Christian counselor not to take sides against any family member, but to always show respect to all family members.
As professional Christian counselors, we are committed to respect each person’s right to self determination and the exercise of free will. Though we attempt to steer our clients in a biblical direction, we never take responsibility for their life. We never coerce anyone to take a particular position. Advice may be given in the form of helping people identify alternatives and assisting clients in considering the pros and cons of each possible course of action. Counselors may assist clients by suggesting steps that may be taken to achieve a particular outcome. Counselors may gently and respectfully challenge myths, faulty thinking or reasoning, inconsistencies, and immoral behavior.
Though Christian counselors recognize man’s need for God, Christian counselors are not primarily evangelists. As is the case with all Christians, we are commanded in the great commission to go and make disciples. We at Christian Family Institute take a relational evangelism perspective. We hope to build loving and respectful relationships with all people, and to let our Lord’s light shine from our Christian lives. We show compassion for the struggles that people experience. We never give advice contrary to scripture.
Some Christians have defined “Christian Counseling” as only giving “spiritual and Biblical counsel.” This model assumes that the only tool a Christian needs is to read scripture to clients, and this is then called “Christian counseling”. We believe that whenever we help a client live an abundant life that is more conformed to the will of God, or find practical answers to problems, this is Christian counseling. Therefore, there is no distinction between the “secular” and “spiritual” realms. If we help a single parent manage impulses to mismanage money, this is “spiritual” counseling. We believe “secular counseling” is done without regard for spiritual and Biblical truth.
We always give scriptural advice, but in the case of clients who are resistant to Christianity or the bible, we may not initially share the source of that information. As clients find biblical solutions to be useful and effective in their life, we look for opportunities to share with those clients the sources of that wisdom. In this way we look for opportunities to witness to clients about God’s love and his practical wisdom for living our lives. We are particularly sensitive to not charge in where we are not welcome. Some clients may never give us an opportunity to speak with them about spiritual things. We believe it is our obligation to feed the hungry by providing loving, considerate care and practical solutions for life’s problems even if they are not open to the solution to their biggest need for God.
For those who profess to be Christians, we attempt to help people see the church as a place for continued emotional support, the need to belong, and a place for continued instruction following the termination of therapy. For those who profess to be Christians and are not involved in local churches, we attempt to help people see the local church as the ultimate “aftercare” resource.
How to Contact Us:
You may contact us by telephone or e-mail. Our office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Evening counseling appointments are available on a limited basis by request.
Autumn Oaks Building – 71st and Canton/ 6846 South Canton, Suite 501/ Tulsa,Oklahoma 74136