Foundations of Christian Counseling: Client Expectations

Introduction

When clients decide to enter counseling, the task of finding a counselor is a daunting one. When searching websites or online directories, it can feel like a crapshoot. If you make the choice to enter counseling with me, a Licensed Professional Counselor, who practices from a Christian perspective, what might you expect? And as importantly, what are some specifics you should think about when choosing a counselor?

Christian Counseling

I presume that if you choose to work with me, then you are most likely seeking a counselor who works from a Christian perspective. My claim to be a Christian counselor, however, does not in-and-of-itself clarify everything clients might want to know. I hold a Reformed Orthodox view of Christianity, so I’m neither Catholic nor Neo-Orthodox in my Christian beliefs. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ. That means from a counseling perspective, I will draw heavily on Biblical principles as we work through any concerns you bring into counseling. I will want to explore your own understanding of your faith and how much of a role it plays in your life. In addition I will want to understand how you size up your personal relationship with God. There are certain premises I hold if counseling from a Christian perspective is to progress as it should.

Some Basic Premises

I believe that every concern and struggle we face as part of the human condition has something to say about our relationship to God. Moreover, our struggles in life can be addressed through our relationship to God. This does not mean that because we encounter problems in life there is ipso facto something wrong with our relationship to God. It does mean that we have to look to God to see what he is trying to tell us while we are in the midst of our struggles. Many times clients simply want problems resolved quickly, that is fixed. From a Christian perspective, everything we face has meaning and a purpose to it. A Christian approach to counseling does not make light or minimize your struggles and pain. It seeks to place such experiences in proper perspective.

We all engage life with a set of beliefs and values. Hence, working with me as a counselor means we will explore what beliefs an values you hold, particularly as they surface in relation to the concerns you bring to counseling. Individuals tend to be more or less aware of the beliefs and values they hold until they encounter difficulties in life. Clarifying one’s foundational beliefs and core values can help one understand why one acts or reacts the way one does when faced with life’s challenges

From a Christian perspective, exploration of one’s core set of beliefs and values must take place in light of one’s faith and relationship with God. I believe the more fully and more deeply we develop our relationship with God, the better perspective we will have on life and how to engage both its blessings and struggles. What I hope that a Christian perspective to counseling provides for people is Biblical knowledge that they can use to face any kind of difficulties and struggles that life throws at them.

Questions Clients Should Ask

How do I know if we will work good together?

This question revolves around the therapeutic relationship and the therapist-client fit. It is a question that all clients should consider. I offer all clients a free consultation for the first session. Although it’s no guarantee, it gives clients an opportunity to know me, see how I work, and a glimpse into how our work together will proceed. Each therapist and client has his or her worldview that will shape the way work proceeds from session to session. As a counselor who works from a Christian perspective, I let my worldview be known upfront. Hence I hope clients seek me out because they want to work with a therapist who holds such a worldview. In the first meeting both I and prospective clients can get a good sense as to how well we might work together. If a particular client decides that working with me is not a good fit for him or her, I can gladly offer referrals for other counselors if the client wants that information.

Are you simply emphasizing Biblical knowledge and theology while making the concerns I bring into counseling of secondary and tertiary importance?

Absolutely not. This is an excellent question and one that clients should ask of all therapists, regardless of their Spiritual or philosophical worldview. Clients’ presenting concerns are always front-and-center to our working together. Clients have the right to know what worldview I hold and how I understand the human condition and the struggles and difficulties human beings encounter in life. I will not set aside my worldview anymore than I would ask clients to set aside theirs.

Are you merely trying to proselytize clients to the Christian faith or to a particular brand of theology?

The square answer to this question is no. As a professional counselor, I’m here to help people work through the life struggles they bring into the counseling office. Because this question surfaces at times is the reason that I put forward my worldview upfront. People should know that in contacting me they are approaching a counselor who is a Christian, and that my worldview does inform and frame the way I work. I’m neither trying to play tricks on people nor am I trying to smuggle my worldview into the backdoor to spring it on anyone. If clients want to understand more about my faith, they are free to ask, and we can have that discussion if clients so wish.

How do you see Christianity as a way to help me with the concerns I bring to counseling?

That question calls for entire blog post, essay, or even a book length discussion in-and-of-itself. I believe in my core that the struggles we face in life unfold in God’s providential control over our lives. The problems we encounter, the pains we experience, and the difficulties that come our way can all be worked through by developing our relationship with God in a manner that helps us know him more fully and more deeply. Rather than discounting our concerns, a Christian perspective not only views an individual’s problems and pain as real, but it also provides a way to put our lives before God into proper perspective. I make no bones about it, a Christian perspective to counseling is a Spiritual approach.

What about clients who are not Christian?

I work with clients who hold various worldviews. Again they should know where I’m coming from as a Christian, but our work together will take on a more secular tone given that I want to try to meet them where they are in their life journey. If clients who are not Christians want to discuss my faith and beliefs, then as previously stated, I’ll most definitely have that conversation with them, as well as offering them referrals to others with whom they can explore the Christian faith.

I’m a Christian, but what if I don’t agree with your theology?

No two individuals agree on everything. As in any counseling approach, we will discuss in the process of therapy any therapeutic impasses or ruptures that occur while we’re working together. I highly encourage clients to be open about what they like and do not like about our sessions together. Disagreements are not only welcomed, but highly encouraged because such work is part and parcel of the counseling process.

Conclusion

This short blog barely scratches the surface of not only what counseling entails, but also in particular what a Christian perspective to counseling will entail. Along that thematic line, I have future plans to author some blogs that are titled Foundations to Christian Counseling, each blog with a different subtitle that focuses on a theme described in the subtitle. For example, this specific blog addresses client expectations. I hope through this series of articles to more fully explicate what a Christian approach to counseling involves.

John V. Jones, Jr, Ph.D., LPC-S/April 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

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