Foundations for Christian Counseling: Van Til on Self-Realization


Most of what we know from the world of psychotherapy and counseling is grounded in humanistic presuppositions. Having studied and worked as a professional counselor, I used to believe that it was possible to integrate various counseling theories with Christian beliefs and a position that holds to the inerrancy of Scripture. I’ve gravitated from that belief, finding that it is more and more difficult to integrate my Christian beliefs with the philosophy and theoretical foundations of counseling and psychotherapeutic theories. Somewhere along the line a Christian has to conclude that the presuppositions of Christianity are diametrically opposed to humanistic philosophies. Various counseling theories were developed purposely in opposition to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Indeed although one may draw from certain theories to work with his or her clients, at rock bottom, Christianity and the humanism that undergirds theories of psychotherapy are irreconcilable in terms of worldview. What does this mean for the practitioner who wants his or her practice to stand solidly on Christian foundations? One response to such a question is obviously to make sure the theories one holds and the work he or she undertakes is Biblically sound. I believe the presuppositional approach of Reformed theologians can provide a solid basis, not only for counseling practice, but for all spheres of endeavor that Christians hope to take captive to Christ. Along those lines, I want to discuss Cornelius Van Til’s ideal for self-realization.

Cornelius Van Til & Presuppositional Apologetics

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) was a Dutch-American Reformed theologian, known primarily for his presuppositional approach to apologetics. His family moved from the Netherlands to Midwest America, Indiana, when he was about ten. He studied under the systematic theologian, Louis Berkhof at Calvin College before transferring to Princeton Theological Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and began teaching at Princeton Seminary. Not long after he began working at the Seminary, it underwent a split, so Van Til shifted with the conservative group and taught for forty-three years at Westminster Theological Seminary. Van Til developed his presuppositional approach to apologetics, not only as a method to apologetics, but also as an undergirding epistemology to all of Christianity. He rejected traditional methods of apologetics and systematic theology that held that there is a common ground between believers and non-believers regarding the Christian faith. Hence, he was opposed to what he viewed as an Enlightenment rationalistic approach to apologetics and systematic theology. Unfortunately, his approach is labeled, even by some evangelical Christians, as irrational. Although he is not opposed to the use of reason – after all, we are to worship God with all our mind – he did not believe that apologetics could be used to rationally prove the truth of Scripture. All individuals believe and act on a set of presuppositions, whether or not they are aware of the presuppositions they hold. Likewise, Van Til’s position has been labeled fideistic. However he believed that believers could offer a rational defense of the faith, but that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to use arguments for the faith to convict the unbeliever of the truth of Scripture and the Person and Work of Christ. [Obviously, this paragraph is a short and truncated presentation of Van Til’s approach. Such a discussion would entail one or several blog articles, not to mention many books and articles that have been written regarding Van Til’s systematic theology. The best advice is to read Van Til for one’s own education].

Self-Realization, Self-Actualization, Etc.

The first thing to realize is that with such concepts as self-realization, self-actualization, self-awareness, self-consciousness, self-efficacy, and more, within the field of psychotherapy and counseling, these terms are replete with humanistic underpinnings. Take for example, self-realization. Self-realization as a concept has its origins in Western thought taken from psychoanalysis. Freud purposely developed his approach to psychoanalysis as antithetical to religion as a whole, and the Judeo-Christian worldview in particular. Self-realization was also incorporated in Western esotericism, where self-realization is held to be the ultimate goal of life, e.g. New Age approaches. Additionally, self-realization was incorporated in Eastern thought, e.g. Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism among others. All of these approaches are humanistic at base, regardless of their particular differences and disagreements. Other approaches to counseling are based on rationalistic premises, stemming from the Enlightenment, such as Rational-Emotive-Behavior-Therapy or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Hence, one will come across the concept self-efficacy. Although I find these approaches to be more easily integrative with my beliefs, the caution is that a concept like self-efficacy emerging from these counseling approaches is grounded in the humanistic presupposition of autonomous reason. The question that continues to emerge, as posed by R. J. Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen, is by what standard do we understand these approaches to be true or even pragmatically helpful? Cornelius Van Til, as a Reformed theologian who takes a presuppositional approach to theology and apologetics proffers an ideal viewpoint of self-realization. Although ideal, I believe it can be helpful to Christian counselors who want to remain true to Biblical inerrancy and the fundamental truths of Christianity.

Van Til on Self-Realization

Self-realization, as pointed out, is a concept loaded with various presuppositions, depending on to whom one talks or whom one reads. Van Til’s explication of this concept, I believe, can provide a good solid Biblical viewpoint for those counselors who seek to shape their practice from a Reformed and evangelical position. He delineates his approach to self-realization in his work, Christian Theistic Ethics. In chapter five of this work, he poses the questions: what then, in more detail, is involved in the goal of self-realization that man must set for himself (p. 45). First, it is important to realize that Van Til is discussing theology, not counseling, and he builds his discussion on an ideal type that would have existed prior to the Fall. He opens chapter five with his presupposition that he sees as in alignment with Reformed theology. The chapter, more than a discussion of self-realization, seeks to explore what forms man’s ultimate good, summum bonum. He states, The ethical ideal that man, as originally created, naturally had to set for himself was the ideal that God wanted him to set for himself. This is involved in the fact that man is a creature made in the image of God. God himself is naturally the end of all of man’s activity. Man’s whole personality was to be a manifestation and revelation on a finite scale of the personality of God . . . man especially was created to glorify God . . . God is man’s summum bonum (p. 41). Ideally then, all of man’s activity is directed toward God. However, the space-time Fall occurred, and to approach the ideal summum bonum set for man, requires grace from God, which comes only by being in Christ. What does this mean for one’s self-realization?

There are three core elements that Van Til delineates if the Christian is to engage self-realization. First, man must learn to will the will of God. Man must work out his own will, that is, he must develop his own will first of all. Man’s will must become increasingly spontaneous in its reactivity. Man was created so that he spontaneously served God. For this reason he must grow in spontaneity. Whatever God has placed within man by way of activity must also be regarded by him as a capacity to be developed . . . In his heart there was the inmost desire to serve God . . . God wants men to develop this will (p. 45). Obviously, from a Reformed Christian perspective, man cannot do this on his own. Following the Fall, every human creature requires grace to live as God wants him or her to live.

The second core principle is that man’s will needs to become increasingly fixed in its self-determination . . . man must needs develop the backbone of his will . . . Man was created as a self . . the creature of an absolute self . . . for this very reason again man has to develop his self-determination . . . God is absolutely self-determinate; [man can only be] self-determinate under God (pp. 45-46). As a Reformed theologian with a postmillennial outlook, Van Til believes that as Christians develop their self-determination under God, they are by God’s grace accomplishing His plans for His Kingdom on earth. God accomplishes his plans through self-determined creatures (p. 46).

The third core principle is that man’s will must increase in momentum. . . As man approaches his ideal, the realization of the kingdom of God, the area of his activity naturally enlarges itself (p. 46). This principle addresses Van Til’s postmillennial position regarding the Kingdom of God. Like any Reformed theologian, Van Til does not see the Kingdom as coming through man’s effort apart from God. It comes as the result of man’s sanctification by grace. Christians are to take captive every sphere of life to the obedience of Christ.

Self-Realization in Counseling Practice

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Van Til’s presuppositional approach to theology and apologetics, or his postmillennial view on the Kingdom, I believe Van Til, as a Reformed theologian, offers an important contribution to Christian counselors and those pastors who take on the counseling role in the church through his discussion of the ideal type of self-realization. As to the first core principle, Christian counselors can work with other believers to help them develop their spontaneity through their development of the capacities God has placed in them. In general, this means encouraging other believers to understand that they were created to serve God in some fashion. More specifically, this means working with believers to support them in discovering and developing their Spiritual gifts. I’ve talked with believers over the years who question what their Spiritual gifts might be, and they seemed at a loss as to how to be certain about what God is leading them to do. While searching out such areas for our Christian lives entails diligence, this should not be an area that leaves Christians open to constant doubt.

The second core principle regards one of those concepts that is so easily misunderstood, reading into it all sorts of humanistic underpinnings. No doubt, self-determination is a loaded concept right along with self-realization. Again, let’s look at the basic premise off which Van Til works here. As creatures, we are imbued with the Imago Dei, the image of God. Whatever capacities God has instilled in us, we develop them in terms of who we are as God created us. From a counseling perspective this can mean we support believers to discover all their capacities with which they have been created, to develop those capacities, and in doing so develop their self-determination, pursuing the life God has called them to pursue. In developing his self-determination, man is fulfilling not only God’s plan for himself, but who he is in relation to all other Christians so as to fulfill God’s plan for the church, and according to Van Til, God’s plan for His Kingdom on earth. I believe as a Christian counselor who works with other believers, we can help our brothers and sisters in Christ fill out who they are in Christ, whether or not we hold to a postmillennial position. Such work enables believers to fill out what God’s plan is for the church because we are all members of one Body.

The third core principle that Van Til discusses regarding self-realization is momentum. An an individual develops in spontaneity and self-determination, he will naturally develop his momentum. For one thing, this means, everything we do and pursue in life, we do it in pursuit of God and in the desire to be in His will in everything. As an individual grows in momentum, his activity will enlarge itself. This pertains, most importantly I believe, in the goal of taking every sphere of life captive to the name of Christ. Too many Christians believe that their specific Spiritual gift should be used in one way or in one field of endeavor. I’ve seen this work itself out among Christians who unfortunately believe that if they are not pursuing full time Christian work, e.g. pastoral work or some other full-time Christian work situation, they see themselves as secondary citizens in the church. We are supposed to be in full-time Christian pursuit, but that has nothing to do with the specific job title we work under. Taking captive all spheres of life in the name of Christ IS a full-time endeavor. And while that can be accomplished as a pastor, Seminary professor, or Christian counselor, it can be done as a businessman, a scientist, or an artist as well – and all the other pursuits that human beings engage. Even more importantly, it can be engaged beyond just our field of endeavor in which we work. Taking all spheres of life captive to Christ is accomplished by the way families work, how we engage friendships, and how we act in all our day-to-day interactions with others.


As Christians, how are we to engage the world? We are to engage every sphere of life in the name of Christ. As a counselor who is a Christian, I firmly believe that Christians can help, support, and encourage other believers to fill out who they are in Christ. Only via grace can the counselor and the individuals with whom he or she works come close to accomplishing that task. I believe Van Til’s explication of self-realization gives us a blueprint by which to accomplish that task. Importantly, Van Til has placed the concept of self-realization upon a solid Reformed theological foundation, stripping it of any humanistic underpinnings. David in Psalm 16, speaking to God said, Apart from you, my goodness is nothing. Apart from God and His grace, we cannot even begin the work that Van Til challenges us to do, and as Reformed theologian, he knew that.

What I have written here pertains to Christian counselors working with other believers. As a Christian, I believe that is the optimal way to work as a counselor. Although I have worked with unbelievers, there is a strong absence of common ground on which to work. As a retired counselor, the one thing I would change, looking back on my life, is my clientele. Moving forward, I hope this short exploration of Van Til’s discussion of self-realization can help and support counselors work from a solid Biblical and Reformed theological base. The field of counseling is otherwise seeking to stay afloat over the abyss of humanistic philosophies, all of which ultimately default to man’s autonomous reasoning or nihilism. For those evangelical and Reformed Christians who have not read Van Til, I highly encourage you to read and study his work.

Reference: Van Til, C. (1980). In Defense of the Faith, Volume 3: Christian Theistic Ethics. [Originally published in 1970]. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

John V Jones, Jr, Ph.D./August 14th, 2022


Foundations for Christian Counseling: God’s Power Toward Us Who Believe

“. . . that you may know. . . what is his immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead. . . [Ephesians 1:18-20].


When you think of the concept of power, what comes to mind? Political clout? Highly successful business people? Military strength? We all know individuals, historical and present, whom we would consider as powerful in some manner and on some level. As we read in Scripture, however, God provides us with a different take on the concept of power. I’m not taking a leap to what Francis Schaffer would call the upper story. God’s power is real for us on a daily basis. Yet I wonder if as believers in Christ, we understand what God has made available to us so that we can live the kind of life he desires for us?

God’s Power Toward Us

God’s power is manifested in many ways throughout Scripture. He spoke the universe and everything in it into being by the Power of his Word. We witness his power in the many miracles and signs he performed, both in the Old and New Testaments. We learn in the New Testament that God’s Word – logos – in the beginning is actually Jesus Christ. Christ’s many miracles of healing and raising people from the dead demonstrate God’s power. In Christian circles we hear the phrase the power of God tossed around quite often. I question if we believers truly comprehend the power of God available to our lives. I don’t say this as a criticism of anyone in particular. I feel at times I’m quite distant from understanding the true power of God. Yet the Apostle Paul, in the verses that form the epigraph to this article, affirms the power that God works toward us who believe in Christ as our Savior. The zenith of God’s power is witnessed in his raising Christ from the dead. Paul tells us that the might which God works in our lives is the same might by which he raised Christ from the dead. The whole of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a beautiful testimony to the riches that God has lavished upon those of us who believe in Christ.

The Counseling Process

As believers in Christ, we are in communion with God. Moreover, we are members of God’s household, children of God, which provides us with boldness and confidence to approach God as our Father. All the power and might that Paul describes in the verses penned above is available to us. Christian clients bring their concerns, doubts, pain, and losses in life into the counseling room. My message to Christians who seek me out for counseling is that they also bring into the room the power that Paul claims God works toward those who believe. Whatever circumstances clients face, God’s power and might are available to them to work through the difficulties that the world throws at them. Our work together is to labor toward clients’ understanding of how to access that with which God has already blessed them so as to apply it to the challenges they bring to the counseling room.

“In the World but Not of the World”

Just before presenting one of the most powerful and beautiful prayers recorded in Scripture, the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), at the close of John 16, Christ told the apostles that in the world they would have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he had overcome the world. An unfortunate mindset that we can fall into as believers is thinking that because of God’s power working toward us, this life should be an easy haul. Although God’s power works within us, the purpose of his power is not to provide us with a cushiony life. In fact, it’s just the opposite. God’s power works in us so as to strengthen us to take on the challenges that being in the world throws at us. As believers in Christ, we are not promised a problem-free life. What we are promised is a power that goes beyond all we can hope for or understand. Like everything else in the Christian life, we must place our faith in God’s promise that such power belongs to us. By God’s power, we take on the struggles, difficulties, and tribulations that life in this world brings upon us. I don’t wish to be silent about the reality that all of this is much easier said than done. Martin Lloyd-Jones, the great Christian writer, has stated that the major reason that believers falter in the face or life’s trials is that they don’t truly comprehend who they are as believers in Christ. I can most definitely attest to that through my own life.


For Christian clients who seek to work with me in counseling, one of the challenges we’ll take on is searching out how to apply God’s power, which is available to us, to not only the concerns you bring to the counseling room, but also to your life as a whole. This does not mean your concerns for which you enter counseling are shoved to the side for a theology lesson. Your struggles in life are front and center in our work together. It does mean that Christian counseling looks to draw on God’s truth as the means to work through the challenges that being in the world brings to our lives. It also means that I, as your counselor, must draw on that same power to do the best work I can for you. If I fail to do that, then I’m failing you as a client.

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


Foundations for Christian Counseling: God’s Plan of Salvation


Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), depicts a meeting held before the foundation of the world among the three persons of the Trinity. What Lloyd-Jones calls the plan of salvation was established during that meeting, which finally came to fruition during and through the life of Christ.

Jones also states that when believers falter when facing struggles and difficulties in this life, it is because they fail to see the full implications of God’s plan of salvation. I agree with that assessment. This blog article explores how to apply the plan of salvation to counseling concerns when working with believers as a professional counselor.

The Plan of Salvation

Martyn Lloyd-Jones envisions the meeting of the Godhead in eternity past this way: Before the foundation of the world the Father authored the plan of salvation. The Son was appointed to carry out the plan by taking on flesh, being born as a human, and eventually taking on the sins of the world. He would die unjustly via crucifixion and then be raised from death three days afterwords. Jesus would accomplish the work the Father sent him to do, and he would then ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Almighty. After his ascension, Christ would send the Spirit to indwell and strengthen each believer as a downpayment for what believers would ultimately receive in the presence of God.

The first words Jesus uttered in the High Priestly Prayer is the hour has come. The plan of salvation that the Triune God laid out in eternity past unfolds in history. The hour is not an arbitrary point in history. It does not occur as happenstance or in some peradventure manner. It is a specific point in time, predestined by the Godhead to come to past in the exact moment and manner in which it did. Jesus prays this prayer right before going into the Garden of Gethsemane where he will be arrested, turned over to the authorities, both of the Sanhedrin and the Romans, and eventually tried unjustly and crucified. Christ said several things while dying on the cross. In one statement he cried out loud, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This very moment too was decreed in eternity past, when the sins of the world were to fall on Jesus Christ. Nighttime had indeed fallen.

The Plan of Salvation: The Blessings of God

For the believer in Christ, God’s plan of salvation bestows all the blessings and power that one could hope for, but not come close to imagining. In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). God has lavished us with all the riches of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through Christ, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:14). In his prayer to the Father, Christ states that of all the ones the Father gave him for purposes of their salvation, he lost not one of them. This truth applies to believers today as it did to the disciples at this time. The Apostle Paul claims for I am sure that neither death nor live, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

What also applies to us is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ ascends to heaven and sits down at the Father’s right hand. He had already told his disciples earlier that it was a blessing that he was returning to the Father because only then could he send the Spirit of Truth. As believers when we believed in Christ as our savior, we became indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we can be strengthen by him to live as God calls us to live. In addition to all of these blessings and many more not touched on here, God works his power toward us with the same might by which he raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes that many Christians live fearful and weaken lives because they do not understand and thereby do not access God’s plan of salvation and all its blessings and power that are available to them who believe in Christ.

The Plan of Salvation: In the Counseling Room

Although night fell at the crucifixion, sunrise came and the light of day shone brightly the third day after Christ was laid in the tomb. The resurrection placed God’s stamp of approval on the life of Christ, illuminating the fact that he had accomplished God’s work, borne the sins of the world, and ushered in the New Covenant of salvation in his name. One of the final sayings of Christ while on the cross was it is finished. The Son of God completed what the Father had sent him to do. All the blessings from God now accrue to those who believe in Christ for their salvation. These blessings belong to us believers to draw upon daily to navigate the ups-and-downs of life.

What does this mean in the counseling room as Christian clients and I work together? First, for prospective clients who are believers, it means that you bring into the counseling room with you all these blessings and power that are freely bestowed upon you when you believed in Christ as your savior. God’s power is available to you every hour of everyday. Many times, what we lack as Christians is a full understanding of what the plan of salvation means for us. We lack an understanding of salvation, its necessity and how it came about through Christ. And we fail to understand the abundance of blessings available to us through Christ. We have access to God through Christ that we can claim with boldness and confidence.

The Plan of Salvation: What It Doesn’t Mean

Just before Christ turned his eyes to heaven to speak forth the High Priestly Prayer, he told his disciples in the world you will have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he has overcome the world. What the plan of salvation doesn’t necessarily promise us is a rosy life without any difficulties or concerns. As one who experienced a stroke several months back, I can attest to that fact. Like all individuals, Christians lose their jobs, go through financial difficulties, contract cancer, and face all the difficulties that life throws at them on a daily basis. Hence, Christians clients bring many of those concerns to the counseling room. Counseling does not and cannot provide clients with a guarantee that their lives will be problem free. In fact, God’s Word promises us that we will face tribulation in this world (John 16). Indeed, God designs difficulties in life to test our faith.


Counseling from a Christian perspective is not about discounting clients’ concerns and replacing them with a theology discussion. Clients’ concerns are front and center when we work together. However, the one thing I do believe is that as Christians, clients and I possess a foundation on which we stand to navigate our way through the uncertainties of life. As believers, we can explore how to access the promises of God through his Word to embrace the power he has granted us in Christ to work through challenges that life throws at us. Although there are no human guarantees, God promises us he is with us through everything we face in this life.

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


Foundations for Christian Counseling: The Greatest Commandment

And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)


I’ve said before that I consider myself to be Christian who happens to work as a counselor. Such a claim may appear to deemphasize either my being a counselor or a Christian while highlighting the other. That conclusion would be wrong. Reformed Orthodox Christianity forms my worldview, so it is part of everything I do, including my work as a counselor. If the statement deemphasizes anything, it’s the sacred/secular dichotomy. Individuals live and work within the framework of their worldview whether or not they are aware of it. I don’t think of Christian Counseling as a trade name or a brand. I seek by God’s grace to live out my worldview in everything I pursue.

What Christ called The Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37) provides solid ground for a Christian worldview. I believe it is important for clients to know where I stand and what they might encounter by working with me as their counselor. The worldview by which we live is not something we can set aside at our convenience for a the purpose of expediency.

The Counselor’s Perspective

First of all this Commandment means much more to me than my role as a counselor. It informs the way I should approach all of life in every sphere of engagement. That means spiritually, morally, ethically, and mentally. It pertains to every sphere of life – relationships, work or career, individual pursuits, and setting of priorities. There’s no sacred/secular dichotomy here, no five o’clock world where I clock out on some things and then live another existence. There’s no compartmentalizing of life’s endeavors where my spiritual life is totally divorced from the work I do.

The Commandment calls on the believer to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Biblically, these terms are difficult to define in specific ways. The heart is usually thought of as the seat of understanding, as well as the seat of the emotions and will. The soul pertains to what some call the living powers. We are to offer our lives to God. The mind addresses the intellectual life and powers of an individual. Taken all together, the Commandment adjures us to love God with all our powers and faculties, that is with everything that makes us into who we are individually. After all, God created us, not as a mass collective, but as individuals. Hence, The Greatest Commandment calls on us to love God with all that we are.

All of this means that everything I do must be done with this Commandment in mind, including the work I do as a counselor. Although we all have our good and bad days, my hope and prayer is that what individual clients encounter in my office, me, is the person who lives out this Commandment. Because it informs how I engage all of life, it is a bed rock foundation for my worldview. And it means that I am to engage and treat all my clients the way in which God has engaged and treated me. Anything less is not sufficient.

The Client’s Experience

If The Greatest Commandment provides a foundation for the counselor’s worldview, then what does this mean for clients? Responding to the lawyer Christ added a second commandment that he said was like the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Seeking to test Jesus, the scribes and lawyers ask him: Who is my neighbor? Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). From this parable we are to understand that anyone in need is our neighbor. When clients enter counseling with me, I’m called upon to fulfill this commandment. I am to consider my clients’ needs as important as my own.

This is something that I hope Christian clients, at least to some extent, already understand. A common ground exists between Christian clients and me as their counselor. This is no less true, moreover, for clients who are not believers in Christ. The thing lacking between me and non-Christian clients is that common ground I have with clients who are believers in Christ. I and non-Christian clients may have worldview clashes that play out in values conflicts. This is why it is important that all clients know my worldview before entering counseling with me. Nonetheless, believer or unbeliever, any client who enters my office is my neighbor whose needs I should consider as important as my own.


In his response to the lawyer’s question regarding The Greatest Commandment, Christ concluded: On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. The Greatest Commandment provides a rock solid foundation for a Christian worldview, informing all spheres of life. It is not a foundation merely for work as a counselor, but for all of life itself. A counselor who is a Christian lives and works within the framework of a worldview that he believes to be true – the Truth. As such, I’m to live and work as God has called me to do, and to love my neighbor as myself. Called to understand the agape love of God, I’m called to love my neighbor as God loves me. This I can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit strengthening my inner being. It is not merely a commandment that Christians somehow obey by their own powers and faculties. It calls us to a relationship with the Living God – to know him as Abba Father (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). A Christian’s approach to all of life is a spiritual one. The work of counseling, like any other part of life, is a spiritual endeavor.

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


Foundations for Christian Counseling: Client Expectations


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.


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


Group Therapy for Social Anxiety


Anxiety disorders are common among the population. When the various types of anxiety disorders are taken all together, they represent one of the largest reasons that people enter therapy. For those counselors who work in a private practice or agency setting, they will most likely deal with clients who experience various types of anxiety disorders, better described as phobias.

Although there are a variety of strategies for treating anxiety disorders, the primary way in which phobias are treated in counseling situations is through what is called exposure treatments. Individuals are directly exposed to, that is must encounter, the phobic situation that leads to their severe anxious responses, responses that can and often do entail panic attacks. For example, if a person has a severe phobia regarding dogs, then therapy will involve helping the individual be in the close proximity of a dog, even to the point of developing the ability to pet a dog. The best way for individuals to conquer severe phobias of elevators is simply to get on an elevator and ride it up and down over and over again.

Because therapy entails supporting individuals to physically engage that which causes their phobic reactions, such treatments are called exposure. Individuals expose themselves to that which they fear the most. The basic premise of exposure treatment is that once people are in the presence of the feared phobic object or situation, they can learn to stay in its presence, seeing that what they fear the most will not occur. While being exposed to phobic stimuli, individuals who experience anxiety disorders will be asked not to utilize compensatory and avoidance strategies that they normally use to curb their anxiety. The longer they can stay in the presence of the object or contexts that lead to their phobic reactions, they will see that their anxiety will begin to dissipate because what they catastrophize about the phobic situation does not come true.

Research results indicate that exposure treatments for phobias are highly effective. In fact, in most cases, unless people engage such exposure treatments, they rarely will overcome their phobias to the point that they can better function in the presence of what leads to their fears. It is not that some people cannot overcome their anxieties apart from exposure treatment. It is just highly doubtful that they can. Even if they do, it takes a much longer time to overcome such fears, and the relapses tend to be quicker and more numerous where exposure treatment is not used.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, also called social phobia, has at its roots the fear of negative evaluation by others. To some extent, most of us have experienced the fear of negative evaluation in social settings, but for individuals who struggle with social anxiety, the fear of negative evaluation reaches the extent that their functioning becomes severely impaired. For example, individuals will avoid and cease attending situations that involve social gatherings, especially social situations in which they do not know most of the people present. They may enter a social situation but stay close to a friend or friends whom they know, and then hang out on the perimeters of the social context so as to avoid interacting with people whom they don’t know. Such avoidance strategies are called compensatory strategies because they allow individuals to find ways to curtail their anxieties. While curtailing anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing, compensatory strategies prevent individuals from engaging experiences that they would prefer to engage. The ultimate compensatory strategy for social anxiety is when individuals consistently turn down social invitations, thereby avoiding social interaction all together.

The problem with such strategies is that many people do not feel good about turning down social invitations. It is something that they would actually prefer to do if they weren’t so anxious about the social contexts they must engage. The aim of therapy for social anxiety is not to turn people into party animals where they are the life of the party. The goal of such work is simply to help clients reach their own comfort levels, deciding to what degree they want to become more relaxed in social outings.

Many times social anxiety is cast in the discussion of introversion and extraversion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Introversion and extraversion have nothing to do with social anxiety. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, irrespective of how our society highly regards extraversion. The aim of therapy is not to help one evolve from being an introvert to and extravert. Introverts as well as extraverts can function comfortably in social situations. The aim of therapy is to help individuals become more comfortable in social gatherings where their anxiety and compensatory strategies have become pronounced. Socially anxious people simply want to develop the ability to walk into social gatherings without being hampered by anxiety. They want to experience the comfort of meeting people they don’t know in social contexts. They may want to introduce themselves to people, network at parties and other social contexts, or carry on simple conversations at social gatherings.

Fear of Negative Evaluation

As stated above, the root fear of those who experience social anxiety is the fear of negative evaluation. From a cognitive behavioral perspective, people hold beliefs about what they fear will occur in social contexts. Socially anxious people state their fears in several ways, which help therapists get at their thinking related to social contexts. One client may say, people will think I’m weird somehow. Another client might say, people will think I’m unattractive. Still others believe such things as people will think I look funny – sound funny – dress funny – etc. Therapists hear clients say things like I will feel like a fool trying to carry on a conversation, especially with someone I don’t know. Others might say: I don’t like meeting people; I don’t like parties; I don’t enjoy introducing myself to people I don’t know.  Again, there is nothing wrong with these statements and actions in-and-of-themselves. If people prefer not to meet others, if they don’t like parties, and if they don’t care about turning down invitations to social events, then that’s fine. Individuals, however, come to therapy because they believe their anxiety regarding social situations is over the top. Due to their fears, they can’t do the things they would prefer to engage. They may desire to make new friends, date different people, and talk more to individuals they don’t know that well at social gatherings. Hence, they want to make some changes that can help them become more comfortable in social contexts.

Researchers have developed several Fear of Negative Evaluation (FNE) scales that therapists can use with clients who experience social anxiety. Most of these scales contain statements that clients can rate on a Likert-like measurement. For example, clients can rate from 1 to 5 with one meaning not at all and 5 meaning highly true, the statement I am extremely sensitive to what people think about me. Rather than creating some major quantitative data, these scales can be used qualitatively to generate conversations between therapists and clients. Through these conversations, therapists can obtain a good grasp of how their clients function in social settings. Additionally therapists can learn how their clients utilize avoidance and compensatory strategies when it comes to social engagements.

Clients’ beliefs about social contexts and the compensatory strategies they use  to avoid such settings are the very things that must be challenged via exposure treatment. The question becomes: how is exposure treatment best done for those who experience social anxiety?

Group Therapy for Social Anxiety

Group Design for Working with Clients Who Experience Social Anxiety

There are several pathways to help clients face their anxieties about social situations. As part of their therapy counselors can ask them to attend meet-up groups, social gatherings, office parties, and any social context where there will be people clients do not know. Therapists and clients can agree on homework assignments in which clients take on the tasks of introducing themselves to people they don’t know. If clients are in classroom situations, they can agree to speak up in class a specified number of times. Such social arrangements are useful but can be difficult to control, monitor, and structure so that the client gets optimal benefit from taking on the task.

One of the major tools used in working with individuals who experience social anxiety is group therapy. The group setting itself creates a built-in form of exposure for clients. Groups can be structured along several lines. They can be non-specific encounter groups that comprise some members who experience social anxiety and other members who do not have such concerns. Such a group is representative of most social settings clients will enter.

Group settings where all members experience social anxiety is another form of group therapy. I believe that for those clients who have never experienced group work, these specified groups are a good entrance point into this kind of work. Group meetings should be weekly for a specified period of time, for example six weeks. Groups should be limited to no more than eight members. Groups comprise people that each member does not know. Hence, each week members must enter the group room where people exist with whom they have not made contact. This act alone exposes clients to one form of fear they experience about social situations. Additionally, group activities will provide each client with opportunities to act and speak in front of the other group members. Such activities expose group members to some of their worse fears: speaking in front of people, being observed by others, and then getting feedback from all the participants. Moreover, the very act of giving feedback provides exposure for group members who can learn that feedback is neither negative evaluation nor being overtly judgmental.

Role of the Group Therapist(s)

Therapists know that socially anxious individuals excessively fear such social engagements where they must talk, interact, and in some way be observed by others. Therapists must hold a space for each participant so that all group members can feel safe, respected, attended to, and not judged. Therapists should prevent personal attacks among members, which is a cardinal rule for all group therapy, but it is especially important for social anxiety groups because such personal attacks come across as judgmental, which is the very thing group members fear. Personal attacks, however, are not the same as personal disagreements. Group members can learn that disagreements among members are neither negative evaluations nor judgmental acts on the part of others. Therapists should guide and channel any disagreements that arise in constructive ways, perhaps teaching people how to voice disagreements in ways that do not sound or look like personal attacks. Group process will allow group members to give honest but non-judgmental feedback to other members in the group. Group participants will hopefully emulate the therapists’ ways of holding a safe space for clients, and begin doing the same for each other as they interact during group activities.

Therapists should take on the role of screening group members. Although not all group dynamics include screening, I think for a specified type of group, such as one designed for social anxiety, therapists should screen clients with a one-on-one interview before admitting them into the group. The primary focus of the group, and the primary concern of each group member should be social anxiety. Therapists should also administer a short FNE scale for each group member. Therapists should also create some type of qualitative feedback form for group members to complete so as to ascertain how clients believe the group therapy setting worked for them.  

Individuals in a therapeutic group eventually get to know one another and thereby become more comfortable with one another. Although for most process groups, such comfort is a good thing that can lead to group cohesion, this presents a problem for groups designed to treat social anxiety. As members become comfortable with one another, the group setting begins to lose its exposure power. Once a social anxiety group loses its exposure edge, then how does therapy proceed so that clients can continue to work on their socially anxious concerns?

Social Gatherings of Various Groups

If therapists are working with more than one group designed to treat social anxiety, then they have a built-in mechanism for creating social gatherings. Following the six-week group therapy session, clients can be asked to attend social gatherings comprising members of other groups who have sought to deal with their social anxiety. In these social gatherings, members can introduce themselves to people they don’t know, and then talk to, and interact with individuals they don’t know. The caution for designing and setting up these social gatherings entails the logistics that must be navigated so that members will feel safe in the social gatherings. Informed consents should be developed, and therapists should work with their specific groups, discussing expectations for the social gatherings. Should they be totally voluntary or required? As therapists work with numerous groups, past group members can attend the social gatherings to provide a good mix of individuals present at the gatherings. Perhaps past members can take a couple of minutes to speak in front of the attendees at the social gathering, demonstrating how they have come to manage their social anxiety. As social gatherings continue, they will grow in number, and clients can continue to follow up by attending the gatherings as long as they feel it necessary to attend. Such social gatherings can be treated as booster sessions for past group members.


Existential concerns exist with social anxiety just as they exist with practically any struggle through which human beings undergo. As stated above, those who experience social anxiety have as their greatest fear that other people will somehow negatively evaluate them. The simple fact is the world comprises people who do negatively evaluate others, whether or not those who are doing the evaluating know anything at all about the people on whom they are dumping. Given that negative evaluators do exist in the world, the question becomes is how much power does one want to grant such evaluators. This is an existential question. Another existential concern revolves around the question why should individuals care if people negatively evaluate them. Therapy for those who experience social anxiety does not include a promise that they will not experience negative evaluation from someone. Helping clients manage their social anxiety and become more realistic about their catastrophic beliefs and ensuing fears can have the added benefit of helping clients adjust to a world where there are some ugly things that happen out there.

At Contemplations, I hope to begin a series of group counseling experiences for those struggling with social anxiety. Be sure to check out this website for more information regarding my practice.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/February 14th, 2020


Counseling and Valuation


In last month’s blog, Launching Pad, I returned to five themes I had previously discussed on this blog over the years that included mind, meaning making, thought/action, finitude/humility, and worldview. To this list of five themes I added a sixth that I call valuation. I will focus on that sixth theme in this month’s blog. Valuation in counseling involves the work that clients do when they seek to clarify their core beliefs and values. Having clarified as best they can their core values, then the work of counseling for clients focuses on what their lives will look like day-to-day as they choose to live in alignment with their chosen values.

Two Levels of Questions About Valuation

In their work, Motivational Interviewing, William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick provide a list of one hundred values that they use with clients for value exploration. Psychotherapists use the list in a variety of ways, but for the most part, therapists and clients approach the list as a card sort whereby clients rate their top five or top ten values. These top ratings then become grist for the mill in therapy sessions regarding clients’ valuations and what their valuations mean about how they go about engaging day-to-day life. If I claim to embrace a set of core values around which I will live my life, then what will my life look like when I in fact seek to live out those core values on a daily basis?. As I look into my life, am I in fact seeking to live out the values I claim to embrace? If not, what is preventing me from living out my stated values? Do I need clarity on the means by which I will pursue certain ends pertaining to my values?

Other questions at a deeper level come to mind around values exploration work. If consistently I’m finding that I’m not acting upon the values I purport to hold, then do I in fact truly hold such values? Perhaps I need to explore what truly are my core values. Valuations should lead us to act and live in certain ways that align with our proposed core values and beliefs. Values are both beliefs we hold and ends toward which we move. Our ways of living out our core values are the means by which we move toward our desired ends. Consequently, it is important that we are clear as to what our values in fact are. If we’re not, then the work of counseling begins there, in values clarification. If we claim to have clarity as to our purported values, then the work of counseling becomes about how we live out those values. Beyond the counseling room, how we live in alignment with our core values becomes the way we live out our lives. Living in alignment with our values becomes our life work.

This month’s blog will explore value exploration work when we are clear or somewhat clear on our values, but we’re not sure as to why we are not living out those values. Or perhaps, we are not clear as to the means by which we are to live out our purported values. Usually the major obstacle that prevents our living in alignment with our values is our own self.

I will resume this discussion with the first blog of 2020 (01/14/20) and explore the deeper work of values exploration in counseling when we are not even sure as to what our values are.

Values Exploration in the Counseling Room

What Stands in the Way?

In my work as a therapist, I utilize the list that Miller and Rollnick proffer in their book, Motivational Interviewing. The subtitle of their work is Helping People Change. I have no doubt that one of the major ways that people can bring about change in their lives is to explore what they truly believe and value. Such changes occur on several levels. If I have a good hold on what my values are, then I may enter counseling to seek help as to how to follow and live those values out. As a client, I might be dissatisfied with the way my life is going for the simple reason that I have a good idea that I’m not living the way I would fully like to live. I’m not seeing in my life the fruit that should come from the ideas, beliefs, and values that I hold. Such a personal realization might lead me to seek help, input, and feedback from people I trust, which might entail entering a therapeutic relationship with someone. At this stage of how I see things, my work in counseling most likely will entail looking at more fruitful ways that I can bring about the desired ends I seek for my life. That is, I will want to search out how I can best bring about the fulfillment of my values in the way I hope to live day-to-day.

As such my counseling work will involve searching out what exactly it is that stands in the way of my living out what I claim to value. There are several discoveries that can come from such work. One of the obstacles that might be in my way is I myself. If we truly want to step into our core beliefs and values and live fully the way we desire to live, many times such decisions involve taking risks and making changes that take us out of the comfort zone of where we merely settle for what we can gain out of life with the least amount of effort. Such a dynamic is something we have to recognize as being a part of human nature. We have to become aware that many times we settle for things simply because it’s easier to do so, or because settling entails less risk. Becoming aware of our human nature can help us decide if we want to change things. Such awareness brings on choice and responsibility. We can stay where we are, or we can choose a different path. The problem is that if we stay where we are, we are already aware that while it feels safer and easier, such a choice doesn’t bring the fulfillment we desire in our lives. One of the major obstacles in living out our values is our self. I have seen this time and time again in the counseling room, as well as in my own life.

What Changes Are Necessary?

Once we become aware that we are the thing that’s in our own way, then it becomes more clear as to what changes we need to make. Perhaps it’s that job that has grown stagnate even though it pays the rent, puts food on the table, and contributes to a savings account. Although we value such responsible actions, perhaps the weightiness of the lack of fulfillment related to the job is starting to outweigh the benefits the job provides. Values exploration also entails how we value the way we have to go about making changes. Transitions in life (see here and here) are an important and weighty experience for all of us. We don’t merely willy-nilly decide to make a major change in our lives without thought and a plan. But we do need to know and decide that in fact we want to make a change. Good sense and common sense can help us decide some legitimate ways to make our desired transitions.

Perhaps it’s a stagnate relationship that is weighing us down and preventing us from following out the goals we have set for our lives. Staying in a relationship simply out of comfort is one of the more common experiences I have seen in people who enter the counseling room. Likewise, not knowing how to instill life into a relationship is another common experience I encounter in clients. Of course, making changes in relationships involves more than just one person, but such exploration can become the work of counseling. Relationship changes are difficult. Such explorations and discoveries are some of the most difficult we encounter and try to make happen. Like anything else, such changes take courage, the willingness not to settle.

Countless other things can stand in the way of living out our values in a fulfilling way that require changes. Finances, where we live, how we balance work and leisure, spiritual beliefs, the pursuit of meaning and purpose are just a few of the areas we can explore in the counseling room or with trusted mentors. We first, however, must become aware of what stands in the way, particularly if we are the ones standing in our own way. And then, we must become clear on the desired changes that must take place if we seek to live in alignment with our stated values. What are the ends, and what are the means to reach those ends?


Before closing, I want to state emphatically that there is much more to this discussion. Yes, I can be in my own way, particularly not wanting to take risks or put forth the required effort to make changes in my life that align with my values and goals. And yes, I need to become clear on what the specific changes entail that I need to make in order to align with my values and goals. I need to be clear on the ends and the means to reach those ends.

But there is another caveat to this work of values exploration that emerges in counseling. What if I simply don’t know what in fact are my core values? What if I lack clarity as to what are my core values, and I don’t know how to go about discovering what they are? Perhaps I’m the obstacle in my way, not because I don’t want to risk, but because I simply don’t know what I believe in my core. Perhaps, like many of us, I have inculcated values I claim to hold, but they are truly not my core values. Perhaps I haven’t taken the time to question values I say I hold, and decide if they are in fact my values. What prevents me from living a fulfilled life is not the unwillingness to take a risk on certain values, but comes with the fact that I simply don’t know what I value. Such questions and realizations are another aspect of values exploration. It is the type of work that I thoroughly enjoy undertaking with clients. This second, and what I call a deeper type of work in values exploration, is what I will write about with the first blog of the New Year 2020.

Suffice it to say for now, individuals can have a clear picture of the values they hold, and the kind of life they want for themselves, but they are not sure what prevents them from getting to their desired ends. They need to be clear on the obstacles in the way and the means they must take to reach their desired ends. Such work is worthwhile and important work. And it can be fulfilling work, both for clients and for counselors.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/October 14th, 2019


Philosophical Counseling


This month’s blog article kicks off the beginning of my seventh year of blogging for Contemplations. Interestingly enough, I believe it has taken me seven years to fully formulate how I conceptualize my practice. Over the last several months I have written several blog articles that deal with the theme of means and ends. (They can be found here and here.) Additionally, I also have written some blogs on meaning making and the good life. My practice, Contemplations, began as one offering an existential approach to counseling. As such, rather than operating off the medical model, my practice sought to engage clients along the lines of philosophical thought. The aim of my practice is to utilize philosophical ideas brought to the nitty-gritty of living life day-to-day, rather than some academic conversations around philosophical topics. Philosophical counseling became for me an idea that I wanted to explore.

Philosophical Counseling

The Search for Meaning and Purpose

The philosophical counseling movement began and took root nearly three decades ago. Although I was drawn to such a form of counseling, I had some concerns about how a private practice around the notion of philosophical counseling might operate. As an approach to counseling, it sounds more like what many people designate as coaching. The idea of being a professional coach did not appeal to me. Philosophical counseling as an inchoate idea began for me several decades ago when I read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I knew I wanted to shape my practice around people’s search for meaning, but I didn’t know to call it philosophical counseling. As such, I envisioned my practice as involving a place where people can come to explore what their lives are all about. Rather than a technical practice, utilizing specific interventions for diagnostic matters, I established Contemplations as a place for people to take a step back, slow down their pace, and embrace some time to reflect on matters that were important to them. My practice, then, would entail the primary work of exploration. Since I opened Contemplations, I have spoken with numerous clients who wanted to explore the idea of a meaningful and purposeful life. Whether their exploration focused on career, finances, relationships, or family, they wanted a time and place to formulate their thoughts. Carving out a meaningful existence is important to people. A counseling practice can focus on such a search.

Encountering Life Difficulties and Obstacles

There is the reality that people enter counseling because they face difficulties in life that they are not sure how to navigate. Such difficulties come in all variations. Individuals may experience obstacles to the goals they set for themselves. Some difficulties entail simply the normal stuff that life throws at us. Other difficulties may entail huge barriers we bump against that we weren’t expecting. They become formal foes about which we don’t know what to do. Although philosophical counseling can most definitely help people problem-solve so as to navigate barriers that life places along our paths, another angle to this approach helps clients reflect on what such problems in life mean, how they deal with these problems, and what they learn about themselves as they seek to navigate the difficulties they encounter. Philosophical counseling then focuses on process as much or more than it does on content. In so doing, it doesn’t obviate problem solving, but it does help prioritize clients’ understanding of matters before too quickly delving into problem solving. This approach to counseling can help clients reflect on how they deal with setbacks, illnesses, losses, and failures that occur as they pursue their life goals.

Life Transitions

Life transitions (see here, here, and here) have been a focus of the work I engage in my practice. Transitions cover the gamut of human experience. Such changes in life as graduating from college and entering the job market, changing jobs, moving to a new city, marriage and starting a family, divorce and ending relationships, and retirement can produce upheaval and anxieties in people’s lives. Counseling can help individuals navigate these transitions as life brings them on. In such transitions, the search for meaning never fades away. The manner in which we take on these transitions will say a lot about the way we view life and the principles by which we live. Philosophical counseling can help individuals shape their thoughts around such concerns.

Life Goals: Means, Ends, and Valuation

Individuals set goals for themselves. They enter counseling for various reasons regarding the goals they hope to achieve. They may not be certain as to what their goals actually are. They may have originally thought that they had certain ends they set for themselves, but have come to question whether or not their desired ends are truly ones they desire. If they are clear as to the ends they set for themselves, then they may want to enter counseling to discuss the best pathways to their ends. Such pathways I call means. Means and ends entail a process that people can embrace to obtain ideas as to the best ways to accomplish their ends. Discussing means to ends also helps individuals clarify their ends. Anytime we discuss ends in counseling, we are also discussing evaluation. Values exploration has become an important part of the work I want to do in counseling. Although people may have an idea as to what their core values are, as they explore those they may come to realize that many of their values they have inculcated without personally reflecting upon the question as to whether such designated values are truly ones they embrace. Again, a philosophical approach to counseling can aid people in these explorations.


If counseling entails clients clarifying their values and searching out their goals, then it may very well entail some exploration into a client’s spirituality or spiritual beliefs. Contemplations is a practice where clients’ spiritual beliefs are welcome. Many individuals embrace some form of spirituality to navigate their lives. Their spirituality informs them as to their values and the principles by which they live. Likewise, individuals can enter therapy when they encounter difficulties with and doubts about their spiritual beliefs. The counseling room is a place where such explorations can take place. Moreover, spirituality can, and most likely will, inform all the areas of focus that have been delineated in this blog article. People draw on their core spiritual beliefs to work through life difficulties, transitions, and goals, and especially in their search for meaning and purpose. As such, exploration of one’s spirituality involves discussions that are personal, meaningful, and philosophical.


I’ve been asked by several people over the years about why I chose this path for my practice rather than working with populations where people experience severe depression, debilitating anxiety, or life-altering psychotic disorders. First, I am glad that there are people who want to work in mental health clinics and mental health hospital settings. The work done in those settings is highly needed and rewarding, I’ve done a little of that work along the way, but I decided it was not the type of work on which I wanted to fully focus. Second, sometimes the search for meaning and purpose can leave people feeling highly anxious and deeply depressed. I’ve worked with such clients on more than several occasions. It is not as though these concerns do not emerge in the kind of work I do. Third, and I think this addresses the premise behind some of the questions relating to setting, the work I do is just as important as the work done in mental health clinics and hospitals. The people searching out this work encounter struggles in life that counseling can help them navigate just like anyone else. I also believe that those who experience severe depression and debilitating anxiety also experience crises in meaning. Although the work involved may include more clinical interventions before such clients can face existential issues, their existential crises are real. Philosophical counseling is an approach that counselors can embrace to pursue and obtain a fulfilling practice. The human condition places all of us before the vagaries of life whereby we deal with time, meaning, and fulfillment. Human beings are meaning makers. Why wouldn’t therapists seek to work with clients who search for a life that is fulfilling?

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/August 14th, 2019


Counseling as a Science of Human Action


Two years ago to this date, I authored a blog about human action and personal journeys (here). Since that time, my thoughts have taken on more shape as to how I think human action, an idea from the great economist Ludwig von Mises, readily applies to the field of counseling. Although a concept used by Mises in the field of economics, it equally applies to the field of counseling because Mises saw human action as an approach not only to economics but to life as a whole. Human action is not a conceptual tool merely for economists. It’s an idea that addresses how human beings approach life. In some ways Mises’ idea is similar to some of Alfred Adler’s work, and more contemporarily, to some of the ideas found in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Likewise, although Mises spoke about the science of human action, he held strongly to the notion that economics was not and should not be conceptualized as a science in the framework of the natural or physical sciences. Both Mises and F.A. Hayek, another great Austrian economist, addressed the notion of scientism, whereby fields that deal with human action seek to emulate the natural sciences rather than carving out their own domain utilizing the proper tools for the study of that domain. As such Mises was leery of the emphasis on strict empiricism, materialism, determinism, and reductionism in conceptualizing human beings and human action. Evaluation, meaning, and purpose ensconced in time set the human being apart from other animals. I concur with Mises, and I believe just as he viewed economics, that the field of counseling is not a hard science, as designated by the fields of physics, chemistry, and biology. Although these fields make their important contributions to understanding human nature, the human being is more than the sum of his physical and biochemical parts, and his existence should not be reduced to any material part of his being. The use of his mind sets him apart from all other animals. In agreement with Adler, Mises posits the human being’s teleological actions. Why I would employ notions garnered from Mises rather than being a straightforward Adlerian is because I think Mises captured what he calls the science of human action in a way that, at least for me, is more applicable than several Adlerian concepts from which I wouldn’t draw. Likewise, I believe ACT has similar concepts that contribute to my conceptualization of human action. Unlike ACT, however, I’m not a behaviorist.  This blog article builds on the earlier blog I wrote and delineates how I would use Mises’ concepts as a science of human action to guide me in my work with clients.

Human Action

Mises posited a simple axiom: human act. In his approach to the science of human action, he sought to explain what human action is all about and how human beings use action to obtain what they seek and hope for in life. From an economic perspective, Mises postulated that human beings seek to exchange one set of circumstances for another set of circumstances that they view as more valuable, providing them the kind of life they desire. Hence, human beings evaluate. They exchange something for something else that they value more. Although Mises was an economist, he was also a social scientist, so he didn’t view human action in merely economic terms as we think of that field today. He sought in the science of human action how we could better come to understand the truths of human nature. The human being is an idea generator. His ideas guide him through life.

Ideas, Beliefs, Values, and Actions

Individuals act toward certain goals based on ideas and beliefs they hold and evaluations they make. Hence the goals they set are generated by beliefs and values they hold, beliefs and values that will lead them to the kind of lives they hope for themselves. In seeking to carve out their lives based on what they believe and how they evaluate things in the world, human beings act on what they hold to be true and valuable to themselves. In other words, they seek certain valued ends. Ends or goals that human beings seek require means to get to those ends. The actions that human beings take are the means to bring about the ends for which they hope, aim, and value. Beliefs and evaluations mean we use our mind to carve out our existences, setting us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.


As human beings we are ensconced in time. We possess only a limited amount of it to accomplish what we hope to achieve. In making plans or setting goals, we must take into account that to reach the ends we hope for, a certain amount of time must be expended. We cannot escape that human truth. Questions revolving around time cause other values to come into play. How much time am I willing to expend to reach a certain goal? Is the amount of time required worth the trade off for seeking that end? Are there means I can use to reduce the amount of time it takes to reach a specific goal? If not, then am I willing to embrace the value of delayed gratification. Time is an important consideration on several levels. Time is a resource with which we are limited. Time is the pressure cooker that heats up our willingness to expend energy that we put into seeking certain ends. It is human nature to want the things we desire as quickly as we can get them with the least amount of effort expended. Becoming aware of this characteristic in our nature, we can choose to do something about it. The something we can choose is delayed gratification. We exchange the discomfort of longer amounts of time and greater amounts of effort required for goals that we believe will be worthwhile in the long run. Long- run living as opposed to short-run living is an exchange we make in life based on values we’re willing to embrace. Obviously, the older we get, the more the factor time plays in our decisions. Time is always the pressure point in the decisions we make for how we want to live our lives.


One of the major characteristics that set the human being apart from other animals is the use of our mind in making choices. The choices we make are signposts regarding the beliefs we hold and the evaluations we make about things in the world. We choose our ends, and then we choose the means to accomplish those ends in the most efficient manner we can. If we come to realize that our chosen ends are not necessarily the ones we truly desire, then we change our mind, and thereby, change our course in life. These changes cost effort and time. If we come to realize that the evaluations we make are not necessarily the values we thought we held, then a change in valuation leads to life changes as well. As we navigate the sinuous path called life, we are constantly faced with choices we have to make. Do I truly value A instead of B? If I thought I valued A but came to realize I value B, then what does that mean in terms of means and ends? What if I set my mind on an end, and then realize it’s not an end that I truly desire? Such changes in beliefs, values, and goals can lead to particular tweaks applied to our navigations, or they may lead to revolutions as to how we determine to pursue life. Along the way, there are always the choices we make and the questions revolving around the payoffs and trade offs that go with those choices.

Individual Meaning and Purpose

Another major characteristic that sets human beings off from other animals is our desire to pursue a meaningful and purposeful life. We set ends for ourselves because we value those ends. Where we want to get to, what we want to achieve, and all we hope to accomplish means something to us on a deep level. A common experience we encounter is that as we set ends and accomplish them, those ends themselves can become means that keep us moving on toward what we consider greater and deeper goals. All in all, ends and the means we use to accomplish them hopefully will lead us to a place in life that is meaningful for us. Values, meaning, and purpose go hand-in-hand and drive each individual toward a set of goals. As such, they are highly individualistic as opposed to collectivistic. Each individual must decide what he or she wants from life. Although we are interconnected, no other individual can ultimately decide the course of our lives for us. If we give that decision over to someone else, then we have given over our life to someone else. In doing so, we become less than human. Mises was highly individualistic in his formulations, and so am I.


What does a science of human action mean for my work as a counselor? I too have chosen ends. I do not work in a hospital setting or in what may be considered severe mental illness settings. Although that kind of work is valuable, I leave it to those who choose to do it. I work in a private practice geared toward individuals who are experiencing certain transitions in their lives. Such transitions lead them to question what’s next in their lives. They may need to explore what means they can use to accomplish the ends they hope to achieve. Then again, they may not be that clear as to the ends they want to pursue. Or they may need to start with clarifying exactly what their values are before they begin moving forward in their lives. In their work with me they can take the time to reflect – to contemplate – how their beliefs and values interact with the goals they want to set for themselves. They may need to stare the pressure cooker of time in the face and deal with how much or how little of that resource they possess. Perhaps time is teaching them the lesson to exchange short-run living for long-run living in the form of delayed gratification. They may be faced with the struggle of radically changing what they thought they believed and valued. Perhaps it’s time for them to search for and reflect on what is ultimately meaningful and purposeful for them. This is the kind of work I do.

Science is a systematized body of knowledge. What Mises designated as a science of human action does not draw on the methods and tools utilized in the natural sciences. Counseling is its own domain and field of endeavor. It is not physics, nor is it chemistry. To seek to emulate those fields would entail scientism rather than being scientific. The field of counseling possesses its own value in what it offers individuals. The counseling setting is a space where people can reflect on what they want to do and how they can move toward what they desire for their lives. Humans act. One action is to enter therapy to reflect, clarify, contemplate, and then evaluate so as to move toward certain goals. This is all part of human action. The conclusions that people reach in counseling are not left at the door as they exit the counseling process. Like anything else that human beings engage, clients will decide what value counseling played in their lives. They will act on it accordingly as they see fit.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/July 14th 2019


Postgrads: Considerations Upon Entering the Field of Professional Counseling


As a Licensed Professional Counselor with Supervisory Status, one of the most fulfilling components of my work entails both supervising and mentoring Licensed Professional Counselor Interns (LPC-I).

For those not familiar with the field of counseling, the supervision process requires graduates of counseling programs to undergo a postmaster’s internship, during which time they are designated as Licensed Professional Counseling Interns. Typically licensing boards within each state set particular standards by which interns undergo weekly supervision with their chosen supervisor. As part of those standards, interns must undergo supervision while logging so many administrative and direct counseling hours. Direct counseling hours involve any face-to-face time that interns meet with clients. Administrative hours entail hours associated with the work of counseling, involving anything from writing case notes and researching information about clients to hours spent in supervision. For most states the requirements for interns is that they log 3000 postmaster’s hours, with a minimum of direct contact set at 1500 hours. Although, these standards vary from state to state, many states are now moving to more uniform requirements due the accreditation process that university counseling programs must undergo. Additionally, interns are not allowed to complete this process in less than eighteen months. What that means for prospective graduates of counseling programs is that they are looking toward at least an additional eighteen months before they are fully licensed. They are also looking at limited income during this year-and-a-half due to their status as an intern.

Obviously, interns enter the supervisory process with a shipload of questions, not only about how to work with clients, but also how to think about their professional futures. In this blog article I want to proffer some possible guidelines that LPC-I’s can reflect upon if they find them helpful to do so. I will break down the discussion as follows: a) entering the process of supervision; b) undergoing the process of supervision; and c) exiting supervision – the transition from Intern to fully Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

The postmaster’s Internship is an onerous process, so I do hope both present and future interns will find some of these thoughts helpful.

Beginnings: The Transition from Graduate School to LPC-I

I can only highlight some general steps involving your transition from graduate school to the professional world of counseling. Each state has its own State Board for counselors, and several of the states have different names for their licensees. Some states, as the one in which I live, designate counseling professionals as LPC’s. Other states use the title Mental Health Licensed Counselor (MHLC), while other states designate similar titles. Due to the move toward common accreditation for university counseling programs, though the name for practitioners varies from state to state, the training is similar, as are many of the regulations for counseling professionals. I will use the nomenclature utilized by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Licensed Professional Counselors. Much of what I outline here will apply generally to all state designated licensed counselors.

When you graduate from a counseling program, now typically a 60-hour program with the curriculum delineated by the State Board, you will not step into the professional role of a fully licensed professional counselor right away. Instead, you will step into the role of the LPC-I. Note that the LPC-I is a license, so once you navigate the beginning requirements set by the the State Board, you will possess a license to work as an Intern. First you will have to pass a State Board Exam, typically containing 250 multiple-choice questions. There are several study guides and preparation workshops available for your study and prep for the exam. The postgraduate is allowed three shots as the exam before remediation is required, which typically involves repeating some graduate coursework. There is also a Jurisprudence Exam that you must complete, but it is not a pass/fail exam. You read through the regulations and answer the questions until you know the correct answers. Once you have completed the LPC and Jurisprudence exams, you begin your search for a supervisor. In Texas, LPC counselors with Supervisory Status are designated as LPC-S. The website for the State Board has rosters of all three levels of counselors – LPC-I, LPC, and LPC-S. The Board indicates where each counselor is located in the State, so interns looking for a supervisor can note those who live in their area. Interns cannot begin accruing their supervised hours until they pass the required exams mentioned above, have obtained a setting where they will work as an intern, and have a supervisor in place. Once the intern lines all that out, he or she can begin chipping away at the 3000 required postgraduate hours.

Choosing a Supervisor

Typically some graduates already know the LPC-S with whom they would like to work as a postgrad intern. Many new graduates, however do not, or the individual with whom they would like to work has no available space. Choosing a supervisor is an important decision for the postgrad. Here are some pointers I would offer. First, do not simply choose someone because you feel desperate to obtain a supervisor. Good reflection upon choosing a supervisor is an important process, and it’s an interview in which you interview the supervisor as much as he or she interviews you. The relationship between you and your supervisor will last for at least eighteen months, so you want a good working relationship with the LPC-S you choose.

Supervisor – Intern Fit

Second, you are looking for a good fit between you and your supervisor. The field of counseling is conceptualized and approached in terms of practice in a myriad of ways. One’s counseling theory is just one component that you look for in terms of fit. There is no reason, however, that you can’t work with a supervisor who holds a different theoretical model than you. Most practitioners these days integrate several theories as it is. I’m not saying that theory is unimportant, but I don’t believe it’s the single most important determinant for choosing a supervisor. But it is a start. For example, if you want to work from a behavioral or cognitive-behavioral model, a supervisor who practices from a psychodynamic perspective will view the work much different than you do. But that’s not a reason that you shouldn’t or couldn’t choose such a supervisor.

Supervision Atmosphere

Third, in terms of looking for a good fit, you want to try as best as you can to discern in your interview if the supervisor is someone with whom you would feel comfortable working. Though they may have some different conceptualizations, they may also have a style and a personality with which you feel at ease. Some supervisors simply don’t care to match on the basis of theory. Other components such as style, willingness to take and give feedback, and openness to continued learning as a practitioner are deemed more important than theoretical orientation, both by interns and supervisors. The type of clientele with whom the supervisor works may be the kind of population with whom you would like to work as well. So the context in which counseling work takes place can be an important and deciding factor for choosing both your worksite and supervisor. I meet with prospective interns for a free consultation so that both the intern and I can decide if the fit is a good one.

Know that there are a variety of components by which you can decide which supervisor will be a good fit for you. A few of these components are: theoretical model, counseling style, supervision style, personality, type of clientele and practice, setting of practice, and many more. You might want to make a list of what you’re looking for in terms of a supervisor before you begin the interviewing process. Obviously, supervision fee is an important consideration from your own personal financial standpoint. Some agencies or institutions may have supervisors on staff from whom you can receive free supervision if your place of employment offers that perk.

Engaging the Process of Supervision

Just as they have with their clients, supervisors have a supervisory style by which they work with interns. Although you can clarify that as much as possible during the interviewing process, there’s a lot regarding the day-to-day supervisory work that you will not know and see until you are in the middle of the process. Know that you can change supervisors at any time. At the same time, you want to be clear as to why you want to make a change in supervision. The ability to work with supervisors who conceptualize and see some things different from you can be good training if both you and the supervisor know how to navigate such differences.

Regardless of the specific supervisor’s approach and style, there are some things that you can decide that you want from supervision. First, do not approach the supervisory experience as a place where a supervisor merely tells you what to do with your clients. You want a supervisor who will work with you so that you can truly build your own approach and style as a professional. Thereby, second, you want a supervisor who will engage supervision as an exploratory process to help you come to your own conclusions about the way you want to approach the work of counseling and the manner in which you hope to engage your clients. Although you want challenges, questions, and an open exploratory process, you do not want a supervisor who merely tells you what steps and interventions to use with your clients. Although interventions can be a major discussion in supervision, you want that discussion to revolve around your training, skill development, and how interventions fit with your personal approach and style. In other words, the over-arching goal of the supervision process is to provide a pathway for you to develop your own professional approach and style. Supervisors should help you with not only some possible interventions to utilize, but also they should help you develop your own conceptualization as to why you work the way you do. Note that such conceptual knowledge and skill building will not end in supervision, but will be a continuing developmental process as you work in the field of counseling.

There are several questions you can reflect on during the supervision process that can help you decide how the fit and supervisory work is going for you. First, is the supervisor allowing you to develop your own way of working with clients, or is he or she trying to strongly influence everything you do, including adapting the theoretical model the supervisor holds? Second, does the supervisor challenge you in ways that will help you develop and grow as a professional? Third, do you get the type of feedback you’re looking for that is conducive to professional growth? Do you feel like you have room to grow and develop professionally in the way that you hope to do so? Does the supervisor meet his or her responsibilities as a professional LPC- S should? Do you sense that the supervisor has your professional interest and development at heart, or is the supervisor trying to simply reproduce the way he or she works?

There are some other emphases that I believe supervisors should engage in additionally to staffing the intern’s caseload. First, I think it’s important for supervisors to have an ongoing discussion with interns regarding their professional goals for the future. What kind of work does the intern hope to pursue? Is there a particular population with whom interns hope to work fully, or at least emphasize in their caseload? You want to find ways to broach these subjects as much as possible with your supervisor as you work through your required supervised hours. Likewise, you want to engage in research in areas of personal interests to discover what the type of work you hope to do actually entails. Hopefully, you have been able to engage this work at least to some extent during your postgrad Internship, although that may not be possible for all Internship settings.

Second, I believe it’s important to have thorough discussions with your supervisor regarding the Code of Ethics for professional counselors. You want to bring any ethical concerns you might have to supervision and to determine as clear an answer to them as possible. It is important that you constantly update your knowledge on ethical issues in counseling. It is also important that your supervisor recognize any situation that may bring up certain ethical questions.

Finally you want to trust your supervisor when your working with clients that really challenge you, and perhaps make you feel less competent than you would like. These are important discussions to have during the supervision hour. Supervision should be an open forum where you can voice your questions, doubts, and any feelings regarding the confidence you have as a developing professional. Work in this field has a way of challenging your sense of competency. You should not let that undermine your work and future goals. Although your supervisor is not your counselor, those areas where you professionally vulnerable are welcomed opportunities for professional development when working with a good supervisor.

Exiting Supervision: The Transition to a Fully Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

So now, you have made the transition from Intern to a full LPC. What’s next? This is the exciting part of your career obviously. As stated above, hopefully in supervision, you have been contemplating and reflecting upon the kind of professional you want to become. Your work can involve private practice, a practice that serves particular populations, or work that involves such settings as mental health institutions, professional clinics, or clinical mental health hospital settings. Likewise, hopefully you had the opportunity at least part of the time during your Internship to work in the areas you hope to develop. Moreover, as you begin nearing the end of your supervisory requirements, you began checking out settings and counseling professionals involved in the kind of work you hope to do. The best scenario is that you chose a setting where you will continue the kind of work you were doing under supervision. Note, however, that all the experience you receive as an intern will serve you in many capacities as you move on toward your LPC practice. Working with clients is the experience that will help build your skills and determine which direction you want to go post Internship. No experience with clients is wasted, even if it keys you to the kind of work you most decidedly do not want to engage.

Let me offer some advice as you move forward into your professional journey. There will be many other professionals who have a take on what they believe you should do as an LPC. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with input and some guidance. What you must be aware of, however, and where you must draw the line is that the decision regarding your professional direction is yours and yours alone. It is important that you are honest with yourself as to the type of work you hope to do, and about the type of setting in which you hope to work. By all means, take in and listen to input, feedback, and advice; however, ultimately the decision falls in your court. The last thing you want to do is seek to live another person’s goal for your professional life. Working in a setting or with a population that is not a good fit for you is a short road to burnout. The work you want to do that truly comes from your mind and heart is as worthy as any work other people are doing.

Those who want to go into private practice particularly face pressure from others in the field about pursuing their own goals, way of living, and professional satisfaction. There are plenty of people who want to work in agencies, clinics, and hospitals. That type of work is admiral work, but it’s not for everybody. And the same can be said for private practice. It isn’t for everybody. Indeed to pursue private practice requires that you have somewhat of an entrepreneurial spirit about you. Those with such a spirit experience other pressures from the field regarding setting fees and the amount of money they hope to make. I hope individuals realize that becoming a professional counselor will most likely not make you a millionaire anytime soon. But what you should not feel is any pressure and guilt regarding your desire to make a decent living for yourself. If you are not income aware, or if you find it difficult to charge clients respectfully for your time in order to meet your personal needs, then you are on another short road to burnout. You are a professional, trained, and skilled, so you have a right to give it a shot to build a good practice and make a decent living for yourself.

There are a multitude of settings in which people can find satisfying counseling work in addition to private practice and agency work. Some counselors I know personally love their work in corporate settings. Again, it’s not for everybody, but it’s satisfying work for many. Others enjoy their work in Community College and University Counseling Centers. There are a variety of roads you can take as a professional counselor. Don’t cut off the paths and possible opportunities by looking only at what counselors typically do. You can be as creative and imaginative as you want in carving out a professional life for yourself.

The populations that experience severe mental health problems, and have little financial means to obtain the help they need indeed need people to serve them. And there are many agencies and clinical settings where one can find fulfilling work in meeting those needs. Like any setting, it’s not for everyone, but it is satisfying work for many. Moreover, you can seek out opportunities to volunteer your time at such agencies or clinics if your other work gives you time to do so.

Like anything else in life, you have to determine for yourself the path that you want to follow and responsibly do what it takes to set yourself on and travel that path. And like many roads in life, rather than a straight highway, you will encounter many sinuous pathways that will lead you to question, doubt, and possibly change the road you’re on. After all, these are the experiences that your clients engage as well. And the many questions and doubts they have about their journeys might well lead them into your counseling setting.


What is it to be a professional in any field of endeavor? Some of the things I think of include a body of knowledge, skill level, and the opportunities to pursue self-development, both professionally and in the way that one takes on life in general. Knowledge and its continued pursuit and growth allows us to reflect upon and think about how and why we work the way we do. Accruing professional knowledge should not end, and it should not only grow in some linear fashion, but also it should expand in ways we could have never realized when starting out on our professional journeys. Our own personal horizons should expand with our work. Skill development entails that 10k-hour rule that allows us to develop an expertise that is carved out over time. Skill development also has a way of taking us in directions we couldn’t realize before we developed the skills needed in our work.

Finally, work is one component of so many others that contributes to the kind of life we hope to carve out for ourselves. Although it is only one component, that is why it is important that we own the professional path we choose to follow. Over time, our thoughts, beliefs, and ideas will alter and might even dramatically change. The way in which we approach life with integrity in all areas of living should also inform the way in which we with integrity face, pursue, build and stand upon our professional endeavors.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/October 14th, 2018