One of the final requirements in my Masters of Counseling program was to write a philosophy of counseling. A sort of “What do you believe about counseling” kind of treatise. This would be a sheer cliff upward climb for me to write (think: El Capitan). I completed the assignment, but not before suspending myself between that ambiguous place called belief and doubt. You need to know that “thinking” is a daunting undertaking for me, let alone articulating it. My like-souled friends are the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow who sang “If I Only Had a Brain” or Winnie the Pooh’s “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”
In the Greek “to believe” means simply “to give one’s heart to.” What was it in counseling that I wanted to “give my heart to?” All I could come up with was: helping people. But this would not fulfill the 25 page requirement. Doubt set in. I was now sitting with this assignment in front of a blinking cursor uncertain of myself and my ability to articulate a clear belief. How would I get at this sort of personal creed of counseling? It felt impossible.
Since those days in the Spring of 2006 I realized that I have been forming my beliefs about counseling since 1974, the first time I ever said outloud “I want to be a counselor when I grow up.” The Holy Spirit has helped me to understand my own story, sit with others and understand their stories, read thousands of pages about people, and learn to see people through God’s eyes. It’s a lot. Let’s just say, I am not, or will ever position myself to be the expert – better said by John the Baptist “I am not the Christ” (John 1.19). El Capitan will forever be in front of me as I am formed and therefore forming what I believe counseling is. It’s humbling, but I’m okay with that. In fact, it’s a relief. The pressure is off. I can climb at a pace where God can teach me. I like that about our relationship.
What I believe [so far] about counseling people:
- God made people in His image.
- We live in a broken and fallen world where people sin and are sinned against.
- Jesus comes to bring redemption and restoration in peoples hearts.
- Empathy is essential. Validation, too.
- People need a safe, caring community.
- The Holy Spirit promises His presence.
- The essence of counseling is the relationship.
- People can change.
- I am a broken person, too.
(Winnie the Pooh Illustration by E. H. Shepard)