What A CounselOR Taught Me About CounselING

A number of years ago, I spent a season working with a particular counselor trying to help figure out the conundrum that is me.

(Yes, I’ve had several such seasons and a few counselors and I am much the healthier for it.)


Anyway, during one of our sessions, the subject of counselING came up.  We were speaking of a certain type of counselor that we sometimes see in the Christian world, ones that are heavy on bible memory and light on personal history.

While acknowledging there is a place for such an approach, my counselor also uttered very quietly:  “the main weakness with that school of thought is the assumption that most people are motivated by their conscious.  In my experience, most people are not really aware of what motivates their behavior, especially the self-destructive kind.”

And with those two sentences, my life as a pastoral counselor snapped into focus.

People’s behavior — in particular that which is self-destructive — is motivated by forces buried beneath the level of awareness.

Whether wounds or trauma or buried memories or even irrational beliefs, most of us are propelled by that which we cannot understand, let alone identify.

So part of what any of us involved in pastoral counseling do is help those who trust us with their spiritual care to unearth what really is behind those self-destructive tendencies.

What we unearth together then helps explain (but not excuse) the unhealthy patterns that bring parishioners into our offices.

Once we land there at a place of mutual understanding, the real fun begins: Scripturally-based, directed advice.  The kind I’ve received.  The kind I’m now more than comfortable giving.

Are you aware of the forces motivating your own behavior?

Self-awareness prevents self-destruction.

And that’s what a counselOR taught me about counselING.