Christian Counseling Technique

For the Pastoral, Lay, or Peer Counselors

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess. 5:14)

We are called to come along side of one another. Counseling is one of the ways to do that. We need to realize that people are at different places and therefore may need to be approached differently. Even the same person might need to be approached one way one time and another the next.

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What approach, or technique, should be used in Christian counseling?

There are two poles in counseling methodology used by Christians:

Directive: The counselor basically tells or advises the person about what to do. The counselor assumes more of a dominant role using the Word of God as the source of authority. Confrontation, challenge, and admonishment tend to characterize this approach.
Non-Directive: The counselor guides the counselee in coming up with his/her own solutions to problems by reflecting on what the counselee says and feels. The counselor is more of a facilitator than an initiator. For this reason it has been called a client-centered approach. Encouragement, support, and empathy characterize this approach.

Which approach is best? -- Taken to their extremes, the directive approach can be judgmental and too assuming and the non-directive approach can be humanistic and existential. While each model has its limitations, they both can contribute greatly to the counseling setting.

Balance may be the better approach wherein the counselor does not get locked into one style. Care must be taken not to fall into a cookie-cutter approach. View each person as an individual and each situation as unique. What may be needed to help one person may be useless or even harmful for the next person.

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle (directive), encourage the timid (non-directive), help the weak (mostly non-directive), be patient with everyone. (1 Thess. 5:14)

To add further to this discussion, the People Helping Ministry Manual takes a brief look at some biblical commands that would apply as well as Jesus' and the Apostle Paul's approach and what all this might look like for us in practice.

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