Counseling and Motivation
I believe the motivation of counselors today is fundamentally flawed; especially counselors within the church. I believe that because the motivation is wrong, counselors are finding fewer and fewer opportunities to really help people, are burning out quicker, and are training others in a motivation system that leaves new counselor’s wanting for something more. Let me elaborate on why I feel this way.
I remember when I first started to feel the call on my life, I listened to a handful of different pastors complain that they felt that they could better utilize their time by preparing for the sermon, or doing evangelism, rather than sitting in a counseling room. I remember one specific conversation I had with a pastor that I still think very highly of; “Counseling can often be a struggle because people don’t really want to change and don’t really want to listen.” I saw this motivation and said, ‘Then why would I ever want to do counseling?’ My whole concept of the calling on my life was changed because I believed that counseling was ineffective.
What I have noticed over the years is that the counselee enters into the room with the expectation of being helped through a struggle by the counselor. The counselor then accepts this agenda from the counselee and says, “I’m there because I’m supposed to help them through this issue.” Counseling has become a place where people help people. But counseling was meant to be an opportunity for people to glorify God by letting God help people. It seems a minor change of motivation, but it is anything but minor in the way it impacts the way a counselor behaves in the counseling room.
If a counselor believes that counseling is about people helping people, then when a problem arises that they are uncertain of how to handle, they will seek to answer the problem with their own solution. They will try to cut away at the problem down and find that it is a great deal harder than they originally planned. When the counselor believes that they are there to glorify God, they may find that the answer to the perplexing problem is found in prayer, where they can connect with the wisdom of God. A counselor who believes that counseling is about letting God help people, may see opportunities to strengthen people’s character and moral resolve through hardships, while the counselor who believes counseling is about people helping people is more likely to seek out the path of least resistance to a solution.
If you are a counselor, and you are seeking to be effective, examine your motivation. Are you entering into the counseling room because you want to help people, or because you think there is an opportunity for you to glorify God? If it’s the latter, it is likely to mean that there are times when the answer to a problem is only to mourn with those who mourn. At other times, it’ll be harder because you’ll have to accept that sometimes, the answer to a problem is just to have faith despite the counselee begging for relief from their pain. When you counsel with the gospel in mind, God’s glory is the focus of counseling, not our desire to help others, see people “live right”, or even a desire to fix what’s wrong in the world. When you counsel with the gospel in mind, sometimes pain has to be embraced rather than “resolved”. If we can enter into the counseling room with an intent to glorify God, maybe we’ll find that the problem is completely uprooted without any effort from us. Maybe counselors will find joy in the counseling room no matter what happens in the counselee’s life. And maybe, just maybe, successive generations of counselors will be more concerned about bringing God glory than shaping their theology to fit what people want.