Each new school year, the Counseling Department at DTS sends a newsletter to the students majoring in Biblical Counseling. I was asked to write an article for this issue that would be relevant for both new students and returning students. A common ground I think for both students and anyone in the field is the foundation of attitude. So I’m including the article below.
IN THE BEGINNING IS ATTITUDE
Attitude precedes behavior. Attitude trumps behavior. Attitude lingers after behavior is done. Foundational to all the theory and skills you will learn this year in your counseling course work is the way you think about other people and your role in their lives. So without taking another class, the most basic part of your preparation for counseling has begun. When Paul began to discuss how the Ephesians ought to apply the theological principles found in Ephesians 1-3, he first exhorted the readers to embrace the attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance. Only then did he describe how they ought to “walk.” This article will show why the attitudes of humility, gratitude and respect are necessary foundation blocks on which to build your theory, knowledge and skills.
Humility positions you to serve and to lift others to a higher calling. We are challenged to imitate Christ’s humility in Philippians 2:2-11. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Those who are hurting don’t need pushing or pulling; they need lifting. They need orientation and encouragement.
Gratitude connects you with the true source of your effectiveness. If everything you experience in your counseling can be explained by your talent, your training, and your planning, you will be pleased and gratified. But when you see thinigs happening beyond your explanation, your excitement will explode and your gratitude over God’s grace will swell. It is God who “able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Courinthians 9:8). To receive God’s grace that enables you to contribute to another person’s personal growth is like swimming into the rip tide of God’s will. Good counseling has little to do with applying the right theory. It has everything to do with how our effectiveness reaches beyond what we do by virtue of who we are and to Whom we are related.
Respect prepares you for listening and responding. The study note associated with 1 Peter 2:17 in my Bible “Show proper respect to everyone . . .” explains “because every human being bears the image of God.” The counselor who takes off his shoes at the entryway to someone’s life has qualified himself to further invitation. Counseling should not be defined as giving advice that is based on a situation. Counseling is hearing the context from which a person perceives his world, clarifying the meaning of the pieces of that person’s world, joining with them where they are through empathic responses and suggesting possible paths to higher ground. Jesus never discounted anyone who was hurting and no condescending attitude can ever lead anyone to higher ground toward godly living. One way to foster this attitude of respect is to ask yourself, “If I had been raised under the same circumstances as this individual, would I be doing as well as they?” But for the grace of God, I doubt that I would.
When you bring the attitudes of humility, gratitude and respect to the counseling room you are ready to build. No, these conditions are not sufficient by themselves, but without them, no amount of training will be worth your time. But these are the necessary foundation blocks that allow the knowledge, theory and skills to bear the fruit of effective counseling.