"What Good is a Counsellor?"
There is wisdom in seeking a listening ear. Mary Barnabas considers the benefit of visiting a counsellor.
Mary BarnabasMar 20, 2023, 12:41 AM
Having been in counselling for some time, I occasionally have had a friend ask me, “What do you get from going to a counsellor?”
When a person seeks counselling, a lot of what is distressing them is hidden on the inside, mostly unseen. Likewise, changes and growth may not be seen either for a while but this does not mean nothing is happening! The core of our being—our heart and mind—is the most important place for changes and growth to occur. Success might best be measured by how a person feels on the inside rather than what changes others see on the outside. In order for you to gain an understanding of how counselling has benefited me, allow me to describe what has been happening on the inside for me.
My counsellor listens attentively and sincerely, and surrounds me with an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, regardless of what I say. Because of this, I feel safe to be who I am and reveal what I think, believe, fear, hope, desire and experience. Just to be listened to in this way is affirming. I feel respected and valued.
There is comfort and reassurance in sharing inner thoughts and feelings, and finding that I am not so different to most other people. Others struggle with the things I struggle with—and it is not abnormal to do so.
My counsellor provides me with a respectful, non-judgmental and confidential place for my worries, concerns, and questions. And, not being personally involved, she is able to be objective and see things more clearly than I can.
This allows me to bring my fears and hurts out into the open, to accept their existence and work through them so they are no longer crippling me from within. They are no longer a chain dragging me down or a boulder blocking my path but like stepping stones I navigate in the journey of my life.
There is wisdom and direction in the way my counsellor asks questions and guides my thinking processes, so I can see things for myself. She helps me recognise patterns, thoughts and attitudes influencing the way I perceive and respond, both to events and circumstances.
Perceptive professional guidance allows me to find these insights myself, rather than be “advised.” This is more valuable in the long run and may be more accurate, too.
I have learned depression is not an “abnormality” but a part of the human condition; part of the cycle of life. Consider the psalmist David and how he wrote, sometimes out of the depths of despair and, at other times, from the heights of ecstasy. He wasn't a freak—just refreshingly honest.
As depression is part of humanness, what matters is how to manage depressive times, keeping them in perspective.
Finding what contributes to my depression and what can be done to minimise its impact on my everyday living makes for more positive life experiences.
Through counselling, I have come to recognise that some of my beliefs about life, myself and others have been incorrect and detrimental. Some of these are: ◗ I am a bad person. No, I am not a bad person; this is Satan's lie to keep me from living the life God wants for me. I am unique and cherished by God, and forgiven all. He sees me in the same way He sees His own Son.
I deserve punishment and rejection.
This follows on from thinking I am a bad person and is just as untrue.
Christ has already taken my punishment on Himself. He has accepted me and adopted me as His own. I choose to leave the “deserving punishment and rejection” lie in the past. If Christ is for me, who would dare be against me?
Would I dare?
I have to keep others happy; my life only has meaning and value by keeping the peace and making others happy. My meaning in life comes from being made in the image of God, redeemed by Him and belonging to Him. It comes from the value He has placed on me.
I cannot make others happy; happiness is something each of us chooses for ourselves. I am responsible for choosing my own happiness but I cannot be responsible for whether others are happy. All I can do is contribute, not take responsibility for. ◗ The unhappiness of others is somehow my fault. Just as I am not responsible for the happiness of others, neither am I responsible or to blame for their unhappiness. Everyone makes their own choices. I am responsible only for my own actions, not how others act or react.
My unhappiness is because others are not meeting my needs. Whether or not others meet my needs, I am the one responsible for my own happiness. It is within myself to choose happiness regardless of what others do or don't provide me. I owe it to myself to find healthy alternative ways to meet my needs, if they are not being adequately met within my primary relationships.
This is difficult but not impossible.
It is preferable to continuing to have unmet needs and certainly healthier than placing the blame on someone else.
I am somehow inadequate and incompetent because I fail. Everyone experiences failure. It does not reflect on a person's worth if they do not succeed at something.
Worth is not tied to performance.
The failures I experience become my stepping stones to growth and success.
They can be valuable learning experiences. Failures and mistakes do not indicate personal inadequacy or lack of competence. They reflect our humanness.
While I may fail in some areas, there are many things I do well. These include cooking, painting and sketching, photography, writing, preparing worship programs, encouraging others, decorating and sewing. I am also providing a stable, loving environment for our children to grow up in. I do not have to be perfect—just good enough most of the time! And I am.
(I do struggle to think this way but when I analyse it, I see it is the truth; therefore I need to accept and believe it.)
I am learning, gradually, to replace these erroneous beliefs with their corresponding truths. This gives me “clearer spectacles” through which to view myself and others, and the world around me. Being set free from Satan's lies is enabling me to become the person God made me to be. It is true, that when we know the truth, the truth sets us free (see John 8:32).
One of the outcomes of my counselling has been to recognise and let go of feelings of condemnation, guilt and worthlessness. Being freed from my own feelings of condemnation and worthlessness enables me to value, appreciate and accept others far more freely and easily.
I am learning to forgive. To be tolerant and understanding of the faults, feelings and differentness of others.
It sets me free to love the way God does, because my own value is securely grounded in Him. It has nothing to do with what other people may think or feel about me.
This freedom God provides gives me permission and power to accept myself—to love who I am, who God has made me. It is like waking out of a dream and finding, to my relief, that the awakeness is the reality, not where I was living in the dream. It's a different life.
Maybe it's like putting on prescription glasses for the first time and really seeing the world. It's still the same world but now I see it differently. I see it far more clearly—how it really is.
Through sin and circumstances, Satan had effectively distorted my view of life and of myself. The professional guidance of a Christian clinical psychologist, who has studied how the mind and heart work, has helped me recognise some of these distortions and begin to deal with them. I am learning to fill my mind with God's truths instead of Satan's lies. It is changing me on the inside, making me a stronger and more whole, balanced person.
God's Word has become a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. This light drives away the darkness and helps me see, brightening the way before me.
I have come to understand—and this was significant and liberating— that because of the circumstances of my childhood, the path I took of finding comfort in food was totally understandable.
There was little other choice available to me as a child. It was certainly a healthier choice than drugs, promiscuity, self-mutilation or suicide. I am not a bad person because I sought soothing from food. I was not being indulgent, undisciplined or self-gratifying. I was surviving.
The implications of this realisation have moved me profoundly. I realise it is so important to make sure my children get the nurture and emotional care they need. If we as parents don't meet our children's emotional needs, we will be setting them up for the same vulnerability that resulted in my own addiction. I certainly don't want that for them.
I also realise if I don't ensure I'm nurturing my own self—providing ways to meet my emotional needs—I will continue to be vulnerable to destructive habits. I have to take care of myself!
Now that I am an adult, I don't have to depend on others for my emotional needs to be met. I have more choices and resources available to me. I am finally learning not to expect my partner to be able to meet all my emotional needs. Human relationships, especially marriages, are meant to be close and fulfilling but none of them can fulfil us completely.
Only God can do that. I can turn to God, and let Him fill and fulfil me. As time goes by, I am learning that when earthly resources dry up, I still find all I need in Him. His grace is sufficient for me. His supply of love, understanding, affirmation and closeness never runs dry—in fact, it overflows! The inner joy He gives me is like a permanent spring of living water, regardless of the circumstances I may be experiencing.
Circumstances change; He does not— praise God! In the past, when secular counselling was my only option, I did find helpful guidance but it was incomplete. Christian counselling, however, acknowledges and accesses the wisdom of our ultimate Counsellor and Friend, Jesus, and connects us with Him. He alone brings true completeness. For my counsellor and I, every session includes surrender to Him and openness to His guidance and wisdom. I really appreciate that.
God has become my primary source of emotional and spiritual fulfilment but He has also blessed me with some beautiful enriching and fulfilling friendships. They are safe places where I can both give and receive love, support and affirmation. It is important for me to pursue close, supportive female friendships to provide me with the emotional nourishment I need as a woman. I thank God for giving me the gift of these precious friendships. I thank Him for supplying all my needs.
He is so good to me!
I am learning through my counselling to recognise my weaknesses and come to Christ for His strength. I am also learning to recognise my strengths, acknowledge them and turn them over to Christ as well, for Him to use as He will. In doing so, I hope and pray He will let His love overflow through me to others who need to know how much He loves and cares.
In looking back over what I have learned through this counselling process, I can't help but feel an overwhelming gratitude to God for leading me down this path. I am convinced that Christian counselling is as much a ministry as it is a profession. I am deeply grateful to the warm and compassionate, godly counsellor who has heeded God's call in this ministry and supported me in my journey.
Has there been positive aspects for me, in seeing a Christian counsellor?
I'll let you be the judge.
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