Counseling is a big part of my work. I enjoy it. There is something very meaningful in being asked and allowed to travel with folk as they try to make sense of their identities and/or situations.
I am very thankful to be studying psychology. My ministerial training did not cater sufficiently to empower me for counseling and so I chose to empower myself. Like all things, it is a skill that one will never be able to master. During the past month I have come to realize how valuable the training has been. It has helped me to identify times when people would rather have sympathy than help. It has helped me to identify underlying psychological problems that can be successfully treated by professionals. Most of all, it has helped me to counsel without getting emotionally involved - some may object to this, but it is essential when you have to counsel different people with different needs in a short space of time and still treat your family with care and affection.
People try to take ministers and the church for a ride and I have learnt to be very honest and direct with people who think they can manipulate their way to easy handouts. And so, a drug dealer got the fright of his life when he heard some home truths ala Dr Phil. A lady who wanted sympathy, but no healing left empty handed, perhaps with a bit of a kick under the jack.
But counseling is also difficult. What do you say to the mother of one of our confirmees who died in a car accident on Monday? Let me rephrase, how does one listen? Listen we did. No answers. No quick fixes. No meaningless images of her son gaining some wings and resting in the arms of Jesus. No. Hopefully by listening and by sharing empathy, she experienced Jesus losing some wings and sitting with her. Not that I am Jesus.
I think the time is drawing near for me to go for some counseling myself. Going to the shrink should be as natural as going to the toilet. Everyone has to offload sometime - excuse the image.