Friday, December 19, 2014

When to Break Off the Counseling Relationship

Over the years it has been my privilege to offer counsel to people, upon their request. If persons do not ask my counsel, then I don't offer it, since unasked-for counsel is usually received as criticism. I learned this from watching Dr. John Powell of University Baptist Church in East Lansing. John and his wife Bev were in a home group with Linda and I. John is one of the wisest men I have ever met. Professionally he was a Prof. of Psychology at Michigan State University. John has so much wisdom to offer! Part of it was the wisdom and self-control to not offer it to those who have not asked.

More than occasionally I have someone ask for my counsel and not receive it. To me the counselor-counselee relationship is not one in which the counselee debates with the counselor. While debate is fun and there is a place for it, I don't view it as productive when the matter is giving and receiving counsel. 

When someone asks for my counsel on a situation, I give the best of what I have. While it may not be helpful, or may even be wrong, since I've been asked I do my best. Sometimes this involves correcting a person. When this happens with permission it is appropriate and, really, what the person is looking for. Consider the guitar teacher-student relationship. If my student is making a chord in the wrong way I tell them. This is not to criticize them (which would be absurd) but to help them. They want to play well, and I can assist. So, they will have to change some of their guitar-playing ways.

What if the counselee rejects it? Then I am no longer their counselor. Proverbs 1:23 says: "If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you." When there's no response, there's no more outpouring.

I especially like Proverbs 1:29-31, which says: "Since they hated knowledge, since they would not accept my advice, they will eat the fruit of their ways." Guitar-wise, this is translated: "Since you hated my instruction and refused to practice, your ears will listen to guitar mediocrity."

When I've broken off a counseling relationship I want to do it in love. I tell the person "I am no longer your counselor." This should be obvious if the person does not follow my counsel. It's unhealthy for the counselee to stay in a pseudo-counseling relationship. It is a waste of time to keep meeting (or taking guitar lessons) if you won't follow the asked-for advice (or practice the guitar). This kind of "counselee" will often go looking for a "counselor" who will only tell them what they want to hear. Which means they never really wanted counsel in the first place.