“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
How about you? Do you plan and prepare between counseling sessions? Or, have you done this for so long, that you don’t feel the need for any pre-counseling preparation? Let me suggest that our planning and preparation between counseling sessions is crucial to our being prepared to listen and help well. While it is true that the Holy Spirit works to transform as we bring the Word of God to bear in the lives of those whom we are attempting to help, this does not excuse us from needing to plan sessions and prepare ourselves as well.
In our counseling ministry here at Clearcreek Chapel, we do the majority of our counseling on Mondays. So how might our counselors better prepare themselves to be ready on Monday? Here are a few suggestions.
First, I make sure and review my notes on Tuesday or Wednesday following Monday’s counseling. It is important for me not to wait until the end of the week, because, my memory is not as fresh and I must rely completely on my notes by the end of the week. A second reason for an early review, is that I may have committed to calling the counselee or in many cases, I will give specific homework that I was not prepared to give at the end of our counseling session on Monday. If I wait until the end of the week, I have missed my promises and the counselee does not have time to properly complete their homework. By making sure to follow through early in the week, I continue to build involvement with the counselee as well.
Second, I pray three times each week for the counselee and for the upcoming sessions the following Monday. I also take time each Monday morning to pray for myself which sets me in a proper frame of mind, focused on the day’s sessions. I cannot imagine a counselor who does not pray for their counselees throughout the week.
Next, I regularly evaluate my own heart and complete significant self-counseling projects. By drinking my own lemonade, I help reinforce the biblical truths and promises with which I attempt to help others. Often these self-counseling projects will take up to three months to complete.
Fourth, I plan ahead for what I hope to cover the following session. I know that there are certain things that are standard such as prayer together with the counselee, and reviewing homework, but I also find that there may be specific areas that I want to cover based on the previous week’s homework. On a personal note, I like to write these things out on a piece of paper because it helps my mind focus and slows me down – as opposed to using the computer for everything. My friends who love their fountain pens describe the same thoughtfulness. I will then transfer my notes to my counseling worksheet on the computer and print them out. Slowing down in this way helps me stop and think through more carefully what the following weeks agenda might hold.
Last but not least, I have found the hard way, that if I am not in the Word and in prayer at a personal level, counseling suffers. When I allow the tyranny of the urgent to control my life, I am less effective in coming alongside those who are suffering and sinning.
So, what about you? Are you ready for Monday?