This is an overview of the counseling position that I will take when working with clients/parishioners. I realize that this cannot encompass every eventuality that may occur during a counseling session, but it should be comprehensive enough to account for most of the possibilities that present themselves. I acknowledge that this is also the treatise of someone who is going to be practicing as a pastor first and a counselor second, therefore the relationship of a shepherd to his assigned sheep is the most important consideration in all of this. Also, the counseling relationship that a pastor enjoys with a parishioner is not as extensive as that between a patient and a professional counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist/social worker, so this plan will take into account that clinical conditions do exist that must be treated medically.
This plan consists of four parts outlining the setting, relational style, counseling structure/strategy, and, finally, a summation. These pieces are necessary to fully discuss the entirety of the counseling style I will employ.
Overview and Rationale
This would take place in a meeting with the church staff to discuss how this process can be used to better serve parishioners. Solution-based (or solution-focused) counseling is an attempt by the pastoral counselor to reorient the sufferer to their place in God's kingdom. Kollar (2010) says "The goal of God's grace is to produce fruit, resulting in righteousness toward God and man…Feeling better about ourselves and our lives is a by-product of fruitfulness." Therefore the rationale behind solution-based counseling is to look at the particular issue a person brings to the counseling session and assist the counselee in the change that must take place.
Brief therapy is also a part of this particular plan. Basically, the therapy will take place in only a few session during which the pastor can instruct the parishioner in what God says about the issue they are bringing to the table. Short therapeutic interventions are better because of the time constraints that most pastors labor under, the unfortunate reality of transference if the counseling relationship continues for too long, and the fact that pastors are usually under-trained for an intense/lengthy counseling relationship (Benner, 2003). Since the primary job of a pastor is to be the shepherd of the flock, maintaining that relationship id of the primary importance.
Where Will Counseling Take Place
For many reasons, the best place for a pastoral counselor to conduct these meetings is within the church building itself. Practically, it would require that the pastor either use his own home or ask for finances for a separate office, take valuable time moving to and from the counseling location back to the church, and another location is also not Biblically-based. Although "Some counselors believe that it is helpful to remove the parishioner from the church setting…I disagree with this in light of the scriptural insistence that the believer is to grow within the community of the local church, where there is accountability for others and to others, along with acceptance" (Kollar, 2010). Every phase of counseling should follow the direction of the Bible and the Holy Spirit (who will not transgress the Word). Since this is the case, counseling should be conducted in the church.
Boundaries for Safety and Security
The importance of this topic cannot be understated. There are two main considerations here. Both the pastor and the parishioner should have the utmost security and feel safe during the sessions.
The pastor needs to set the guidelines under which the sessions will be conducted from the beginning. This means that the time when the sessions are to occur must be set, how long they are to last, and an explanation of the type of therapy should be given. There should be no confusion on the part of the counselee exactly what is to occur in this relationship.
Some other considerations are who the pastor will counsel, under what conditions and where. The pastor should feel free to counsel any of the people within his church, however because of legal issues some care needs to be taken. When counseling either a female parishioner, the pastor should have a female staff member close by. When the counselee is a child, it may be best for a parent to be present. If this is not possible because of either the subject matter or the comfort level of the child, then counseling is best with either a fellow pastor present or at least someone else in the building. The conditions mainly regard transference. If the pastor feels that he is not being objective, then the parishioner should be guided to another counselor. Counseling should always take place in the church, as mentioned above, but the place within the church should be set aside for as much privacy as is possible. However, the pastor should orient the office so that escape is easy if he feels that his safety is in question. Also, many counseling offices install a call button that will alert people if there is a problem or the staff can initiate a panic word that the pastor can use to tell outside staff if he needs help.
The Counselor's Relational Style
It is difficult to determine a relational style that would best work within a counseling situation. From "Why Don't We Listen Better" Petersen (2007) says that "the answer is the talk-listener process." By this he means that both people in a general conversation should be alternately talking and listening. This seems to be the correct position to take when counseling also. There are several skills that the counselor has to use that are not necessary in all conversational style, but the counselor must include them. The counselor has to be an active listener, have the ability to be silent and let the parishioner speak, be able to synthesize a statement that the counselee makes into a coherent whole, and other skills that are not necessary elsewhere.
You need to add your own style of communication here. Since you did not provide the document, I cannot speak for you in this case.
My chosen assessment tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. If an assessment is needed, this can help both the pastor and the parishioner understand where they are coming from. The reason why this is helpful is that uses a battery of questions, that are seemingly completely unrelated, to give a four letter representation of personality type. The questions assess extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judgment/perception dichotomies along a continuum for each. Where the person falls on each of the four continuums determines what type they are. From this finding it is possible to understand general characteristics of the individual's personality. This insight can help focus the counseling sessions.
The easiest assumption to make is that this counselee is a child of God because they are in the church and they are a regular enough parishioner to desire counseling with the pastor. However, this can be a false assumption to make. After scene is set, another prayer (assuming that prayer opens every session) needs to be said regarding the specificity of the sessions. It is difficult to evaluate whether a parishioner is saved, but this has to be an assumption that the pastor makes because this ty0pe of relationship will not work if the counselee is not a Christian.
The second assumption is also the second that Kollar (2010) talks about. Most of the problems that people bring to a counselee session are complicated. Since this scenario is in regards to the movie "Crossroads: A Study of Forgiveness" (Harrison, 2007) and the character Bruce who has lost his wife and daughter, it would seem that this counseling situation is very complex. Because of the situation in which they were killed by some teens who were racing in the streets, he probably feels grief, loneliness, anger, and depression. The goal of these sessions would be to bring him to a place of forgiveness. The complexity of this situation is mitigated by the simple healing words of Christ that can be used. Assuming that this does not require a complex solution will allow God to work in the life of Bruce.
The counseling sessions would first follow the structure that is outlined above as far as setting and relational style, but include other elements.
The first session would mainly be one in which the relationship is set and the guidelines for the sessions are given. This means that a short introduction to the process is needed and I talk about what I will do. Then Bruce will be allowed to talk about what brings him to counseling and why he thinks he can benefit from the sessions. Bruce talks about his anger against the teenagers who committed…