Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Counseling Succeeds (or fails)

One of the reasons we try to establish counseling goals in the first session is so that we know that we are in agreement as to what should happen over the course of the counseling. This is particularly important when the client is a couple. Couples mostly hold the same goals (usually increase communication and reduce conflict), but do not necessarily see the solutions as the same. As a counselor, I want to be sure that I can hold the same goals as the client before I enter into the process. 

Sometimes a client’s goal is to just feel better, and is not yet ready to make needed changes. I may encourage these people to get a prayer partner until they are ready to consider making the necessary changes. Being emotionally ready leads to success. The one obvious exception is grief work. Change is not the goal here, but acceptance of the loss.

Counseling succeeds when the client’s goal is to change themselves rather than another person’s behavior.

  • Parents often want to see their children make better choices, and I can usually agree. But for a parent to try to control their children without learning first how to control their own behavior may be a frustrating ordeal for both child and parent. But taking positive charge of the interactions will reduce the drama.
  • Spouses usually want change from their partner, but some resist making changes within themselves. They may acknowledge their part of the problem and say they are willing to work on themselves, but there can be a low commitment. Sometimes even promises made in front of the counselor are ignored. Success comes with humility, optimism, patience and forgiveness.
  • Counseling succeeds when there is a high consistency in attending the sessions. Clients that stay with the process on a consistent basis usually make quicker progress. Sometimes one person in couple’s counseling attends regularly, while their partner only shows up occasionally. There is a risk that only one person may be maturing while the other person remains the same.
  • Counseling has a higher chance of succeeding when the client doesn’t expect the counselor to do the work for them. When the client follows through with “homework” assignments and makes time to practice skills in between sessions the likelihood of success is increased. 
  • Success comes when a client holds reasonable expectations for themselves and others. Real change takes time, is incremental, and takes two steps forward and one step back. Focusing on any positive momentum and keeping the goal in mind is essential.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  (Hebrews 12:1)


  1. I really like your blog! THanks for writing it. It's helpful!!!

  2. guess who's feeling defensive in the pic?