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What is counseling? Why I chose to be a counselor

AlethiaA man in counseling with an older therapist By Friends Stock / Shutterstock

Counseling and shepherding overlap in several ways. Shepherding requires guiding, protecting, and coming alongside sheep. Primarily, though, the overlap is in how sheep quickly become lost. They would go to green grasses or clean springs if only someone would show them which hill to crest. At its best, counseling brings moments of understanding and clarity so the client sees the right path. Then, it’s up to the client to take it. To guide them, shepherds often walk alongside their herds. Counselors walk alongside their clients.

Recently, I met with a client from years ago, and it reminded me why I got into counseling in the first place.

A story of hope

I was working with a quality couple who had been married for many years, but mainly due to poor communication habits, especially by the husband, they had drifted apart. The process of diverging had taken many years. It reminded me of a Proverb, “A deferred hope leads to a broken heart” (13:12). The husband started putting more and more effort into saving the marriage. Even though he was trying, and I believe legitimately changing, his wife was quite reasonably dubious.

She came to a session with me by herself. Due to a series of providential events, she began to sympathize with her husband and found her heart melting to the point of forgiveness. She decided to tell him so. I had the privilege of knowing this before he did.

The next day, he came to talk. First, he told me about some of the providential events. Then, he told the story leading up to the conversation with his wife. This comment stuck with me. With joy and glee, his emotions on his face: “This is the part of the conversation you will really enjoy…” Then he told me about her forgiving him –the first tentative step toward true reconciliation and renewed hope.

What I mean when I say “I am a counselor”

His expectation of my enjoyment of his victory made me overjoyed. Whether counseling or pastoring, parenting or spiritual discipling, this sentiment: “Here is the part you will really enjoy…” Seems small, doesn’t it? But it reveals something important.

He had come to believe that I believed in him; he had seen that I was on the side of their marriage; he accepted that I was honored to share in his enjoyment, just as I had shared in his sorrows. I would like to believe that this phrase indicated he didn’t just think of me as an uncaring “hired gun” or an objective referee. To me, his preamble meant that inside, he knew that I wasn’t objective – I was invested. In some way, he thought I, too, had a heartfelt stake in all of this.

And he was right.

More than a referee, I was in the stands with their jersey on, rooting them on at the biggest game of their career.

The Greek word for counselor

The Greek word for “counselor” is paraklete, and it refers to a person who walks alongside. Too many people attempt to journey down their path alone. What I do as a counselor is come alongside others and walk with them down the hard roads of life. Now, in marriage counseling, the same rule applies: I am invested in the marriage. I rarely, if ever, take sides in marriages, but I do side with the marriage.

I was supporting his wife in the same way. I believed striving to keep their marriage together represented their best interest. So, I shared in their joy when they reconciled and strengthened their marriage. Apparently, my enjoyment was visible, and I’m glad.

Few people experience someone who comes alongside, believes, and invests in them in a careful, trained, and meaningful way. It is an honor to get to do so. It is every counselor’s honor.

If you’re interested with booking with me or other therapists to walk alongside you in a dark time, Alethia has counselors across Texas. All of them will invest in you and celebrate in your victories.

That reminds me to thank everyone who has had that role in my life. Thank you all!