That is to say, “isn’t” a true counselee after all.
Are you wondering what I mean by that? Let me explain in a brief article, and make some suggestions that may help you help him. I’ll consider two instances of what might be multiplied many times over.
First, a counselee isn’t a genuine counselee when he comes to prove to someone else that you cannot help him.
“Does that actually happen?”
Infrequently, but often enough to mention it. You see, there are people who will make excuses to get out of all sorts of situations that they don’t like. “I won’t get diabetes if I continue to eat as I please. After all, the doctors aren’t infallible. What they once said was that coffee made you nervous—now, they’re hailing it almost as a wonder drug.” When he finally goes to the physician as the result of his wife’s nagging, he’ll find all sorts of excuses not to return: “I told you we’d have to wait half the day in the waiting room to get on to see him, and then he only gives us ten minutes of his valuable time. I’m not going back to that quack!” That’s the same sort of attitude sometimes found in so-called counselees.
Now, I’m not talking in this article about unbelievers, but about Bible-believing Christians. You will find the same sorts of sinful attitudes in them. A counselee knows that he’s going to have to change his lifestyle not only at home and at work, but also in church. He simply can’t go on criticizing everything and everyone wherever he is, and still hope to honor the Lord. He needs to be taught how God views complaining. When you can settle him down long enough to get a word in sledge-wise, after all of his gripes about having to come to some preacher “to get his head examined,” you might work your way into reading what Paul had to say about grousing in I Corinthians 10. There, he pointed out that it was so serious that God left an entire generation of Israelites strewn across a desert because of their fault-finding. How will you eventually convince him to let you work on the problem with him? Perhaps you won’t (Who knows? He may be headed for church discipline). But if you do succeed, then you will have an opportunity to observe that complaining is really rebellion against God. He’s running His world the way He sees fit. In providence, He promises to work all things together for the good of believers (Romans 8: 28, 29), and so, in the final analysis, complaints are complaints about His goodness or His judgment—or both!. Now, that’s serious business—telling God how to run His world! The Israelites didn’t get away with it; neither will he. If you can turn him into a serious counselee, you will call him to repentance and help him to understand the providence of God.
Secondly, let’s take a look at another counselee who isn’t. He’s been aptly styled “The Professional Counselee.”
“What on earth can you mean by that?”
Simply this. Here is a Christian who has for a number of years been attempting to solve a problem. First, he was directed to a psychiatrist, who just listened and did nothing. So, after awhile, when third-party payments ran out, he quit since he was told that he was cured. He knew this was false—after all, the problem persisted. So, he tried a “Christian Counselor,.” This man prayed with him after each session, but that was about the major difference. After a third and fourth attempt that failed, he no longer had hopes of solving his problem. But by then, he had become so deeply involved in counseling itself, that he continued to see counselors of various sorts. The fact is, he had become fascinated with counseling itself. He’s a virtual counseling addict, more interested in the process than in the results. He comes now to you to discover what “Nouthetic” counseling is like, in order to contrast and compare it with other systems that he has become familiar with. You’ll know him by his out of the ordinary questions about what you’re doing, how, and why. Yours will be another notch on his gun handle. Once again, he will prove counseling is a farce—but a fascinating one!
Now, the problem with Nouthetic Counseling, he very quickly discovers, is that the counselor means business. He really expects things to “get done.” To his amazement and, perhaps dismay, the counselor is giving him homework; he expects change to take place! At this point, early in the process, he recognizes that he must either do the homework, or give solid reasons why he won’t. Excuses are not sufficient. “This guy is treating me like he expects something to happen,” he decides. And with that decision comes another—“I’m going to have to decide whether or not I will go along with this approach.” Listening, a few words of advice, theorizing, going back into the past, peeling onions, etc.—all of these approaches required no real change. But the decision now will boil down to this: either he will quit, unwilling to do the assignments, or—we can hope and pray—will once again become a genuine counselee.
In all such cases, you will discover that your first counseling problem is not the one stated on the PDI inventory sheet, but that it is to attempt to help the person before you to see that he must honor God by becoming a genuine counselee, seeking to do His will. That’s the key!