How do I begin counseling?

Some counselors have difficulty getting a new counseling case under way. They wonder how to begin the first session.. You may have experienced this problem. But you will find that things go swimmingly when you use a Personal Data Inventory (PDI). The PDI is a data-gathering form of several pages by which you may obtain much information before counseling begins.* I usually invite the counselee to come a half hour before I plan to see him, have the secretary give him a PDI to fill out and, then, look it over about five minutes before counseling begins. In going over it I mark items to explore further with a felt tip pen. When the counselee enters, after preliminary greetings, I mention any items that I marked, asking for clarification or further information that it may seem important to have. This usually takes very little time. Then, I turn to the last page on which he has answered the several questions listed, which are,

  • What is your problem (as you see it)?
  • What have you done about it?
  • What do you want us to do?
  • What kind of person are you?
  • Is there any other information that we should know about?

The answers to the first three questions are usually the most significant (although the others may be too). So, in most cases, I begin counseling by dealing with those answers. Obviously, then, by means of the PDI you have a starting place that gets you off and running.

The PDI provides much more valuable information. You will not want to neglect it Pastor. If you think that you have enough data about members of your congregation to counsel them without using a PDI, I challenge you to try filling in a PDI for any member you know well yourself and see how many items you must leave blank. You may be surprised!

* A copy of the PDI is found in the back of the Christian Counselor's Manual. You are welcome to duplicate and use the Inventory in your counseling.

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