How To Support A Friend or Family Member In Counseling

by Pamela Rose Williams · Print Print · Email Email

When you get to the point that you realize that you need to seek counseling for a life issue, you have pretty much exhausted all other efforts. By this time you have usually sought the help of a friend or family member for advice on how to overcome your issue. But this does not mean that a friend or family member is no longer needed once you have begun formal counseling. In the same respect, when you are a friend or a family member of someone who is in counseling, there are some things you can do to support your loved one. Here are some tips on how to support a friend or family member in counseling.

Encourage them with Prayer

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Believers know about the power of prayer and we are encouraged to seek the Lord through prayer and supplication for all things. In fact, we are told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). So the first thing you can do for your loved one that is in counseling is to pray for them. The Scriptures promise that the Holy Spirit will make intercession for the saints (these are the believers 2 Thes 1:10, Rev 14:12).

  • Pray that they are open to the counsel that they are receiving and that they do not reject the wisdom of the counselor.
  • Pray that they are honest during the counseling session so that the counselor has the whole story and can offer good counsel.
  • Pray that they are faithful to attend sessions and do any follow up “homework” that is required.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Unbelievers do not understand the power of prayer. In fact, the Bible is clear in letting us know that prayer is a privilege to the believer only (Ps 34:15, John 1:12). This is not to say that God’s mercy ignores the cry of the unbeliever at the moment that they are willing to accept Jesus as personal Savior (Luke 18:13; 23:42, John 6:37). My point is that believers know how to pray for the unbeliever and believers are called to do just that! Sometimes counseling, such as in the case of Biblical Counseling, is an instrument to draw an unbeliever to Jesus. Pray that the unbeliever is open to the message of the gospel and that they accept Jesus as Savior. Once they do this Holy Spirit is onboard and His power will enable the counselee to overcome any life issue.

Encourage them with Assistance

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Transportation and childcare are two major reasons that folks need to cancel counseling sessions — especially at the last minute. When a friend or family member is committed to attending regular counseling sessions it is very important that they do not miss appointments. Missed appointments causes a delay in the progress of counseling. Offer to provide a ride for your loved one, perhaps you can make it an open invitation for whenever they have need (even in the eleventh hour). Likewise, offer to come stay with the children during their visit to the counseling office. Generally counseling appointments last only one hour per week. You can be a great blessing in both of these regards. 

Even in your Absence let them Know You Are Still There

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

An old fashioned love note sent in the mail is a huge encouragement and support.

An old fashioned love note sent in the mail is a huge encouragement and support.

Purposefully plan time in your schedule to pick up the phone and call your loved one who is in counseling. Let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them. Let them know you love them and remind them that you are only a phone call away. Be sincere and when your loved one calls; answer the phone. In this age of technology you can also send a quick text message or social network personal message  that says “I am thinking of you and I love you” or “I just prayed for you”. And let’s not forget that you can still pick up a pen and paper and jot down a little love note to send to your loved one. Sometimes receiving a note in the mail is just what is needed. It is so simple and it takes just a few moments.

Study with Them

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)

This piece of advice applies specifically to Biblical Counseling. In our Selah Mountain Ministries Biblical Counseling we have seen that people who consistently do the “homework” that is assigned are victorious in leading a life that is pleasing to the Lord. Sometimes folks need to be reminded that Biblical counseling is not just about talking about their problems and giving the counselee a “prescription” for them to take. It is about understanding that the foundation of Biblical counseling requires a relationship with Jesus Christ, which gives them the motivation, the strength, and the power for their counseling to be successful. This means they must be willing to be a “disciple” or student of Christ. They must be willing to learn His ways of doing things on a daily basis. That being said, disciples need a teacher. Be willing to be that teacher by leading them through the Bible. If you feel like you are not strong enough biblically to lead, find a leader and join in a regular Bible study. The homework that your loved one receives in counseling can be the topic of your discussion.

Final Thoughts

When someone has the courage to seek counseling for their life issue the next thing they need is the support of their family and friends. You can support your loved one by praying for them and assisting them with needs like transportation and childcare. Additionally touching base with them by telephone, social media and even an old fashioned love note sent in the mail is a huge encouragement and support. You can also help your loved one whether they are a believer or not by providing regular Bible study to form a relationship with Jesus and then cultivating that relationship.

I will leave you with this charge. Remember that not all counseling is done in a formal setting – you may be just that counselor that your loved one needs. Paul encouraged the church at Rome in this way “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14). Admonish is another word for counsel. You can do this!

Related reading: 10 Reasons You Might Need Biblical Counseling

Resource – Scripture quotes from The Holy Bible, King James Version

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Genesis May 7, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I am recently going to therapy for my Hypochondria and i am a little nervous and i told my mom if i could get a christian counselor but she said no. Is it important that my counselor is a Christian?

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DocReits May 8, 2014 at 10:28 am

Good counsel Pamela,

As a doctor, I see many patients who suffer various maladies. Those include physical and mental disorders. Often times the mental problems have a physical basis and are chemically mediated. Sometimes not.

I mention this to include a thorough examination by your physician in order to rule out chemical imbalance(such as hormonal…egs. thyroid, estrogen imbalances). Further, some anxiety disorders, can also be remedied through proper medicinal therapy.

For family counseling, OTOH, such as marital and family issues, I caution Christians. For those mature enough(physically and spiritually), I recommend prayer and fasting, before counseling is sought.

Often times the counselors themselves need counseling, and are of no benefit and may cause harm. I recall three different marriage counselors which my wife and I sought out in the past. Two actually lost their licenses for improper relationships with their female patients. My wife and I, of 43 years, should have given them counsel….

Your remarks about compassion and prayer for those we know, who are going through difficult times is well received and I thank you for them.

Blessings,

DocReits

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David May 10, 2014 at 9:09 am

As usual Doc, a good response by you.
Yes often councelors need prayer too. Good point about fasting, and imbalance where medication is needed.
David, central Europe

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Pamela Rose Williams May 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Hello Genesis and Doc and David, I just saw this comment and thought I would respond to all three of you here.

I totally agree with what Doc said regarding a visit to your primary doctor to rule out physical issues. In fact, At Selah Mountain Ministries our Biblical Counselor includes this advice during the initial session with every counselee, and we collect medical information on our “Confidential Client Information” paperwork prior to meeting. In addition, if a counselee is currently taking any medications we emphasize the importance of continuing on the regular schedule of medications and only to change that under the advice of the prescribing doctor. We are not medical doctors and therefore defer to the experts in this area.

It is sad that many counselors who advertise as “Christian counseling” never even open God’s word during the counseling session. We know this because we hear it from folks who had previously attended sessions with a Christian counselor before coming to us. My recommendation would be to seek a “Biblical” counselor because then you know that you will be led by God’s wisdom and not man’s word.

In the case of a female or minor child counselee who is paired up with a male counselor it is very important that they are chaperoned by another female. In fact even if it is a Female counselor they should be chaperoned. In our ministry when a chaperone is needed we do it by camera. The camera in the counseling office is aimed at the lady or minor child counselee and it is monitored by someone in another room. There is no sound and only video because the monitor does not need to hear the discussion they simply act as a security thus helping all involved parties to “avoid all appearance of evil”. We are careful to let anyone whom is on camera know that they are and we have had nothing but gratitude for the security that we provide in this way. Alternately another person can sit in on the counseling session as a chaperone but we have found that counselees are less comfortable with this method.

I hope this is helpful and thank you all for your comments and encouraging words.

PS. Genesis if you need help finding a Biblical Counselor in your area please feel free to send me your location to my email: pamela@whatchristianswanttoknow.com and I would be happy to see what I can find for you.

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