People occasionally ask why I am a professional counselor. That’s a really tough question to answer quickly…but here goes.
In 1982 I graduated from Nazarene Theological Seminary with a Masters in Divinity. I hauled my few belongings, my wife, and our new baby to southern Kentucky to begin work as a pastor. For over 21 years I encountered the joys and sorrows of marriages and divorces, births and deaths, and numerous other individual and family events. It was never boring.
In the last church I served as a pastor, I encountered marriages that were struggling, addictions of various sorts, individuals with legal problems, and people resistant to change both personally and organizationally…all within the first few weeks. I told myself I needed to enhance my skills as a pastor, so I began taking some counseling classes at Cincinnati Bible Seminary (part of what is now called Cincinnati Christian University). Soon, I found my self sitting with individuals who had marriage problems, emotional turmoil as a result of births and deaths, and numerous other life events. I asked myself, how is this different from what I have been doing for two decades? But then I noticed something.
People were changing. Not because I had all the answers, but something else was happening. Relationships were developing. Learning was taking place. Change occurred. Soon I began reflecting on 20 years of pastoral ministry and noticed the changes I was privileged to witness within the lives of my clients were different from those within my churches. The rate of change and the level of change were of much more significance in counseling than what had happened in pastoral ministry. (We planted two churches, built two buildings, and saw some wonderful things happen while in pastoral ministry so it was not without “success.”) But what was happening in counseling was happening faster, and the changes were deeper. That told me, counseling was were I wanted to be. Why? Because I believe God uses counseling to effect change in people’s lives.
Researchers tell us that three things are important in considering how change occurs. Stages of change refer to where the person is in terms of readiness to change. Processes of change are the things we do to facilitate change. Levels of change tell us something about the depth of change in a person’s life. In a future post I‘ll discuss how I believe God (and the Christian counselor) work together to facilitate change in a person’s life from these three perspectives.
Tim Barber LPCC-S, CSAT-S, NCC