How hard can counseling be? Really, “healthy” doesn’t change that much. Honestly, 90% of counseling problems could probably be remedied with this prescription.
- Get 50 hours of sleep per week
- Don’t spend money more than you earn
- Don’t consume more calories than you burn; which means exercise a few times per week
- Treat other people like you want to be treated
- Don’t engage in long-term relationships with people who won’t follow this rule
- When you are offended, forgive instead of harboring bitterness
- Take yourself less seriously without surrendering your personal dignity
- Don’t do things you would tell your kids not to do
- Invest in the relationships that are closest to you (spouse, kids, parents, friends)
- Invest your time in the things that will matter a decade from now
Secular or sacred, those ten points cover the basics of counseling. Meaning, if people would actually follow those basic principles, they would not find themselves with many life-dominating problems. Regardless of what the counseling issue may be (i.e., emotional, relational, identity, etc…) some combination of these recommendations is given in most cases.
This brings me to my first point:
Solutions are usually less complex than problems; that’s why we dismiss them.
Most people prefer a pyramid scheme to a family budget and a fad diet to a gym membership. Somehow we feel like it “honors” the mess we’ve made if the solution requires advanced math or a confusing diagram.
But here’s what we must remember:
Solutions must be simple to be sustainable. There’s not much hope in complex change schemes.
So does that mean advanced degrees in counseling are a charade? I don’t think so. While counsel (that content of good advice) must be simple, counseling (walking with someone in the process of change) is often complex.
Pain is complex – the nightmares and flashbacks of PTSD, the phone call from creditors and difficult decisions of bankruptcy, the battle with your own loss of hope and motivation in depression, the looming unpredictability of panic attacks, or the mixed allegiances and priorities of a blended family.
The counsel above does not change, but the ability of a counselor to understand a counselee’s experience, win their trust, help them see the relevance of “healthy” for their particular struggle, and maintain focus when life resists the changes that are needed is the hard part.
For instance, take the example of panic attacks. My “ten points of healthy” would be immensely beneficial for anyone who has experienced high levels of anxiety or panic attacks. But to start a “just do this” conversation with someone who lives bracing against the next time their mind/body is going to revolt on them would likely be dismissed and (rightly) viewed as simplistic, uncaring, and “missing something important.”
However, if you can help this person
- identify the areas of their life that are creating the most stress,
- understand how stress can accumulate to the point of panic,
- eliminate, if not present, other possible causes (i.e., PTSD or drug reaction),
- weigh the alleviation of stress with medication with its side effects, and
- see the priorities and values that undergird their unhealthy lifestyle,
then you are in a position to give them counsel (practical steps to change their life, which will sound a great deal like the 10 simple points above) that is much more likely to be both heard and implemented. Their trust in you and understanding of themselves will have gained a hearing for living a healthy life and considering how their priorities and value (those things that emanate from the heart) revealed a lifestyle that was trying to seek comfort or identity outside the person of Jesus Christ.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Counseling Theory” post which address other facets of this subject.