As I study to improve my skills and understanding as a counselor, it always leads me into a place of self-examination. If I cannot allow the things I learn to affect my own life, how can I expect it of others? It would be kind of like listening to a sermon in church and constantly elbowing the person next to you.
There is a passage in the Bible that is generally considered to be one of the core instructions for being a counselor, but I think it also could describe the qualities of a great friend.
The passage is from 1 Thessalonians 5.
14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
The skill set required to be a good counselor can also apply to being a good spouse (although I strongly suggest that you not try to be your spouse’s therapist).
Attending – Provide undivided attention when your spouse/friend is speaking. Maintain eye contact without staring, keep an open posture, lean forward and give small gestures to assure the person you are present.
Empathic response – Respond to the speaker in a way that assures them that you are connecting with the emotional content of their story (not just the informational content).
The interpersonal qualities of a good counselor are the same as a good friend.
Genuineness – You need to be the kind of person that you would want your friend/spouse to be. For example we cannot ask for kindness from them, while treating them in a harsh or demanding way.
Warmth – This is an essential quality for a therapist. Without it there is little chance that a trust-bond can be formed. The same can be said in other relationships. Without warmth there can be no relaxing.
Positive regard – This is treating the person with respect and care as a person made in the image of God. This does not mean that you always agree with them, or that you do not see a need for change.
Supportive and challenging – As a friend I must be able to give strong support to the person even though I may not be able to support their behavior at times. Knowing how to hold that delicate balance means I must be in communion with God.
As I strive to be a better counselor, I also want to endeavor to be a better person, friend, and spouse.
Can you agree?