Tag Archives: growth

Don’t Make Me Go to Counseling

dragged into counseling

We are blessed not to have to work with people mandated by the court system to be in counseling. The closest we ever get is evaluating a couple for an adoption or foster care agency. But there is a significant difference. The couple is there because they have a positive goal in mind, even though they may not love the process.

The same might be said of other kinds of counseling clients. I must say that when I entered counseling with Nan my resistance was high. I did not freely choose the counseling at the time, but was “coerced” by her counselor. Outwardly I was compliant, but inwardly I was pretty defended. I have real empathy for people who feel like I did back then. It can be stressful not knowing what to expect or what might be required of you. I like to remind clients that they always have a choice whether to continue.

Now that I counsel, I have a lot of compassion for counselors as well. Working with resistant clients is challenging because even though you envision a positive outcome for them, they may not see it. It’s a lot like presenting the Christian faith. You’ve experienced all the gains, but the other person might only see losses.

The longer I counsel, and the shorter my remaining time to work professionally with people, the more inclined I am to only work with those who actually want to grow and change. Except for grief counseling, which is different, I am less interested in just hearing people complain, with no intention of taking positive action. I think that when venting feelings is the goal, it might be best accomplished with a safe prayer partner who can empathize and encourage. Sometimes we need that until we are ready to take action steps. But the work of counseling is transformation, whether of self or relationship or family or work.

Successful clients understand this. We have found a few things that seem to be common to these clients.

  • They do the homework
  • They read books relevant to their journey
  • They are persistent and hungry for growth
  • They listen
  • They take constructive criticism seriously

So does this mean that I am not open to hearing complaints? Of course not. Processing pain and discouragement and frustration and fear with people is a staple of counseling. It is a necessary step in order to move beyond those things. It is when the only purpose is to vent or hold someone else’s change as the goal that I want to refer a client on to someone else who might work better with them.

Does this sound heartless? I hope not. My deep desire is that people get better, live more satisfying lives, feel safe, receive love and love well in return. I believe that is God’s deep desire as well.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Recording Contracts and Disappointments


Back in the day (the late 1960’s) our band signed with a now long defunct record company, Dot Records. Many experts consider this era the pinnacle of the record business, where every company was scrambling for talent to promote. Money was being spent on artists with potential, as opposed to those with a solid track record. We recorded some vocal tracks at a cool little pro studio (Alamo) in North Hollywood, and the now famous Wrecking Crew provided the instrumental tracks. We were on our way. It was going to be the “big time” for us.

But then the bottom dropped out. Dot Records went bankrupt and shut down and we were left with a worthless contract. We were looked at by a couple of other companies, but didn’t generate enough interest to get picked up.

What do you do when disappointment comes your way?

Yes, grief ensued in all it’s glory: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know we, the band, felt all of those things. But what did we DO that got us through the disappointment?

  1. We kept on going. We didn’t let the demise of the company mean the demise of us. We took action and started looking around for other options. Although we did not ultimately get where we had hoped, we met a lot of really great people along the way.
  1. We didn’t blame people. Everyone involved was affected by the company closure. People lost their jobs and had to find new employment. Trying to pin the loss on someone was unproductive: it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
  1. We managed our feelings by processing together. Individually isolated we might have leaned toward pessimism or bitterness. Instead we supported each other by affirming our worth in a very musician kind of way: we spent more time practicing together and wrote more songs. We released the pent-up energy in a positive manner.

We all have had, and are going to continue to have setbacks in our lives. It is inevitable because we live in a competitive world. Your needs, wants and desires compete with other people’s at times, and you won’t always have things your way. Or circumstances emerge that are either not controllable or favorable to you and you have to adjust. It is disappointing.

The kind of work we do at The Relationship Center is largely helping people manage these challenges. We guide them through the grief, power struggles, trust issues and marital drifting that occurs, particularly in long-term relationships.

Will you see these occasions as opportunities for growth? Will you allow your feelings to accept the losses in a realistic manner without over or under reacting to them? In a culture like ours which is principally person-centered, it can be really hard to do. But that is what maturity is all about.

Setting SMART Goals


Since this is near the beginning of a new year I thought I would share an acronym we learned in a staff meeting recently. It is an easy way to remember effective goal setting.

S.M.A.R.T – and we all want to be considered smart.

According to our pastor Tom, when it comes to a goal you are wanting to achieve is it:

  • Strategic — (Does this goal clearly connect with what God has assigned me to do?)
  • Measurable — (Does this goal have a number attached to it?)
  • Actionable — (Does this goal have a clear action I must take?) 
  • Realistic — (Is this goal grounded in reality?) 
  • Timed — (Does this goal have a clear deadline?)

Which one of these points is hardest for you?

I don’t know about you, but the hardest step for me is the last. Even the thought of having to set a hard deadline on a goal gives me a measure of anxiety. I can become a master of excuses in order to avoid having to exercise the required amount of self-discipline to meet the target date. I was painfully aware of this as I walked around the outside of our house with a contractor this morning. I had set a date to have some work done to our house by the end of last year. But here it is January and I am just getting started. And the truth is, I can come up with no good excuse.

If my goal is good (and in my case it is) I remind myself that giving up is not an option. Healthy self-reflection and a measure of grace helps me to process and reset my missed deadline. Instead of shaming myself, I encourage myself to positive action.

Is being realistic hard for you? Do you tend to overestimate your capabilities or resources? Unrealistic goals produce frustration and discouragement. You can begin to doubt yourself and others may lose trust for you as well if you are frequently falling short. It is usually smart to under-promise and over-deliver.

It’s easy to imagine this concept being applied to career or work goals, but how about to relational goals? Is there a growth goal that you have been thinking about that would produce a closer or healthier relationship? Or have you developed bad habits with people that you would want, or need to change? Can you articulate a relationship goal that encompasses this whole concept in one or two sentences?

For example:  “Since God wants me to be patient and kind (strategic), I will completely eliminate  my angry outbursts (measurable) by physically withdrawing from conflicts (actionable) so that my family can look forward to a peaceful vacation this summer (realistic and timed).”

Why don’t you give it a try in some area of your life and see what you can come up with.