• Shannon Soto

From Where I'm Sitting: A Counselor's Perspective

*The purpose of this article is to offer one Counselor’s perspective on what can be expected while in counseling. The hope is this article will reassure just one person of the safety and healing to be found in attending Christian Counseling.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2nd Corinthians 1:4

When you walk into my counseling office you will find a dimly lit room, warm vanilla fragrances, soft-reassuringly sturdy furniture, encouraging verses and quotes intended to uplift, and warm hues of color. You’ll hear music playing softly, all with comforting tones and ocean sounds with dynamics--crescendos and decrescendos designed to help with deep breathing. This space is a reminder that whatever you’re facing, there are other places and moments to be found that are safe. You can take a break, come away and regroup here. This time is for you.

I will welcome you and offer some water, tea or coffee. As we get settled, I will keep eye contact and wonder about the pain you’re carrying. I will do my best to get a sense of the burden you’re carrying by your body language and the ways you communicate--the inflection in your voice and choice of words all tell a story. There is no judgment here. I will pray for wisdom and discernment, while staying mindful of my reactions and breathing. What are you bringing with you--a compounding of emotions or simply the weight of the day? What or who has hurt you? Are you feeling guilty or ashamed? What are you feeling today? Have you lost your sense of dignity? Have you built up a wall that reaches to clouds? Are there years and years of layers? Or, are you in crisis right this moment? Are you at the end of your rope? Are you spiraling and trapped in racing thoughts? What is your inner dialogue? I may not think all of these things at first, but at some point throughout our sessions, I will. It’s what I’ve been trained to do.

Let’s get started. First, I’ll ask you to identify your top three emotions based on an elaborate “Feelings Wheel’--it can be overwhelming to look at, but it’s just a starting point. I want to hear your story and along the way, I’ll guide you with leading questions to help with sharing.

I will reflect the things you tell me, and express what was stated and implied to be sure I understand. The goal is accuracy--to understand who you are as clearly as possible; but knowing we are unraveling a ball of yarn. We will figure it out together. How can I help?

If the emotions of sharing become too extreme, we will step back and breathe. I can sense this and redirect the conversation to something lighter- like we are stepping out for fresh air. We will explore coping techniques, ways to alleviate the pain when it flares up. We will work towards identifying triggers, examining those “things” that bring you to experiencing overwhelming emotions and feelings of extreme _______ (anger, sadness, emptiness, loneliness, despair, hatred, disgust, etc.). You fill in the blank. We will walk back from the big picture and take a look through a different lens, letting what was in focus become fuzzy again as we move onto the current reality and potential next steps.

We will highlight the strategies you’ve found on your own that bring comfort or simply the ability to tolerate the moment. Your resiliency is a strength and I will encourage and praise you for this. I will offer additional strategies that may bring relief, and some may be distractions--music, TV shows, bubble baths, sports, or games. Others may be more purposeful--taking a walk, calling a family member, friend, or pastor. Still some may be deeper--pray, seek the Lord in His Word, or read a devotional--not the cliche, emotional platitude kind, but the kind that reaches the deep, raw and real issues and emotions. I will encourage you to seek a mentor to help with discipleship. I can get you started and we can work on finding someone together in a church near you. It’s up to you.

These are the initial steps in counseling. Gaining initial coping skills for triggers--ways to alleviate the suffering you feel from unanticipated and unexpected reminders of pain, trauma, fear, or grief. We will unpack a lot, and you’ll want to rest. Along the way, I will reassure you in the journey we are embarking on towards the healing you’re seeking- healthy mind, body, soul, relationships with the Lord and others.

It’s important for me to say this: I am not Jesus but I will bring His truth and care to you. I will encourage you to place your hand in His, and offer reminders that He will bring the healing and freedom you’ need (Psalm 147:3). I am not the constant companion or the ultimate counselor here--that’s the Holy Spirit (John 14:26--27). I am just a vessel, someone to illuminate the darkness, hear the “ick”, helping to reveal the wounds and pointing you towards the One who has miraculous power to heal.

The Lord comforts us in ways that cannot be mimicked or imitated. I will share His truth with you, because His Word renews our mind (Romans 12:1-2). I will offer you the hope that this is not it and you are not stuck here. I will remind you that the Lord did not say this life is easy, but He knows how very sore our hearts are and the aching we often feel in these seasons of distress. He assures us we are not alone--and we aren’t (Isaiah 43:1-3). He comforts the broken-hearted and brings healing and hope to our needy souls (Matthew 5:4). This healing is miraculous, supernatural, and often painful as He sifts through our hearts. Faith does not exempt us from experiencing excruciating pain; instead, it offers us comfort and hope in the One who is trustworthy, keeps His promises, and is always working all things to good (Romans 8:28).

I will pray with you and walk you to the door, planning for more work towards healing. Going forward, I will offer Scripture, stories that relate to what you’re facing, and verses of hope as healing balm. I’m not a pain eraser--all I can do is walk with you through it and face things head on with you, offering the light that shows the way out to keep moving forward. I can remind you that Jesus is the lifter of your head (Psalm 3:3) and the hand that pulls us out of pits (Psalm 40:2). My hope is to help you cast your anxiety on Him, reminding you that you’re in His hands--He will carry you.

I do this Kingdom work because He’s done this for me and my passion is for you to experience His work in your life. He will establish you in this way if you’ll walk with HIm. It won’t be a leisurely walk--there will be rocks, blisters, and scars. It will be hard but it will be worth it. He has a way of turning those who are willing into examples of hope. You’ll have a story, too, you’ll see.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2nd Corinthians 1:4

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