Don’t get me wrong. Counseling is not an hour that magically transforms your life overnight. But it can be an ongoing relationship that invites the heart of Jesus into the places in our lives where we feel guilt and shame. It can be a therapeutic alliance that fights for freedom in the places where we feel bound or stuck. It can be safe place to speak the unspoken and grieve the hurt and harm that we’ve endured. It can also be a space where imagination, dreams, and desires are encouraged and hope grows.
I saw my first counselor in college. The Jairus side of me was thriving. I was at a good school, surrounded by good community, and heavily involved in campus ministry. I had a reputation for having a heart for women and found myself in many intense conversations trying to offer care to confused, angry, hurting, and afraid female peers. I was making a name for myself, but I was also depressed, insecure, anxious, and profoundly fatigued. I was suffering from headaches and stomach issues and not sleeping well. This dual dynamic has been a theme throughout my adult life, and counseling has been the place where I’ve come to discover, name, and own it.
Is Counseling Right for Me?
People often ask me, “Why do you have to go to a counselor? Don’t you have good friends or a church community?” Here is my not-always-popular but honest answer: Good friends and the church are not always willing or able to offer me what a counselor does. Like the disciples, we can get caught up in the urgency of where we’re going and what seems important in the moment. When we do this, we may not see, hear, or sense the presence, let alone the need, of someone like the woman with the issue of blood.
Also, I recognize that excavating parts of my story will require tools and skills that not everyone has. I believe all our stories have unclaimed treasures buried within them, but the path to that gold can be twisty and tangled and pass through dark valleys and false summits. Good counselors are like gifted Sherpas. They know the terrain and how to guide you through. They know what to pack for this specific part of the journey, what you can leave to the side, and what you might have to pick up later. They can sense when you should push a little further ahead and when you absolutely need to sit down and catch your breath. They know this path holds winds that howl but that the next one circles around a bend that opens up into sunshine.