Counseling a Depressed Person: Data Gathering/Interpretation.
So, as you counsel a depressed person, some general principles. One is, you need to be willing to listen. Sometimes, depressed people aren’t very talkative. Proverbs 20, Verse Five, “A plan and a heart of a man “is like deep water. “But a man of understanding draws it out.” So, we need to be patient, we need to listen, to have compassion. I genuinely believe, sometimes I see a man who is feeling depressed and yet he gets up early in the morning and he still goes to work, and it’s so hard for him. What’s easy for others is hard for him. Or the mom who gets up and cares for her kids, even though her soul feels so dry and empty. Part of listening compassionately is to acknowledge the faithfulness of someone who is having those feelings and those struggles and almost heroically, by God’s grace, they’re enduring.
When you’re meeting with a depressed person, you’re trying to raise the question, “What is the cause of the depression?” Often the depressed person will not know. We know from The Bible, it can be circumstances, it could be sin, there might be physical issues, in which you wanna get a doctor involved. It’s good to learn the pattern and the history. As I said, depressed people often have episodes periodically in their lives. This is where it can really help to get a spouse, a parent, a friend who’s known them for a long time involved in the counseling. Because sometimes, a depressed person, he’s so depressed, everything is dark, everything is black, he feels bad, he’s always felt bad, he’ll always feel bad, even the good times were an illusion. And that’s where, the first to plead his case sounds right, then the other one comes along, and the perspective can be valuable to the counselor in terms of no, he’s really, two years he’s been fine, last three weeks he’s been bad, this has happened before. “What is it you’re thinking?” You ask the person, “What is the depression telling you?” I need ‘blank’ to be happening, and unless this happens, I can’t be happy. Well, The Bible has answers for that. We need to find our soul satisfaction in God, or just there’s no hope, it’ll never get better.
Make sure the counselee’s physical needs are being met. Also, be aware who else is affected. The spouse, the family members can often, as I said, depression is contagious, and it will affect them as well. Sometimes, one gets better, and the other ones can take their turn. Offer encouragement to hope in Christ. Sometimes, the depressed person is tempted to turn to idles and say, “This is what I need to be happy.” And it could be feeling low, and it could be turning to some pet sin, or just hoping some circumstance will change, to realize that God is their hope. It’s good to pray not only for your counselee, pray with your counselee.