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Right Priorities in Counseling Supervision

From the series:

by Chelsey Gordon

“A good counselor is first a good counselee.”

This biblical counseling mantra is never more true than in the final supervision phase of the ACBC certification process. It was while being supervised by ACBC Fellow, Dr. Nicholas Ellen, that I learned a helpful acronym to describe an ideal counselee:

  • Faithful – follows through on assignments and counsel given
  • Available – committed and consistent in attendance
  • Teachable – willing to listen to, carefully consider, and embrace biblical instruction given

If a counselee lacks any one of these characteristics, the counseling and consequential change process may be delayed or halted altogether. Counselors pursuing certification though, are no different and must also continually cultivate these traits, especially during counseling supervision.

Faithful

Be prepared to thoughtfully, prayerfully, and humbly engage and follow through on your supervisor’s guidance. While ACBC Fellows are not all-knowing, they do have years of experiential and theological wisdom to offer. When challenged by this wisdom, unless they’ve asked you to counsel in a way that is unbiblical or violates the boundaries of your conscience, faithfully follow through on the constructive criticism given.

Available

If at all possible, build into your schedule enough margin to accommodate the increased workload supervision demands. Don’t short-circuit this process. Give your counseling prep, reports, and supervision sessions the time and attention diligence requires.

Teachable

Anticipate vulnerability as you carefully consider the “why” and “how” of your counseling practice. Maintain a humble receptivity to your supervisor’s questions, critiques, and concerns. Put aside pride and defensiveness and do away with the shortsightedly inadequate goals of “putting your best food forward” or “never letting them see you sweat.” This mentality of self-promotion or self-protection, rather than the necessary self-examination, is dangerous and will hinder your ability to listen and learn well. If you spend your supervision sessions managing your supervisor’s perception of you and/or your counseling, you will forfeit an invaluable opportunity for growth. Your supervisor’s goal is not your failure, but your continued development and longevity in the ministry to which God has already called you. So don’t waste your time hiding your flaws. Be transparent about where you are unsure or unskilled.

The State of Your Soul

Biblical counselor, whether you pursue certification or not, please remember your soul is not ancillary to the counseling process. In fact, it plays a vital, contributory role. You cannot lead people where you, yourself, are not going and you cannot expect others to change in ways you are not willing to change yourself. Please realize the care of your future counselees is at stake. Your doubts, fears, insecurities, ignorances, or unrepentant sins will undoubtedly impact your counseling in either overt or covert ways. I encourage you to continually and humbly assess, not only your skill and preparedness as a counselor, but the state of your very own soul. Both contribute to the potential failure or success of your counseling ministry and ultimately the testimony of Christ’s Church.