The Role Of An Advocate In Counseling
At The Paradox Church we believe the primary context for counseling is within a community on mission. This means the people that you are doing life with every day. These are the people that know you and that God has ordained to be around you in specific seasons of life. Ideally, these are the people that are seeking to love you by helping you apply the gospel to the heart issues that come up in everyday life; this is what we believe the author of Hebrews meant when he said “as long as it is called today, encourage one another so that none of you fall away or become hardened with an evil unbelieving heart.”
We do not believe that the most sustainable, life-changing environment is one-on-one with a professional that you do not see outside of scheduled visits. There are limitations to the impact that can be had on an individual because the relationship only exists in a certain setting that is not replicated daily, throughout the week when things are hard. So what do we propose? We believe in an advocate model.
An advocate in counseling is someone who stands in the gap for a friend or loved one in his or her time of need. An advocate attends the counseling sessions and walks with their friend through the process of healing and change.
An advocate has a variety of opportunities to learn, grow, and serve. There are four specific ways we ask advocates to help.
- 1. Pray for the counseling process; the family/individual and the counselor.
2. Provide helpful historical information, insights, and questions that the counselor and/or counselee might otherwise miss or would find helpful.
3. Take good notes.
4. Care for and walk with the friend after formal counseling ends.
As we learn of the pressures that brings a family or individual to counseling, we respond with prayer. We recognize we are absolutely dependent on God to provide hope and help for the people we serve. We are fully aware of the many variables we do not know or understand, the complexities of the human heart, the dynamic of the English language as well as our own inadequacies. We consistently plead with the Spirit to do a miraculous work in us.
Prayer leads us not to rely on ourselves but on God as we seek to bring help to others. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant.” Therefore we urge you to be constant in prayer before and during our time together.
“The more we abide in [Christ] and grow to be like Him, the more His priestly life will work in us. Our lives will become what His is: a life that continuously prays for men” (Andrew Murray).
There are three ways in particular we would ask you to invest through prayer in our time together. First, we ask you to pray for the individual or family you are coming with to be open and honest about their situation; and ready to receive what God has to say in response (Mark 4). Second, pray that everyone involved in the counseling, especially the counselor, would have wisdom and insight to understand the situation, suffering, and heart of the counselees (Jeremiah 33:3). Third, pray that our time would result in lasting change for the glory of God for everyone involved in the counseling process including the counselor, counselee(s) and you, the advocate. Of course, after ending the counseling sessions we encourage you to continue in prayer that the clarity, truth, and repentance that began will continue and bring much fruit. (Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20).
It is a wonderful privilege to pray on behalf of your loved one. “No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack. Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still” (E.M. Bounds). With that thought in mind, we look forward to participating with you and for you in this way. So, this is our prayer for you as an advocate: “May God open [your] eyes to understand the holy ministry of intercession to which, as His royal priesthood, we have been set apart. May He give [you] a large and strong heart to believe what mighty influence [your] prayers can exert (Andrew Murray). “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:11-12).
Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another everyday; as long as it is called today that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” One of the points the author is making is that the body of Christ not only has the responsibility but also the ability to bring sightedness to areas of blindness in the lives of one-another. We need each other so we do not fall away or find ourselves blinded by the deception that comes along with sin. When a person becomes a believer he or she is placed into the body of Christ for the purpose of maturity and growth. The church therefore becomes God‘s intended place for long-term healing and growth for His children. We believe the local church is God’s primary means of growth and change. For that reason, the role of advocate becomes of great importance to us and those we counsel.
Despite a counselor’s training, giftedness, and experience, they still are not large enough to have the perspective that is afforded us through the body of Christ. As an advocate you bring insight from the lives, circumstances, relationships, interactions, and patterns of those you come with that we simply would not have without you. We value the input you bring to the counseling experience, and invite you to bring those insights, and questions to bear during our time together in counseling.
Taking Good Notes
Not only does the advocate have the opportunity to bring insights to the counseling process, he or she also has the opportunity to follow up afterwards and bring to remembrance the lessons learned. Peter says, “Therefore I intend to always remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder…” (2 Peter 1:12-13). There will be a lot of information shared by both counselee and counselor that will need to get captured into a succinct set of notes for the purpose of drawing upon those insights in the months to come. Bringing remembrance to foundational/root issues, important principles, helpful diagrams or images, and impactful passages of Scripture helps to nurture the big ideas gained through counseling. Your participation in the process by taking good notes not only helps to capture that information but also serves the counselee by helping him or her to fully engage in the verbal dialog without concern for catching everything. During our counseling there will be homework and action steps. At the end of our counseling we will typically follow up with a summary and action plan.
We desire for you to walk along with your friend for the long haul discipling and caring for them. Discipling someone is as simple and glorious as leading them in and to the Gospel all the time, encouraging a lifestyle of repentance, and becoming more and more like Jesus. We are disciples for life. Discipleship is the Christian life: discipling and being discipled.
Discipleship can be described as doing life together. A disciple is a learner, and what a disciple needs is someone to follow and learn from. Discipleship can look like a weekly meeting, one on one; but it should be more than just that. Ultimately, we hope that discipleship takes place in the life of a community with you taking point to mentor and love your friend, having some essential conversations about the Christian life.
As we make disciples we need to know what a disciple is. We have four categories that are a “Description of a Disciple’s Life” from Bill Clem’s book, Disciple.
- 1. Identity: A disciple of Jesus finds their identity in Jesus and His work on our behalf. All of the Christian life flows out of who we are. Finding our identity in His story changes everything.
2. Worship: A disciple of Jesus worships God in and with all of their life. All of life is worship. We either worship God or idols, but we never stop worshipping. Idolatry is the root of all our sin.
3. Community: A disciple of Jesus lives in community just as God lives in community as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
4. Mission: A disciple of Jesus is sent on mission to see people transformed by the Gospel just as Jesus was sent by the Father.
So we are asking you to shepherd your friend towards these four categories using insights, notes, and truth from counseling. Encouraging them to walk out what Jesus has showed them.