In one of my training classes, a man asked me what he would have to do to become a successful counselor. I started to answer in one way, but after thinking for a moment, I changed my intended response.
Success in counseling will depend on the counselor’s point of view. On the one hand, for example, one can count how many persons and couples come for counseling and how many of them finished the counseling with success in their case. Or, better said, that their time spent in counseling resulted in them accomplishing the goal they expected or desired to get. If one is going to measure his success in this manner, then the percentage of success will be around 60%, with the possibility of 65% at times. I don’t like those numbers.
The problem here is that it was the wrong question. The question should be, “What is real success in counseling?” What the man was really asking, without using these words was, “How can I tell if I am doing well as a counselor?” That’s a better question because it shows that the man cares whether or no he really can help people. A counselor who cares if he or she is helping people will also care if they are finding solutions for those they counsel.
For me, if I am not successful, not only in counseling, but in everything I do, I am not content. I always want to do better than the last time. Even in my counseling, I do not just want to give people words that will help them feel better or just to have hope. I want to give them answers that can change their lives.
But at the same time, I have to repeatedly remind myself that not all the persons who come to my office really want to be healed or actually resolve their problem. There are many persons who want to appear like they are making a effort, but when the moment comes for them to make a necessary but difficult step to start real change, they stop the sessions and they don’t come back. If someone measures his success while including all the cases he has counseled, then the numbers will be low.
Still, the better question is, “How does one measure success?”
Success is something that depends on the person. You have the ability to change the definition of success at any time. One person may say that success is reading a book from cover to cover. Another person may say that success is having a million dollars. And yet another person may say that success is when they do not have to do anything at all. Each person has to decide what success is in their life, circumstance, situation, and efforts.
For me, as a counselor, success is measured in whether or not I am ready when I enter my counseling office and there is a person waiting for me with a problem that they cannot resolve. For me, the question is more about whether I am prepared; if I have studied well the subject I am going to be dealing with, that if my relationship with God is well enough that I will be depending completely on Him for the solution.
If I don’t take the time to read, study, pray, or other things like that which will help me be better prepared for my sessions, then I have failed and the percentage numbers do not matter. For me success is very important, and that is why I am always prepared for my sessions. And, since that is the way I measure success, I am successful 100% of the time.
Another number that is important to me is this. Of all the persons who have come seeking counseling with me only 65 to 70 of them actually apply the steps and have made the changes that I have shown them were necessary. With this group I have been 100% successful. But the question has to be asked, regarding the others, if I failed with them. And, the answer is, “no.”
I do not accept responsibility for the decisions of other people, including my clients. If they do not want to take the steps that they see are necessary, then they should have that right. But, their decisions never affect whether or not I had success with them. I was prepared when I counseled them, and I taught them what steps they should take to start solving the problem. I had 100% success, but they failed. I did my part, but they decided not to do theirs.
My personal example is the Lord Himself. He is always ready to do His part, but if we do not want to do our part, it’s possible that we may lose the blessings that He has for us. If one rejects what God offers, that does not mean that God failed. It only means that this person failed to understand that action on his part was expected and necessary for God to do His part.
Therefore, when you are wondering if you are having success in your counseling ministry, meditate on these words and make a decision. What is success for you?