After dating several women who told him he had “issues,” my friend Ron finally decided to look for a good counselor.
“That’s a great move,” I encouraged him. It was all I could do to stop short of adding, “And it’s about time, Ron!”
Yet the conversation grew darker when he asked my advice on how to go about finding a counselor who could actually do him some good.
“That’s a tough one, Ron. You’re a pretty hard case,” I chuckled. “And 95% of the counselors out there are either well-meaning but incompetent, or else they’re total frauds, just out to make money.”
I later had to admit that I had no scientific basis for my “95%” statistic. Perhaps the situation in the counseling community is even worse than that!
When Ron asked why I was so down on the counseling profession, I told him my Parable of the Dandelions.
“There are four kinds of counselors, Ron,” I explained. “Picture someone approaching four different advisers for input on controlling the dandelions in his yard.”
Counselor #1: This kind of counselor looks at the yard and says, “I don’t see any dandelions. I think you’re doing great!” This is the counselor of choice for those in denial. The person going for counseling denies he has any addictions or psychiatric conditions, and the counselor comforts him by agreeing! A variation of this is the kind of counselor who provides reassuring comparisons: “Well, sure, you have dandelions. But there’s no need to worry about it, because all your neighbors have dandelions too!”
Counselor #2: This kind of counselor specializes in validation. After spending an hour with the patient and charging $160 or more, the counselor says, “Yes, you surely are depressed” or “Yes, you really do have a lot of anxiety.” Of course, the counselee already knew that before spending his $160, but it feels good to have someone validate and confirm all the things he’s been feeling. The problem with this, quite obviously, is that nothing has really been solved by the counselor. In essence, he’s just saying, “I see the dandelions you’re talking about!” Frequently, this kind of counselor also tries to validate your perspective on the cause of your problems. By the end of the counseling session, you’ve found other people to blame for your troubles, leaving you guilt-free. “I agree with your assessment that your spouse is a jerk,” the counselor assures you. “So it’s no wonder you have anger issues.” Or you’re told, “Your self-esteem problems are all the fault of your parents.” You feel a remarkable sense of relief in knowing you’re not to blame for your current condition—but your condition never changes when you insist on shifting all the blame to others.
Counselor #3: This kind of counselor goes a little further than Counselor #2. “Yes, you definitely have dandelions, and we’re going to do something to fix that!” However, Counselor #3 opts for the same approach I once took when my dad told me to get rid of the dandelions in our yard: I simply pulled off the dandelion heads, and soon the yard looked dandelion-free. Counselor #3 typically accomplishes this by providing medication to mask a person’s pain, anxiety, depression, or other unpleasant symptoms. The greater the emotional pain, the higher the dosage that is prescribed. I’m sincerely thankful that medication can relieve some of these troublesome symptoms, and some people need that approach, at least in the short run. However, I can’t help but remember what happened when I pulled off the dandelion heads in our lawn. For a few days, it seemed like I was a genius, eradicating all signs of dandelions. But soon the dandelions were back, even more prevalent than before. And that’s why we need counselors like #4…
Counselor #4: I’m convinced that most counselors fall into the categories of #1, #2, or #3. You might wonder how they stay in business when they’re so ineffective. The answer to that question isn’t hard to find: Instead of truly being healed and delivered from their sins and dysfunctions, many people would prefer to live in denial, find affirmation that their problems really aren’t so bad, or find medication that will cover up the symptoms. In contrast, Counselor #4 understands that our emotional “dandelions” must be honestly acknowledged and then pulled out by the roots.
My friend Ron, like so many other people, stands at a crossroads. It’s tempting to pay a counselor to tell him he’s not nearly as messed up as those women say on his dates. And if he had some good medication, he probably wouldn’t worry about their opinions anyway.
The search for competent help won’t be easy, but I’m praying for Ron to find Counselor #4—someone with the spiritual discernment and patience to unearth and remove the roots of his emotional pain.
Tell me what you think. Am I being too hard on the counseling community? What kinds of remedies have helped you find help and healing for your emotional wounds? Ron could use your advice.
Jim, with this post coming at me I am happy to be retired!
Gary, maybe you need to take on one more client before retiring!
21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
The woman at the well presented her own two options of the correct place to worship God – either in Samaria or in Jerusalem. That was it. Just choose one. In her mind, ONE of them must be the correct answer.
But Jesus explained that neither answer was correct. Worship of the Father must be based on the spirit and truth of the person – not the physical (or flesh) location.
That’s where most counselors fail us. They tend to believe that the answer is inside the person himself; in other words, inside the person himself. But, as the Bible points out, “Its the Spirit that gives LIFE. The flesh avails NOTHING.”
And so, in that dark, smelly disgusting world of the “flesh,” consisting of our human memories, feelings, prejudices, we should expect to find NOTHING of real help. Yet that is exactly where most counselors would direct us. And we will find much there. But nothing that will really help us. Just endless reminders of our failures, and how othes have failed us. And plenty of people to blame for it!
I spent decades searching for truth in the dark morass of my own flesh, including my memories of how I’d been failed. The facts were the facts. The problem was that identifying them didn’t really change anything. It just made me feel better.
When I connected with Grace Life International in Charlotte, that all began to change. I began to understand that TRUTH was not a virtue but a person. I began to understand that God the Father was a REAL PERSON, not a set of laws. I began to finally grasp that my existence had meaning, not because of my achievements, but because of how HE sees me.
Seminary training, 20 years of pastoral ministry, and service in God’s kingdom didn’t bring me to this realization. I needed to hear it from others who had also sought for years to please the Father, only to finally understand that it is HIS goodness and love for me that gives me peace, gives me real identity, lets me leave the past behind and joyfully pursue the future.
That’s what broke through my hard head and has given me the peace I always wanted.
But, alas, I fear that Ron, like the woman at the well, is only open to the answers that he himself will accept. And that may be his ultimate downfall.
Fortunately, the woman at the well eventually allowed the love of Jesus to open her eyes to another way. And through the revelation that she allowed, her entire village came to Jesus.
Awesome that you found counselors who truly pointed you to Jesus , Terry. I wish everyone was so fortunate
The comments on counselors are for the most part true, although there is virtue in the one you described in #4. Prov. 11:14 tells us, “Where no counsel is the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” We do need “safe” people with wisdom to confide in and seek their opinion that is based on Scripture. But ultimately the One who is the embodiment of Truth is our “wonderful counselor” Is. 9:6. Coincidentally, I’m currently reading a book entitled “The Greatest Psychologist Who Ever Lived” Jesus and the Wisdom of the Soul. Outside of the Bible, this is one of the best books I’ve read concerning how to understand ourselves and others through a relationship with Christ. Note: for those of you interested in reading this book it is currently available under the title “Jesus The Greatest Therapist Who Ever Lived” by Mark W. Baker.
Great comments, Susan. I love the Scripture references and will take a look at the book you mentioned.
Interesting read Jim. This post definitely has an “edge” on it. You caught me off-guard which is a good thing. LOL.
Praying for your friend Ron, thankful that he knows The Counselor, and praying God guides him to safe effective earthly counsel as well. God still uses men to bless.
WOW!! I feel better just hearing how everyone is responding!! THANKS…I think….
From my daughter, Molly Stokas…
I agree, it’s hard to find the right counselor! Doing research and reading reviews is key. Finding a Christian is key also!! My counselor has been life changing in so many great ways. I told her up front that I do not like focusing on problems (all that energy on negative things makes them worse). She know our time is spent only on creating solutions and that’s what I pay her for. So we have an understanding and it’s been a great relationship of growth and positive accountability!!
Good read! I love Terry’s comment that TRUTH is a person. His name is JESUS!! Love your faithfulness, JIM!!! I hope to see you soon.