the Hope of Survivors

What Should I Expect from a Proper Counseling Relationship?

It is very important in ALL your counseling relationships to maintain proper boundaries and to ensure your safety. Below are some tips to make sure you will feel more secure and safer in your counseling environment.

1. Never let the door be locked.

2. Never counsel behind completely closed doors (in a church setting, not a professional setting).

3. If there is a window in the door, make sure it is not covered up.

4. There should be no private female-to-male (or vice versa) counseling in a church setting. Have the pastor’s wife, church secretary, your spouse or a trusted friend sit in with you during your sessions.

 Sympathetic Pastor—

5. Never agree to meet for counseling outside of the office (especially in someplace like the park, a hotel room, a quiet restaurant, etc.).

6. There should NEVER be any touching —even “accidental” touching—this includes hugging, arms around shoulder, handholding, sexual touch, caressing, fondling, kissing, etc., in counseling. A quick handshake may be appropriate when first meeting.

7. There should NEVER be any inappropriate speech or innuendos.

8. Maintain the proper counselor/counselee relationship. The pastor/counselor is NOT there to be your friend. He is there to provide advice and spiritual guidance.

9. The topics you discuss should NEVER include the pastor’s personal life or problems.

There is one slight exception to be noted here, and that is that it may be appropriate for a pastor/counselor to relate (briefly) a similar situation that he or another nameless (for privacy issues) counselee has gone through and how the Lord has helped him through it. The ENTIRE purpose of this disclosure should be to give you hope, not to have you help comfort the pastor/counselor.

10. There should not be any music, especially loud or secular music, being played during counseling. Loud music can be used to drown out conversations and noise so that others would not be able to hear and know what is happening to you. Secular music can be employed to arouse your already heightened emotions and to draw you into an even deeper feeling of attachment to the pastor. Secular music has no place in a spiritual environment such as a church.

11. You should not be made to feel that your conversations with the pastor are “just between the two of you” and not for discussion with your spouse, friend, etc., at your own discretion. Pastors will sometimes use this secrecy as a way to draw you in, to exclude others, to avoid accountability and to abuse you.

Remember that as your pastor or counselor, he is required to adhere to the following principles:

Never harm or exploit those who come for help.

Never engage in any kind of sexual misconduct with those you are helping. This includes physically, verbally, spiritually or emotionally.

Avoid dual relationships. This means that the pastor should not be your friend and counselor. You should not have outside activities with your therapist, pastor, etc. (There are some exceptions at times.)

There is always a code of ethics, whether it’s your church policy or the state law. Report what happened to you to the elders of the church or the church authority. If they do not take immediate action, report it to the local authorities. You may choose to do this anyway. Do not let this remain a secret. You don’t know how many other women may have been victims of this same pastor (most are serial offenders). If someone else had spoken up sooner, YOU may not have been a victim either. This is extremely important!

Please read an excerpt from the AACC Christian Counseling Code of Ethics.

 

“Be men of God, on the gaining side. Knowledge is within the reach of all who desire it. God designs the mind shall become strong, thinking deeper, fuller, clearer. Walk with God as did Enoch; make God your counselor and you cannot but make improvement…

There are men who claim to keep God’s commandments, who will visit the flock of God under their charge and lead unwary souls into a train of thought that results in shameless liberties and familiarities…

He [a minister] will, as he visits families, begin to inquire the secrets of their married life. Do they live happily with their husbands? Do they feel that they are appreciated? Is there harmony in their married life? And thus the unsuspecting woman is led on by these ensnaring questions to open her secret life, her disappointments, her little trials and grievances, to a stranger as the Catholics do to their priests.

Then this sympathizing pastor puts in a chapter of his own experience; that his wife was not the woman of his choice; that there is no real affinity between them. He does not love his wife. She does not meet his expectations. The barrier is thus broken down, and women are seduced. They believe their life is one great disappointment, and this shepherd has great sympathy for his flock. Lovesick sentimentalism is encouraged, and the mind and soul is spoiled of its purity, if this kind of work does not result in the breaking of the seventh commandment.

Polluted thoughts harbored become habit, and the soul is scarred and defiled. Once do a wrong action and a blot is made which nothing can heal but the blood of Christ; and if the habit is not turned from with firm determination, the soul is corrupted and the streams flowing from this defiling fountain corrupt others. His influence is a curse. God will certainly destroy all those who continue this work…

We must be elevated, ennobled, sanctified. We may have strength in Jesus to overcome; but when the character is lacking in purity, when sin has become a part of the character, it has a bewitching power that is equal to the intoxicating glass of liquor. The power of self-control and reason is overborne by practices that defile the whole being; and if these sinful practices are continued, the brain is enfeebled, diseased, and loses its balance.”

Mind, Character & Personality, Vol. 1, page 226-227

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18