First Impressions

Taking the first steps toward receiving counseling can be daunting.  "Do I really need this?  Will it be worth it?  Can I trust this relative stranger with the deepest concerns of my soul?"  These same questions may also be asked by someone when referring family members, close friends, or church congregants for counseling.  "Will they receive care that is trustworthy, scriptural, effective?"  Truthfully, this is a big step, and it should be taken seriously.  Simply knowing what to expect from a counseling provider, especially during the initial sessions, can go a long way toward demystifying the counseling process and making it just a bit more approachable for those in need of care.  

At Harbor Christian Counseling, we focus the intake process around the following principles of care:

Compassion.  From the very first point of contact onward, we strive to exhibit empathy, respect, and dignity toward each individual client.  For us, this means that our primary focus, at least to start, is on understanding and connecting – both of which are necessary prerequisites for any effective effort to help.  In forming a new therapeutic relationship, we do not begin as “experts” who “fix,” but rather as fellow human beings who can come alongside in the hard work of change and growth.  In this way, we hope to manifest the seeing, hearing, and healing presence of Jesus somewhere deep within the very human encounter of counseling.

Clarity.  Coming into counseling, people often express a sense of being overwhelmed and uncertain about how to move forward through their current hardships.  They might know that “something” needs to change, but they are unsure about the “what” and the “how.”  For that reason, the intake process also focuses on clarifying the needs and goals of the client.  This applies to individuals as well as to couples and families, and it typically involves lots of information gathering, open-ended questions, and reflective listening.  In the clinical context, this can also include formulating a diagnosis and determining an appropriate treatment plan with the client, all of which is again meant to clarify the “what” and the “how” of counseling.  We find that a greater sense of clarity in and of itself at this stage can encourage and empower people for the work of change ahead.

Competence.  We aim to round out the intake process by recognizing where the source of our competence lies for the challenging work ahead.  We recognize that competence comes in part, but not in full, from the training, experience, and empathic presence of the counselor.  We recognize that competence also comes in part, but not in full, from the underlying strengths, resources, and self-efficacy of the client, even when these are obscured by current circumstances.  Above all, we recognize that competence comes most fully and essentially through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.  As we step forward into the work of counseling, we do so humbly and gratefully dependent on God’s sovereign grace which is behind us, before us, between us, and within us.  We move ahead with competence, not because we are strong or able on our own but because we are led by God who is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).