You might start by asking, “What’s a ‘helping conversation’?” All I mean by this phrase is a conversation where someone comes to you for help or advice. It could be a church member coming to you as their pastor, a friend coming to you as their small group leader, a client coming to you as their counselor, or a co-worker coming to you as someone they respect. But you’ve likely had someone come to you in the midst of a life hardship and you could tell they wanted to more than verbally process; they wanted guidance.

If you have been in the role, you know it can feel overwhelming especially when the hardship is multi-dimensional. It can feel like a complex maze where the “start here” arrow was omitted.

  • Maybe you have a friend who is deep in the throes of alcohol addiction. They escape any unpleasant emotion through substance abuse. But they’re coming to you about the level of conflict they’re having with their two teenage children who are being rebellious and failing out of school. As your friend emotes, they get stuck on a diatribe about whether addiction is really a disease or not.
  • Perhaps you have a friend who just lost their job, has excessive credit card debt, and has to make a pivotal decision about their car loan. But while talking about that, you realize their sense of despair is so high that they are considering self-harm. Yet in the conversation your friend has a hard time getting off a theological discussion about whether suicide is the unpardonable sin and why God is punishing them.
  • Or, you may have a friend who was abused for most of their childhood. Their relationships are marked by an all-or-nothing trust pattern that results in them being intermittently aloof and naïve. Recently, they have begun to have panic attacks. As a result, your friend is becoming fixated on avoiding having a panic attack in public or while driving, so their ability to function is decreasing rapidly as they avoid public settings. All they want to know from you is what you do to relax.

Most of us read these brief vignettes and think, “There should be a starting place.” But it’s hard to articulate what the starting point is or why it was chosen. That’s without the pressure of a distressed, crying, or angry friend looking at us waiting for a response. Even if we came up with the appropriate starting point, we would still need to come up with a way to “convince” (if that’s the right word) our friend to join us at that starting point.

If you’ve read this far and thought, “Yes, I would be benefit from being able to navigate situations like that,” I would like to invite you to the free webinar Counseling Triage – Where to Begin in a Complicated Situation? The webinar will be Thursday August 6th at 1pm EST.

My goal in this twice-monthly series of free webinars is to teach one primary counseling concept or skill each month and then provide a case study that allows participants to become more proficient at utilizing that skill or concept.

These are great events for:

  • Pastors, chaplains, and ministry leaders looking to enhance their pastoral care skills
  • Counselors wanting CEU credits to help them learn more about the intersection of their faith and practice
  • Leaders in church-based counseling ministries looking to grow in their case wisdom
  • Undergraduate students looking to discern a calling to vocational ministry or a career as a professional counselor
  • Friends and small group leaders committed to walking faithfully alongside their peers in tough times

Note: If you want to participate in many or most of the webinars in this series, when you RSVP click “auto subscribe to all future webinars,” so you don’t have to keep up with registering for each event.