You’ve probably heard the old joke, “How many counselors does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is only one but the light bulb has got to really want to change. True for light bulbs and true for clients in counseling. If a client does not want to change it doesn’t matter how many counselors they see they will still stay stuck in their same destructive patterns. Counselors cannot change anybody! Let me say that again, counselors cannot change anybody! Change only comes through God and the client. Counselors can counsel, advise, strategize, teach, encourage, pray for, and admonish clients but they cannot change them.
So how do clients change? Change starts when the light bulb goes on (no pun intended) for clients and they understand why they behave like they do. Understanding why we do what we do is a BIG first step toward change. Many clients don’t want to face why they do what they do. It is too painful or embarrassing. Sometimes facing why they do what they do means they’ll have to give up something in which they find pleasure and they’re not ready or willing to do that.
Change requires understanding the “why” but it must go beyond that. Clients need to know how to change. They need practical help from their counselor to know how to make the necessary changes in their lives. Practical help may include repairing relationships with others through confession of sin, repentance, and asking forgiveness of God and others. It may mean changing a lifestyle, friends, or jobs. It may mean developing a budget to control runaway spending.
Finally, clients need a heart to change. They must WANT to change and that’s a heart issue and a decision of the will. They can know why they do what they do and even understand how they need to change but unless there is a desire to change it is simply an exercise in futility. Knowledge can never replace action. When a client has the desire to change, he will do anything necessary to change.
So there you have it. Counselors help clients see why they do what they do and learn what they could do differently. However, clients alone must bring a willing heart to counseling for unless they want to change and realize that no one can do it for them, it won’t happen.
Change is never easy but it is worth it,