Pastoral Counseling Care Principles for Control Issues


In Collins’ Christian Counseling, following issues are categorized into “Control Issues”: Mental Disorders, Alcohol-Related Problems, Additions, Financial Counseling, and Vocational Counseling. All these issues have the same common ground that needs counselees to control themselves in a certain extent. I choose this part as my topic for Pastoral Counseling study because these are the most common issues in my past pastoral ministry experience, considering the most of the people that I have served are new college graduates. Most of those people who needs help in this category looks no difference with others, and always being blamed by others or family because of lacking of self-control. I also look low to them in the past and don’t know how to help. I think it’s important for me to understand from counselor’s view and apply what was learned in my future ministry.

However, all these symptoms are not easy problems that can be solved by one or two conversations. Collins also stated in this book that relapses are common among alcoholics (and common in other scenarios, too). Collins reminds readers on the impact of the controlling issues that not only the counselee himself, but also the family and sometimes the society are impacted. And in many cases, counselees are criticized, shamed, coaxed by friends, family and sometimes church but the consequences are not positive. Admitting, teaching, motivation and goal-setting are more promoted by Collins while dealing with controlling issues.

Collins also suggested the counseling strategy for the control issues in the book. Though the strategy might vary from case to case, but they all include (1) Admit the problem, (2) Consider medical or professional therapy, (3) Find the cause, (4) Encourage disciplined lifestyle with necessary skills, (5) utilize the community and spiritual dimension. Almost all these cases will need planning, discipline and some spiritual seeking.

However, I think Collins missed an important factor in most of the control issues: specific sin. It is understandable and necessary to teach controlling skills, refusing skills, time-management, goal-setting, but it is also vital to lead the counselee to God’s word and realize the specific sin he committed and pray/admit it. Frist of all, in most controlling issues, specific sins are involved. For example, Ephesians 5:18 clearly says “And be not drunk with wine”, and Jesus said in Matt 5:28 “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Moreover, those who needs vocational counseling might be lazy or disobedience in his/her workplace. Counselor should be able to ask good questions in order to guide the counselee to realize the sin and leverage the promise from 1 John 1:9 to admit and repent. All kinds of controlling skills are vital, but a repented heart is the most important. Without realizing any sin is directly against God, the counselee will not fear the problem and the probability of relapse is very high.

My takeaways from this section as my future ministry principles for control issues are listed as below:

  1. Establish full understanding of the issue. Most control issues are not limited to the counselee alone, but also to the family, community, workplace and the church. It is not unusual that it’s not counselee’s will to come for counseling. So it is important to help counselee understand the problem as a whole and admit that he needs help.
  2. There are various places in the Bible that mentions control issues. On the one hand, we can leverage the Scripture to comfort the counselee that he is not alone. On the other hand, help him realize how the sin offense God and provoke him to anger. The repentant are not only for his own good, but most important to settle peace between human and God by grace from Jesus Christ. Spiritual guidance and divine power is a must-have throughout the process.
  3. It is also necessary to involve the community resource after helping making the plan with counselee. All plans in control issues needs tracking the execution, reminding the time, refusing the temptation. Thus the family and even spiritual mentor might need to be involved to help the counselee.
  4. Relapses are not exceptional. This expectation should be set in counselor, counselee and other stakeholder’s mind so that we can work together to encourage and accompany the counselee when relapse occurs.
  5. In vocational counseling and financial counseling, we need to pay a lot of attention to what counselee says because a worldview lies behind it. And transforming the worldview to a Biblical one is a difficult but necessary step.

Overall speaking, this section in the book is very helpful and changed a lot of thoughts I used to have. I learned a lot for my future ministry.