Tips for Counseling Writing
Make It Personal
Counseling is about people. Unless you tailor your thinking and your writing to engage the particular person you are addressing, your insight will be general and theoretical, lacking the perception and timeliness that make for good, wise counseling.
Your descriptions of problems, feelings and situations should be vivid and detailed, and your application of biblical truth should be packaged in such a way that it poignantly addresses the specific context into which you are speaking. Whether you are describing your own experience or that of another counselee, ask yourself, “Have I spoken directly to the complex person involved in these struggles?”
Make It Practical
Counseling papers seldom require you to discuss abstract truth or counseling theory. In counseling, theory functions as a servant to praxis. You should demonstrate your knowledge of biblical-counseling methodology by applying it thoughtfully, creatively and contextually.
When considering your response to a problem or situation, don’t be content simply to sketch a general outline of a solution: I would show the counselee from Scripture that God loves her. Rather, season your writing with rich, practical details: Since Chantel feels abandoned and unloved by anyone, including God, I would take her through the story of Naomi, showing how Boaz (and ultimately God) intervened to bring life to a woman who had lost everyone.
By writing with this level of specificity, you will be much better prepared for real counseling scenarios.
When writing counseling papers, it is especially tempting to drift from the format and guidelines of the assignment to discuss other matters that you feel are important. Your professor has spent time crafting the assignment in a very particular way for important reasons. Be sure to pay to close attention to the directions of each assignment, thoroughly speaking to every issue the professor wants you to address.
Use Clear, Direct, and Expressive Language
The situations that prompt many people to pursue counseling are often difficult, strained and poignant. Many counselees struggle to bring their experiences and feelings to expression. It is therefore appropriate for you, as a future counselor, to use appropriately poignant language to express yourself.
Using expressive language not only dignifies the counseling situation (by seeking to represent it carefully and accurately), it also aids in clarity of communication and forces you to be specific. As you seek to convey the specifics contours of a problem or situation, use this opportunity to seek out the most appropriate language to do so.
Use Active Language
The world is full of people who act in response to other people and the world around them. Your writing should express this active character of life. Failing to craft your writing accordingly can have important negative consequences. For example, consider the following two sentences:
Katie’s question hurt James’ feelings and prompted an unexpected response.
James took offense at Katie’s question and shot back with a sarcastic jab.
Both sentences relate the same event, but they do so with important differences. In the first sentence, the subject is the impersonal “question,” which is responsible for “hurting” James’ feelings and “prompting” his response. In this construction, James is presented as entirely passive. Even his response is due to a “prompting” by someone else.
In the second sentence, however, it is made clear that James is a responsible agent, “taking offence” and “shooting back.” There is also a very big difference between being prompted by someone else to give an unexpected response and actively shooting back with a sarcastic jab.
The point of this example is that the choice of words and constructions communicate very important information about how you view a situation and how you want your audience (specifically, your counselee!) to view the situation.