Service Times ---> Sundays 10:45am; 6:00pm // Wednesdays 7:00pm

Photo by Markus Spiske

Welcome back to week 27. We hope the past week has been a blessed one for you. Last week we briefly considered involvement with others in a counseling / discipleship context. We saw that we ought to build empathetic involvement undergirded by the truth of Scripture applied to their life. This week we will briefly consider data gathering and its importance in the counseling / discipleship process. Therefore, let’s begin with an explanation of data gathering. 

Data gathering is when a counselor obtains information about the counselee that is pertinent to solving his or her sin problem biblically. The counselor does this in two ways. One, by collecting halo data. Halo data is the non-verbal communication that a person uses (i.e. body language, facial expressions, etc.). 

Next, the counselor collects core data. Core data is the collected written and verbal information from the counselee.[1] It is not just important, it is absolutely critical, that the counselor obtains the proper data about the counselee. It is critically important for two reasons. First, and most obvious, the counselor needs to know what the problem is. If we do not ask, we will not know! 

Second, the counselees need to know what the problem is as well. The second reason seems a little strange because one would think that a counselee knows full well what their problem is. However, that is not necessarily the case. It is easily possible that the counselee can identify the results and consequences of the core issue but miss the underlying cause / core issue entirely. Sometimes writing things out on paper helps us better identify the problem.

As an example of this, an over-weight woman can come in for counseling regarding her weight and want a better strategy for dealing with food. She can voice this concern to the counselor and he / she can jump right in and tackle the trouble with no further data. If this happens, the counselee can easily think that eating too much is the core problem, because of the results; her obesity. The counselor can help her resolve that concern by helping her find a gym and nutritionist, or even through sending her to see a doctor.[2] The counselor could even top off the session with a nice prayer at the end to give it that “religious” feel. 

However, if her thinking stops there and the counselor addresses the issue solely on that level, they would both be wrong. They have both participated in behavioral modification. The counselee is left thinking she has an answer to her problem, but she has only been given a band aide for her broken arm. 

The counselor, in this case, was negligent in data collecting that would have helped the counselee understand her responsibility in the scenario. Data gathering helps the counselee know what her responsibility is through the pointed questions the counselor makes in gathering the data. When the counselee knows what their responsibility is, they will know how to identify the core issue with more clarity. 

Data gathering is important because the counselor will actually state why he is gathering the data –to help formulate a plan from the Scriptures that will give the counselee the necessary tools to solve their problem God’s way.[3] In the example above, failure to gather and consider the clients data lead to a failure to identify the counselee’s core issue of idolatry in the heart.[4] Failure to biblically identify and deal with sin will lead to false teaching. In turn, false teaching will lead to a seared conscious (1 Tim. 4:1-2). 

Biblical counselors should get the fullest picture possible of a counselee’s issues so that he or she can best lead the counselee into Christlikeness. Anything less is laziness on the part of the counselor at best and helps the counselee to remain in their sin and dishonor God at worst. Proper data gathering is critical for counseling biblically so that the counselee becomes more like Christ.

We hope our short time considering data gathering and its importance was helpful. We don’t want to make better Pharisees or help others along in self-deception. We want to help them be more like Christ! Lord willing, next week we will think about homework and its importance in the counseling / discipleship process. Why and what kind of homework is needed? Until then may our Lord bless you and keep you.

[1] Jay Adams, Christian Counselors Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 257-259.

[2] Sending the counselee to a doctor should happen anyway. It is important to know if there is an underlying physical issue complicating the problem or putting the counselee’s life in danger.

[3] Jay Adams, Christian Counselors Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 259.

[4] Hypothetically, a well-trained biblical counselor would not be so hasty (cf. Prov. 18:13).

Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Counselee Involvement Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Homework