Written by Phil Monroe
Friday, 02 November 2012 00:00
By the time this is posted, I will have just returned from our 8thannual retreat for our MA in Counseling program. This is a retreat where our students, staff, and counseling faculty spend a weekend together learning, playing, eating, and praying.
You might wonder why we require our students to take time out of their very busy lives to spend a weekend together. Let me give you three reasons.
Learning is more than information exchange
If training competent counselors consists only of acquiring knowledge and techniques, then the best way to deliver such training would be via distance education where a person could load up on content through taped lectures and hotlinks and then view techniques in action via YouTube clips. Even better, we wouldn’t need counselors because a computer program will always outperform in the area of knowledge and skill delivery.
As you know, good counseling and pastoring requires just a bit more: more insight into self and other, more wisdom (when to speak and when to be quiet), and then add in a healthy dose of humility. A retreat provides a great place to focus a bit more on the character of the counselor. In addition, we utilize some other forms of learning: extended dialog with peers and teachers and personal reflection time in order to take stock of one’s spiritual and professional trajectory.
Counseling professionals can be quite lonely
You may not have thought about this before, but a counselor’s life can be quite lonely and isolating. We listen to private pain and cannot share the burden with others. We cannot go home and tell our friends or family about our day. Even when we work in group settings, our interactions with other counselors often consists of passing each other in the hall between sessions. Retreats help build relationships among students that last beyond graduation. Sure, these relationships grow during the rest of the program, but a retreat helps deepen connections in ways that the blur of the classroom does not. In my experience, counselors who maintain strong bonds with other professionals feel less disconnected, continue to learn new skills, and suffer less from compassion fatigue. And one more thing, it is obvious that when MAC cohorts bond together during their program they report coping better with the stressors graduate education places on family, work, and spiritual live.
We hear God better when we are out of our routine
Retreats, if done well, provide space for participants to hit the pause button on their rat race life and experience time for reflection and listening to God. In the 21stcentury, we have little time that isn’t filled with noise, whether from social media, schedules, or our own anxieties. We believe our programs would be of little value if we graduate well-trained counselors who habitually tune out the still small voice of the Lord. So, during our retreat, we ask students to take some time to be silent. Silence is a spiritual discipline that gets too little attention these days. During an extended period of silence, we want to ask God a few simple questions. “What have you been trying to tell me? Where do you want my attention?”
Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. Recently, they started the Global Trauma Recovery Institute. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/philip-monroe