For the final installment of the Crisis Counseling series, I want to talk about the most common type of counseling that youth workers encounter. We’ll call this Counseling in the Youth Room – the times when those students approach you after the lesson or while you’re in your office or just after church on Sunday.
When students approach you with an issue, or question concerning something they’re going through, first of all take the time to thank them for coming to you. It takes a lot of guts for a teenager to approach an adult about an issue. AND they choose you to talk to you about it. So that shows they trust you.
Oftentimes, the questions they ask may be the symptoms of a much larger question that they are hesitant to talk about. So ask questions to figure out what they really want. Try to dig deeper. For example, they may approach you about “What to do when you’re feeling depressed…” when really, they may be struggling with self-mutilation. You could follow up their question of “Well, what do you do when you’re feeling depressed?” This helps steer the conversation into deeper territories.
Help guide them to do their own thinking. I’ve mentioned this before, but it is so critical that they do the majority of the talking. Allow them to find the answers on their own. They may ask you a direct question, but redirecting the question to them helps them search it out and discover the answer–which in the long run makes for much more effective learning and problem solving.
Use the Bible! Scripture is full of wonderful scriptures and examples of people who need help like we do. Point to those examples and communicate it in a way that they can understand and how it relates to them.
Give them homework, some kind of assignment that helps work through the situation. For example, a student is struggling with anger towards another student at school. A great assignment would be for your student to write out a prayer for that particular student every day for the next week and bring it back to you. The purpose of this is 2 fold: 1) They are living out the command of Jesus to pray for our enemies and 2) they are following through with their issues to help get them resolved. And then you have a measuring marker to see progress!
Finally, and probably most importantly: Follow up. Either set a date to meet or make a point to ask your student the next time you see them how they are doing. Make sure you don’t just send your students off to the wolves after a talk. We need to make sure we follow up with them to make sure they are still on track.