The gift of counseling is a wonderful way to come alongside others on their journey of healing. Many of our allies write in to ask John for advice on how to pursue this when God calls them to it. Here are some thoughts John has offered in the past when asked for direction regarding counseling programs:
Probably the most important question to ask of your own heart and also ask of God is, Is this desire mythic or specific? In other words, the yearning to be engaged in people's lives—to play a redemptive role, to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free—is a beautiful desire. It is something God puts on the hearts of his people to move them into that kind of ministry. And we need people in this ministry.
But then comes the question, How does that play itself out? Is that a counselor specifically, as in 25 to 30 clients a week in private practice somewhere? That’s an important question to lay before the Lord and to also sort out in your own heart.
The path to becoming a counselor is very specific and requires licensure, whereas the path to becoming a "redemptive person," engaging the hearts of others, could be a much more, shall we say, "poetic path."
Here’s why I raise the question: When I went through my counseling program and got my Master’s in counseling, I didn’t do it to become a counselor. I did it because I wanted to help people. Now, I did become a counselor in private practice for a number of years, but it was never where my heart really belonged or came alive.
So it’s an important question to ask yourself, because that ministry can be expressed in all kinds of different ways. Having said that, let me make some observations about counseling programs. Most counseling programs—actually all that I’m aware of—do not offer Four Streams-type counseling. That is to say, they don’t collectively deal with counseling, spiritual warfare, the healing of broken places, and teaching people to walk with God (discipleship). Most counseling programs offer one or two of those streams. And that’s a very important deficiency. So you need to know, as you go out to look for a program or as you look for personal training, that you are going to have to piece it together.
I have friends who’ve gone to The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Philadelphia Biblical University, and Reformed Seminary in Orlando, to name but three. And within those programs, some very good things are going on. They use my books sometimes. They teach from my material. They certainly care about the heart. But all of the people I know who have been through those programs have come out saying, “But they didn’t deal with spiritual warfare," or "They didn’t deal with healing prayer.”
Those are things you will find you need the first week in your practice. So my counsel to anyone who is seeking a program or just seeking training is to plan on piecing it together. Learn spiritual warfare from someone like Neil Anderson. Learn healing prayer from someone like author Leann Payne or from Theophostic Prayer Ministries. Add those to whatever counseling training you might be getting.
If you are in a situation where you need a counseling license in order to be a professional counselor—because that’s the arena you want to minister in and be your primary source of income—we recommend Dan Allender's program at The Seattle School. If the desire is on a mythic level, we recommend you get your hands on some of our audio teachings, like The Four Streams and The Hope of Prayer.
If you are open to a poetic approach to this (that is to say, not so linear as a graduate degree, for example), then your options are wide open. You could go sit under Leann Payne’s school of healing prayer seminars—they do a couple of those a year. You could go get different types of Elijah House Ministry training—they have a number of schools around the world in Four Streams-type ministry. And you could piece together your own program with reading and with seminars and conferences. In that case, that would sort of be the "Wild Goose" directing you.
We hope these thoughts help, and pray that God will reveal this next step in your journey, and the next...and the next...