• David Flowers

Full immersion counseling

In my last two posts I have talked about deeply transformational counseling. Those posts gave you an idea of what kinds of questions and issues you might expect a therapist to help you work through if your goal is pervasive spiritual transformation. In this post I want to focus on what will be required from your end as a client in order to get the most benefit from the experience. This is what I call full immersion.

In full immersion counseling, you go all in. You’re not there to dabble. You’re not simply using your counselor to see if your feelings of anger towards someone else are justified. It even goes beyond a commitment to go to therapy regularly and work hard. In full immersion counseling, you essentially give up the notion that you are the only judge of whether or not you are “okay.” You do not do this blindly or stupidly. You do it carefully, and only when you have found a therapist you know you can trust deeply.

When that time comes, you surrender completely to the process. This means that on days when you have a scheduled appointment, but you are feeling outstanding, and you don’t think you have anything to talk about in therapy, you go anyway. You go because you have decided to allow another person (your counselor) to look deeply into your life and to ask questions if they see anything they are concerned about.

Full immersion counseling is going to counseling as a discipline. When you are doing full immersion counseling, you realize that the moment you go back to being the sole arbiter of whether your attitudes and actions are “okay,” you have joined the ranks of 90% of the rest of America, who simply assume the rightness of their view of the world and act from that basis.

In my experience with full immersion counseling (as a client, not the therapist), I have had many times like I described above. On one such day I woke up feeling excellent and just didn’t think I would have anything to talk about in my appointment. I strongly considered canceling. Then I decided that I was going to be full-in. I was going to go anyway, and let my counselor see if there was anything that, in his opinion, was worth looking at.

I went in and just started rambling, feeling awkward and stupid, like I was wasting my money and both his time and mine. But, almost as a side point, I brought up a little bit of tension I had been feeling that day about our finances. My counselor grabbed that, saying, “Have you ever noticed how much tension in your life is about money? How come you can trust God for so much in your life, but you struggle to trust God when it comes to money?”  That session, where I had thought I probably had nothing to say and that I was “just fine,” turned out to be extremely productive, yielding insights about my issues with money that I am still working through today.

In full immersion counseling, you go because you have committed to going, because you realize you simply cannot see all the things in your life that you might need to consider, and because you have realized that your counselor is a competent, caring individual who can help you find yourself (and God) even (and perhaps especially) when you did not know you were lost. So you do it as discipline. As accountability. As the sole preventative for the “I’m okay, thank you very much” defensiveness that characterizes the majority of people.

A lot of people really struggle over the idea of going to counseling. If you are struggling with it, of course I would strongly encourage you to do it. But don’t just do it. Go full-in. Commit to it. Work hard. Go to your appointments. Give your counselor permission to go anywhere they want to go in your life, and be willing to explore whatever they suggest. I promise you, just the process of opening yourself up in this way will be extremely beneficial.

Question:: Are you “just fine” and don’t need help from anybody? How do you know? If you’re in counseling, are you full-in? Are you willing to go for it?

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