There are a few instances in which a counselor would want to conclude a counseling case. Some of the reasons are encouraging reasons, for example, if the counselee is now equipped to handle his problems. Some of the reasons are less encouraging, such as when the counselee is opposing or unwilling to receive the counsel. The goal of Biblical counseling is to equip counselees to handle their issues in a God-honoring, biblical fashion. The goal of Biblical counseling is not to keep the counselee attending sessions each week for the rest of their life. We want to equip them and teach them to go out and live each day for the glory of God.
The best reason for coming to a conclusion with a counselee is when the counselee has been adequately prepared to handle his problems from a position of responding to them out of faith. This comes about gradually – the problems are being consistently handled biblically. Both parties are in agreement that the counseling sessions should be concluded. To end the session, I would rejoice with them over their sanctification and would assure them that I would continue to pray for them.
One of the most discouraging reasons for concluding with a counselee is when the counselee isn’t willing to progress. The counselor is usually extremely willing to continue, should the counselee be willing to receive the counsel. Usually, the signs that a counselee is refusing the counsel is a refusal to complete the homework assignments, or there seems to be no difference made due to the counselee’s hard-heartedness, or they are just refusing to participate. I would gently tell the counselee that we needed to postpone any other counseling sessions together until he was willing to put forth the effort required in participation. I would explain that we are Biblically commanded to be good stewards of all that God has given us – and that includes our time. I would tell them that I would continue to pray for him and that I was looking forward to continuing the counseling sessions in the future.
Another reason to conclude counseling sessions is when the counselee’s problem is bigger than you, the counselor can handle. This can occur when the counselee’s problem requires more than one hour each week of your time. Some problems can involve extensive health issues, or require additional involvement with other specialists. For these clients, I would tell him that I care about him and his problems, but that I would encourage him to seek the involvement of the specialists he needs. If he requests help in tracking down these specialists, I would be happy to make recommendations. Also, I would encourage further counseling sessions as they progress with the other specialists.
Having to end a counseling session is not an indicator of how beneficial a counselor you are and it is no reason to get discouraged. Some counselees will be very happy to hear that you are ending the sessions and some may be taken aback. It’s important not to let the counselee’s response cause you to change your mind about concluding if you truly believe that concluding is the wisest response. Be kind and gracious in how you handle concluding the sessions.