As with all new lawyers, after I took my oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys, thereby becoming a full-fledged licensed counselor and attorney-at-law, I was so excited to begin my practice. However, little did I know that law school did not prepare me to do so! Yes, I knew the law, both substantive and procedural, but I knew nothing about the professional or “business” aspect of building my own law office. I realized that I did not know how to properly set up and conduct an interview with a prospective client and worse, I had no idea how much to charge for my services! I was so dumbfounded that I just tried calling up older and more experienced lawyers to ask them for some advice. The only thing was, there were almost as many different methods and styles as there are law practitioners. During that time, and even now after six years of law practice, I really wished that all law schools would include in their curriculum a subject on “How to Set Up and Manage a Law Office.”
Likewise, the same thing is true with regard to the practice or ministry of pastoral counseling. Fortunately for me, I am now learning in seminary the things that I should have learned in law school, particularly, how to arrange and conduct an effective client interview. According to Dr. Clyde Narramore, a renowned clinical psychologist and counselor, effective counselors are conscious of details and thus give careful thought to such arrangements as: (a) setting the appointment; (b) preparing the interview; (c) beginning the interview; (d) determining the length of the interview; (e) closing the interview; (f) recording the interview; and (g) handling persistent cases. In his seminal book, The Psychology of Counseling, he provides basic guidelines therefor. He further stressed that counseling is different from a lecture or seminar where one person merely passes on information to other people because in counseling, both the counselor and the counselee undergo a process which doesn’t necessarily end after one session.
Dr, Narramore also discussed the need for counselors to give their best attention to their clients taking into account not only the latter’s words but also their demeanor in order for the former to adequately assess and analyze the latter’s problems and hence, provide effective solutions. That is why in setting an appointment, possible distractions must be minimized if not totally eliminated so that not even the minutest detail can escape the attention of the counselor. Lastly, Dr. Narramore stressed the value of discussion. He said that contrary to popular belief that “talk is cheap,” talking actually helps a person think clearly by putting into words the concepts he has in mind. In doing so, good ideas are sifted from bad ones. It helps us define just what we really do think. It shows up the true issue and points out possible danger or good.
Due to their similarities, the lessons I am currently learning about pastoral counseling can also readily be applied to legal counseling. Observing these basic steps will certainly make one a good counselor, whether pastoral or legal.