Care-giver or care-seeker:a solution sought for and found by the care-seeker brings peace of mind

Philemon 1:1-15 Onesimus was the care-seeker and Paul was the Counselor.  Note the tone of Paul’s letter to Philemon. 

Paul the Apostle begins his mission of reconciliation with the word, IF.
“17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; [He knew full well that Onesimus owed Philemon – the owing wasn’t the issue – the forgiveness was. The problem was identified, and reconciliation was sought.
19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.
20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.”  The problem was already identified.  Onesimus was going back home to face probably death if not dismemberment.  It is essential for a Christian leader to understand the tenure and confidentiality of counseling.  It brings with it a possibility for not finding a cure, but allowing the counselee to identify the problem and finding a solution.  At no point in the discourse does the counselor play  the blame game with the counselee, neither does he remind the counselee of their sin in a manner that speaks condemnation.

Rationale for Solution Based Short-Term Strategy

The symbiotic relationship between the uniqueness of the care-seeker and the present problem presents a solution to the care-seeker’s counseling needs.

Brief Description of Solution-Based Short-Term Pastoral Counseling 

The Solution-Based, Short-Term Pastoral Counseling (SBSPC) strategy considers the client to be more important than the problem; but recognition of the problem form of the problem leads to a conceived resolution (Hawkins, 2015).   SBSPC ensures that clients are empowered to focus their energies and direction on their self-care; the care-seeker is focused on God’s purpose for their life while addressing the issues and problems that they are presently facing (Jeremiah 29:11; Hawkins, 2015, para 2).  According to Hawkins 2015, the process is a short-term one. The SBSPC process is considered short-term because pastors recognize the boundaries within which they operate while providing this self-care service (Hawkins, 2015, “Terms”: para, 2). Consequently, the purposefulness of the sessions are measured by their brevity, are deliberately time-limited and structured with a focus on the number and length of sessions (Hawkins, 2015, “Terms”: para, 3). This process is bolstered by the use of the specific phases with the qualifying distinctives (Hawkins, 2015, “Terms”: para, 3). Although this strategy is solution-based, it differs from Kollar (2011) because it proposes that the person should be considered as the holder of the solution to the present problem  (Hawkins, 2015, “Terms”: para, 2).

Key components of the pastoral counseling process

As discussed by Hawkins (2015), the SBSPC process contains a fluidly embodied in the essential counseling sessions known as “distinctives” (para. 2).  The distinctives are 1) purpose, 2) goal 3) chief aim, 4) responsibility/role and 5) guiding assumptions (Hawkins, 2015, “Structure,” para. 2).  Hawkins (2011) continued his discourse by explaining that the distinctives are embedded in each of the four phases of SBSPC (“Structure,” para. 2). Hawkins (2011) defined the short- term process of SBSPC as: “brief- session should be limited to, 50, 60, 90 minutes, time-limited, and focused meaning the counselor and counselee choose how many sessions and how long they will counsel (“Structure,” para. 3).

The nine guiding assumptions of the pastoral counseling construct 

1.     God is already active in the counselee. Pastoral counseling sessions biblical world view states that God is already working out a solution for the counselee’s life (Phil 1:6 ESV).

2.     Complex problems do not demand complex solutions. From the Christian world view construct the Holy Spirit is already at work in the individual’s life to resolve the present problem.  Therefore, the counselor deploys listening carefully, using the appropriate body language, and asking the appropriate MECSTAT questions to aid the counselee to arrive at a solution.  (Greenberg, Ganshorn, & Danilkewich, 2001; Davies, 2011; Grohol, 2013). The solution is one that speaks to a complex problem, but unlike traditional therapy, it does not take months or years to arrive at the solution (Greenberg, Ganshorn, & Danilkewich, 2001; Davies, 2011; Grohol, 2013).

3.     Finding Exceptions Helps Create Solutions: As the counseling session ensues exceptions to the perceived problems are presented powered by guidance from the Word of God (Ecclesiastes 3:1; (Visser, 2011).

4.     The counselee is always changing: The Biblical view point is, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18 KJV).  As growth occurs in the counselee, he/she changes. [According to Grohl (2013), one of the most important things that brings about change is the ability to listen actively and respond to the counselor/pastor while he or she is engaged in the SFT process]. The counselee is in charge of how far and how fast they grow.

5.     The counselee is the expert and defines the goals: The counselee is the expert of the problem; therefore, the counselor facilitates the process of problem resolution as they move through the phases of SBSPC.  They determine how long the sessions will be and how many times they will need to meet with the counselor (Greenberg, Ganshorn, & Danilkewich, 2001)

6.     Solutions are cocreated. During this process, a symbiotic relationship of cocreation is developed between the counselor and the counselee.  Together they develop a worldview where positive personal change is attainable.  Daily experiences of positive interactions are the focus of the counseling sessions.  The counselee visualizes the growth in themselves and sees the solution of the problem as a reality.

7.     The Counselee is not the problem: the problem is: Unlike psychopathology the SBSPC counselor is not labeling the counselee as the problem. Knowing extensive information about the problem is not necessary for change to begin in the counselee (Greenberg, Ganshorn, & Danilkewich, 2001, Assumptions of therapy, p. 2291)  Noting scenarios that clearly identify positive outcomes empower the counselee to see a solution for the problem and to isolate themselves from the problem; God loves us regardless of our challenges (Romans 5:8 ESV:)

8.      The counseling relationship is positional: The counselor positions the counselee to focus on a personal goal; this enables the counselee to develop a crystal clear vision of a solution; they can use the miracle dream process to facilitate this position.

9.     If it is not broken, do not fix it: Focus on what is working.  Channel the counselee’s efforts on the things that are working to arrive at a solution for the problem  (Kollar, 2011, pp. 130-134).

         The three tenets that help a counselor stay focused on the solution rather than the problem are:

    • Tenet one: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
    • Tenet two: “Once you know what works, do more of it!”
    • Tenet three: “If it’s not working, do something different!” (p. 133).

Traditionally sin is addressed first.  Blaming the counselee for their attitude of unforgiveness and rebellion against God is the normal thrust during unproductive counseling sessions.  Not only is this methodology unproductive, it does not follow the example of the Lord 


The four phases Associated with SFBT

            Hawkins (2015) asserts that the four phases of SFBT require no more than four counselling sessions.  The phases are: 

Phase One

Purpose: In session one: The care-seek is encouraged to present Story One)

Goal: the problem is describes.

The counselor’s chief aim: Listen Well

Role/responsibility: The counselor builds rapport/demonstrates fi with the counselee. As an INFJ compassionately listening to the counselee as he she talks, especially is the counselee is an ESFP will give the person an opportunity to express themselves, Counselee talks and reveals the problem while the counsellor actively listens

Guiding Assumption(s): “God is already active in the counselee” (Kollar, 2011, p. 62–67); “The counseling relationship is positional” (p. 93).

Key Insight to Remember: Movement from phase one is initiated by an invitation by the counselee into their current worldview (Hawkins, 2015, para. 1)


Phase Two (Hawkins, 2015, Phase 2)

Purpose: Develop the Care-seeker’s Preferred Story/Solution (Session Two)

 Goal: Goal description/formulation

Chief Aim: Collaborate well [demonstrate fit while working with the counselee to develop a solution for the problem)

Role/responsibility: The counsellor demonstrates fit; utilizes the appropriate questing techniques while the counselee sets the direction for problem solving. The Counselor tacks with counselee’s process. But this occurs collaboratively. The testing of tests counselee’s notions for reality/do-ability cannot be determined by the counselor.

Guiding Assumption:  Even in this phase “The counselee is not the problem, the problem is (Kollar, 2011, pp. 77–80: (Greenberg, Ganshorn, & Danilkewich, 2001, Benefits and caveats, p. 2294). The pastoral counselor is reminded that the” counselee is the expert and defines goals” (Kollar, 2011, pp. 72–75); “Solutions are cocreated” (pp. 76–77). This is reminiscent of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman.  She talked and He listened to her story. When the resolution of the problem was established a goal was established and she declared to all that she knew who she was; the goal acknowledgement of sin and acceptance of the Messiah was reached (John 4:1-42).

 Key Insight to Remember: Jesus used the “Miracle Question” with the Samaritan woman. Then she was able to move to the next phase. All three Tenets were used in His discussion with the Samaritan woman (Kollar, 2011, pp. 82–84).

Phase Three: (Hawkins, 2015, Phase 3)

Purpose: to clarify and Execute Action Plan (Session Three)

Goal: Vision (i.e., goal) Clarification: What is the goal for the counselee/ In the case of the Samaritan woman it was go and sin no more; and share Jesus with the rest of the town.(John 4:28-30

Chief Aim: Execute well

Role/Responsibility: Counselor builds rapport/demonstrates fi. The Counselor and Counselee actively participate in building hope and supporting forward progress. Using the Miracle question here will give the counselee a vision of their life without the problem

Guiding Assumption(s)? Always remember that, “Complex problems do not demand complex solutions; the goal of this phase is to encourage the counselee to visual that “finding exceptions helps [them] to create solutions” (Kollar, 2011, pp. 67–70; (Greenberg, Ganshorn, & Danilkewich, 2001, p. 2271). Jesus made an exception when he went to Samaria; His disciples were not prepared to address the problem that existed between the Jews and Samaritans (John 4:27).

Phase Four (Hawkins, 2015, Phase 4: Final Project)

Purpose: Connect Care-seeker to Community (Session Four)

Goal: Consolidate and Support Change: the counselee takes ownership of the change that has occurred in them.

Chief Aim: Connect well: the counsellor has established fit with the counselee and extends the support of the community of the body of Christ One of our guiding assumptions is that change is best supported and secured through the body of Christ (Kollar, p. 20).  Small groups will facilitate this process for the counselee, because it becomes part of the discipleship process for them (Earley & Dempsey, 2013, Never underestimate the power of the group: Location, 2607).

My friends these resources will aid you in your counseling sessions with the individuals whom you are discipleshiping.  Nothing is more dis-heartening than to be brow beaten into submission by a pastor or care-giver who does not understand how to help the care-seeker arrive at a resolution to the problem without being stripped of who they are in Christ.  Soul-care is our main responsibility.



Davies, N. (2011, August 25). Active listening through body language. Retrieved from

Earley, D., & Dempsey, R. (2013). Disciple making is . . . How to live the great commission with passion and confidence [Kindle Version]. Retrieved from

Greenberg, G., Ganshorn, K., & Danilkewich, A. (2001). Solution-focused therapy: Counseling model for busy family physicians. Retrieved from

Grohol, J. M. (2013). Become a better listener: Active listening. Retrieved from

Hawkins, R. (2015). Overview of a solution-based short-term strategy [html]. Lecture presented at Week 4: PACO500_B01. Retrieved from

Hawkins, R. (2015, September 12). F.A.I.T.H for solution-based short-term pastoral counseling (SBSPC) [Document]. Reading presented at Liberty University PACO 500: BO1. Retrieved from

Kollar, C. A. (1997). Solution-focused pastoral counseling: An effective short-term approach for getting people back on track. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Visser, C. (2011). The progress-focused approach: 21 progress-focused techniques. Retrieved from

SFBT – Research on the process.

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