IRBC’s Second Step of Counseling Step 2: Collect Data (continued)


We began our discussion in the last article by emphasizing the importance of this step. Collecting sufficient data is essential for gaining an accurate understanding of the problem the counselee is experiencing. If we don’t have an accurate understanding of the problem, a wrong prescription will be made.

Last time we began thinking about some of the instruments most biblical counselors use for collecting their data. The Personal Data Inventory (abbreviated P.D.I.) was one instrument. The interview was another. I hope you recall the important roles of effective notetaking and acting listening in the interviewing process. Concerning the latter, you were introduced to the acronym FEAR as a means of helping you remember some of the basic elements of interviewing: Focus on the counselee, Empathize, Acknowledge, Respond. Today we are going to talk about the different phases of the interview.

Phases of the Interview

There are four phases of the interview process. The phases listed in this section are typically those that will be utilized in the initial sessions of counseling. It might be helpful to think of the acronym DADE1 when trying to remember these phases. Let’s briefly consider each aspect of this acronym for the phases of the interview.

Phase 1: Draw Out Information

In this phase of the interview, the counselor seeks to be used as an instrument of the Wonderful Counselor to draw out of the counselee his or her perception of the primary problems, concerns, complaints, or issues.

Phase 2: Assist in Clarifying and Understanding the Problem

In this phase the counselor, for his or her own benefit and the benefit of the counselee, first assists the counselee in clarifying what he or she believes to be the primary problems that brought him or her to the counseling table. Repeating back the counselee’s responses from the prior phase is important here as it ensures accuracy and helps solidify his o rher perception of the problems. After the problem is clarified, the counselor builds upon the information gathered by asking questions that will provide a greater understanding of the problem. Questions such as “What do you think caused the problem?” and “What concerns you most about the problem?” are helpful in this phase of the interview.

Phase 3: Determine Dimensions

Although there is a great deal of overlap in relation to the questions the counselor asks, those posed in this phase are directed at determining the duration of the problem and the frequency with which the factors that contributed to the problem occurred. Questions such as “When did the problem become noticeable?” and/or “How long have you been experiencing this problem?” assist in providing insight into the duration of the problem. Questions such as “How often does this happen?” or “Can you think back to the last time this problem arose and tell me approximately when it happened?” are helpful in gaining an understanding of the frequency with which the problem is being experienced.

Gaining insights into the duration and frequency of the problem assists the counselor in grasping the length and depth of the problem (i.e., its dimensions). If sin is at the root of the problem, the counselor will be given insight into how deeply habituated the counselee is in his or her sin and will be able to establish accountability systems, give directives, and assign appropriate homework as needed.

Phase 4: End the Interview

Counselors are wise to develop and adopt a standard set of closing statements and questions to end the interview component of their sessions. Such a practice will safeguard forward momentum and ensure that a future meeting time is established. You might wish to consider the following questions for use in this phase of the interview process.

Do you have any questions about any of the matters that we discussed today?

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with me before we end this session?

Do you have a clear understanding of the homework assignment?

Let’s look at our schedules and determine the time that will work best for our next session.

Whether you provide counsel as a formal counselor, pastor, parent, or friend, it is important that you collect data in a thoughtful, principled, and organized manner. Some of the things we have covered in the last two articles will help you excel in this vital part of the counseling process.

1. Webster’s definition of the word dade is “to hold up by leading strings or by the hand, as a child while he toddles.” Thinking about the definition of this word will be helpful in assisting you to assume the appropriate posture toward the counselee. God has brought to you one of his precious children with an unsteady spiritual gait in order to use you as his instrument to compassionately help the counselee gain or regain a steady walk on his earthly pilgrimage.

Dr. Jeff L. Doll is director at The Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling, director at The Shepherd’s Way Biblical Counseling Center in Holland, MI, and pastor of biblical counseling at Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI.