Five Traits of People Who Experience Breakthrough During Intensive Counseling

PurpleFlowerInCement copyAfter 17 years of intensive counseling with individuals and couples, I’ve witnessed breakthroughs of countless individuals and couples.

Of course, I’d be less lying if I told you every person or couple who left our intensive counseling program lived happily ever after. Yet the reason I’ve specialized for nearly two decades in offering intensives is because of the life-changing potential inherent to intensive counseling.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is the ability to identify the type of people who are most likely to experience extraordinary gains.  For simplicity, I’ve divided these into five categories.

Those Willing to Make A Sacrifice
Committing to an intensive is never easy. Whether it’s finding the financial resources, arranging for childcare or time off from work, or mustering the emotional and physical strength to make it happen, making the decision to attend an intensive always requires sacrifice. 
It’s at this point that many people give up hope.

Some people look for counseling resources closer to home. Some look for less expensive options. And some elect to keep doing more of what they’ve been doing all along (usually with the knowledge that what they are doing is not helpful). However, in every instance where intensive counseling clients experienced life-changing breakthrough, they were willing to make a significant sacrifice.

I’ll never forget the couple I worked with who chose to sacrifice money they saved for an anniversary vacation to afford their intensive. They didn’t feel it was a sacrifice because they were investing in their marriage in a way that ultimately paid huge dividends.

Those Willing to Invest In Themselves or Their Marriage
It never ceases to amaze me how some people will invest in the pursuit of physical health or a personal hobby or passion, then hesitate to invest in their own soul or marriage. Why? Because the need to invest into counseling often feels like a sign of weakness.

One client, a private pilot, put it to me this way: “When I wanted to become a licensed pilot I knew I needed to invest in the arduous and costly process of taking flying lessons. It took me a long time. Investing in my marriage is no more a sign of weakness than not knowing how to fly a plane.”

Making the investment in intensive counseling can certainly result in monumental gain. Whether it’s a breakthrough from addiction, accelerated growth and healing, a rescued marriage or deepened intimacy with God, yourself or your spouse, the greatest reward is restoration.

Those Willing to Face Inner Brokenness
Virtually everyone who comes to an intensive is suffering from some type of broken world experience. Whether it’s a broken relationship, an unwanted struggle or difficult circumstances, something is not right in their world. Those who make the greatest gains during intensive counseling are the ones who take an inside look.

Deep in our soul we know something isn’t right. Beneath our broken world there is a broken soul, and facing our inner world takes great courage. Doing so makes us feel vulnerable, powerless, even ashamed. But when we humble ourselves we are given grace.

The very things we once thought to be a barrier to the life we desired becomes the very bridge to all that we were created for. The power of intensives is the ability to quickly identify brokenness.  As Richard Rohr has written, “It is through the holes in our soul that God breaks in and we break out.”

Those Willing to “Do Life Differently”
Years ago one of the Restoring the Soul board members commented that when someone comes to an intensive they are usually ready to “do life differently.” What they meant is that by the time someone arrives at our doors they realize that what they’ve been doing has not been working. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives a description of doing life differently:

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”  (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

The way of Jesus is not about more religious effort or trying harder to be a better Christian. Doing life differently never involves anything heavy or ill fitting.

Those Willing to Trust In God’s Larger Story
In telling us that Jesus is “the author of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that God is writing a story. Moreso, he includes us in how the story gets written. We make choices all the time. We chose whether to trust Him, that He will finish what is started, that He has good planned for us.

Through intensive counseling, men and women gain greater clarity about their life story and how it intersects with The Larger Story God is telling. That larger perspective is invaluable but especially for those that see God’s work throughout their story.

I count it a privilege to work with individuals and couples who long for more.

Question: Which one of the five traits can you most relate to?