Kitchen Table Counseling, A Practical and Biblical Guide for Women Helping Others

by Muriel L. Cook and Shelly Cook Volkhardt

As a professional therapist, I am often approached by Christian women who are asked to help others in emotional distress. “How do I help this woman?” is the usual question. Since more women tend to seek help from acquaintances rather than trained professionals, I am delighted to have discovered Kitchen Table Counseling, a valid and very helpful book for these lay counselors.

NavPress, P.O. Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935, 2006, 241 pages, $12.99.

Reviewed by Frances J. White, professor emerita, clinical psychology, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois. Consultant to Christian Cross-Cultural Agencies.

As a professional therapist, I am often approached by Christian women who are asked to help others in emotional distress. “How do I help this woman?” is the usual question. Since more women tend to seek help from acquaintances rather than trained professionals, I am delighted to have discovered Kitchen Table Counseling, a valid and very helpful book for these lay counselors.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 lays the essential foundation for skilled counseling by explaining the guidelines and principles that lead to genuine helping and potential healing, regardless of the issues. The authors incorporate the principles into six headings, replete with additional principles that guide their counseling approach. Strongly convinced that the power to successfully help others comes from God, the writers’ foremost principle is the necessity for a Christian counselor to depend on the Lord to work through her, as well as through the counselee, in every facet of the helping process. Their emphasis on the Lord’s enabling power in healing is evident in the chapter on forgiveness. The authors emphasize that without forgiving the provoker of the problem in the appropriate phase of the counseling process, the counselee risks remaining absorbed with her issue, rather than God-centered, having been released from the inner anguish. In the chapter that discusses inexplicable heartache, the authors also explain how to skillfully offer spiritual hope to the sufferer. The reader has potent examples of how to include the Lord in timely interventions without spiritualizing, or being dogmatic or judgmental.

Part 2 further elucidates the guidelines and principles in actual counseling sessions that deal with the kinds of problems, (e.g., guilt grief, fear, depression, anger, pornography, abuse) often presented to lay counselors. In each case, the authors first discuss what one needs to know about a problem, appropriate scripture that could be used and tentative steps to follow according to the framework built into the guidelines in part 1.

Each case demonstrates specific techniques appropriate for the situation. Valuable additional helps are found in highlighted boxed areas that give much practical information on topics such as the first counseling session, identifying unhealed hurts, symptoms of depression, women in pornography and exercises for the counselee. Interspersed throughout each chapter are book recommendations by well-respected authors. The writers’ choice, timing and method of using particular interventions helps the novice understand healthy human functioning. For example, the authors are firm in setting boundaries both for their own as well as the individual’s protection. They also gently but definitely put upon the individual the ultimate responsibility for growing toward health.

The final section, a guide for training lay counselors, is an easy-to-follow, helpful, step-by-step presentation. Its length, however, does not permit including some of the important aspects from which trainees could well benefit. The quality of what they do warrants a full-length guide book by the same authors.

I highly recommend this book for lay counselors. It would serve as an excellent text in training programs. With minor adaptations, the universality of the principles qualify it as a source book for training lay counselors in cross-cultural settings. Missionary women who often have no one but each other with whom to share would also benefit from an understanding of the guidelines and principles.

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Copyright © 2007 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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