Counseling Conversations

In his course on The Pastor as Counselor, Dr. Brad Hambrick identifies four kinds of counseling conversations. Let’s consider these in light of the Exchanged Life Counseling approach.

1. Inquisitive / Reflective conversation. This describes an assessment conversation. This type of dialog uses more active listening and encourages the counselee to open up and helps him/her become more self aware. In our model this would describe much of the initial phase–the “presenting problem” conversation.

2. Perspective / Narrative Reframing conversation. This kind of conversation seeks to put a life struggle in a larger, redemptive context. This is often important because they have inaccurately defined the challenge they are facing. In our model this type of conversation emerges from the the history taking process. The counselor takes a social, psychological, and spiritual history not only to get a context of the presenting problem(s), but to move toward reframing the counselee’s struggle as a journey from the self-life condition to the Christ-life condition (Gal. 2:20). 

3. Directive / Character Formation conversation. This kind of conversation combines biblical direction and moral guidance. This is more needed when confusion, distraction or rebellion are holding back the counselee. This aspect of counseling is more common in “phase 4” of Exchanged Life counseling–on the resurrection side of the Cross. In other words, the counselee will respond better to directive counsel about specific behavior change after he/she has tapped into the power and freedom of knowing Jesus Christ as Life and Liberator. (See GFI’s “Four Phases of Counseling” lecture and chart.)

4. Supportive / Relief Focused conversation. This conversation is about how to help alleviate suffering, exploring practical ways of improving the counselee’s situation. Early in the process this should reflect the care of the counselor, and may help the counselee move forward in the heart-oriented counseling process. However, in the Exchanged Life model, some of the suffering may be “reframed” (in a sensitive way) as part of the “crowding to Christ” process. The Circle of Serenity teaching is a practical tool that helps the counselee to live from the resources of the indwelling Christ, while gaining discernment in practical problem solving. [See the Christ is Life Conference, sessions 4 and 8.]

Adapted from The Pastor As Counselor course. To see Dr. Hambrick’s overview in his Nouthetic context, see his blog post at


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