The following is a guide to help my students in the class I teach on Pastoral Care and Counseling to write a Verbatim (a theological reflection paper on a student-pastoral counseling case).
Begin with a self-assessment: your identity as a Gospel minister, your awareness of your source of strength and the source of healing that you draw from for the person God has brought to you, as well as your attitude towards the person.
Prepare for the Assessement, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Think through the Gospel-centered counseling ministry model of creation, fall, redemption. Use differential counseling to refer as appropriate.
The Verbatim is to be written as soon as possible after the experience. It will be seen only by yourself and me.
How has my call prepared me for this ministry? What are my limitations? How is my prayer life today with the Lord? Am I coming into the presence of this lamb of the Lord fully prepared through prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit. Do I see this person as one who is made in the image of God? Do I understand my role as an ambassador of God seeking to offer redemption in His name? Am I bearing the emblems of Christ Jesus in my identity as a minister of the Gospel? Is the Lord Jesus my first and only real identity and source of healing? Have I prayed? Am I seeking Biblical metaphors and Gospel, cross-centered patterns of ministry as I approach this person?
Did I greet the person in a way that made them feel welcome? Are the surroundings safe for this person with me? How do I feel about this space? Is it adequate for the ministry before us today? Did I begin by reminding the person, if they didn’t know me, of my role as pastor (not a psychologist or other mental health professional)? I am an ordained minister and provide Biblical counseling according to my faith and training as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Did I ask if she wanted to proceed with that kind of counseling? Did we pray? Was my prayer seeking the Lord’s presence and His power?
In ASESSEMENT, did I model Christ’s ministry of looking and loving the whole person? Did I observe sensate signs during our initial moments together, as well as verbal signals that might alert me to issues requiring immediate care? If so, did the needed care require professional attention (e.g., medical) beyond my credentials? Did I care for the counseled by urging such immediate care? What else did I notice in assessment? What did I miss in assessment?
How did the counselee describe the presenting issue? How would you restate it?
How did you frame your counseling approach with a Biblical fall scripture? With a Biblical redemption passage? Did the consultation lead you to another passage? Why? How did it work out in the time together?
Where do I see God’s beauty of creation at work in this life? In this situation? How does God’s beauty still shine through the ashes of pain?
What presenting issues do I see that may be leading me to real issues? How is her relationship with her family? With her church community? With her neighbor?
How does the fall manifest itself in this soul? In these peoples’ lives? How has sin infected this community? Has the cancer of sin metastasized into others areas of this life? If so, into which areas? Have I identified the core area of sin? Am I listening well? Am I listening to her soul speak, or just her words? Has he been hurt by another? Has the wound infected over time? Has the wound been neglected? Has the wound failed to heal by other means?
Where in the Gospel story does this life, this story before me, present itself? Where in the Gospel story can I lead her to see Jesus traveling with her at this moment? How will prayer best be made manifest to this soul? Now? Over time? In her family? With friends? In a church community? How can the sacraments be used to bring healing to this person? Is he baptized? When did she last receive Communion? Did she tell you about her life of faith in Christ as a result of experiencing Communion? What devotional books could he be reading to help his life in Christ at the very point of fallenness? At other critical points of weakness? What simple habits of daily prayer would act as highly directed charges of spiritual chemotherapy to begin to shrink tumerous sinful growths in personality or behavior?
Did I lead into a time of conclusion or get caught off-guard by the time? Did I pray? What words of comfort did I speak? What [rituals did I use that might have brought comfort to them? How did I convey my role as a pastor in healing ways to help speak the redeeming love of Jesus Christ into the woundedness of this situation? How did I conclude? Is there a time for follow-up? What about his personal worship? Public worship? What about her devotional life? Did I help him establish patterns of spiritual health? Am I helping this person to find sustainable spiritual formation for a lifetime of following the Lord Jesus Christ?
WRITING THE VERBATIM
Begin with the Introduction to the “parishioner.” Identify notable traits. Write descriptively and concisely (e.g., “Mrs. Edna Jones is a Caucasian, female, of medium build. She appeared to me to be middle-aged.”). Identify the presenting issues (e.g., “Mrs. Jones is presenting that she and her husband argue almost every day.”). Record the verbatim this way:
[Chaplain is “C.” Student is “S.” Parishioner is “P.” Patient is “P.”]
C1. Mrs. Jones, how has the arguing shaped your spiritual life?
P1. What do you mean? Do you mean my private devotions?
C2. Yes.Your devotoinal life, your true, inner life with God?
P2: I feel that I am farther from God that I have been in many years.
[And so forth.]
Use the close to reflect on (1) theological issues involved in the treatment; (2) how your initial approach (your choice of Scripture, your approach in the Creation-Fall-Redemption motif) might have been different, if at all, given the interview; (3) self-reflection in the interview (e.g., transference, use of your own spiritual experience of God, insights from your life) and (4) final thoughts and recommendations, strategies, homework assigned, or closing throughts on the case.