Am I Equipped to Counsel an Abused Spouse?

Equipped to Love

Are lay counselors equipped to counsel the traumatic difficulties associated with spousal abuse? There's not one answer to the question, but some individuals argue that cases of spousal abuse should always be referred to professionals. Winston Smith attempts to cast a larger vision in response to this question. As a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF), he believes that the body of Christ holds a significant opportunity to love well those who are victims of abuse.

Winston has served as a counselor for more than fifteen years and holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. Winston is the author of Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments as well as several mini-books: Divorce Recovery, Help for Stepfamilies, It's All About Me—The Problem with Masturbation, Who Does the Dishes? and Help! My Spouse Committed Adultery

For biblical counselors, it is important to remain committed to the truth that Scripture speaks to the critical areas of life, especially in regards to our need for Christ. But as Winston noted, Scripture also tells us that we are not all equipped to face every responsibility life sends our way. The body of Christ has many members and a variety different gifts.

What do you think it means to be equipped for counseling victims of spousal abuse? What skills do you think are necessary? Reflecting on your answers, would you consider yourself as one equipped for this kind of counseling? If not, how would you respond to those experiencing spousal abuse to ensure they receive proper professional care?
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Winston said that when we focus only on the question of whether or not to refer out a person to professional care, we limit ourselves in an unhealthy way. While you may not be equipped to professionally care for an abused spouse, what are some of the ways you are equipped to love them well (prayer, physical shelter, cooking meals, etc.)? How can you see these as ways that would serve them in a helpful manner? What effect do you think they would have?
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What steps could you take towards growing in your ability to serve as a loving support to those who experience spousal abuse? Are there any people you could reach out to for help or advice? How will you make that connection in the days ahead?
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Is there anyone you know who is hurting today? What do you have to offer as a means of loving them well? What steps will you take to offer yourself as a loving presence to them today?
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The question of whether or not a hurting individual should be referred to professional care is best answered by a consideration of personal experience. But that should not limit anyone in thinking they have nothing to offer those who are hurting. God has gifted everyone with unique abilities to love. Take time to consider how He was gifted you and seek to live in loving service to those who are hurting for the building up of the body of Christ.

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