Chapter 2 – What To Do Before the First Session

Printable Resources:
Blank Record and Lesson Plan [pdf]

This chapter will introduce three areas requiring the counselor’s attention in order to get started with his first counselee:

  • Prayer
  • Self-Examination
  • Preparation Logistics

A checklist summarizing the individual steps (fig. 2.1) is provided at the end of this chapter to assist the counselor in preparing for the first session.

Prayer: Understanding the Role of the Holy Spirit

The very first thing to do once a counselor knows he will be meeting with a counselee is to pray. This instruction may seem trite or it may seem obvious, but regardless of how it seems, it is absolutely essential. In each counseling session, it is the hope of the counselor that the counselee will come face-to-face with Christ through relevant biblical truth that will convict, comfort, guide and teach, ultimately contributing to genuine, lasting heart change. This is not possible without the Holy Spirit’s intervention and prayer is the first essential component for the counselor who desires the Holy Spirit’s power to be active in the counseling session.

In Christ’s model prayer, following His adoration of the holiness and sovereignty of God the Father and words of submission to the Father’s will, He petitions, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). This request is in reference to “human need”[1] and thereby sets the example of praying for self. As God’s servant, a counselor is in desperate need of God’s provision:

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:5-6).

Because of the counselor’s inadequacy, prayer is the avenue for approaching “the throne of grace” for obtaining “help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). The counselor is in need of wisdom—accurate understanding and teaching of the Scriptures as well as insight into the counselee’s life. James tells us to ask God for wisdom “who gives to all liberally … and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The psalmist recognized his need of the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding God’s Word and we see him crying out to God to “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). The counselor ought to do the same. Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him that words would be given to him so that he would “speak boldly as [he] ought to speak” (Eph. 5:19-20). The counselor needs this same kind of help. And Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit would “bring to your remembrance” those things that He had taught (John 14:26). The counselor will face many instances when he needs the Holy Spirit to “bring to his remembrance” relevant Scriptural truths that he has learned and memorized in the past.

As the counselor puts forth time and effort with the counselee, his work is made effective only through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers ministers of His Word to proclaim the Word (Acts 4:8, 31, 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet 1:12) and to “overcome spiritual opposition … to God’s work in people’s lives” (Matt. 12:28, Eph. 6:17).[2] It is the Holy Spirit that empowers the counselor’s prayer and “makes it effective” (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 2:18).[3] In addition, the gifts with which the counselor has been equipped for the ministry are given by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11).  Finally, the Holy Spirit speaks through the counselor’s teaching of the Scriptures to the counselee’s heart (Heb. 3:7, 10:15).[4] Clearly, the counselor ought to begin by praying for his own ministry to the counselee.

As the counseling proceeds and God transforms the heart of the counselee, there is typically the temptation for the counselor to want to take the credit for the change being accomplished in the counselee. This is where the counselor must ask God for help to grow in humility and to remember to give God the glory. The counselor’s prayer takes the focus off of self and moves it to the right focus—God. In the midst of the temptation for the counselor to think that the counselee’s victory hinges on his own efforts and skills, prayer reminds him that the victory hinges on the work of the Holy Spirit through human effort. It is in prayer that the counselor demonstrates his dependence on God and His power for effectiveness in ministry. It is in prayer that the counselor is encouraged to persevere. It is in prayer that he is empowered as God’s servant.

Besides praying for himself in preparation for his ministry, the counselor ought also to be praying for the counselee. Counselees come to counseling because they are troubled. Often they come to counseling because they see deficiencies within themselves in such areas as communication and relationships or the failure to exhibit self-control over sinful practices. We are commanded “ … pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Yes, the counselee needs prayer.

The counselee has some hard work ahead of her. She will need a humble, teachable heart in order to confront her own sin. She will need a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit to understand and receive the truths taught. She will need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to persevere in overcoming sinful patterns, despite fear, failures, frustration, weariness and opposition. She will need wisdom to look to the Lord rather than to people or to changed circumstances for her hope. As she learns more and more of God’s principles for living, she, like the counselor, will need the Holy Spirit to bring to her remembrance the teaching of the Word in her day-to-day living.

In his book Competent to Counsel, Jay Adams declares:

Counseling is the work of the Holy Spirit. Effective counseling cannot be done apart from him. He is called the paraclete (“counselor”) who in Christ’s place came to be another counselor of the same sort that Christ had been to his disciples. … Counseling, to be Christian, must be carried on in harmony with the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit … .[5]

There is no doubt, then, that the work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential if the counseling is going to bring about genuine lasting change in the counselee and prayer is the counselor’s and the counselee’s avenue for petitioning God’s transforming power. Therefore, the prayers that should accompany counseling should include the following pleas:

  • For the counselor’s and the counselee’s wisdom (James 1:5)
  • For the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of both the counselor and the counselee when they sit down to study the Word (Ps. 119:18)
  • For the Holy Spirit to give power to the counselor to accurately proclaim the truths of Scripture to the counselee (Acts 4:8, 31, 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:12)
  • For the Holy Spirit to equip the counselor to deal biblically with anything confronting him in the case (1 Cor 12:11)
  • For the counselor’s ability to articulate Scriptural truth clearly to the counselee and for the counselee’s heart to be prepared to receive the Holy Spirit’s speaking through the teaching of the Word (Eph. 5:19-20; Heb. 3:7, 10:15)
  • For the counselor’s and the counselee’s prayers to be effective (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 2:18)
  • For the Holy Spirit to empower the counselor and the counselee to overcome any spiritual opposition (Matt. 12:28, Eph. 6:17)
  • For both the counselor and the counselee to remain humble, giving glory to God for the works being accomplished (Acts 12:21-23, Luke 18:9-14, Prov. 3:34, Dan. 4:30-37)

Below is an example of a prayer that a counselor might pray daily:

Oh Father in Heaven, I am desperate for You. You are the great I Am, the Beginning and the End, the Eternal One. You are Faithful and True. You are merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abounding in goodness and truth. As I embark upon this ministry with which you have entrusted to me, I desperately need your wisdom and Your power. If You don’t move in this case, nothing will change since I alone can accomplish nothing. Please, Father, grant me wisdom in order that I might accurately understand and speak Your truths. Open my eyes, O God, that I will see wondrous truths in Your Word and that I may effectively speak those truths into the life of my counselee. As I come upon those unexpected turns in the road, Father, please equip me with whatever You know I need to be able to bring glory to Your name. I covet the power of Your Spirit to make my prayers effective and to bring down any opposition that may stand in the way of the advancement of Your Kingdom. Keep me humble and aware of Your unending power once I begin to see Your mighty hand accomplishing great things since I may be tempted to take the credit for myself. Prepare the heart of my counselee, O God, that she will be empowered to understand and to obey Your counsel. Comfort her heart, grant her wisdom and empower her to resist and overcome her sins.  Help her to find her hope in You and You alone as she learns to persevere in righteousness. I thank You, Father, for what You have done and for what You are about to do. All of this is made possible only because of the atoning sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life that we may have life, and have it abundantly. And so it is in Christ’s name that I bring these petitions to You. Amen.

Self Examination

In addition to seeking God in prayer for help in ministering to the counselee, the counselor ought also to seek God for help in the process of self-examination to determine where repentance and change is required in his own heart and life. David confessed that he was often blinded to his own sin when he asked God to “Search me … and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me … ” (Pss. 139:23-24a).

In His well-known and well-loved “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus taught that if we are going to attempt to help a brother or sister overcome sin, we must first get control of the sin in our own lives:

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:3, 5)

This self-examination process does not mean that a counselor must be perfect and without sin. That is not possible in this earthly life. What it does mean is that the counselor ought to be faithfully examining his own heart and life, confessing sin to God and others whom he has offended and working to overcome known sin and sinful patterns. Chapter Eight provides guidance for both the counselor and the counselee to develop and implement transformation plans. By following the instructions given in that chapter, the counselor will become equipped to help the counselee develop a transformation plan only after the counselor has developed and started working one of his own.

Preparation Logistics

Now that the counselor has turned to God in prayer, examined self for sin and is embarking on a plan for change, it is time to set things in order for the first counseling session to take place. Six areas that will be considered in this section are:

  1. The PDI and The Counseling Agreement
  2. Preparation for Gathering Data
  3. Scheduling the First Session
  4. The Counseling Room
  5. The First Lesson Plan
  6. The Homework Assignment Sheet


  1. The PDI and the Counseling Agreement:

The letters PDI stand for Personal Data Inventory. This is a document which asks several questions of the counselee. Besides the typical name, address, phone, marital status, this form seeks detailed information about the counselee’s health, spiritual life, marriage and family as well as how the counselee perceives herself and other areas. The PDI provides only initial data that is essential in giving the counselor direction for how to proceed with an individual case. Although there can be varying formats, biblical counselors benefit from the use of a PDI.

The Counseling Agreement clarifies expectations of the counselor as well as of the counselee. An example of a PDI and Counseling Agreement can be found online.[6] If there is administrative assistance to the counselor, as in a church or counseling center, the office administrator would most likely take responsibility for the intake process, requesting and obtaining the PDI and Counseling Agreement from the counselee as well as setting up a file and filing system.

The counselor or the director of the counseling center will determine whether the PDI and Counseling Agreement will be available on paper, electronically or both. Because of the development of technology, the intake process can now be streamlined through online resources.[7]  For a nominal fee, the forms can be customized and made available online or incorporated into an existing website.

  1. Preparation for Gathering Data

The PDI is only an initial tool for obtaining data regarding the counselee and her problems. Although data gathering begins with the PDI, it continues throughout the entire counseling process. It is imperative that the counselor obtains a broad spectrum of information about the counselee in order to properly be able to establish the direction for counseling. This means that, in the first session, in addition to reviewing some of the answers the counselee has given on the PDI, additional information should be sought of the counselee. Over the course of the first session or two, the counselor will want to obtain a bird’s eye picture of the counselee’s relationships, family life growing up, finances, education, job and career, physical health, skills and abilities, interests and hobbies, marriage and children, spiritual life, tendencies, attitudes, strong desires that affect behavior, dominant sin patterns and the counselee’s expectations for counseling. As counseling progresses, the counselor will hone in on particular areas to discover what may be at the root of the problem(s) being presented by the counselee.

Appendix A provides a dialog which models a variety of questions that may be asked in the first session and figure 2.2 lists some examples of probing questions that can be used any time they become relevant. Jay Adams refers to the data gathered through the process of asking questions, including that gathered from the PDI, as core data[8] since questions often elicit the core or substantive nature of the issue. Accurate information about the counselee and her problems is necessary in order to accurately define the problem biblically so it is important that the counselor think through prior to the session what data he is going to attempt to acquire and how questions will be phrased. In order for the counselor to thoroughly gather sufficient information to set the direction of the case, the counselor must learn to become an effective listener (James 1:19; Prov. 18: 4, 15, 20:5).

Figure 2.2. Questions that probe

1) On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, how fulfilled, peaceful and joyful are you in your life as it is right now?


2) If you could push a magic button and have your life be a perfect 10, what would that look like?


3) How often do the two of you participate in fun activities that you share together?


4) How often do the two of you laugh together?


5) How successful are you at resolving conflicts in your marriage as they come up? (A. Very successful, B. Somewhat successful, C. Not very successful or D. You completely fail)


6) How would you best describe your marriage? (A. In trouble and in need of rescue, B. Weak but growing stronger, C. Weak and growing weaker or D. A “light on a hill” for the lost to desire)


7) How often do you argue? Describe a recent argument (how it started, how it escalated, what time of day was it, were there any observers?)


8) When you argue, what do you most often argue about?


9) What is the highest level of escalation that any argument has ever had in the history of your relationship?

A.      Loud voices but controlled words

B.      Loud voices and uncontrolled words

C.      Name-calling

D.      “Silent Treatment” for days

E.       Physical behaviors such as door-slamming or throwing things

F.       Physical behaviors such as pushing, hitting or hurting one another

G.      Threats of death or use of a weapon

H.      Causing physical harm to your spouse


10) What did you love about your spouse that resulted in your decision to marry him/her?


11) How often do you spend time reading/studying the Bible together? What was the last thing you read/studied in the Bible? When was that?


12) How often do you spend time talking to your kids about loving the Lord and living for Him? How often do you have family devotions?


13) It has been said that a person’s checking account register reveals that person’s priorities. If we were to take a look at your checking account register over the past year, what would it reveal as your highest priority?


14) It has also been said that how a person spends his time reveals his priorities. If you had maintained a log of how you spent every hour over the past month, what would be revealed about your highest priority?


15) We live with [the] tension between self-protective isolation and the dream for meaningful relationships. Where are you on the continuum right now? Are you moving away from others because of recent hurt? Are you moving toward others because you have been alone too long? What tendency do you observe in your life? Do you typically move in the direction of isolation or immersion?[9]

16) What unexpected blessings have you received?[10]


17) What challenges does the value system of modern culture present?[11]


18) Read Luke 6:43-45. Where are you more the Thorn bush than the Fruit tree?[12]


19) Read Christ’s parable of the fearful servant found in Matthew 25:14-30. Do you think that there is any likeness between the fearful servant and yourself? If so, what is the similarity?[13]


20) Can you think of any changes that you need to make in the way that you care for your body? What are some specific steps you can take?[14]


21) Are the standards or commands that [you are] following easily discovered in Scripture, or [are you] adding to or twisting His commands? Would a casual reading of the New Testament affirm [your] standards, or are there other things more important to God?[15]


In addition to asking questions, the counselor will want to observe the counselee’s mannerisms, beginning with the first session. This is referred to as halo data.[16] How the counselee sits, walks, and shakes hands are examples of halo data, as are nervous laughter, tears, tone of voice and the tardiness or promptness of the counselee’s arrival. The counselor will also want to note how multiple counselees relate to one another.

Because it will be necessary for the counselor to analyze the data collected, good note-taking throughout the session will be invaluable to the counselor. By preparing questions prior to the session, the counselor need only write the counselee’s answers during the session. For questions asked that are not written in the counselor’s notes in advance, the counselor will need to, not only write the counselee’s answer, but may need to jot a word or two in order to later remember what the question was. Developing a kind of shorthand will be helpful in note-taking. Using the counselee’s first initial, a triangle for “God,” a cross for “Christ,” and other shortcuts such as those used in text messaging, can facilitate getting on paper what the counselee actually articulated.

  1. Scheduling the First Session

Once the PDI and Counseling Agreement have been submitted by the counselee, the counselee should be contacted regarding scheduling the first session. If the first session cannot be scheduled for several weeks or even months due to shortage of counselors available, it should be communicated to the counselee how long she can expect to wait. A one-time “triage” appointment with homework assignments to instill hope and direction until counseling can begin, is a helpful option for urgent matters.

Where there is administrative assistance, the scheduling would be done by an office staff member. In small churches, the pastor may maintain his own schedule. In either case, a counselor may want to preview his long-term calendar to consider designating the same block of time each week for approximately twelve to fifteen weeks since this is often the duration required to meet counseling goals. Since factors and time requirements vary from one case to the next, the actual duration can be determined as counseling progresses.

Most sessions will run approximately an hour but the first session generally takes more time—an hour and a half or two, depending on varying factors, and this information should be clearly communicated to the counselee at the time that the first session is scheduled. As a new counselor gets the feel of counseling, he will be able to determine how much time a session will most likely require.

At the time that the first session is scheduled with the counselee, it is also important to ensure that the location of the first session and any specific parking instructions are clearly communicated and that the counselee is well informed about what to bring to the session. For example, it is always necessary for the counselee to bring a Bible. Sometimes the counselor may send a booklet or some other pre-session homework to be completed prior to the first session. The counselee should be instructed to bring these to the first session. These expectations should be clearly communicated to the counselee at the time of scheduling the first appointment. Do not make assumptions.

4.The Counseling Room

The room arrangement and lighting are important; they will convey the atmosphere in which the counseling will proceed. Generally speaking, the room arrangement should convey that teaching and learning are about to begin. With a desk or table in the center, chairs should be arranged so that the counselor and counselee face one another. This arrangement allows the counselee to get a sense that the counselor is serious about listening to her. Where there are multiple counselors or multiple counselees, chairs should be arranged comfortably around the table or desk prior to the counselees’ arrival. There ought to be a whiteboard easily in view of the counselee(s). Lighting should be ample so as to clearly see to read Scripture.

The image of biblical counseling taking place in a church building or in a counseling ministry office is typical, but there is much biblical counseling that takes place in homes. Two women studying God’s Word around the kitchen table is not uncommon nor is the young couple receiving pre-marital counseling around the dining room table of an older couple. But even in these cases, a working atmosphere should be conveyed by the room arrangement.

There are occasions when the counseling can be done in a “living room” type setting with couches or stuffed chairs, but this is not the norm. When a counselee is seeking help on a one-time basis, when someone has just received devastating news and needs comfort, when a child or young teen is the counselee or when an initial peacemaking meeting is being held involving strained relationships the typical setting centered around a work surface may seem inappropriate. In these instances, the counselor shall use wisdom to determine how best to convey a comfortable counseling atmosphere.

Regardless of the type of room chosen, there ought to be a sense of privacy conveyed but at the same time, providing protection for the counselor from any accusations of inappropriate behavior. If the counseling room is in a church, for example, there should be a door to close but there should also be windows that allow for accountability and transparency.

Although we tend to take room temperature for granted, the temperature of the counseling room ought to be considered. Often times, if counseling takes place in a church, rooms can remain empty for several days with the temperature regulator turned off. This is just another detail to think about in advance.

Prior to the session, the counselor ought to ensure that there are adequate supplies that will be used in the session: pens, dry erase markers, a white board eraser, Kleenex an extra Bible or two and paper notepads for note-taking. It is also easy to neglect to bring reading glasses, the counselor’s Bible, the case file or books or other resources that may be used in the session to the counseling room in advance. It is disruptive for the counselor to say, “Oh, excuse me, I forgot my glasses,” and to leave even for a minute to retrieve them. When conversing for an hour or more, it is common for both the counselor and the counselee to get thirsty. Therefore, chilled water bottles should be available. It is important and helpful to remember every little detail prior to the session.

  1. The First Lesson Plan

Although much more detail is given below, for ease in understanding the flow of a session, we might say that a typical counseling session can be broken into three main parts:

  • Review of homework
  • Teaching of a relevant lesson
  • Assigning new homework

However, the flow of the first session will generally look quite different. In the first session, there will typically be no homework to review, unless the counselor made a pre-session assignment. But even so, there is much more to be accomplished in the first session that will not be true of subsequent sessions. Therefore the skeleton outline of a first session might look more like this:

  • Gathering data
  • Explaining expectations
  • Teaching a relevant lesson
  • Building hope
  • Assigning homework
  • Obtaining a commitment

Of course, there are other aspects involved in a session not listed in the skeleton outlines above. A “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” is a form provided in this Toolkit to guide the counselor through each session. In figure 2.3 a sample “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” is presented to show the flow of the first session in more detail than the above skeleton outlines provide. Figure 2.4 provides a blank reproducible “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” form. Because chapters 3 and 4 help the counselor prepare for the next session, figure 4.4 provides a sample “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” showing the flow for subsequent sessions and figure 4.5 provides a blank reproducible “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” for subsequent sessions. Figure 4.2 provides a comparison of what is included in the first session versus what is included in subsequent sessions.

Following a brief discussion of homework, figure 2.5 shows a sample “Homework Assignment Sheet.” Figure 2.1 provides a checklist to aid the counselor in preparing for the first session. The checklist includes everything discussed in this chapter to assist the counselor in thorough preparations for the first session.  Appendix A presents a potential dialog to create a realistic picture of what a session might look like.

Figure 2.3. Sample “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” for a first session.

For a blank, printable version of this sheet, see the top of this page.


Disciple’s Initials________________           Case No. ____________              Session #____1_____



Date__________  Time Scheduled to Begin_______________ Actual Time Session Begins____________


1. Greet Counselee After initial greeting, explain today’s plan for flow of the session so the counselee knows what to expect.


2. Pray (Inspirational verses from Scripture may be read just prior to the prayer in order to set the tone that God and His Word are central to counseling).


3. Review PDI and Gather Relevant Core Data (Chapter 3 and Appendix A contain suggested questions that may be asked in addition to the PDI questions).


4. Present Lesson (Instruct) Isa 43:7, 1 Cor 10:31 – Life Purpose: Living for God’s Glory is an effective starting point in instruction. (See Chapter 3 for suggested dialog).


5. Explain What Biblical Counseling Is and How It Proceeds (See Appendix B).

·    Explain that there will be homework each week and why (See Chapter 7)

·    Explain the 3-parts of a typical session: “In the following sessions we’ll review your homework first, then I’ll teach you a lesson from a Scripture passage and then I’ll assign new homework.”


6. Build Hope Rom 8:28-29 (See Chapter 6: “Lessons that Build Hope.” Also see example in Chapter 3 dialog.)


7. Assign Homework (See pp. 21-22 as well as Chapter 7 “Homework that Transforms”)

·    Q. Do you have any questions about the assignments?


8. Obtain Commitment

·    Q. Do you want to commit to going forward with counseling?

·    Q. Do you agree to complete the homework assignments before our next session – working on them a little each day?

·    Q. When can you make time to work on your homework each day?

·    Q. Are you willing to work toward change?


9. Ask Case Report Questions (The Case Report is discussed in Chapter 4).

·    Case Report Q #9 What did you learn that you need to change?

·    Case Report Q#10 What hope or encouragement did you receive in this session?


10. Set/Confirm next meeting  _____________________


11. Pray

6. The Homework Assignment Sheet

It is generally a good idea, especially for a beginning counselor, to prepare the “Homework Assignment Sheet” in advance of the session even though the counselor may decide in the session to change the counselee’s assignments as the result of what transpires in the session. Chapter 6 presents a more detailed discussion about homework, but a summary of the six areas that ought to consistently be included in homework assignments is provided below:

  • Relevant Bible reading including instructions to interact with the text
  • Relevant Scripture Memory with instruction to “meditate on” or mull over practical applications of the passage throughout each day
  • Prayer: Assign specifics such as what, when and how to pray
  • Collateral reading: A theologically-sound book or pamphlet relevant to the counselee’s problem, including a short assignment to interact with what is being read (i.e. answering study questions or highlighting principles that the counselee will implement)
  • Church attendance, involvement and/or note-taking
  • Projects include anything that the counselee is asked to do, apart from the above

An example of a good assignment for a first session might look like this:

  • Read one chapter of Ephesians each day. For the first three days write down one thing from each chapter (chapters 1, 2 and 3) that reveals God’s love for you. Thank Him for what you have discovered. In chapters four, five and six, write down one commandment from each chapter. Pray for help to obey it.
  • Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:31. Come to the next session prepared to recite it. Meditate on it. This means to think about ways to apply it to my life.
  • Pray Psalm 119:18 before Bible reading; Each morning thank God for sending Christ to take your sins upon Himself; At bedtime pray for me, as your counselor, that I will have God’s wisdom in counseling you and ask the Lord to make you teachable and humble so that you will grow through counseling
  • Read “What is Biblical Counseling” (Appendix B). Highlight anything that stands out as something you want to gain in biblical counseling. Also bring any questions with you about it to our next session and we’ll discuss it.
  • Take notes in Sunday’s sermon and write one thing that you were convicted about and answer the question “What steps will I take to make a change this week?”
  • Obtain a 3-ring binder with blank paper and dividers to use as a counseling notebook. Dividers include session notes, handouts, homework, sermon notes and an extra section that can later be used as a “praise journal.”

Figure 2.5. Sample Homework Assignment Sheet

Seaside Bible Church
Biblical Counseling Ministry
1234 2nd Avenue North
Seaside, PA  22222
Phone: 202 123-4567       Email:

Name:   Bruce A.                                                                                   Date:  11-8-13

Homework Due (Next Appointment)  Date:  Wed 11-15     Time:    3:00 PM

Unfinished Homework:


New Homework:

Bible Reading/Study: Read 1 chapter of Eph each day. For the first 3 days write down 1 thing from each chapter (chapters 1, 2 and 3) that reveals God’s love for you. Thank God each day for what you discover. In chapters 4,5 & 6, write down one commandment from each chapter. Pray each day for God’s help in obeying that command.

Scripture Memorization: 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Prayer: Pray Psalm 119:18 before Bible reading; Each morning thank God for sending Christ to take your sins upon Himself; At bedtime pray for me, as your counselor, that I will have God’s wisdom in counseling you and ask the Lord to make you teachable and humble so that you will grow through counseling

Book/Pamphlet: “What is Biblical Counseling.” Highlight anything that stands out as something you want to gain in biblical counseling. Also bring any questions with you about it to our next session and we’ll discuss it.

Church Attendance/Involvement: Take notes in Sunday’s sermon and write one thing that you were convicted about and answer the question, “What steps will I take to make a change this week?”



Project:  Obtain a 3-ring binder with blank paper and dividers to use as a counseling notebook. Dividers include session notes, handouts, homework, sermon notes and an extra section that can later be used as a “praise journal.”

Counselor:    Pastor Tom                                                          Counselee’s Advocate:


Counselor’s Checklist to Prepare for Session One

Once each of the items on the checklist has been completed, the counselor is then ready for his first session.

  • Prayer: Pray daily for the counselee and equipping as a counselor.
  • Self-Examination: I am working on changing __________in my life.
  • The PDI and The Counseling Agreement have been received – complete & signed and are placed in the counselee’s file.
  • The PDI has been reviewed and questions are prepared to solicit desired data in the following areas: Relationships, family life growing up, finances, education, job and career, physical health, skills and abilities, interests and hobbies, marriage and children, spiritual life, tendencies, attitudes, strong desires that affect behavior, dominant sin patterns and the counselee’s expectations for counseling. Questions to be asked and “notes to self” are in the counselee’s file.
  • The first session has been scheduled for ________________.
  • Instructions have been clearly communicated to the counselee regarding bringing a Bible and pen, the location, the parking, how long the sessions will be and the potential duration of counseling.
  • Determine whether or not to assign pre-session homework. If so, send to counselee with clear instructions and make a notation in the counselee’s file.
  •  The counseling room is scheduled and reserved for the appropriate time slot

The counseling room is prepared:

  • Table or desk and chairs
  • Proper lighting
  • Comfortable temperature
  • Accessible whiteboard
  • Supplies are ready: pens, notepads, dry erase markers, white board eraser, facial tissues, and an extra Bible
  • Counselee’s file and counselor’s Bible is on the desk
  • Any necessary resources are on the desk
  • Chilled water bottles
  • Reading glasses?
  • Counselor’s electronic notepad (optional)
  • Other supplies needed:___________________________________________


  • The “Biblical Counseling Record & Lesson Plan” is prepared for the first session and placed in the counselee’s file
  • A “Homework Assignment Sheet” is prepared for the first session

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), Matt. 6:9.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 639.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 639.

[4] Grudem, 639.

[5] Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), 20.

[6] An example of a PDI and Counseling Agreement can be found at If the link does not work, go to Select “connect” and then “counseling.” Scroll down to the “Personal Data Inventory” link under “Details and Contact Information.”

[7] An example of an online PDI can be found at

[8] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 259.

[9] Tim Lane and Paul Tripp, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2008), 17.

[10] Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2008), 104.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 118.

[13] Elyse Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 68.

[14] Ibid., 24.

[15] Ibid., 93.

[16] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual,, 257.