Chapter 4 – Planning for the Next Session

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Blank Counseling Record & Lesson Plan

The notes from the first session have now been reviewed. The “Session Log” has been completed. The agenda has been started as well as a list of questions to ask the counselee in future sessions. The first Case Report is complete and it is now time to prepare for the next session.

In this chapter, we will prepare the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” and a “Homework Assignment Sheet” for the second session. In addition, we will reach out to the counselee with mid-week encouragement. Because counselors must always remember to examine themselves daily to “see if there is any wicked way in me … ” (Ps. 139:24a), the step of continuing to work on personal transformation is included in this chapter. Finally, we will look at how to proceed with subsequent sessions based on the instructions given for the first two sessions. There is a checklist provided at the end of this chapter including each of the steps presented in both Chapters 3 and 4 (fig. 4.1).

The sections that will be covered in this chapter include:

  1. Preparing a “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” for the Next Session
  2. Preparing a “Homework Assignment Sheet” for the Next Session
  3. Mid-Week Encouragement of the Counselee
  4. Counselor’s Review of Personal Transformation Plan
  5. Moving on to Subsequent Sessions

In addition to instruction for completing the five steps listed above, a dialog, similar to that presented in Appendix A is presented in Appendix C for the purpose of modeling for the beginning counselor those items which were not covered in the first session: “Review of the counselee’s homework” and “evaluating and reviewing the process of change.”

  1. Preparing a “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” for the Next Session:

The counselor is now somewhat familiar with the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” since he has previously prepared and used one for the first session. However, the form for the second and subsequent sessions is marginally different. Note the differences between the two forms in figure 4.2. The shaded items are exclusive to the first session. Generally, there is little to no homework to review in the first session, but a significant amount of time will most likely be spent reviewing homework in the second and subsequent sessions.  Additionally, since biblical counseling focuses on change through the sanctification process, it is important to help the counselee see the steps she is taking that are resulting in change. Therefore, once the sanctification process has been explained to the counselee (i.e. Eph 4:22-24) and she begins to report changes as the result of past sessions and homework assignments, the counselor ought to help the counselee understand the steps she is taking that are resulting in the change she experiences. Frequent review of the change process will assist in her ability to duplicate her efforts once she has graduated as well as to equip her to help others.

Item Session One Session Two and Subsequent
1 Greet Greet
2 Pray Pray
3 Review PDI & Gather Relevant Data Review Homework
4 Present Lesson (Instruct) Evaluate & Review Change Process
5 What is Biblical Counseling? “Questions to Ask the Counselee”
6 Build Hope Present Lesson (Instruct)
7 Assign Homework Build Hope
8 Obtain Commitment Assign Homework
9 Ask Case Report Questions Ask Case Report Questions
10 Set/confirm next meeting Set/confirm next meeting
11 Pray Pray

Figure 4.2. A comparison between a first session and subsequent sessions. The shaded items are exclusive to the first session.


Because of the steps taken in Chapter Three and because the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” thoroughly includes the necessary steps to be taken in each session, most of the counselor’s work has already been accomplished in preparing for the following session. The only areas that remain to be determined at this step are:

  • What opening Scripture will be read (optional)
  • What lesson will be taught
  • How hope will be built
  • What will be assigned as homework

Once the four areas above are determined and inserted into the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan,” the beginning counselor can be confident that all important aspects of a counseling session are covered simply by following the steps of the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” throughout the session.

Which Agenda Item Should be Addressed First?

In order to determine what lesson should be inserted into the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan,” the counselor can refer to the agenda. A foremost question commonly asked by beginning counselors is, “Which agenda item should be addressed first?” There is not one prescribed answer so two counselors may very well begin by addressing two different topics initially. This is not an indication that one counselor is right and the other wrong. However, there are some guidelines that can prove helpful.

First, if the counselee is in the midst of a tragic loss or crisis, is suicidal, is in an unsafe living situation, has no money to feed her children or has some other urgent need, counseling will begin quite differently than the case where the counselee is reaping the fruit of sinful choices. If suicidal, professional help must often be sought so the counselee is not permitted to be alone. In the case of an urgent physical need or unsafe situation, the church can be mobilized to meet the need. And in the case of great loss, helping the counselee to see God’s loving and caring nature in the midst of the pain and suffering, and helping her find comfort and hope will be the first agenda item. As time goes on, teaching and helping her to suffer biblically would be in order.

Second, if the counselee is clearly exhibiting a blatantly sinful lifestyle such as an adulterous relationship or abusive behaviors, the counselee must be lovingly confronted to repent immediately. The counselor cannot allow such rebellion to continue without helping the counselee see the seriousness of her sin. Therefore, the first agenda item would be to address such sin.

Third, if the above two types of scenarios are not a part of the case, the counselor may find success in addressing the foundational doctrinal issues indicated by an “X” on the “Agenda Log” checklist in the first few sessions, since these are foundational for all other instruction:

·      Biblical Counseling: What is it?

·         Disciplines of the Faith (i.e. Prayer, Bible reading and memorization; church attendance, serving, etc.)

·         Living for God’s Glory

·     Gospel; Salvation

·     The Heart

·     Idols of the Heart

·     Pride

·     Sanctification and Spiritual Growth

Figure 4.3. Foundational doctrines to be taught to or reviewed with most counselees

Helping the counselee to see how each of these eight doctrines affects her presenting problem will help to build hope and can bring about change very quickly. For example, if she comes to counseling for marital problems and the counselor helps her to understand how the disciplines of the faith, the doctrine of sanctification and living for God’s glory can help her in her marriage, she will begin to grow very quickly. On the other hand, if the counselor teaches these doctrines, yet never talks about them in the context of her marriage or helps her to see how they affect her marriage, she can become distraught thinking the counselor does not understand her problem.

Finally, in the case where a broken relationship is the most obvious issue, addressing the counselee’s speech patterns initially can result in ceasing or slowing the “fueling of the fire.” A focus on living for God’s glory and Christ’s forgiveness for her and her responsibility to forgive others can be taught early in counseling, resulting in the producing of new fruit, impacting the relationship in God-honoring ways. Meanwhile the doctrines of the heart and heart idols can be addressed as time goes on so that she begins to understand why and how she got herself into her current situation.

Once initial topics have been covered to the point that the counselee understands how they apply to her life, Chapter Seven, “Sanctification: The Transformation Process” gives guidance for how to proceed in addressing sin issues. As discussed in that chapter, the counselee will generally give input in determining what needs to be changed first.

Once a topic to be taught has been determined, it is generally best to teach from only one or two relevant Scripture passages and to explain them well, giving practical examples for how the counselee can apply the truths to her personal circumstances rather than flooding her with multiple Scripture passages. In addition to the resources From Pride to Humility by Stuart Scott and Transformed Into His Likeness by Armand P. Tiffe as discussed in Chapter Seven, an excellent resource for locating relevant Scripture passages is the Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling series published by Baker Books. The series includes topics relevant for counseling Men, Women and Youth.

Figure 4.4. A sample “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” for the second session

Disciple’s Initials________________           Case No. ____________              Session #____2_____


Date__________  Time Scheduled to Begin_____________ Actual Time Session Begins___________

1. Greet counselee

2. Pray (Opening Scripture: 1 Jn 3:1-3)

3. Review Counselee’s Homework

4. Evaluate and Review the Process of Change

  • Case Report Q #3 What changes have been made since the last session as the result of the homework and applying last session’s counsel?
  • What has made the difference? What practical steps have you taken that have made a difference?

Help counselee to see the change process that is taking place: (This can begin in sessions subsequent to the teaching of Sanctification – Eph 4:22-24)

  • Am I defining the problem biblically? What Scripture passage applies?
  • Do I have a plan?
    • What is the put off?
    • What is the put on?
    • What am I doing that will promote renewing of my mind?
    • Am I asking & relying on God for help?

5. “Questions to Ask the Counselee” (fig. 3.5)

6. Present Lesson (Instruct): Eph 4:22-24 Sanctification (see chapter 7 “Sanctification…”)

7. Build hope Eternal focus: 1 Jn 3:1-3 (See Chapter 5 for “Lessons that Build Hope”)

8. Assign homework   (See fig. 2.5)

See also Chapter 7 “Homework That Transforms.”)

Q. Do you have any questions about the assignments?

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

9. Case Report Questions:

  • 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

  1. Preparing a Homework Assignment Sheet for the Next Session:

Although assignments can often change as the result of what transpires in the session, it is a good idea, especially for a beginning counselor, to prepare in advance what the assignments will be for the week. Chapter Six provides guidance for assigning effective homework that results in change, but in short, as we saw in Chapter Two, a typical homework assignment ought to include the six areas listed 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

Below is an example of a good assignment for a subsequent session:

  • Read Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount” (in Matthew chapters 5-7) twice this week. Read one chapter per day and write in your notebook one truth that Jesus is teaching in that chapter. Answer the question, “How should this impact my life?”
  • Memorize Matthew 5:44. Come to the next session prepared to recite it. Meditate on it. This means to think about ways to apply it to your life.
  • Pray Psalm 119:18 before Bible reading; Each morning thank God for saving you through Christ’s sacrifice and ask Him to help you live for His glory today; At bedtime pray Colossians 1:9-14 for your family members.
  • Complete the “Living for God’s Glory” worksheet.[1]
  • Take notes in Sunday’s sermon and write one thing that you were convicted about and answer the question (in your notebook) “What steps will I take to make a change this week as a result of what I heard?”
  • Begin a Praise Journal. Make one entry each day praising God for who He is or thanking Him for something He has done.
  1. Mid-Week Encouragement of the Counselee:

It is usually beneficial for the counselor to take a few minutes to encourage the counselee between sessions. One idea might be to send a short email of encouragement. Figures 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7 provide some examples:


I enjoyed our session yesterday and I look forward to getting to know you better and learning and growing together with you in the coming sessions. I appreciate your openness and your willingness to share with me some of the painful details of your life. I know you are trudging through a difficult journey right now and I want you to know I’m praying for you daily and I want to do all I can to help you find hope and encouragement in Christ.

Your sister in Christ,


Figure 4.5. Sample email of encouragement


Here is a passage that has been an encouragement to me: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa 41:10).

I recommend reading that passage through a few times slowly and letting God penetrate your heart with it. God’s Word changes us!

Your sister in Christ,


Figure 4.6. Sample email of encouragement


I hope and pray you find comfort and direction in God’s Word while completing your homework this week. If you have any questions regarding the homework assignments, don’t hesitate to shoot off an email to me.

I look forward to meeting with you again next Tuesday.

Your sister in Christ,


Figure 4.7. Sample email of encouragement

Other ideas for sending encouragement to the counselee between sessions might include simply texting a Scripture passage, sending a card of encouragement through the postal service, a birthday card for the counselee’s birthday or a “Congratulations” email that reminds her, “You have been reading your Bible daily for 100 days!” Being in touch with the counselee between sessions is not absolutely necessary but can certainly enrich the counselor/counselee relationship and provide encouragement to the counselee, which can result in perseverance and change (1 Thess 1:3).

  1. Counselor’s Review of Personal Transformation Plan

For the counselor to continue to be an effective servant in God’s Kingdom work, he must continue his self-examination daily and continue to implement transformation plans as necessary. This is discussed in detail in Chapters Two and Seven, but should be on-going for all Christians throughout life, especially for those helping others (Matt 7:1-5). Therefore, this item should remain on the counselor’s checklist indefinitely.

  1. Moving on to Subsequent Sessions

After completing each of the steps in this chapter as well as those in Chapter Three, the checklist at the end of this chapter (fig. 4.1) should now be complete. The counselor is ready for the second session. Because the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” is so thorough, the only areas which must be addressed in the preparation for each upcoming session are to determine:

  • What opening Scripture will be read (optional)
  • What lesson will be taught
  • What will be assigned as homework
  • How hope will be built

Each week, in order to determine which lesson will be taught for the upcoming session, refer once again to the agenda. Agenda items are gradually moved one by one onto the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” and the “Homework Assignment Sheet.” As the counselee demonstrates integration of lessons taught into her life, items are then moved from the agenda to Question #11 on the Case Report: “What issues have been sufficiently addressed by you and changed by the counselee?” Some agenda items will be addressed in only one or two sessions. Others may take weeks or even months to integrate into life. For changing life-dominating sin patterns or addressing mental health diagnoses, sometimes years are required.

Once the topic and the Scripture(s) are determined for instructing in the next session, a “Homework Assignment Sheet” coordinating with the lesson taught can be completed. Again, all six of the areas of homework ought to be considered.

Finally, one or two hope-filled Scripture passages should be selected to share with the counselee in the effort to build and maintain hope. See Chapter Five for ideas on how to build hope.

The above process is simply repeated for each session. Therefore, by utilizing the checklist at the end of this chapter (fig. 4.1) between sessions, the counselor can be confident that he has prepared thoroughly for ministering to the disciple God has sent his way. The rest of the work is up to the Holy Spirit who will be faithful to grant wisdom (Jas 1:5), to reveal truth (Ps 119:18) and to equip and empower the counselor to minister effectively (Acts 4:8, 31, 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5, 1 Pet 1:12; Eph. 5:19-20; Heb. 3:7, 10:15).

By maintaining good records and following the steps in the “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” in each session, the beginning counselor can stay confidently focused on the direction of the case.

Counselor’s Post-Session Checklist

For 2nd and Subsequent Sessions

  • Prayer
  • Review Session Notes. While the session is fresh in your memory. Fill in any notes that are incomplete or were neglected in the session.
  • Copy everything from the whiteboard to include in session notes. This can be done by re-drawing it onto paper or taking a picture of the whiteboard and printing it to attach to the notes.
  • Complete the Session Log
  • Update the Agenda
  • Update “Questions to Ask the Counselee”
  • Complete a Case Report
  • Prepare a “Biblical Counseling Record and Lesson Plan” for the next session.
  • Prepare a “Homework Assignment Sheet” for the next session
  • Send an email (or card) of encouragement to the counselee
  • Review counselor’s personal transformation plan and ensure steps are being taken to continue personal growth and maturity

Figure 4.1. Counselor’s checklist to prepare for subsequent sessions

[1] available at