What is the importance of communication in counseling? Dr. Bill Richardson talks about how God’s self-disclosure informs the practices of active listening and communication in counseling.

One of the things I like to talk about when I talk about learning to be a therapist—a counselor—and our program is communication. All that the counselor really has to help another human being is communication. It’s listening. And it’s it’s all the all the nuances of verbal and nonverbal behavior, as well. It’s the person of the therapist that brings about healing and change because people are harmed in relationship, people are healed in relationship, or at least improved in relationship. And then communication is the is the medium of that relationship. And I love that because what could be more biblical than communication—than studying communication? As believers, the study of communication and intimate communication belongs to us.

God’s Self-Disclosure and Listening

Think about self-disclosure. Our God, by name and nature, is a revealer.The second person of the Trinity has named himself “Word.” A word is a communication device. Our God, by name and nature, is a revealer. He’s a self-discloser! We could hold a Bible here, we could open it up and say, “In the Word of God, the Word of God becomes an open book to us.” He is the Word. Is he also a listening God? Well, certainly he hears our prayers. One of the central prayers of Judaism is called the Shema: Shema yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad. “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” or “the Lord alone is our God.” And the word for “hear” is “shema.” Well, wonderfully, in Psalm 65:2, Yahweh himself is called “Shema.” He is the Shema. He is the one who hears. Just as he calls himself Word—our God names himself Word—our God is also named Shema. He is the one that hears.

Our Self-Disclosure and Listening

So we study active listening. One of the things that we we just work on the skills of over and over again is how to make sure that we are actively listening to clients. Real listening—real deep listening—is a rare commodity in our culture. It’s not a natural, it’s not a given. What we’re doing when we we’re with a client, when we are listening well, we are helping them teach us the things we need to know to help them. And there are lots of layers for them to go down. Real listening—real deep listening—is a rare commodity in our culture.And once the environment is safe and they know that there’s a caring listener there, they can they can open up. They can share the things that they need to share, that they need to get off their chest, and that we need to know to help them. And so we teach listening skills, but we also teach answering skills. And that has a lot to do with the self-disclosure of the counselor, the communication ability of the counselor to help the client see things in in new ways, in different ways. So we are learning skills that help us work with clients. And we’re actually modeling skills that help them live more successfully with one another.