In a world where accountability and appropriate gender roles are diminishing, it is important to exercise certain conditions when counseling someone of the opposite sex. The following is my response to this matter.
I would counsel someone of the opposite sex. I would counsel them under certain conditions. For instance, I would counsel them in a semi- to complete- public place (Jn. 4:5-30); depending on the subject matter for which the person may be seeking counsel. Such places would consist of a lounge, coffee shop, or dining place. I would be inclined to select non-peek hours to minimize confidentiality. However, if the subject matter is noted to be sensitive, I would be inclined to use an office setting. In using an office, I would pursue my options of using a door with a glass-pane, leaving the door semi-open, using a camera-monitor system (someone would be doing check-ins), or video record the counsel time (someone would review the recording). I would take such measures to ensure accountability to adequate behavioral roles between the counselee and myself. As for myself, I would have an accountability person or set of people with whom I would present my current status in relation to my counselees, especially those of the opposite sex. Furthermore, I would do so to ensure the continuance of integrity for myself, ministry, church, and above all, God (Titus 2: 6-8).
Additionally, I would pursue my options of utilizing other people during my counsel time. Ideally, I would prefer to have an assistant who had some background in counseling, of the opposite sex and perhaps also part of the church staff. However, if this were not possible, I would utilize a mature person of the opposite sex to sit-in during the counsel time (Titus 2: 3-5). Whenever possible, I would not pass the option of utilizing the counselee’s family members or close friends to sit in during counsel time (1 Tim. 5:1-2); provided the counselee is in agreement to do so. Such action would not only be suitable for accountability, but also as support that may extend itself beyond the time of counsel.
Regarding period of which counsel would be provided to a person of the opposite sex, this would vary from person to person. However, I would ideally be inclined to work with the person seeking counsel for an initial assessment and one or two more sessions. After such counsel time, ideally, I would refer them to a trained faith-based counselor or mature Christian of the opposite sex for further counsel time. If such was not the case, I would continue to counsel the person with the parameters listed above.
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R. A. Gómez