How Can I Use Liturgy in Counseling?

A Life of Worship

Worship reaches into every aspect of life. In a broad sense, it is far more than the songs we sing in a Sunday service, but describes the posture of our lives from day to day. In a narrower sense, worship is what we do publicly in our gathering as believers in the presence of God. As a result liturgy can serve as a powerful guide in shaping the ways in which we worship. Winston Smith, counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF), believes that liturgy can play a significant role in guiding the counseling of other believers.

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.

Listen as he describes practical ways in which you can incorporate liturgy in to your own counseling practices. 

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38This is the great and first commandment.39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

By "liturgy," Winston refers to those elements that help guide our worship and engage us more deeply (prayer, Scripture, creeds, hymns, lyrics, etc.). In Jesus' response to the Pharisees, He shows that worship involves our whole person (heart, soul, and mind) and has a corporate aspect ("Love your neighbor as yourself"). Ultimately, these commandments describe the aim for all believers and liturgy can be a helpful tool for directing our hearts in worship.

What has been your personal experience with the use of liturgy, either in counseling or in corporate worship? Have you found it to be a positive influence? Why or why not?
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What level of importance have you placed on counseling believers with the intent of moving them towards a deeper life of worship? How have you shaped your counseling to accomplish this?
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Have you incorporated liturgical elements into your own counseling (prayer, Scripture, creeds, hymns, lyrics, etc.)? If so, how? What kind of influence did they have?
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Winston talked about how liturgy helps to keep us from merely thinking about God by informing and directing our affections. In what ways have you seen liturgy help to engage someone wholly in worship (heart, soul, and mind)? As you consider your own practice, are there any changes you would like to make to encourage deeper worship through liturgy? If so, what are they?
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As Winston shared, when we meet with another believer, at a simple level we are doing church together. Counseling serves the critical need of addressing the effects of brokenness in the lives of people, but it also serves as a powerful opportunity to direct believers into deeper worship of their God. As you consider the role liturgy could play in your own practice, ask God to direct your focus in order to faithfully serve Him in guiding His people in worship.

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