Many times throughout the day, we encounter facts, ideas, or individuals that will provide us with an opportunity to reframe a currently held belief. Reframing is a technique we are all familiar with despite whether or not the term is one you have heard before. It is the art and process of considering a situation, memory, or belief in a different way which provides new meaning. If you still believe this technique may be unknown to you, I wonder if you are familiar with the story commonly known as “Footprints” or “Footprints in the Sand.” You have likely found yourself in an office where it appears as a poster on a wall or being given a keepsake with the words embedded into the object. This parable illustrates the deep sadness felt by a man, who believed that during the hardest times of his life he had been abandoned by Jesus, and the subsequent comfort and peace that swells within him, when Jesus reframes those moments by revealing that he was being carried.
Due to the immense relief and change reframing can create, counselors will use this technique whether they be Pastoral Counselors or therapists who do not tend to acknowledge the spiritual component of a person or the world around them. What will differ between types of counselors is the perspective or information that would be offered in the process of reframing. As Pastoral Counselors within the Catholic tradition, we are informed by the Church, its teachings, sacred scripture, and the contribution of many spiritual masters over the past 2000 years. We can utilize the information with our clients as we encounter and recognize perspectives or beliefs that do not consider the fullness of truth. The story “Footprints” addresses the common concern of not knowing where God was in a painful or traumatic time. We can encourage our clients to consider where He was and perhaps lead them through a guided meditation in order to locate Him. Do you have a good sense of His presence? When was the last time you asked Jesus where He was?
As we continue to grow in our own faith and serve as counselors, we may learn new information that can assist in our ability to reframe. I recently was introduced to a concept called “protective darkness.” This term can be used to explain why the future being unknown to us is a form of protection. Our future is hidden as an intentional act of the Lord for our good. To demonstrate, if we were to know with certainty what would come, would we ever allow ourselves to fully embrace the present? Would we continue on the broken road to our destination, so filled with opportunities to become who we are meant to be, if we believed we could walk in a straight line? Furthermore, would we even need to trust the Lord? As much as we desire to know the future, are we willing to remove the protection He wills for us in the darkness? When a Pastoral Counselor is in session with someone struggling with the unknowns of the future or painful questions of the present, helping our clients to reframe those unknowns as protection from the Lord could provide the peace they are searching for. This always, of course, rests on the direction from the Holy Spirit we are hopefully continually asking for. When reframing is applied correctly, it will not feel like a platitude or an empty attempt to comfort. You will find yourself taking a deep breath as the shift of a new reality settles into place. This shift allows for the peace to come. A peace that only comes from aligning our perspectives closer with those of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Claire Richard is a Clinical Mental Health Counseling student originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is frequently in awe of the goodness of our God and finds herself marveling at His providence more than one would think possible. Through years of research, it has been determined that a good conversation, a great book, and bottomless cups of coffee are all necessary for her mental health.