“RTV” Counseling. Part 1


I used to be a mechanical engineer working for one of the larger defense contractors in the world. Sometimes we would have short-cut solutions to problems. In people’s homes, one of the big shortcuts is duck tape (also spelled duct tape, incorrectly, at times). We did not use duck tape however, but one of our short-cuts was RTV.

RTV stands for “Room Temperature Vulcanization.” If you go to the hardware store you may see it marketed different ways. A common way is “Silicone Sealant.” It commonly comes in a tube, and one can squeeze it out as a clear (or sometimes colored) gel. It will harden (vulcanize) over the next few hours becoming silicone rubber. It is useful for many things. It can be used as a sealant (obviously), but can also be used to cushion, support, and help components pass various tests like drip-tests, shock tests, and vibration tests.

Using RTV isn’t cheating per se, it is durable and resistant to chemicals and other things meaning it can be a long-term solution. Still, sometimes RTV can be used to “put a patch” on something that should have been designed or manufactured differently. In other words, it is a short-cut… and sometimes a short-cut is not the best way to do things. In fact, at its worst, it is used more to hide problems rather than truly solve them.

In Christian counseling, I do consider there to be a type that could be called “RTV Counseling.” In this case it stands for

Read This Verse” Counseling

I suspect you have come across this before. Perhaps you have seen something shared on Facebook or Instagram or whatever is your preferred online form of information—- perhaps it is a list of problems and associated with each problem is a verse to read.

Maybe it lists a problems like “FEAR” and then it has the verse Isaiah 41:10. When you look it up, it says “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” It is a good verse… a comforting verse (even though it is actually comforting words to Israel… not to you). And then there will be other problems and associated verses. Other problems might be things like “Temptation” or “Anxiety.” I rather suspect that most of you all reading this would have no trouble guessing what verses would be associated with these.

But when does the short-cut undermine the solution? I will use fear as an example.

#1. RTV Counseling involves a lot of guessing. Why does the person feel fear? The RTV counselor does not know. The counselor appears to assume that the only answer could be “Lack of Faith in God,” or perhaps “Lack of Assurance in the Benevolence of God.” Did the counselor guess correctly? Maybe. Maybe not.

#2. RTV Counseling, even if the counsellor guesses right typically does not address the underlying issues. For example, suppose the counsellor did choose a good verse regarding fear. Suppose the client really does struggle with the benevolence if God— Why does the person struggle with this? Maybe the client has suffered loss in the past. I have met people who seem to do fine where there is lack of reconciliation between their faith beliefs and their personal experience. Many, however can’t. Giving guidance that seems to violate one’s values or experiences can be viewed as not only not helpful, but insulting.

Suppose someone is suffering grief due the loss of a loved one, and an RTV counselor comes along as says Read This Verse…”For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I have certainly heard this used before… but why? I suppose my best guess is that the counselor is guessing that the bereaved is thinking, “I am so sad because, and only because, I think my loved one is gone forever and in a horrible situation. If only I had reason to think that my loved one is fine, I will lose all sadness and radiate joy…. despite losing the presence of my beloved.”

Is that a good guess? Probably not. The sadness is most likely because the beloved is gone from them now. There is something missing… there is an attachment severed. Grieving is very appropriate rather something to squelch.

Sadness is not a problem to fix. In many ways the same goes for fear. We were designed that way. God gave us the ability to feel fear for our own protection. Feeling fear is not the problem. The problem is when fear crushes our spirit, stunts our growth, dominates our minds, or steers us on the wrong path. There are good reasons to feel fear, just as there are good reasons to feel sad. But we need to explore those reasons.

And that we will do… In Part 2.

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