‘I am ready for this. I am equipped,’ says SEBTS counseling alumna
Lauren Pratt | December 19, 2017
Sometimes personal experience fuels professional drive.
It was Michelle Horton’s personal battle with an eating disorder that allowed her to experience the personal healing of biblical counseling. Horton recalls that her time in counseling allowed her to see her battle for what it truly was: a deep-rooted misplacement of identity that she was seeking outside of Christ. Rather than see herself as a victim of her struggle, she was challenged to look deeper and address sin. Horton has been a believer now for 13 years and has been free from her eating disorder for 12 of those years.
Her time in counseling was the beginning of an unexpected path that would eventually lead her to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where she would learn how to become a counselor herself.
“If you had asked me if this is what I’d be doing, I would have never guessed it,” said Horton, “but it absolutely makes sense when I look at my life and the way that [God’s] worked and led me.”
Horton works as a counselor at Heart Song Counseling, first in Washington, D.C., and now in Tampa, Florida, the location she has been in for about a year. Moving to Tampa is the fulfillment of a desire for Horton. It’s the city where she came to know the Lord and a city for which her heart is deeply burdened.
“Down here in the Tampa area there are tons of churches, but not solid churches,” said Horton. “There’s only a handful of solid churches and in the same way, there are a lot of people down here getting counseling that is not at all honoring to the Lord.”
Heart Song Counseling not only offers individual counseling, but also seeks to keep pastors informed on their members throughout the counseling process as well as equipping churches in their counseling practices.
Horton has been encouraged to see that counseling has not only transformed her clients’ lives, but even the lives of the pastors involved. She said that she is seeing pastors get “back to a place where they realize that the Word of God has a lot to say to their members.”
Counseling and the Great Commission
There’s nothing that can quite prepare a person for real world counseling, said Horton, who recalled that at one time 60 percent of her clients were women who had been sexually abused or assaulted.
“When I moved to D.C., I got thrown into counseling situations that no seminary in the world can prepare you for,” she said.
Regardless of the difficulty, Horton remembers having an unwavering confidence.
“I remember from day one, no matter what I encountered, I remember thinking, ‘I am ready for this. I am equipped,’” she said.
She credits this to her time at Southeastern and knows that even though she couldn’t predict the kinds of clients she would receive, she had the foundation that she needed to enter into the profession. It was not only biblical training she received, but also the training to know and understand secular counseling literature in order to engage clients who had received secular counseling in the past.
“I’m able as a counselor to read the books that aren’t written by Christians and I’m able to pull out of that the practical stuff that actually makes a lot of sense and throw away the stuff that goes against God’s Word, “ said Horton.
Biblical counseling has presented a surprising amount of non-Christians across Horton’s path, who she said, are simply trying out a biblical counselor as a last resort.
“And so here I am, sitting with a non-Christian, ready to engage in the gospel with them,” said Horton, noting that even her ability to relationally evangelize came through her time at Southeastern.
Training with excellence
“Oh man, you guys went to Southeastern? We would kill for some of your counseling students. They are the best.”
Horton recounted these words from her current boss in a conversation he had with some of her pastors in a church plant in D.C. – the reason she had moved to the city in the first place. Upon hearing of that conversation, Horton realized the excellent reputation that Southeastern’s biblical counseling program had to those outside of the school.
And for Horton, she believes she was trained well to go out and counsel others.
Her encouragement to current students being trained in biblical counseling is to be content for a time to be more of a learner and less of a doer. Horton was frustrated at times throughout her time in seminary because her desire was to help others, but she new that taking the proper time to read and study what she needed to know would pay dividends in the future.
An element of humility should always remain in the counseling room, advised Horton, because it teaches the counselor to depend on the Lord and see what he can do.
“Rather than letting that fear debilitate us, [let] it encourage us that now we’re going to see God do something amazing in the counseling room,” she said, “and that is the coolest part so we can study and we should, but at the end of the day, get prepared for God to do amazing things that you never guessed he would do.”
Photo courtesy of Caitie Coley Ayscue
From our local community to the outermost parts of the world, Southeastern students and alumni are reaching people with the gospel by fulfilling the Great Commission. Using the model of Acts 1:8, we want to highlight these stories of how our Southeastern family is serving in North Carolina, North America and around the world. Acts 1:8 Stories create a collective and consistent way to tell the story of Southeastern, one person at a time. From local pastors to missionaries among the unreached, God is doing a great work among students and alumni. Where are they now and where are they going? We can’t wait for you to find out!