“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." (Romans 15:7)
First impressions are hard to change. By definition, they primarily shape how we view, experience, and interpret another individual. As soon as you lock in a first impression, it becomes the filter through which you receive and understand all communication.
This also creates a feedback loop that usually strengthens the first impression, as the first impression filter tends to only accept information that confirms its initial perceptions. In other words, first impressions are quite powerful and—in terms of counseling—can set a client on a track of resistance or receptivity from the beginning.
So, how can we set a Christlike first impression with those in our care? How can we welcome others as Christ has welcomed us?
It begins with cultivating joy when we see our clients. A welcoming posture celebrates and rejoices in the simple presence of another.
Do those in our care feel that we enjoy them and want to spend time with them? Or do they feel like a burden or a problem to be solved? Do our clients feel free to come as they are? Or do they feel like they have to show up in a particular way to be enjoyed and accepted?
The initial way we engage with clients sets the tone for their experience. Such things as being on time, smiling, and asking questions about their day can help our clients feel seen, valued, and cared for as a whole person.
The best part of all this? We have a perfect example to look to in doing so. Jesus welcomed all of us at our worst and showed us that we're more than the sum of our problems and pains.
I hope the way we intentionally welcome clients into our space provides a taste of the greater welcome that Christ offers each of us; that our first impressions with clients radiate a Christlike light that draws them nearer to their Savior; that when our clients leave our sessions, they leave knowing the door to God’s office remains forever open to them.