If you’re struggling, you don’t have to struggle alone. Yet, many of us do.
We are designed to need each other, but relational and personal challenges may keep us from experiencing one another well. Because we can’t see what we don’t see, the very nature of denial, we need others to see what we can’t. And to reflect that back to us.
It takes a lot of courage to allow someone else this role in our lives. Especially when that someone is new to us.
Though we have numerous opportunities to be a vessel of positive change in another person’s life, we often don’t know how to do it well. Nor, do we have the training needed to identify patterns of damaging behavior. As a result we may struggle through strained or destructive relationships in various areas of life. We may also struggle to heal or grow due to a series of painful events.
Getting help from a licensed therapist is a powerful way to identify patterns, experience healing, and develop healthy relational connections.
However, it’s not always easy to know where to turn, or what kind of help you can get. This post is the second in a series of articles designed to help Christians navigate counseling and healing options. The first post “What Kind of Counseling is Available for Christians” has a great deal of information that could prove helpful.
How do you find the best counselor for you?
Everyone’s needs are different. Seasons are different. Therapists have different specialities. If one doesn’t seem like a good fit, consider researching other options. Don’t quit looking for help, especially if you are impacted by abuse, addiction, personality disorders, or mental illness.
I’ve asked a few licensed Christian therapists to provide insight on how to find the best counselor for you. I hope their responses are helpful as you choose someone to meet you in your vulnerable spaces.
Questions to Consider:
Finding the right counselor often feels overwhelming and daunting. You want to feel comfortable while also sitting with someone who is knowledgeable and competent. When finding a counselor, think about what are your top 3 priorities. For example: do you want someone with a faith background? Someone with a particular speciality like eating disorders or anxiety? Someone who uses a particular theory like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Request to schedule a brief consolation where you can ask the counselor these questions. Also discuss what your goals are how they can help you. I find counseling the most effective when my clients come in knowing what they want. The more you can vocalize your needs the more positive experience you will have.
If you schedule an appointment but you don’t feel like it’s a good fit, email them and let them know. Ask if they can make a referral or recommendation for you. You should always feel emotionally safe and that your counselor is your advocate and helper through the healing process. The more specific you are and the more you vocalize this, the better experience you are likely to have.
Melissa has worked in a private practice setting since 2008. She guides her clients in identifying and removing the roadblocks that keep them from living out their true identity and purpose. In counseling, speaking and writing, Melissa utilizes a holistic approach in helping others find hope and healing. One area of special interest and expertise is issues related to body image and eating disorders.
Melissa has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Texas State University and a Master’s degree in Counseling and Biblical Studies from Grace University. As a Dallas native, she is passionate about serving her community and the greater metroplex through speaking engagements at schools, churches and local organizations. Melissa can be reached at email@example.com or 214-513-3936.
CONNECT WITH MELISSA:
You go to the gym or watch what you eat to care for your body. You likely check in with a medical doctor. You get that your body needs nourishment, exercise, and periodic check-ins to stay healthy. Yet so many of us don’t give the same attention to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
I can’t tell you the number of people who write to me looking for help in the midst of a full-blown crisis. They have no system in place – no cushion. Finding a good counselor can be hard. And it’s even harder when you needed it. . .yesterday. Here’s the best piece of advice I can give: Don’t wait until you’re in crisis to get your support system in place.
Here’s how to start:
1. Think about your needs individually and the needs of your family
Are you struggling to hold it together as a parent? Do you have a child who struggles with anxiety or behavioral problems? How’s your marriage? Are you single parenting? Think about your specific situation and consider whether an individual counselor, marriage counselor, or even a family coach might benefit you and your family.
2. Take a look at your budget
Look at other health investments (such as gym memberships and personal care) and think about what you can budget for your mental and emotional health. Then check with your insurance company to determine your mental health benefits. There’s a reason why many insurance companies provide mental health benefits – regular mental health check-ins are good for your health!
3. Start your search:
- Contact a church, university, or seminary to see if they provide free or discounted counseling. If not, ask them for a referral list of counselors in your area.
- Ask friends that you trust who they’d recommend.
- Ask your primary care physician or your children’s school counselor.
- Use Psychology Today or Christian Counselor Directory to search for licensed counselors in your region. You can filter your search by insurance provider, areas of specialty, and religious affiliation. You can also use this search engine to find psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups.
- If scheduling is an issue for you, consider online options. Here are several affordable online Christian counseling resources:
4. Narrow your list
When selecting a counselor, I always tell people to narrow the list down to 2-3 that seem to resonate with your needs. Contact those individuals and ask them for a brief phone interview – or even schedule one initial appointment. During that introductory session, you’ll get a feel for personality and fit. Be clear about what you need – especially if you’re not currently in crisis. Let the person know you’re wanting to cultivate a relationship that will last over time.
Counseling can be an incredible asset to your support network – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Take the time you need now to put your support systems in place – you won’t regret this important investment in your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Alison Cook, PhD specializes in the integration of faith and psychology and is the co-author of Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies. She, her husband Joe, and their two teens live in the greater Boston area.
Questions to Consider:
Finding the right counselor can feel incredibly overwhelming, but getting help shouldn’t be a mystery. There are some simple considerations to make before committing to one. It’s also important that we give ourselves permission to walk away if a provider isn’t a good fit.
Starting counseling is like dating at first, but over time, the healer-client relationship is like a good marriage, since the foundation of both is trust. We should ask ourselves, “Do I trust him/her enough to let allow them to see me at my most vulnerable? To hold my pain?” If there’s any hesitation in saying, “yes,” it’s unlikely that therapy will be beneficial.
Along with building trust, every provider should give their clients a clear understanding of how long the service typically lasts, what type of treatment model and confidentiality he or she should expect to experience, and how much it’ll cost relative to similar services. Having that kind of confidence and trust in the person caring for you is a must-have foundation for any of us desiring to experience healing.
Adding a Spiritual Perspective to Counseling:
From a spiritual perspective, sharing the same faith as your counselor often feels like a holy experience. It’s wonderful and important! And while this may be an unpopular belief in the church realm, I actually discourage clients from using that one commonality as the final determination in whether they commit to a counselor. Therapy at its root is about taking action, and a skilled therapist sets a client’s deepest beliefs and priorities into motion, regardless of his or her personal spiritual practices.
A counselor’s job is not necessarily to instill belief, but to help clients remove any family patterns, trauma, or hang-ups that are standing in the way of him or her living out their own beliefs to the fullest. This is an important consideration. As an example, I’m a Christian, but I’ve been able to minister to families of other faiths through the work of Holy Spirit in me. And due to my respect for each client’s background and experience, they’ve been able to receive it, regardless of whether they understood the work of God in their lives or not.
I show up, but the glory goes to God if and when they find out that I’m a follower of Jesus. This is an important difference between Christian counseling (applying biblical principles to life which are often abstract ideals like love and respect) and therapy (breaking unhealthy patterns and beliefs, and making behavioral/emotional changes in response to core beliefs. You can find out more about how to choose a great counselor by clicking the link to the full article.
Founder, the Making of a Marriage. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Wife to Pete. #Boymom. Faith over fear all day long.
WEBSITE (including a fantastic post on choosing the best counselor): https://themakingofamarriage.com/2019/05/14/choosing-best-counselor-therapist/
Personal referrals are good, but also talking to the counselor themselves to let them know your needs and asking their approach to counseling. Counselors can be very different, so finding a good fit is important to the therapeutic process. If you meet with a counselor for one or two sessions but you don’t feel it’s a good fit, don’t give up on counseling.
Brenda L. Yoder is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, speaker, author, parent coach, award-winning teacher and former school counselor who’s worked with youth for over 25 years. She’s been featured in the Washington Post, For Every Mom, For the Family, Whatever Girls, and has authored Fledge: Launching Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind. She is a wife and mom of four young adult, and lives in Indiana. She can be found at brendayoder.com.
Finding a therapist that fits for you re: finances and experience can take some time and effort. What’s really important is to find someone that you can feel connected with and trust.
It’s important to know what you can commit to financially, in order to really participate in therapy and make progress. Committing to weekly sessions for a few months can jump start your healing and give you relief in your struggles or symptoms. Sometimes paying out of pocket, instead of through insurance, will give you more options to find someone that really fits.
There’s online profiles to search and lists you can get from insurance companies. Online directories have search options, so you can search for therapists that specialize in your struggles, take your insurance, and are Christian.
There’s often a list of trusted counselors that local pastors use, so that you can trust the therapist that your pastor trusts.
As a Christian therapist, and a Christian therapy client, I understand how important it is for my client to feel like I get their faith and experience living life with other Christians.
Susette Magana is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Long Beach, CA. She specializes in working with client recovering from betrayal, and has extensive experience working with trauma, infidelity, and spouses or family members of addicts. When appropriate, she integrates prayer, faith & scripture into her practice, while acknowledging that everyone’s faith journey has not felt safe or comforting.
These days, Susette nerds out on: theology, spiritual formation & church organizational structures. And her pug, Omar.
She is the creator & co-host of The Desire Line Podcast.