Choosing a Christian Counselor

 
counselor-lucy
Written by “Holly,”  “In my search for a counselor, I visited a secular psychologist, read books written by extremist biblical counselors, and had tearful talks with my own general practitioner. I wish I had known then what TYPES of Christian counselors were out there and how on earth I could find help I could trust and afford.”

Why Educate Yourself about Christian Counseling?

Perhaps you do not suffer from depression, have a great marriage, kids seem to be doing okay, everything is fine. Why should you look into various types of Christian counsel?

1) Think of a Christian counselor as an invaluable resource, much like the family lawyer, pediatrician, or accountant. When problems arise, wouldn’t it be nice to already have the information you need regarding local counseling services?

2) It’s always a good idea to have information at hand so that you can guide distraught friends and family members to a trusted counselor who can offer biblical guidance and support.

If you are a believing Christian, I MUST recommend seeking a Christian counselor.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”

Ephesians 2:19

There can be a problem with secular counsel.

Many secular counselors will take your faith into consideration when treating you. However, as citizens of heaven, seeking counsel from a non-Christian is much like seeking counsel from someone who doesn’t speak your language…and he or she does not speak yours. Progress and inroads could be made, but in the long run, little will be accomplished.

There’s seldom wisdom and truth apart from godly counsel:

“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong.”

Psalm 37:30

Please try to find a Christian who is a professional counselor. There are a number of directories on the internet. Each individual counselor is different from the next, however, and you will need to interview any counselor before you decide to use his or her services.

If possible, find a specialist.

You may wish to choose a counselor who specializes in a specific area. There a number of issues for which people seek counsel, including:

  • Abuse
  • Addiction
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety
  • Coping with Stress
  • Depression
  • Divorce
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional trauma
  • Financial difficulties
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Major life changes
  • Marital issues
  • Mental illness
  • Pain management
  • Parenting issues
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Pre-marital counseling
  • Relationship conflict
  • Religious doubt/ confusion
  • Sexual/ intimacy difficulties

The first thing to consider when choosing a Christian counselor is whether or not they are capable or qualified to handle the particular issue you seek counsel for. A marriage counselor may not be the best person to go to if your thirteen-year-old daughter is battling anorexia. This seems like a given; however, be sure your counselor has experience handling your specific issue.

Decide whether or not you would feel more comfortable seeing a man or a woman for your particular problem.

Seek a Licensed Professional

Also, if you seek counsel outside of your church, make sure your counselor is a licensed professional. I suggest finding a professional who holds a minimum of a master’s degree in their field of study, who have completed the required number of supervised hours, and who has passed your state’s examination to become a licensed counselor.

Remember that most counselors employed by churches are professional counselors, but some are not. A church counselor should be qualified through their educational experience, and have some sort of license or certification that enables them to counsel (generally they have a Christian counseling certification awarded from various Christian counseling training programs or colleges.)

Interview Your Prospective Counselor BEFORE Your First Session

Going into a counseling session before you know where your counselor is coming– I should never, ever exercise my personal freedom if that action infringes on the liberty of others. That can be dangerous, especially when you are in a vulnerable emotional position unable to clearly think or discern the counsel you receive.

Before your first session, make the counselor shares your faith and concerns about the issue at hand. If possible, bring a trusted companion along to get their opinion about the practice you are considering.

Some questions to ask your potential counselor are:

  • What is your Christian counseling approach?
  • Do they adhere strictly to biblical counseling or do they consider psychological approaches as well?
  • Will they work with your psychiatrist and or doctor?
  • What license or certification do you have? Is it from an accredited college? A Christian college? A training program?
  • Are you affiliated with any particular Christian counseling organization?
  • How do you integrate the Bible into your counseling sessions?
  • How do you incorporate prayer into your counseling practice?
  • Do you have experience counseling people with (insert the issue for which you seek counsel)?
  • What is your payment structure?
  • Will my insurance cover my sessions with you?
  • What is your view on psychoanalysis, medication treatments for psychological ailments, and other scientific approaches to mental illness?

If you have an opportunity to interview your potential counselor in his or her office, take a good look at the books on the bookshelves. The types of books displayed might give you an excellent indication of the types of counsel you will receive.

Before you make your final decision, pray on it, consult your Bible, and if possible, talk to your trusted general practitioner before seeking therapy.

Recap:

Educate yourself about the various types of Christian Counselors. When finding a Christian counselor, remember to find a licensed, experienced CHRISTIAN professional capable of addressing your specific issue. Interview your prospective counselor before attending your first session. Go prepared with a series of questions that will help you gain knowledge about the kind of counsel you will be receiving. Prayerfully consider whether or not you and the counselor are a good fit.

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(Bryan— I unearthed this from somewhere. Thought it might help someone. I apologize for not being to attribute the article.)

 

‘A Drowning Kind of Despair’

painting of a person swimming underwater

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.

   2 Corinthians 1:8

“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”

John Piper

It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not my impulsiveness that scares me.   I know ‘despair’.  I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost.  But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted honor, when it comes to despair.

Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost.  Now this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress.  But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time.  Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.

Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a rather simplistic form.  I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC  song, ‘Highway to Hell‘.  The lyrics are pretty basic, very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost.  He formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned.  This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-rollism.”)

In examining the striated world of despair, we come to the interesting place where our foolishness combined with our arrogance produces a decision to be lost.  Of course, our fear of God must be extracted from the situation.  But for the eager candidate for despair, this is not an insurmountable problem.

Escaping this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty.  And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love.  (It is completely undeserved).  We must believe that somehow, someway God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest.  And somehow, He delights in doing this, and after all, He is the Lord.

We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope. 

Because of our problems, our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil folly of despair.  These are the issues that make us vulnerable.  There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair.  There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’.  We are pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic in some perverse way.

But is it not even more heroic to live in hope?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”

Psalm 42:5-6

aabryscript

Suicide Prevention

psychiatryadvisor.com

It’s very real and it’s very possible. Often we see suicide as the only way out. It becomes an option for us. We can plot it, and entertain it. I have personally seen it first hand, and I understand its seductive pull. It seems logical. Suicide has become a real possibility.

We feel like a magnet; bad stuff gets pulled into our thinking, and we plunge into dark thoughts and a deep pain. I know, I’ve been down this road. I’ve had to walk through this stuff myself. It scares me. Once (or twice) when we make our way down this trek, it becomes easier and quicker to make the slide into what ending it all.

It happens to Christian believers. I was a pastor of a church and a teacher in a Bible college. I acquired a degree of having a competent religion but without real knowledge. I professed but never attained. There were moments though, when I got quiet enough to listen, that I knew it really wasn’t working.

Will we go to hell if we commit suicide? The answer evades me, and I can find no definite direction in scripture. King Saul in the Old Testament, and Judas in the New, are those who come to mind. Both men found themselves in a very ugly situation. There isn’t any positives for them both.

Somehow, deeply ingrained in our hearts, we know it’s wrong. Maybe it’s genetic or a societal convention. Deep down we know it can never, ever be an option. It’s completely beyond the pale. And yet, we arrive at a terrible point when it does seem it’s the only thing left open to us. We’ve become our own worst enemy.

“Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it to someone else.”

Suicide devastates those who are left behind. Our terrible pain gets passed to those who knew us; the closer they are to us, the more it will damage them. Husbands, wives, children and friends will know trauma first-hand. Our decision to die will scar their hearts forever.

We are all connected. We are each tied to each other. Family and friends, churches and communities. We all have relationships that, like it or not, bind us to each other. We’re not solitary entities existing on our own. Consciously or not, we effect others. We will never know the scope of our influence.

There are stages an afflicted person will go through. These are just generalities, but having been down this path I do see them as steps to self-destruction. They blend with each other and sometimes they can be slower or faster, depending on the individual.

Step One: Ideation.

Thinking about it, is it even possible?

Step Two: Fascination.

When the idea begins to become more real, more seductive. We see a burnished glory in it. Suicide seems like logical to us. It seems the only way out. (Besides, isn’t there a certain ‘hubris’ to killing yourself?)

Step Three: Planning

How am I going to do this? What method makes the most sense to me?

Step Four: Committing.

This is the final, ultimate step. Everything up to now is just setting me up for this.

One of the 10 Commandments expressly tells us that “You shall not murder.” Suicide is essentially “self-murder.” This I suppose, is the ultimate

Suicide is never logical. It’s a slide into that which is irrational. It isn’t normal to want to kill yourself. And it does seem that mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc.) can be an incredible factor. Physical illnesses or diseases also can make suicide logical. Or honestly, it can be a ‘blend’ of all that is listed here.

Suicide prevention

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

• Call 911 or your local emergency number. Get help as quick as you can.

• Stay with the person until help arrives. Don’t let them alone with their ‘demons,” real or imaginary.

• Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.

• Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell. All of these only increase the possibilities.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Most of all, PRAY! Get help from a pastor or elder of your local church. (That’s what they’re there for.)

Love,

Bryan

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Contemplating Suicide Is Not Selfish

Sept. 10,  is World Suicide Prevention Day. Why there is but a single day of the year devoted to preventing suicide, I do not know. We should endeavor every day to provide the hope the hopeless need to get them through the pain that leads to suicide.

Often we hear it said that those who kill themselves are selfish because they hurt the people they leave behind. But if you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts or tried to die by suicide, you know that is not the case.

If you never have, it is difficult to understand.

I’ve only been truly suicidal once, but my thoughts were far from selfish. At the time, my actual thought was that my husband and son would be better off without me because I was so depressed and broken that I was no good to them. I truly believed this terrible lie.

Thoughts of suicide often follow a long pattern of trying to get well with little or no success. It stems from hopelessness and a sense of feeling like you are a burden to those around you. To consider suicide is to desire to unburden others and put an end to endless pain.

Unfortunately, the thought processes of a person who is suicidal are just simply wrong. I know mine were. I can’t imagine where my husband and son (who was 1 ½ then and is 26 now) would be if I had gone through with it. They certainly would not be better off. That thought was a lie.

There is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless. What a person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts needs is love and hope. They need understanding and reassurance that the rest of us would not be better off if they were gone. They need to know we are there for them and that they matter to someone.

They need to know that God loves them and wants what is best for them, and that “This too shall pass.” But in the meantime, we are there to be a shoulder to cry on and a heart to confide in.

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