Ready for Counseling?
All your own efforts and gumption, your prayers and advice-seeking, your reading and research—you've tried it all, and still your struggle persists. You've reached it: the point at which you know you need help. You need a counselor.
Maybe your mom has died suddenly. Or maybe you and your husband can't communicate without hurtful words. Or perhaps memories and pain from the past seem to be seeping into your everyday life. Maybe your teenager won't listen to a word you say. Or maybe you can't stop binge eating.
You've tried many avenues of help—books, advice from friends, asking for prayer—but you're still stuck. You're so stuck that you realize it's time to take the plunge into counseling. But where do you go from here? How do you find the right person to help you? After all, this is your life we're talking about! You need more guidance than just a quick Google search.
Here is the truth about counseling: the only tool that really matters is the counselor himself or herself. All the counseling training and experience in the world actually mean nothing if the counselor is someone who lacks wisdom and maturity. The fact that a social worker or psychologist is on the list of your insurance company as an "approved provider" also means next to nothing. And, unfortunately, the label "Christian counseling" may not mean much either.
Choosing a counselor is a very important decision. The wrong advice, even from a well-meaning professional, can result in tremendous harm and damaged relationships. So where do you start? What should you really look for in a counselor?
7 Traits of a Wise Counselor
Proverbs is essentially a book about how to live wisely, and it's a great place to begin your journey of selecting a counselor you can trust. Let's take a look at some of Solomon's advice for finding wise counsel.
1. A wise counselor fears the Lord
People often ask, "Is it okay to see a counselor who is not a Christian?" It may seem impossible to find a Christian who is covered by your insurance or who lives within a 60-mile radius. This also may be an issue if you are seeking a very specific type of counselor. (For example, your son has Asperger's syndrome and you want to find him a counselor with that specialty.)
You may use an accountant or a cardiologist who is not a Christian and it doesn't make a huge difference in the advice given. However, counseling usually involves moral and spiritual decisions. A person's worldview concerning right and wrong, the meaning of life, and so on, will inevitably find its way to the counseling room.
Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional. She co-founded Authentic Intimacy (www.authenticintimacy.com) and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?