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?1