you as a Christian realize that you or someone you love is in need of counseling
there are several issues that need to be addressed.
First is the stigma
that seeking professional help may bring. In certain Christian circles professional
help is viewed in a negative light, even when it is Christian. One has to see
these counselors as a gift from God to bring His healing presence in your life.
Second is the task of finding a competent counseling professional who will
truly integrate their faith into the counseling process. Unfortunately, not everyone
who claims to be a "Christian counselor" operates with a personal and professional
commitment to Christ-centered soul care. In order for a Christian to make a good
decision about a Christian counseling professional, there are some important factors
that need to be understood as well as the various options that are available to
Most communities have a number of counseling resources. Churches may
provide a pastoral counselor, a counseling professional who works out of the church,
lay trained counselors or a particular support group. Professional counselors
may be available in various settings, including private practice, clinics, government
agencies, treatment centers, etc.
When choosing the most appropriate counselor
for you or a family member or friend there are a number factors that need to be
The individual's needs -- How severe is the problem?
Is it life threatening? Is the individual motivated to get help?
The individual's resources -- The person's finances, medical
insurance, time, their family and other support systems all need
to be considered.
The church's resources -- Types of counseling that the church
offers, what support groups they have, as well funds to assist
in paying for professional counseling all need to be considered.
The community's resources -- What resources are available
in the community? Are there competent counselors and psychiatrists
available? In addition are there community mental health services
that are accessible to this person?
In order to choose the most appropriate counseling resource,
one must understand the variety of roles within the overall field of counseling.
Understanding these will assist a person in choosing what is best for them or
the individual they are referring.
Pastoral Counselors -- This title is used by
many who have a whole variety of qualifications. There is an organization
"The American Association of Pastoral Counselors" that requires
the same training as most licensed professionals in order to have
their licensure. Most of these people are ordained ministers with
full masters or doctoral training. Most work in a private practice
but usually have connections to churches that refer to them and
may even give them office space in the church. However most people
who use the term "pastoral counselor" are ordained ministers with
additional training and experience in counseling.
Lay Counselors or Caregivers -- Many types of helping ministries
have been developed in order to mobilize people in the church
to meet the needs of people. Although some of this may focus on
meeting physical needs there is a growing motivation to meet the
emotional and spiritual needs of people in the church and in outreach
into the community. Many churches are utilizing a training program
such as "Stephen's Ministry" or the American Association of Christian
Counselors' "Caring for People God's Way." In most cases these
are free services that the church offers to their congregation
and people in the community. This is providing a much-needed service
for many that cannot afford professional counseling. However,
many churches are being careful to train these lay counselors
to know when they must refer to a counseling professional.
Support Groups -- These groups are playing a vital role in
meeting some of the practical needs of people. These are typically
issues based such as addictions, divorce recovery, etc. The group
itself becomes a critical source of support for many of its members.
Professional Counselors -- These professional clinicians are
qualified due to their education, experience, licensure and certification.
In selecting a Christian counseling professional you should be
aware of the different degrees and licenses that individuals may
have. Unfortunately, each state has different licenses with different
qualifications and thus there are few national norms. There are
some fairly common terms that are used to describe different professionals,
their degrees and their licensing.
Licensed Social Workers (LSW, CSW, LCSW ) --
These individuals have earned a master's degree in social work
(MSW) or behavioral science. They are preferred by many in state
institutions and agencies. They are required to take a state exam,
have a certain amount of clinical experience and supervision.
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) -- These individuals
generally have earned minimally a master's degree (MA, MS, M.Ed).
They have completed 2000 hours of supervised counseling experience
and have passed a state exam. Most insurance companies accept
LPC but some prefer the LCSW over them.
Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) -- These professionals
usually hold a minimum of a master's degree and specialize in
assisting families and individuals overcome relational problems.
This license usually requires two years of supervised experience
after earning one's degree.
Licensed Clinical Psychologists (LCP) -- These individuals
have a doctoral level of education (Ph.D, Psy.D, or Ed.D) and
specialize in diagnosis, research, and applied counseling. They
have the most versatility and may be private practitioners, school
psychologists, institutional or hospital psychologists.
Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselors (LCDC, CADAC) --
These counselors have a bachelor's or master's degree in chemical
dependency. Most of these counselors use 12-Step programming.
Chemical Dependency counselors may be in private practice but
may also work for private hospitals, state or municipal programs,
or outpatient clinics.
Board Certified Psychiatrists (MD, DO) -- These are medical
doctors who have advanced training in behavioral sciences. They
are qualified to prescribe medications and supervise mental health
TIPS FOR CHOOSING A COUNSELOR
There is a vast difference
between a Christian who is a counselor and a Christian counselor. Some counselors
use the term Christian because they have learned this may expand their practice.
There are a number of things you need to consider before choosing a counselor:
- Which type of counselor do you think would be the best? Choosing
between a pastoral counselor, lay counselor or a licensed professional is a choice
you must make.
- What is the payment structure? Does the counselor accept insurance
payment and is he/she accepted by your insurance? Is there a sliding scale based
on ability to pay? Does you church assist people who need counseling?
- Is there
a trusted person (pastor or friend) who recommends this counselor?
- What kind
of licensure or certification does the counselor have?
- What experience does
the counselor have in dealing with your specific issue?
- Does it matter to
you if you have a male or female counselor? It is also important for you to know
some things about what this professing Christian counselor believes and how that
applies to the way that he or she practices their counseling. Psalm 1 declares
that, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly." You may
call the counselors office and tell them that you would like to ask the counselor
some questions before you set up an appointment for counseling.
of the information you may be able to get from the office worker:
is your general approach to counseling?
- How do you integrate Biblical truths
into your counseling?
- Are you involved in a church? Which one and in what
role are you involved?
- What part does prayer play in the way that you counsel? Do you pray with clients?
- What is their perspective on the miraculous?
- What is their view on certain
on any key moral/ethical issues of concern for you. Issues such as abortion, divorce,
remarriage, homosexuality, discipline of children, roles of husband and wife.
This is an important decision for you and being thorough in choosing
a counselor you or someone you trust doesn't know. Set up a phone interview with
the counselor before you start the counseling process and ask some of the questions
we have listed. May the Lord bless you as you seek His healing in your life.