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How do you find a Christian counselor?

After an earlier blog post on the 10 decisions before going to a counselor, a blog reader asked “now, do you have the 10 steps to finding a trusted counselor?”   The answer: No I don’t. In fact, I’ve often struggled to help staff and friends to find a counselor they could trust to help the…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
After an earlier blog post on the 10 decisions before going to a counselor, a blog reader asked “now, do you have the 10 steps to finding a trusted counselor?”
 
The answer: No I don’t. In fact, I’ve often struggled to help staff and friends to find a counselor they could trust to help them work through a difficult problem. Sometimes you need a counselor with a specific specialty and they just don’t exist in the area. Whatever your issue, finding a counselor you can trust can be difficult. So, what do you do?
 
Family Life is a ministry that knows something about the matter. I found this post on their web site – Stephanie Pridgen helped me edit it down and excerpt part of it:
Look for someone who:

    •.    can provide evidence of solid biblical and counseling training and experience;
    •.    loves people, perseveres through tough times, and is confident that Jesus works in His people;

    •.    believes that the Bible, God’s Word, is sufficient for providing wisdom and direction for dealing with life’s  
          issues (2 Peter 1:2-4; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17); and

    •.    gives clear evidence of a personal, passionate relationship with Jesus Christ.
 
Steps to Take

1. Ask God for wisdom to make the right decisions as you seek a biblical counselor. God wants you whole more than you even desire to be whole. His guidance is essential to your healing and He promises wisdom if you ask Him in faith (James 1:5-8). His leadership is perfect. Allow Him to direct your steps (Psalm 23, Proverbs 16:3 and Philippians 4:6-9).
 

2. Seek counsel from your church. God has placed you in a community of believers and there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). It is important to first seek the counsel of your pastor (Hebrews 13:17) and other church leaders because God has placed them in a position to give direction and care to the body of Christ of which you are a part.
You may also want to talk with mature, trusted believers who have been helped by Christian counseling. They may be able to give you recommendations  of counselors to prayerfully consider.

If you do not belong to a church, one of the most important steps in this process may be finding a local body of believers to partner with. “One reason many people face problems in their families is because they lack the right biblical information, encouragement, and modeling to help them succeed.”
 
3. Seek outside counsel, if necessary. If wise, biblically-sound counsel is unavailable in the current leadership of a church or if you are not part of a church, look for “a qualified and experienced biblical counselor who can help you.” FamilyLife offers these lists of national and regional counseling organizations.
 

4. Consider whether you need to start with conflict coaching. Sometimes the lines of communication are so shattered between individuals that constructive discussion can not take place. If this is the case, you may need a trained conflict counselor to help reestablish communication so it is possible to move forward with counseling. For more on conflict coaching, click here.

Interviewing Prospective Counselors
If possible on the phone before an appointment, or during your first meeting, ask the counselor questions to help you make an informed decision. Then seek the counsel of a pastor, elder or trusted friend to help you prayerful consider the counselor’s answers in light of God’s Word.

1. What is your approach to understanding people’s problems and helping them
grow and change through counseling? Please describe this process.
2. What are some books or other resources that you recommend on a regular
basis or that have most influenced you in your approach to counseling?
3. Are you a Christian? How does your faith affect your view and practice of
counseling?
4. Do you bring Christian truth into your counseling practice? How? What
role does the Scripture play?
5. Do you pray with those you counsel?
6. Do you go to church? If so, where and how long have you been a member?
7. What is your educational and professional background? What role does it
play?
8. Are you married? Do you have children? Have you ever been divorced? How does your marriage and family situation affect how you counsel people?

Remember that the counseling process is interactive and founded in trust. Taking the time on the front end to find a Christian counselor you believe will be “wise, biblical, loving and faithful in your interaction” will be worth the effort.

Comments (5)

  • This is great information. I have a wonderful Christian Counselor who has helped me negotiate the toughest times, worked through issues and celebrated and affirmed successes with me. She came highly recommended through my pastor and several other respected people in my church family. I had her information too long before I followed through with calling her. She has the attributes that Family Life list. And Seth is right, go and ask questions, I used to encourage parents I had in childbirth classes I taught to shop around for a pediatrician. You need to be able to communicate with this person and build a relationship of trust. It has been a lifeline for me.
    And for individuals who suffer from depression and are reluctant or have worse yet, been advised not to seek help, I say “if you had high blood pressure you would seek treatment, this is really no different, it is a medical condition.”
    Peace.

  • Great questions! Very thoughtful and practical.

    Another great resource for finding good counselors is National Association of Nouthetic Counselors(NANC) http://www.NANC.org they are a team of counselors committed to Biblical Counseling and all NANC counselors are required to sign a covenant yearly.

    Also check out: http://www.CCEF.org (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation) Another great resource for Biblical Counseling and three top writers/thinkers in the field (Powlison, Lane, Welch- These guys have been very influential in my Biblical Counseling training in college)

    Personal thoughts: we should keep in mind that as Christians, we are all sinners saved by the grace of God- even the counselors. Finding a perfect counselor is like trying to find the perfect church- there isn’t one. This is where our faith in God comes in, our faith in Him must be greater than our faith in Man. Paul instructs Timothy to look for reliable, trustworthy men to lead the church, but perfection was not a requirement. Yeah, we might get hurt, the sessions might not go as planned, our personalities might clash, sin will surely be pointed out- but that is the beauty of the family of God, even though it may be a little messy at times, we persevere with each other and grow in faith by learning to trust God and learning to love each other- and that’s really the plan of Biblical Counseling, “to love God and love others.”

  • I’d echo Matt’s endorsement of CCEF… I get a lot of their material. I didn’t see an actual link above about conflict coaching, but Peacemaker Ministries may be good for that. I found just crying out to the Lord to direct me to the right person really helped … I promised Him I would check out everything that came across my path and I did, including EMDR. He so leads us when we are sincere and wholehearted in our desire to be well.

  • Thanks Seth…Family Life was a fifteen year consulting client and I trust their content as much as anyone.

    There are good resource at AACC as well.

    Blessings.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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