Looking For A Christian Counselor?
- Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Counseling is a strange profession. I have an office. People who initially don’t know me from Adam come to see me, often referred by their minister or a friend. Sometimes they come under some sort of duress, going through the motions to appease a spouse or a parent, or maybe a court judge. In these cases, our visits are usually exercises in futility; unless someone is convinced he needs help, he is, for the most part, immune from it.
But more often than not, people come because they feel they have nowhere else to turn. They have tried different things, like reading self-help books or swallowing anti-depressants, changing lovers or changing jobs, buying more toys or exercising, going to strip joints or joining a cult. They have tried running away from church or towards church, and they have prayed and been prayed for, and they have felt better for a while.
But then it comes again: this sense of separation, of disconnection, of emptiness, of feeling strangely less than safe. And so, sometimes, they find their way to an office like mine, or, more likely, God finds their way for them.
And in walk these people, usually somewhat fearfully, their eyes always looking somewhere other than into mine. At first we start with small talk such as “How about all this rain” or “The traffic is just terrible,” or some such stuff.
And then. Then, against all odds and reason, sometimes something happens. Although some counselors might claim their own therapeutic wizardry as its cause, it is for me always a mostly inexplicable thing, a God thing: This total stranger, who has come to sit on my couch for the most mysterious of reasons suddenly begins to tell me the most intimate details about her life.
For reasons known only to Him, God intervenes, and this frightened person finally makes a bit of eye contact with me, and decides it is safe here. Though not quite sure why, she decides to jump. She shares with me her darkest soul-secrets, her dreams and desires, her fantasies and fears… and somehow, through the most gifted of all Interpreters, she and I find a common voice, a communion of spiritual language. We connect. We share together, and sometimes—if the person is willing to experience such a bizarre thing—we pray together.
In the presence of the Holy Spirit—the Great Counselor—the healing begins, right then and there, through us and in spite of us. And in some unfathomable way, we become Christ to one another.
The Right One For You
Have you been considering seeking the help of a Christian counselor? Or have you tried counseling in the past, but been disappointed in the experience? Whatever your situation, I hope this article encourages you not to give up in the search for a therapist who can help bring healing and wholeness to your life.
A friend told me the other day about how he and his wife had gone through a disastrous experience while having their new house built. “Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong,” he said with a sigh. “The contractor turned out to be completely inept and dishonest. The whole thing was a nightmare. And the strangest part of all,” he said, sadly shaking his head as if still in disbelief, “the guy was a Christian.”
My guess is most believers, including myself, have made similar mistakes: the church-going mechanic who rips us off and stares us dead in the eye while denying it; the deacon who shamelessly sells us a lemon-whatever; or the Sunday School teacher who assured us she knew all about wallpapering, screwed up the job, and refused to give back the money.
This happens a lot to Christians, I think, because we want to believe our brothers and sisters in the flock will love us and never hurt us. So, we tend to make rather broad judgments regarding people’s character. We assume that if someone is in our “Christianity club,” they will by virtue of membership undoubtedly portray in their daily lives and work all the virtues of Christ. This happened to my friend when he chose a contractor based at least to some extent on his professed Christianity. This man might very well have been a fine Christian. But he was a terrible builder.
This same dilemma rings true in all human-run endeavors, and it is true in the field of counseling, too. Many of us, when we find ourselves hurting with a hurt too deep to treat ourselves, reach out for a hand from someone who is supposed to know how to help us. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.
What Is A Counselor?
The Bible gives us several uses of the word “counselor.” Proverbs 11:14 and 15:22 indicate an adviser, and 2 Samuel 15:12 a king’s state counselor. The word is used once to describe the Messiah (Isa. 9:6). In Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50, the word probably means a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Like all that springs from the brokenness of man, human counsel is often less than wise. Still, Scripture tells us of our need for connecting with others in order to attain the emotional clarity God wants for us:
Folly is joy to him that is void of wisdom; but a man of understanding maketh straight his going. Where there is no counsel, purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors, they are established. A man hath joy in the answer of his mouth; and a word in due season, how good is it! To the wise the way of life goeth upward, that he may depart from Sheol beneath. (Proverbs 15:21-24)
Obviously, the Word and Spirit of God are the best counselors for the wounded soul. When seeking His wisdom from another human being, then, we must first bathe our search process in prayer, asking Him to lead us to someone who will be right for our individual needs. All of the earthly factors should be considered: training, professional accreditation, personality, and, depending on your feelings about such things, his or her religious leanings. Then there are pragmatic considerations like fees and insurance issues. But beyond all this, I think, we as Christians must seek something in the counselor far more essential to healing than all the Ph.D.’s put together: Giftedness.
Where Do I Begin?
Finding the right counselor is like finding the right spouse. Okay, maybe not; we won’t have to actually live with the person, thank God. But a client-therapist relationship does carry with it a sort of emotional intimacy, and you should not be afraid to SHOP for just the right person. Despite the glowing reviews from friends or pastors, or the impressive walls covered with degrees and awards, automatically assuming this is the place God intends for you to begin the healing process can be dangerous. A sign hanging on a door reading “Christian Counseling Center” does not guarantee the presence of gifted therapists inside the building. It’s not that one counselor is necessarily better than another, only that there might be one better for you.
It makes sense to do your homework beforehand, of course. A good place to start is the “Links” page of my website: www.prodigalsong.com/resources/links.htm. When you find a good possibility, make an appointment. As you talk to this person during the initial meeting, open your heart to what God is saying: Is this someone with whom you will feel safe enough to bare your deepest wounds? Does he not only profess to understand—and practice—his own walk with Christ, but reflect back to you the real love of Jesus? Does she seem not only willing to teach, but to share in your journey of healing? Does she seem capable of connecting with you?
As a believer, searching for a Christian therapist is a logical starting point. But don’t assume one’s faith alone makes him or her the right choice for you.
If you’ve never sought help from a counselor before, or if you’ve tried to do so but been disappointed, this whole process is more than likely going to be a bit scary for you. Ask God to lead, guide, and protect you. Ask for discernment once you are sitting face to face with the counselor. Ultimately, a gifted counselor will keep one ear on the client, and the other ear on God.
Together, the client and the counselor embark on a journey… with Christ leading the way. In my office, I’m privileged to experience this regularly. We begin by surrendering our strongholds, taking the false gods of shame and fear to the cross and laying them there at the Master’s feet. Together, we examine the false truths—many of which developed early in our lives—that cause us so much loss and pain. We learn how Satan uses these tools to maintain a powerful veil of deception before our eyes, disconnecting us from ourselves, others, and ultimately, from Him.
For many of us, the way to wellness begins with a journey into our own pasts, asking God to reveal the secret wounds that have negatively affected our lives since childhood. We seek the long-hidden answers to the questions within that for so long have dragged us down into isolation. Together, we join hands and lock eyes, and look deeply into the Mystery of Faith… and call upon the one true Source of love and healing.
We come together as strangers. But, by sharing our secret selves, we become empowered to receive the restorative touch of Jesus, the Healer of our hearts, and the Lover of our souls. Where two or more are gathered in His name, miracles happen. The dark secrets of our souls, exposed in the brilliant Light of Christ, will wither and vanish.
We need only have the courage to let go… and let God heal our broken spirit.
Jim Robinson, LADAC, NCACI, BCBC, is a successful songwriter, musician, speaker, author, and professional recovery counselor. A graduate of Christ Center School of Counseling and Addiction Studies, Robinson is founder of ProdigalSong, a Christian ministry utilizing music, speaking, counseling, and teaching to convey healing for the broken spirit. Jim’s web site, www.ProdigalSong.com, contains information about his ministry, numerous recovery resources, and additional articles he’s written. To subscribe to Jim’s monthly newsletter, click here.
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