Mom and Dad just found out their teenager has another in-school suspension. Mom thinks it’s Dad’s fault, Dad thinks it’s Mom’s fault. The blaming continues and the fracture in their family system has grown larger. The weight of their issues keeps piling up. They are overwhelmed. They take their kids to church every Sunday. They pray for them every night. What else could they do? Where else can they go? They desperately want help and are willing to try anything at this point.
This is one of many situations that bring families into counseling. Family has a large impact on the way we think, feel, and behave. Nothing can divide or unify a family like a hard time. Using counseling as a tool to help steward what the Lord has given to you in a family is a wise and brave step in the direction of hope and healing.
What Is Christian Family Counseling?
Christian Family Counseling is a type of therapy that focuses on family dynamics and meets with the family together at each session. A therapist meets with the family as a whole and implements the use of assessments, talk therapy, and clinical skills. The therapist will help to grow the family in stable functioning that brings glory to the Lord.
Why Do Christian Families Need Counseling?
Families are not immune to the strains that life and mental health can place on individuals. The unit of the family is affected by each individual and all the experiences they have separately and collectively. This can be seen in families who have members suffering from mental illnesses, families who walked through external hardships or families that have walked through divorce. There are a myriad of reasons that bring families to counseling as they look for ways to strengthen their bonds and heal their communication skills.
Christian families are essential. The structure of the family was designed by God to accomplish His will and bring Him glory. It is through the family, I believe, that He brings restoration and abundance to the Christian culture once again. As families are restored, personal relationships are restored. It is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, to love one another well. This is first seen in the family. Because we learn and model what we have been taught, often our first glimpse of loving others is through family relationships. This will not be a perfect picture for anyone and will never be before the Lord returns. However, it is our duty as Believers to steward our family relationship well and grow with one another in relationship with God.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
This verse in Deuteronomy tells those who are in family that we are to follow the Lord’s commandments and strive to talk about them and impress them upon our children. This is not a small task, and often due to conflict within the family, it can be hard to communicate well with each other. Christians need Christian Family Counseling because the call the Lord has placed on the family is no small task and without healing, forgiveness, and proper communication skills it can feel like the family is fighting an uphill battle.
What Should I Expect from a Family Counseling Session?
A family counseling session will last from 45 minutes to an hour. It will begin with an “assessment.” This will allow the counselor to gather information about the family and assess what would be best moving forward. Depending on how old the children in the family are, the counselor may ask to see the parents first and the children separately. The counselor will want to see the family all together, but initially, it may be better to gather the information from the family without little children present. This is based on the preference of the counselor, so do not be afraid to call ahead and ask who should be present at the first session. The counselor will be able to tell you what they feel will be best.
The counselor may have paperwork for you to fill out before you come in, this will allow you to have more time with the counselor during the session. To prepare, it will be best if you are ready with the papers before the session. As the parents, you may want to sit down with your children and explain what counseling is or what to expect. It may be helpful to remind each family member that honesty with the counselor will be key to see change while in family therapy.
Each counselor has a different style, just like parents have different parenting styles. Some may be more structured and have each family member talk at certain times and some may be more relaxed and want to evaluate how the family interacts normally without placing limits on talking per person. It will vary greatly. This is good. It means that counselors are not one-size-fits-all and there is a counselor that will work best with your family.
Counselors range in price. Many counselors are able to file to insurance. Depending on your insurance, the co-pay will range from free to having to pay the full amount. It is best to contact your insurance to see what your mental health benefits would be and if there is a cap to the number of sessions you can have. Many counselors also offer what is called a “sliding scale” that allows families who may not be able to afford counseling to come in at a lower cost. If able to pay for a counseling session, it is ideal to find the best fit of a counselor for your family over the “cheapest” option. The payment option should be made clear to you before the family goes into the session.
How Do I Find a Christian Family Counselor in My Area?
There are several ways to find a Christian Family Counselor in your area. First, I would suggest contacting your local church. A referral from a pastor or trusted church member means that they are sending you to someone they have “vetted” and sent others to as well.
The second way is to contact your insurance and see who is in-network as a provider. This can be tricky considering not all of your insurance's referrals will be Christian, but it can narrow down the list so that as you sift through you are able to see which counselors conduct therapy from a Christian viewpoint and accept your insurance.
Third I suggest that you do some research! Let reviews online guide you to a counselor that has experience and success. Do not be afraid to ask around. It is better to know at least one referral for your counselor than to pick someone blindly.
Know that once you find a counselor, if you do not feel like it is a good fit for your family, you can change counselors. Give time for the relationship to grow and the counselor to learn, but if they are not a good fit then there is a counselor out there that will be the best fit. It is okay to switch around. A professional counselor will want you to find success even if it is not with them.
Why Is it Important for My Family to Get Counseling?
If we wish to see the family used to the spread of the Word of God, we have to place high enough value in it to ask for outside help. Being brave enough to enter your family into counseling reveals a heart that is humbly asking the Lord to help intercede. He will be faithful to meet us every time.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
Allison Auld is a young professional living in SC. She is a clinical counselor with a passion to help others grow and heal. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and good coffee.