There comes a point at which even the most well-equipped pastor and the most well-intentioned parent need to seek the services of a professional counselor. Finding the right fit can make a big difference. Let’s look at a few important issues.
Why seek the services of a professional counselor?
“Counselor” is an oft-used title. A professional counselor is licensed in the state in which they are in practice. They have the education and clinical experience necessary to be officially recognized as professionally competent.
Since each state licenses counselors independently, there can be some variation in the terminology. The most common types include: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Clinical Psychologist (LCP).
While not every licensed counselor accepts payment from third-party insurers, many do; those counselors who are not licensed are not able to accept insurance. While many work in private offices, licensed counselors can also be found in other settings such as government agencies, private treatment centers – and even some church counseling centers.
Why seek the services of a Christian counselor?
While it may acceptable to contract a non-Christian plumber to work in your basement, counseling is so soul-focused that Christian churches and families should intentionally seek out professional counselors who identify themselves as Evangelical Christian and acknowledge openly that they integrate faith into the counseling process. Even community counseling centers often have someone on staff that is able and willing to counsel from this perspective.
What questions should I ask?
Here are eight good questions to ask before scheduling the initial assessment:
- Do you believe that the Truths of Scripture can, and should, be integrated into counseling?
- Are you actively attending a local church? Which one?
- Do you have a Statement of Faith I can review?
- How much do you charge for sessions? Do you take insurance?
- What level of education do you have? Where did you complete your graduate studies?
- What licensure or certifications do you have?
- What are your areas of expertise?
- Do you have much experience working with my specific issue?
In some specific situations, it may also be important to ask specific questions as to the counselor’s perspective (e.g. abortion, divorce, same-sex attraction).
Are there lists of Christian professional counselors available anywhere?
There are many professional counselors across North America who identify themselves as Christians and practice consistent with biblical principles. There are two reliable sources of information that help to locate them.
The American Association of Christian Counselors maintains a database of licensed professional counselors who identify themselves as Christians and pledge to practice from that orientation.
Focus on the Family also maintains a database of licensed professional counselors. To be listed, counselors complete a detailed questionnaire that is reviewed by Focus staff. Counselors must confirm that they counsel from a biblical perspective.
Depending on your area, there may be a number of providers within driving distance. If there aren’t, there are a number of places where you can receive counseling online.