Real Life: Guidance for Considering Counseling

We fast and pray during Monday lunch for men and women to more fully show forth God’s image in their own unique ways, and for marriages to those who desire it. 

Unexpected adult singleness brings its own unique share of joys, griefs and question marks…from figuring out dating in a new decade, to making large financial decisions alone, to building adult relationships with parents, to handling the strange mix of grief and celebration at yet another friend’s wedding or baby shower.

So when counseling came up recently in the comments, we thought it would be helpful to get some context on the topic. Counseling has been a deep source of encouragement and challenge to me as I’ve walked this road. That being said, counseling is a broad term used to describe many kinds of therapeutic approaches, and so we asked two licensed professional counselors (who are also believers) for their thoughts in response to the following questions: When should I consider getting counseling? And how should I find a good counselor? (Their responses have been edited for brevity and clarity, and we highlighted some ideas that both gals mentioned.)

In His Grace, 

Amy 

Michelle:
Counseling does not have to happen strictly when life becomes unmanageable. I lightheartedly and jokingly say if you have a pulse, you probably need counseling! It’s helpful for us all to know and understand our stories, and many times counseling can help us get there. Counseling is both an investment of time and finances, so it’s important to be fully willing and able to participate once you engage in the process. I have yet to meet someone who regrets making that investment.

For a long time, the idea of getting counseling was quite taboo. People felt ashamed or afraid of the idea that they need help walking through life. Luckily we are breaking that taboo. At times, people come to counseling because they struggle with a mental illness. Other times, it is simply feeling stuck in one way or another. By definition of the counseling relationship, it is one in which someone is fully vested in your best interest, carries no judgment, and has complete positive regard for your greatest outcome.

Common misconceptions of counseling:

  • Counseling is only for people that are “crazy” or that need to be institutionalized
  • That a counselor will tell you what you should or should not do
  • A counselor can share what is said with parents, professors or other close relationships
  • Seeking counseling is a sign of weakness
  • Counseling requires a long-term commitment: Counseling can help with both short-term and long-term problems, and length of time can be decided on between you and your counselor

Counseling can help with the following:

  • Better using personal strengths and attributes in a variety of situations
  • Learning what thoughts and behaviors contribute to and maintain problems
  • Improving stress management skills
  • Building self-confidence
  • Enhancing the quality of relationships
  • Making better decisions

A great way to find a counselor would be to ask any of your friends who you know have been to counseling. Often word-of-mouth referrals work well because they typically come from people who know you, and the kind of people you might connect with best. It is important to feel connected to your counselor and to feel that you can build trust within that relationship.

Another great way to get a recommendation for counselors is through the church. Whether or not your church has a counseling practice within it, pastors or other staff members are often able to connect you with a solid counselor or counseling practice. If you’re a student, check your school’s resources. You can also try your insurance company for referrals, but it can be difficult to narrow down the pool.

Carolyn:
One size does not fit all. I personally believe most of us can benefit in some way from counseling because it helps us understand more fully our stories and how our past impacts our present. We live in a broken world. Sometimes other people’s brokenness has impacted us. Sometimes, it is our own brokenness that is causing the problem. Sometimes, it is the brokenness of this world we live in that causes us pain and hurt. God desires us to living our lives in the fullness of who he made us to be, and often our past can be a roadblock to that reality. God can use counseling to help us see and understand Him and ourselves more fully.

Here are some situations in which I believe someone should turn to counseling:

  • I am losing hope and feeling life has meaning and purpose. I have thoughts such as “The world would be better off without me.”
  • I keep repeating the same circumstances over and over again, dating the same type of person, having similar issues with bosses; my interpersonal relationships are not working, etc.
  • I am stuck in the same emotional mode most of the time. It might be sadness or anger or feeling like a victim.
  • I have suffered abuse in my past and have not worked through how that has affected my understanding of self, others, and God.
  • I find myself using things such as work, alcohol, drugs, sex, or food to make myself feel better and help make life work.
  • I am losing track of segments of time in which I have not recall of what I did or what happened during that time.

We were created by a relational God and so we are created to be relational beings.  But we often don’t know how to do that well and so often find ourselves struggling to thrive in that area.  Counseling can help us better understand ourselves and how we relate to others and how they relate to us.

One additional note: I believe it is helpful to know your counselor’s worldview.  We all have a worldview which is how we see the world and make meaning of it. In turn, a counselor will counsel out of that worldview not that they will force it on you but how they approach issues and frame struggles will be seen through the lens of their worldview.

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3 Responses to Real Life: Guidance for Considering Counseling

  1. fast. pray. says:

    Hi Cineaste — Yes, we totally get that people have very varied experiences with counseling! Glad that the Lord sent other “counselors” in the form of friends, prayer and words! He definitely knows how to meet our needs 🙂

  2. cineaste says:

    I guess I’m the only one who has thought she wasted her money on counseling. It takes finding the right counselor for you, I think, and that seems to be an expensive trial and error process. God has healed me through prayer, priphetic words and friends more than anything else.

    • Charmaine says:

      I totally agree with you. Finding the right counsellor and going to one regularly is very expensive and there is an innate conflict of interest the payment aspect.

      But people who need counselling from a stranger often resort to it because they don’t have anyone to talk to so they have to pay someone to listen to them.

      I went to a counsellor and after 2 sessions I stopped because I didn’t want to keep paying for what I was getting, which wasn’t much.

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