There are many approaches to solving everyday problems. Christian counseling acknowledges that each of us has a spiritual dimension, with questions about our world and our circumstances that we do not understand or have the answers to. Christian counseling focuses on equipping individuals, couples, and families with skills to overcome their difficulties based on biblical truths. The Bible is seen as a source of guidance and wisdom, and is consulted as it bears light on the client's situation. To bring about long-lasting change, the Christian counselor may use prayer, Bible stories, and resources from within the Christian community (such as a support group, Sunday School class, or pastor) in addition to other therapeutic tools. The Christian counselor helps people address their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs by developing a closer walk with Christ himself.
If you have been in counseling before, you know how important it is to be a good "fit" with your counselor. After all, who wants to take advice from someone who can't relate with your situation? But, if you have never been in counseling before, you may not know how to find just the right counselor for you and you may not have given much thought to what qualities you might look for in potential counselors.
There are a lot of different kinds of counselors, with different personalities, different life experiences, and different educational and clinical resumes. It’s critical that you choose someone not based on just one criteria, such as whether or not they accept your insurance, or if they have an immediate appointment available. I always encourage potential clients to give some thought as to whether they'd prefer a counselor who primarily listens or a therapist who is more interactive. Determine if you'd rather work with someone who stays consistently focused on the counseling goals or is more depth-oriented and wants to come alongside you on a longer therapeutic journey. Would you like to work with a counselor who goes beyond simply listening to your problems to actually equipping you with strategies and tools to overcome the challenges in your life? What do others have to say about a particular counselor? Are there any online reviews? If the counselor claims to have expertise in a certain area of treatment, what continuing education courses have they recently taken that are related to that area of expertise? In addition, it's always a good idea to research the counselor's credentials – if you are looking for a Christian counselor, did the counselor receive their training at a Christian school? And, never be afraid to ask potential counselors about their spiritual walk – do they attend church, have accountability in a small group, and refer to the Scriptures as they counsel? In other words, ask a lot of questions!
Getting answers to questions such as these will ensure that you get the help you need, with the counselor that’s right for you. It's OK to shop for a counselor like you would shop for a wedding ring - take your time and be choosy. You’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time and money, and be happier with the long-term results if you take some time at the beginning to find just the right "fit."
Seeking out counseling is an individual choice. There are many reasons why people come to counseling. Sometimes it is to deal with long-standing psychological issues, such as a long-term struggle with anxiety or depression. Other times, people come to therapy due to a more immediate, unexpected stressor that has caused him/her to stop living at their best. Additionally, seeking counseling may be in response to unwelcome changes in one's life such as a divorce or work transition. No matter the reason you may be seeking help, working with a counselor will help you gain insight, support, and new strategies for your specific concerns. Counseling can help address many types of issues including self-esteem, depression, anxiety, marital struggles, grief, stress management, and major life transitions (getting married, having a baby, moving, starting a new job, retiring, etc.). Counseling is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self-awareness, and working towards change in their lives.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, counseling is tremendously helpful for those who have the self-awareness to realize they could use a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. By seeking counseling, you are taking responsibility for where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation. Counseling provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and connect with others more authentically.
A number of benefits are available from participating in counseling. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from counseling depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from counseling include:
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills
- Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Every therapy session is unique and caters to each individual and their specific goals. It is standard for therapists to discuss the primary issues and concerns in your life during therapy sessions. It is common to schedule a series of weekly sessions, where each session lasts around fifty minutes. Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. There may be times when you are asked to take certain actions outside of the therapy sessions, such as reading a relevant book or keeping records to track certain behaviors. It is important process what has been discussed and integrate it into your life between sessions. For therapy to be most effective you must be an active participant, both during and between the sessions. People seeking psychotherapy are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives. Here are some things you can expect out of therapy:
- Compassion, respect and understanding
- Perspectives to illuminate persistent patterns and negative feelings
- Real strategies for enacting positive change
- Effective and proven techniques along with practical guidance
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychotherapist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.
However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse. The therapist is required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. The therapist is required to notify the police.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. However, if an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.
To determine if you have mental health coverage, the first thing you should do is check with your insurance carrier. Check your coverage carefully and find the answers to the following questions:
- Can I get reimbursed for going to the therapist of my choice?
- What amount will I be reimbursed (per session)?
- Do I have a mental health deductible and has it been met for this calendar year?
- Is there an maximum number of sessions allowed per year?
- How do I go about submitting my claim?
In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Working with your medical doctor or psychiatrist, you can determine what's best for you. It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.
Choosing the right therapist has a big impact on the outcome of therapy. It does not need to be an overwhelming or stressful experience. It is a good idea to interview several therapists before making your first appointment. During your initial conversation with each therapist you may want to ask some of the following questions:
- How long have you been doing therapy?
- What is your therapeutic approach or style?
- Do you primarily listen or are you interactive?
- What do you specialize in? What issues are NOT within your areas of specialty?
- Do you equip clients with practical coping strategies?
- How will I know when I am finished with therapy? Are you goal-oriented?
- Will you refer me to another therapist if you think that is in my best interest?
- What clinical experience do you have helping people like me?
- How do you think you can help me?
- Are you available between sessions if I need to talk to you?
- What are your strengthes and weaknesses as a therapist?
- Did you go to a Christian school to do your graduate studies?
- How do you integrate Christian principles into the therapy sessions?
During the first session with the therapist you have chosen, it is a good idea to evaluate the goodness of "fit" between yourself and the therapist. Are you comfortable sharing delicate information with this therapist? Are you comfortable in their office? Do you like the therapist's personality? Do you feel that you can trust this therapist? Do you think this therapist can help you? Trust your gut. If you know it is not a good fit, call a different therapist. Therapists come in all shapes and sizes, so be sure to shop around.