Making the decision to seek out professional counseling is a huge step for one’s personal growth and healing. It’s scary to share the details of your life with a stranger and takes courage to make that initial call and schedule an appointment. Sometimes we feel embarrassed or bad about needing to go to counseling and, for the most part, people are usually nervous about going to counseling, no matter what the issue is. However, getting the help you need (before things get really bad) is worth it. It’s like getting regular physical exercise. You do so in order that your body becomes healthy and stays in shape; likewise, counseling helps you have a healthy mind, emotions and spirit. If you’re in the process of considering counseling (or know someone who is), here are 4 factors to consider when it comes to finding the right fit.
Do I agree with this counselor’s philosophy of counseling?
Types of counseling include Christian counseling (often integrates Scripture and secular counseling methods, biblical counseling (God speaks to us through the Scriptures revealing Himself and what we need to know about ourselves and the world around us), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and mindfulness (just to name a few). Unfortunately, it’s a common error to settle for a counselor whose methods and beliefs are not actually consistent with your own values. These differences can pose a stumbling block for growth and change. If you start with a counselor whose views don’t match up with yours regarding human behavior (sin), reconciliation (confession & repentance) and change (heart change/sanctification, not just behavioral change), then you should prayerfully and respectfully seek out a different counselor.
Does the counselor have experience in counseling someone with my particular struggle?
Previous experience with your particular struggle is not a requirement, but you may prefer working with someone who’s helped others with this issue already. Also, some counseling needs may require specialists or counselors with more experience in a certain area.
Is this person a complementary fit with my own personality?
Do I prefer a male or female counselor? Does counselor gender matter? Is this someone I think I can be vulnerable with? Do I feel understood by the counselor? Am I left feeling frustrated or encouraged at the end of my sessions? It’s a shame how many people spend their time and hard earned money on counselors and therapists whom they feel don’t understand them or haven’t really helped them. If you aren’t growing, express this concern with your counselor to see if changes can be made to better help you. If that doesn’t work you should prayerfully find a new counselor. A good counselor will adjust methods for the good of the client and if unable to do so, should refer you to someone else.
Is this Counselor a fit with my finances?
Is this counselor or therapist in my network? If not, am I able to pay out of pocket? Do I have out of network coverage? Is there a payment plan available? Is there a slide scale option for those who are out of network? Some counselors or practices can provide services at a reduced rate especially for students and single parents. It never hurts to ask.
Most of these factors are ones that can’t really be determined until you’ve had at least 1-2 sessions. During your counseling experience you may start with one counselor and then transition to working with another for various reasons. Pursue the process with a prayerful heart asking God to lead you to the one who is the best fit for you and your situation. Go into this experience prayerfully, stay prayerful and eventually end prayerfully. Good counselors also know when to refer clients to another who is a better fit for the well-being of the client. Whether you are just starting the search for a professional counselor or you have been seeing a counselor for some time, the 4 C’s can help you make the best of your journey towards growth and healing.