At this point you are either thinking, I need counseling or I don’t need counseling. Either way, it is helpful to know how to find a counselor for yourself or to assist someone that you care about in the future.
I have used three different professional Christian counselors three different seasons of my life for very different reasons- abuse issues, premarital counseling, and anxiety. The first counseling service was referred to me by a seminary professor while in Kentucky and the last two I found through referrals from the Church at Brook Hills before I was a member. I lived near the church and I knew they would know the best counselors to go to in the community.
Shane and I went to a professional for premarital counseling after not being able to find a pastor in Birmingham that would counsel us since we were still members of our churches back home. (Yes, we called several big churches for help and were ignored. I find it very disturbing that couples who are seeking pastoral counseling are being ignored if they are not members. Take note ministers.) However, looking back by going to a professional Christian counselor we received wise counsel before we married and it prepared us to work through future issues we would encounter in our marriage. It was a great investment!
My favorite counselor I went to because of a bout with anxiety I experienced a year after my second child was born. My counselor was very encouraging and she gave me spiritual guidance and practical tools to deal with my anxiety. She also helped me to see how my life was out of priority as I was putting all my energy into work/ministry and giving my family and God my leftover time and attention (post to come soon about this time in my life).
I was blessed that in each of theses circumstances the counselor was the right fit for my situation.
Today, we end the series on counseling by asking Dr. Steele about how to find a counselor.
Dr. Steele, how does one find a counselor?
Counselors can be found by asking a trusted Christian friend about any good references
they have discovered, asking your pastor, or a religious leader whom you trust. You can
also find referral lists with Christian organizations like Focus on the Family or the American
Association of Christian Counselors. Some denominational groups have referral lists.
How does one know a counselor is right for them and/or their family?
There are some important questions you need to ask to be sure you find the right “fit” for you
and/or your family.
1. Is this counselor licensed? If you have a serious relationship problem or emotional or
mental health problem, your first requirement will be that the counselor is licensed. If your
insurance will cover your counseling, a licensed counselor will almost always be required.
The licensing process is there to protect you from individuals who have not adequately
prepared to be a counselor. Licensing assures you that your counselor has been taught
ethical practices that protect you as a client, and that they have at least learned about
the practices and techniques that are the most successful.
Counseling is much more than just paying someone to listen to you (your best friend
might be willing to do that). Licensed counselors have received a set standard of
information through their education and training, and should to be able to offer you more
than just a listening ear. Licensed counselors are required to accrue continuing education
credits to maintain their license, which is another level to assure competence.
2. Do I like this person? Do I feel comfortable with them? Do I think I can connect with
them? You will spend a considerable amount of time with your counselor, and will
be sharing very personal information with them. Research shows that the connection
between the counselor and client is the strongest factor in the success of the counseling.
If you do not like the counselor, or feel like you connect with them, you should find a
different counselor. This does not mean the counselor has failed…some people just
3. Do you believe your counselor is intelligent or wise? If not, you probably won’t trust their
work or interventions. You shouldn’t feel that you know more about relationships or
mental health issues than your counselor does.
When you call to make an appointment, it is wise to ask your counselor-to-be if they
have had experience working with the type of problem you need help with.For example,
if your marriage is threatened with an affair, you don’t really want to work
with a counselor who has not had any training or experience in treating couples who
have had an affair. If you have some type of serious mental health problem like bipolar or
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, you should ask if they have treated persons with that
4. Does the life experience of my counselor give me confidence? Counselors learn much
from their life experiences. Are their values similar to yours? Although counselors are
supposed to be trained to respect your values and priorities, they are human too and
sometimes fail in this area. Usually if your values are more conservative than the
counselor’s values, you will not be happy with the work they will do with you. If you are
looking for marriage counseling, you may find a counselor who is married will have a
broader understanding of what you and/or your spouse are experiencing. Or, if you
need help with parenting skills, a counselor who has been a parent is more likely to
understand the feelings you are experiencing. However, many counselors do a great
job working with others who are different than them (culturally, or religious beliefs,
gender or age).
Kathryn Steele, PhD, LPC, LMFT
Kathryn currently serves as an Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling, and the Clinical Director for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She also has a Christian Counseling ministry (Life Solutions Counseling LLC) in which she primarily serves low income and Spanish speaking clients. Dr. Steele and her husband have two adult children and 3 grandchildren. She learned Spanish while serving 20 years in Central America as a missionary with her husband and children. You may contact her or read her blog “A Christian Counselor’s Musings” at drkathysteele.com.
If you do not feel comfortable contacting a friend or church in your area for a counseling referral, here are a few resources:
- Wellspring Christian Clinic is located in the Birmingham area. For information, visit their website or call (205) 977-3003
- Alabama Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries’ Pathways Professional Counseling have locations across the state of AL. For information, visit their website or call 1-866-991-6864.
- Focus on the Family offers counseling services and referrals across the US and Canada. For information, visit their website or call 1-800-A-Family (232-6459).