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  • Craig Constantinos

How to Find a Good Christian Counselor

Serving in different ministry capacities over the years, I have a lot of experience with referring people to counselors and many of the rare opportunities people get to hear the feedback of how that experience went. Finding a good counselor is a challenge. People can be a great fit for one person, but a terrible fit for others. But the journey is worth it when you find someone that can help you to be free from patterns that you have been stuck in for years. What are best practices to find that person?

1. Start with counselors that share your faith and tell them if you want Christian theology integrated

One of the primary complaints I received was about counselors with differing worldviews. Couples that were trying to stay together were quickly told to get divorced or try out an affair by counselors with different values.

Many counselors who have not attended a church in a decade will identify as Christian to get more clients, so look for indicators that a counselor is not trying to be everything to everyone. Being open about a biblical worldview or listing Christian education is a great way to lose clients, so the counselors that do so are probably serious about their faith.

Keep in mind that just because a counselor is Christian does not mean they talk about Christianity. Counselors have to stick to areas where they are “competent” and trained so most counselors without theological training will stick to psychological interventions. Look for Master's degrees in divinity and theology if you want to talk more about God.

2. Find someone that fits what you need

There are a lot of great counselors that do not fit your situation. Some do not specialize in a topic or work with a certain population. Most are restricted to certain states. What if you move? Or want to transition to remote sessions?

When I did more mental health counseling instead of pastoral counseling, I was restricted to a few sessions in working with one spouse before I could no longer transition to working with the couple. This is a big problem because I found a large majority of marriages had one person that was resistant to counseling until they saw concrete changes in their spouse over time.

Make sure that the counselor can work with your situation or potential changes to your situation. Might you bring in an out-of-state family member later? Would your spouse feel less threatened by remote sessions?

3. Look for signs of efficacy

Some counselors are more effective than others. A common complaint was that the counselor just listened to the client and gave homework at the end. I have heard about appalling advice and baffling experiences from many different people (“Your burdens are way too much for me to bear. So when would you like to meet again?” comes to mind).

It is difficult to rate counselors and, even if you could, different people have different experiences. I had a counselor that I consistently referred to over many years and never had a complaint. Until I referred a friend that the counselor cursed at until he left the office. Even with consistently effective counselors, experiences can be inconsistent.

Also keep in mind that you frequently get what you pay for. What is going to be more helpful: A cheap but ineffective counselor weekly? Or an expensive but effective counselor biweekly or monthly? If you just want a venting session once a week, go with a cheaper or less experienced counselor. If you want changes in your life, a more effective counselor can be worth the money. I would add that some effective counselors charge less because they want to and some ineffective counselors charge more because they are more skilled at marketing than counseling.

How can you tell the difference? Your best shot is often during a consultation call. This is the place to find out whether someone is a good fit. Writing down some questions beforehand is a good idea.

Some commonly asked questions:

-Do you consider yourself a Bible-believing or born-again Christian? Tell me more about that (I went to church when I was young is not an encouraging answer). Do you have any theological training?

-Do you frequently work with this issue? What is your training in this area? (I work with many different topics or I worked with someone during my internship are both red flags for me).

-Would you be able to include this person later on? Or adjust to this format or structure I have been thinking of? (Let’s just see how it goes is the concerning answer here).

-When did you last work with an issue like this? What does the process for these issues typically look like for you?

The last question is key. This is where you are looking for someone that has insight you do not have, confidence in their own process, and they seem like someone you can follow.

“I do an intake session and we play it by ear,” would be concerning for me. “As a biblical counselor, we just look through what the Bible says on this,” is also concerning. If I am looking for a counselor, I want one that understands relational and psychological dynamics and can use them to help me more fully understand what God is doing in my situation.

At the end of the day, finding a counselor that walks in both worlds is a challenging endeavor, but finding an effective Christian counselor is one of the most worthwhile pursuits you can have. Without one, we are usually either stuck in our old patterns or growing more slowly than necessary.

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