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Need a Counselor?
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When your heart is chronically hurting, don’t hesitate to seek out a professional counselor who can help you work through emotional pain and re-focus your life.

When our bodies’ breakdown, we go to doctors and hospitals for help. But when our hearts and minds are hurting, when things seem to be going from bad to worse, where do we go? If you are suffering from chronic depression, chemical abuse, or acute anxiety over an issue that you just can’t seem to move beyond, a counselor may be your best bet.

Some people attach a stigma to getting help for their mental health. Don’t let that be a barrier. Elijah, the great prophet of God once prayed that he could die (see 1 Kings 19:1-8). Read some of King David’s Psalms. He certainly had his discouraging moments. Read Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." You can find tremendous help from a good counselor.

Counselors come in a variety of colors. How do you choose a counselor? Here are some areas to think about:

Shopping. When you choose a counselor, remember that you are in charge. Call several offices, ask questions, make a list, or gather names of counselors from friends. Some counselors will spend a few minutes on the phone so you can get a sense if this is the right person for you; others will let you come for one session at no charge. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m looking around for a good counselor.”

Fees. There is a wide range of fees for counseling depending on the skill and training of the counselor. Costs range from $30-$130 per hour or more. Often, a counseling office will have a “sliding scale” to adjust fees based on your income. Many counselors work with health care insurance.

Training. Ask about a counselor’s training. Where did they attend school? Are they licensed? There is a range of types of professional counselors. Some are Licensed Social Workers (LSW), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), and Board Certified Psychiatrists (who are medical doctors) … and many more than can be listed here. Your needs will determine the type of counselor you choose. And if you are not sure, ask questions!

Connecting. One of the key elements of a successful counselor is your relationship with this person. Do you connect? Does this person show compassion? Are they a good listener? Do you feel comfortable with them? Do they “figure you out” before you’ve had a chance to share? Follow your gut instinct. If you don’t “match”, find someone else.

Beliefs. Your values may or may not match a counselor’s values. You may hold to Christian values that do not mesh with some counselor’s values. This can be a problem if your counselor suggests you watch X-rated movies to spruce up your sex life! Keep this in mind as you weigh your options.

Techniques. There are many different types of counseling styles. Many focus on your past (childhood) and spend lot of time exploring trauma. Others can be more solution-oriented and may focus on the present. It’s helpful to look at a whole picture. Your past certainly impacts the present, but endlessly focusing on past hurts doesn’t heal them, it can turn them into concrete. One of the best styles (in terms of the most successful outcomes in research studies) is “Cognitive behavior therapy” which teaches that how you think impacts how you feel. And if your thinking is distorted (which it often is when you are suffering from anxiety and depression) it will impact your feelings. 

Don’t be afraid to visit or call several offices. There is nothing wrong with making a good choice by looking at options. And by all means, stop going to a counselor if you ever feel violated by one.

One more thought. If you ever feel so overwhelmed by life and are considering suicide, immediately call someone for help. This “forever” option of taking your life is not worth it. Your temporary feelings of hopeless can change. There is hope! If you do not know whom to call if you want to end your life, then dial 9-1-1 on your phone and you will get immediate help.

Counselors can be compassionate people who therapeutically listen and guide you toward healing solutions to the mind and heart challenges you face.

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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