Choosing a Christian counselor means looking at the counselor’s faith as well as credentials.
Anyone can call himself a Christian counselor. Some are counselors who aren’t particularly Christian in their approach to counseling. Others may be Christians who have little to no training in providing mental wellness counseling or therapy.
When choosing a Christian counselor look for someone who is licensed by the state in which she practices. State licensure means she has met a minimal level of professional competence. The path to a state license involves:
- Graduate school
- Passing a national licensing exam
- Passing a state ethics exam
- Anywhere from 2 to 5 years as a candidate under the mentorship of a master therapist.
A state license is also important if you hope to use your health insurance benefits.
There are different kinds of licenses and not all are created equal. In general:
- a Licensed Professional Counselor has expertise in working with individual from birth to old age
- a Psychologist will have a doctorate (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and be well trained in psychological testing and assessment.
- a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) has specific training in working with couples and families
- an Alcohol and Drug Counselor has expertise in working with chemical addictions.
- Social Workers (LCSW) are well trained in helping people navigate and make use of community resources.
- a Psychiatrist is a physician (either a M.D. or a D.O) who can prescribe medications.
Some therapists have more than one license. Others may have professional certifications that indicate expertise in additional areas. (I am an LPC and a Clinical Fellow in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy meaning I have training in both individual therapy and Marriage and Family Therapy.)
You can ask questions when choosing a Christian Counselor that will help you decide if she is competent, caring, and experienced:
- What type of license do you have?
- What other credentials do you hold?
- Are you involved in professional associations? Which ones?
- Do you have specific experience in working with people in my situation?
- What type of problems do you work with? Are there any kinds of problems you specifically don’t work with?
You can also ask questions to help you understand what the counselor means when he says he is a Christian counselor:
- Is the counselor active in his faith?
- Does the counselor attend church regularly? What activities is the counselor involved with at church? Does he teach a class or serve in some other capacity?
- Does the counselor have a statement of faith?
- How does the counselor use prayer and Scripture in his therapy sessions?
If a counselor seems uncomfortable or unable to answer these types of questions, feel free to look elsewhere. Many counselors have a website where answers to some or all of the above questions can be found. Don’t be offended if a busy counselor politely refers you to his or her website.