This is the fourth post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me? (This Post)
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

Let’s begin by making sure you understand what each option shares in common. Both Bridgehaven and the graduate intern program offer high quality, pastoral counseling for individuals and marriages. With that in mind, we should also ask, “What is the difference between the two?”

The counselors at Bridgehaven:

  • Have completed a masters or doctoral degree in pastoral counseling
  • Are well-experienced in the areas in which they offer counseling
  • Offer counseling as their ministry vocation; meaning they offer appointments throughout the week

The counselors in the graduate intern program:

  • Are completing a masters or doctoral degree in pastoral counseling
  • Are well-supervised for the counseling they offer to ensure a quality of care is provided
  • Offer counseling one night per week

Based on these similarities and distinctions, there are five questions to consider in determining which is the better fit for you.

First, is a pastoral counselor the best fit for your area of need?

If your counseling need involves the possibility of medication, then you would need to know our team does not carry the qualifications to prescribe or oversee a medical regimen. We would be happy to serve as a supplemental care to a physician or psychiatrist.

If your counseling need involves court proceedings, you need to know that a pastoral counselor is viewed differently than a licensed mental health professional. In these instances, we believe it is the best investment of your time to meet with a licensed counselor who can serve both your counseling and legal needs (e.g., providing expert testimony or evaluations the court would recognize).

Second, does a weekly session format serve your area of need well?

If you need counseling that requires meeting more frequently than weekly (i.e., intensive outpatient counselor) or desire casual social interaction (i.e., mentoring), then neither Bridgehaven nor the graduate intern program would be a good fit.

Third, what is the depth of your struggle?

The more crisis-oriented your struggle is, the more experience you will want your counselor to have. Based on this criterion, the more crisis-oriented your struggle, the more likely Bridgehaven would serve you better than our graduate intern program.

There is one helpful point of clarification in this area. Many people hear the title “intern” and think “early 20’s kid just out of college.” For a frame of reference, the average age of graduate interns is 35; this number will vary from year to year.

Fourth, what are your financial constraints?

For a variety of reasons, life struggles often coincide with financial struggles. If you are not in a position to be able to make a donation for counseling, then in order to ensure the frequency and duration of care necessary to serve you well, we recommend selecting the graduate intern program.

Fifth, what is your scheduling flexibility?

Formal counseling is rarely a single meeting. Your counselor needs to get to know you, your struggle, and build trust with you. The two of you will need to establish goals and develop biblical strategies to reach those goals. That takes time.

One of the advantages of the graduate intern program is that this counseling is offered in the evenings between 6 and 9pm; a time when most people are off of work. Bridgehaven does offer some evening appointments, but the majority of their appointments are during the normal work-week hours.

As you walk through these five questions, hopefully it has become clear which option would serve your needs best.