This is the eighth post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:
- What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
- What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
- What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
- How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
- How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
- How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
- What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
- How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs? (This Post)
- How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?
When you decide that you would benefit from counseling, and that sometimes takes us a while to acknowledge, there is still another hurdle to navigate: How do I find a counselor who is a good fit for my needs? Counseling is not as objective as medicine, so finding a good match with a counselor is more important than most helping relationships.
In the Summit counseling ministries, it is important to understand the difference between how counseling pairings occur at Bridgehaven as compared to the graduate intern program. In the graduate intern program, you would complete the intake forms, submit them to the church office, and our Pastor of Counseling will assign you to the best-fit counselor from our team.
At Bridgehaven the process of matching with a counselor is more self-selecting. The steps below are meant to help you in this process and are also applicable to identifying a good match for counselors outside of Bridgehaven. When seeking outside counselors, we recommend the guidance provided by CCEF in the post “Choosing a Christian Counselor.”
Here are seven steps to identifying a counselor who is a good match for your needs.
- Determine what your goals are for counseling. Unless you can articulate what you want to accomplish, it will be difficult to identify the best person to help you accomplish these goals. No counselor does everything. The better you can articulate your goals, the more helpful the guidance you receive in step six will be.
- Know what is important to you in a counselor. Chances are you won’t find a perfect match. Gender, age, training, experience, personality, etc… Any of these factors and more may be legitimately important to you, but the question in step two is: Which is most important?
- Factor in the level of specialization required for your counseling needs. Are you struggling with a life transition, a general problem in living, a physical condition with emotional-relational ramifications, a counseling issue with legal implications, etc…? These may require particular credentials or specialization for a counselor to effectively help. To help you identify who may best serve you, we have developed this PDF summary of the role of various counseling-related helpers.
- Factor in the logistics of travel and expense. Counseling is rarely a one-time meeting. Gaining history, building rapport, identifying goals, examining relevant principles from Scripture or science, and developing strategies take time. For these reasons, selecting a counseling option that allows for an appropriate frequency and duration of meeting is important for counseling to be effective.
- Read the biographies of each counselor on the center’s website. Once you know your goals and priorities you can identify the center(s) that are a good fit and review the staff biographies with intentionality rather than curiosity. This will allow you to make an initial phone call with the information you need to ask informed questions.
- Call, explain your need, and ask questions. The better you can explain your need and understand the basic services of the counselor/center you are calling, the more effective you will be at identifying a good match. A good potential scheduling call to a counselor would sound like, “My name is [blank] and I am wanting counseling for [describe]. I have looked at your site and think [name] might be a good fit. Does that seem reasonable or would someone else be a good fit? If so, I would like to understand what makes them a better fit.”
- Realize there still may be trial and error. Counseling is as much art as it is science. You may take wise steps and still not be satisfied with the counselor you begin meeting with. This is unfortunate, but not failure. You will have learned things to help you navigate this process more effectively in identifying someone who is a good match.
We hope this guidance helps you in identifying a counselor who is a good fit to helping you reach the health, wholeness, and holiness that God desires for you.