On Finding a Good Counselor and Avoiding the Bad Ones
One of the most difficult lessons I have learned in my lifetime is that some people love to exploit those who have suffered obvious trauma. I don’t know what the motivation is or if people are even aware of the fact that they are doing it. Perhaps there is a deep need for esteem in the eyes of others. Perhaps people are driven to have a purpose. Perhaps it is that strange need for drama that we see so much of these days. Whatever the reason, it seems that a myriad of “counselors” rush in when there is trauma, and not all with good intentions. When our parents died, it was a tragic and public tragedy. They were only 51 and 52 and my father was a man of renown. Around 1000 people showed up for their funeral. It was all the buzz. “Five children left behind . . . ” So many people showed up at our house, I thought I would go stir-crazy. One woman, in particular, showed up claiming to have known our parents. She had a counseling degree but was not professional. She wanted to help us . . . to counsel us. We let her in, of course, because we were utterly vulnerable. I am pretty certain of the fact that all my siblings and I would agree that her counsel was NOT helpful. And, later, I was to find out that she loved the fact that she was counseling us. She told everyone. It was a status symbol for her! We felt exploited.
It happened to me, again, when I left my abusive ex (goodness . . . I’m a slow learner). I let in “counselors”. I wish I had had the wherewithal to be able to discern between the humble and wise and those who just wanted to be “in the know”. I did learn the lesson the hard way. But, I learned it. And I feel like I am very able, now, to stand up to those who want to counsel me for no good reason. It is not a new phenomenon that people flock to those who are suffering a trauma, giving advice and opinions. Job experienced much of it. I love how The Message describes his reaction to one of those who “counseled” him:
“I’m sure you speak for all the experts,
and when you die there’ll be no one left to tell us how to live.
But don’t forget that I also have a brain—
I don’t intend to play second fiddle to you.
It doesn’t take an expert to know these things. Job 12:1-3
There is so little good advice and so few tender words of wisdom when a person is experiencing a trauma like divorce. If I could do it all over again, I would watch out for those who swoop in — counselors who just want to help out. I think I could characterize “swoopers” by a lack of humility and a fondness for sharing their “findings” with others. A good counselor NEVER EVER shares private details with another. . . in fact, there is really no reason to even share with anyone that they are counseling the victim, at all. If you catch wind of a counselor sharing the intimate details of your life in the form of “prayer requests” . . . well, hopefully, that will be the end of that. If a person genuinely wants to help, that person will give freedom . . . let you know they are there for you without pushing or pressing or aggrandizing.
A professional counselor would be ideal. I know we cannot all afford that — I could not. I had some great counselors and some not-so-great counselors. But, when looking for a professional counselor or therapist, one suggestion would be to go prepared with a series of interview questions to ask them, to help you decide whether they are going to really be able to help you. If you find the counselor is not going to work out, do not be afraid to end it and find another counselor. (This is a very hard step to take as a former victim — take heart and realize that your emotional health is worth it. Do not be afraid to hurt the counselor’s feelings). Jeff S. suggests this:
The number one thing that you need in a counselor is someone who has experience with abuse cases. I think it’s also important that she be a Christian if possible, but when you are exhausted and short on time, this may be an impossible combination. If something has to give, don’t let it be the experience and knowledge of abuse.
I believe this is key. I am sure many many of our readers have more suggestions about how to find a good counselor/therapist. Feel free to comment.
Lastly, friends . . . Do not be afraid to admit that counseling is important. As previously stated, I could not afford it. But, I was so blessed to eventually find wise older persons to help me through. God will help us through, regardless, as we are committed to Him. That is just His way. But if you can, do not be anxious about taking that step. We all need wisdom from someone more experienced at different times of our lives. This is not anything to bemoan . . . but steady on. You will be stronger for it.