Choosing & Assessing a Counselor
Recently one of our readers asked an excellent question about counseling and counselors. We want to put her comment and Barbara’s response into a post for those who may not have seen it. [You can find the original comment here.]
I am supposed to meet with the church counselor tomorrow. I previously denied a meeting because they said “another man needed to be present”. The counselor is a woman and I trust her. We are to meet at the church and she did not mention anyone else being there. Please advise.
Here are a few options you might like to consider. You don’t have to take or act on any of these suggestions to open up your mind to the range of ways you might like to handle this. So, options, in no particular order. Pick, mix and match as your gut feeling prompts you to:
Take a witness with you, someone who gets it or at least someone you trust pretty well. Or someone who has a good memory so she or he can recount to you later what she/he heard and perceived happened at the meeting.
Give yourself permission to leave the session at any time if you feel unsafe or feel like you are being blamed. Courteously say to the counselor “I don’t feel comfortable with what is happening, so I’m going to excuse myself.” Then leave.
Give yourself permission to not respond to her if you don’t feel safe to do so; or to say “I prefer to not discuss that at this stage” to any of the counselor’s questions. It’s okay to be silent. You are not under compulsion to speak if you don’t want to.
Give yourself permission to say to the counselor, “I don’t think you sufficiently understand abuse.”
Give yourself permission to ask the counselor what she believes about abuse or any other subject that you want to know her beliefs on.
If she starts saying things that indicate she believes in some of the myths about abuse, give yourself permission to correct her.
Possible sentences starters that might be helpful:
“I’m not comfortable with . . .”
“Did you know that . . . ”
“What gives you the idea that . . .”
“I believe you may be mistaken about . . .”
“It bothers me that . . .”
“Could you please describe what you believe about . . .”
“What is your definition of abuse?”
We know that finding a counselor can be confusing and frustrating. There are many competent counselors out there, but there are also ones that need to be avoided, so equipping oneself with knowledge about counseling and counselors is an important first step. To help in this process we have compiled links to other ACFJ posts and online articles that may be helpful. And let’s start this list of helpful information with a very important principle that always needs to be remembered by victims of abuse:
If the counselor’s goal is to save your marriage, find another counselor.
ACFJ Posts about Counseling / Counselors
ACFJ Posts about Couples Counseling
I see the abuse. I realize I have no boundaries. How do I navigate this?
* There is a lot of discussion about couples counseling in the comment section of this post.
Online links to articles
Links to online PDFs
Choosing a Counselor: Guidelines for People Dealing with Domestic Violence and/or Sexual Assault
*This pamphlet includes a list of positive indicators when evaluating a potential counselor
Additionally, readers can search the blog under the category, counseling, and search the following tags: biblical counseling, couple counseling, nouthetic counseling, premarriage counseling.