The family counseling profession has burst on to the scene in the last 30 years and is firmly entrenched in the fabric of today’s society. From Dr. Phil to Dr. Lara, from Internet sites to Facebook sites, from L.P.C.’s to M.D.’s, from workbooks to library books, family counseling is playing a huge part in helping a hurting world.
The focus on helping inward issues is to be applauded, particularly in a society that is slow to take true responsibility for problems. While we don’t need to shy away from asking for help, we do need to be careful whom we seek as our source of help.
My son-in-law Mark was telling me the story about a well-meaning radio announcer that was helping her audience prepare for the pending hurricane to hit her listening area. “Fill the bathtub with water in case electricity goes out, then you’ll have a water source for drinking and cooking,” she announced. As the hurricane made landfall, that same announcer instructed any listeners still in the area to “take shelter in the middle rooms of your house. If it’s the bathroom, sit in the tub and put mattresses over your head for protection.” A panicked women immediately called in and asked, “Won’t I get all wet if I sit in the tub?” Advice comes in a variety of flavors and colors- some of it helps and some of it hinders.
Having a few letters after a name and a shingle in the front of an office does not guarantee good family counseling. And, I’m embarrassed to mention, calling oneself a “Christian Counselor” doesn’t guarantee good family counseling either. I heard a psychiatrist say once that he was looking for a true Christian colleague that would come practice in his clinic. He got a call from a friend he remembered from medical school years earlier. “Thanks for inquiring, but I had no idea you were a Christian Counselor,” the psychiatrist commented. “Oh, I can be any kind of Counselor you want me to be,” said the friend, “I just need a job.” Scary.
So, whether it be your teenager, your marriage, or yourself, seek out help from the many excellent Counselors that have dedicated their lives to being people helpers. But be wise. Here are three basic filters I would run through every potential Counselor before choosing: 1) Be sure the Counselor has professional training in being a people helper. Make sure the Counselor is licensed as a professional Counselor, which assures you that they have the degrees, training (thousands of hours) and competence to truly help. 2) Be sure the Counselor has a pure and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Have them tell you their spiritual journey. Every Counselor bases their family counseling on something. Be sure yours is on Jesus. 3) Be sure the Counselor has a good reputation. Call around. Find out who has been to this Counselor. Make sure the Counselor fits you.
I am so thankful that God has gifted so many professionals with skills to help the hurting and heal the wounded. When you encounter difficulty personally or within your family, be willing to let someone “bear the load” with you. But be careful and prayerful as you find the right person.
Don’t get caught sitting in a bathtub full of water.