As we continue on our path as transparent sojourners, discussing wounds and struggles and hard things, it is important we find solutions and healing. Wallowing just gets us messy, right? God has been generous to me providing priceless relationships and excellent resources, so when it became clear we were touching on the mental health and emotional healing topic more consistently I reached out to a dear friend and sister in Christ who happens to be a professional in this field – meet Aundi.
Most of us, if we’re honest, don’t like asking for help.
We don’t like looking weak, or tired, or less than.
We tend to believe that IF we can be self reliant enough, or prayerful enough, or smart enough (or whatever enough), we’ll get through it.
This can be true in both secular and Christian culture. I find it to be ironic that it’s true in Christian culture however, because we are promised the “Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV). If ever there is an invitation to be vulnerable in our weakness, this is it.
There is something important and valuable about weakness though, isn’t there? We don’t need to run from it, because in fact, it may be the very place we find healing. Pain is nothing I wish on any person, and yet, I believe there can be redeeming value there.
In my work as a professional counselor, I see a lot of folks who are afraid it’s not okay to be hurting. I see folks who often don’t know where to start in the process of healing pain.
And that’s okay.
Sadly though, instead of hurt becoming a launching pad to love ourselves gently, invite God into the process, and perhaps reach out to someone trained in specific skill sets for our difficult seasons, we bury it. We may even shame ourselves for thinking we should ask for help.
So, if I may, let me set the record straight—If you are a Christian (or a non-Christian for that matter) and you are facing emotional pain, loss, or struggle, it is okay to reach out for help. God is gracious to us in providing multiple ways that he honors our pain and our humanity and I believe psychotherapy can be one of those avenues.
If this is you or someone you love, here are some suggestions on where to start in regards to connecting with a therapist:
- Ask for referrals: Often times, the best way to locate a trustworthy practitioner is through word of mouth. Churches, friends, schools, and non-profits can all be excellent sources of information. Organizations often go through a vetting process to ensure their referrals are quality and that can save you valuable time. Finally, if no one in your support networks has a connection, a little research on the internet or through you insurance company can be helpful.
- Interview your therapist: Yes, seriously. Know that when you call them or contact them, it’s like a job interview. This is your time to ask questions. You’ll first need to share with them the main issue you would like to work on in counseling (grief, depression, trauma, etc). At that time, I recommend asking if they have experience with that particular issue and how they could potentially help you.
- Ask more good questions: Where did you go to school? How do you incorporate/integrate faith perspectives? What is your theoretical orientation? (Sidenote: studies show that most theoretical orientation are similar in their effectiveness, but it’s a red flag if they don’t know what it is or don’t have one.) Are you licensed? (If a therapist isn’t licensed, do they have a supervisor they work under in order to ensure they have the training to handle issues that may come up?) How much is your cost per session? If finances are an issue, do you have a sliding scale? Do you accept insurance? If not, could you provide a receipt so your insurance may reimburse you?
- Notice the interaction on the phone or in your first session. It is vitally important you feel you have rapport with your counselor. This means you see potential to discuss vulnerable topics with them over time. If you find you’re not a good fit, I recommend you either discuss it with your counselor and get additional referrals or keep looking for a better fit before you schedule an initial appointment. Either way, know not every person fits with every counselor. That’s okay.
- Stick with it. It’s important to understand the balance between processing an issue versus being stuck. If you feel like nothing is changing while being in therapy, I encourage you to bring it up with your therapist. However, you may be experiencing a desire for issues to resolve more quickly than they are able. I find this is a very common issue. Take heart, you are not alone. In that place, continue to process with your therapist the tension you experience between where you are and where you’d like to be. Often, this is where new levels of change begin.
Finally, may I encourage you to know we are all in process? At various times in our lives we may need additional help and there is truly no shame there.
My hope for you, dear reader, is that you would lean into your identity as God’s beloved and know you are worthy of receiving love and support.
Aundi loves Jesus, people, and stories. She has a goofy sense of humor, but may start a deep conversation within five minutes of meeting you. She is a professional counselor in Colorado. Her hope is to use her voice to talk about hard and beautiful things. Aundi blogs at bravelyimperfect.com.