When You Need Counseling

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Sometimes all we need is a bit of outside help. Once you
decide to pursue counseling, it’s often tricky to figure out who to
go to.

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by Kimberly Gaines

No one is immune to problems — including children’s ministers.
At times we may experience intense feelings that don’t go away. We
may feel overwhelmed by the workload or the stress facing us.

It’s common to struggle with difficult issues in our marriage,
with our children, with our finances, with a crisis that blindsides
us, or even a new change in life, such as becoming a parent for the
first time. Usually, with a strong network of support, we can work
through these situations. But sometimes, we may need extra
professional help.

If you experience five or more of these symptoms almost every
day for two weeks, you may need to see a professional:

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*Loss of enjoyment in formerly enjoyable activities,

*Significant changes in weight or appetite,

*Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night,

*Fatigue or loss of energy,

*Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, or
withdrawal,

*Inability to concentrate or make decisions, and

*Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

The sooner we reach out, the better we’ll manage. When you need
help, determine the kind of counseling you need with these
guidelines:

1. Assess your physical condition. First, see a doctor. Check to
see if there’s any physiological basis to what you’re experiencing.
A physician may find that a virus is the cause of your run-down
feeling. Or he or she may find that you’re physically in tiptop
shape, which means that something else is going on.

Then it’s smart to assess your lifestyle. Are you eating a
balanced diet? getting the right amount of sleep and exercise? What
changes could you make to improve your lifestyle habits? Sometimes
starting an exercise routine or cutting back on fast food and
sweets is the solution to our troubling feelings.

2. Examine your relationship with God. When Ahab, the king of
Israel, approached Jehoshaphat for assistance, he was told “First
we should ask the Lord to guide us.” (1 Kings 22:5). The Lord is
our counselor, and we should see if what’s troubling us is really
our need for a closer relationship with God.

*Take stock of your spiritual routine. How often do you attend
church, read the Bible, pray, and worship God? Regular attention to
these areas is important to your Christian growth and maturity. As
a children’s minister, it’s sometimes easy to see these areas as
“work” instead of “spiritual nurturing.”

*Regularly confess and keep from sin. As Christians, we are to
live by the principles outlined in the Bible. Sometimes it’s easy
to slip from those principles and not examine our current life-or
our past. Admit any wrongdoing you’ve currently slipped into or
have done in the past. Look at how your current problems relate to
what you did in the past. Ask for forgiveness for these, correct
the situation, and make a plan to keep from repeating these
sins.

*Spend time with other Christians. You need support, guidance,
accountability, and friendship on a regular basis. Sometimes a good
friend is the best medicine.

3. Evaluate your support system. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul
describes the church as a body made of many parts. We all need
support from other church members, and each person may provide a
unique support. Examine these areas for potential support:

*Children’s ministry support-Regular meetings and communication
with children’s ministry workers can provide assistance and close
relationships. Hopefully, your senior minister is also supportive
of your ministry.

*Group support-Along with regular Christian fellowship, seek out
opportunities to meet in small groups during the week for Bible
study and prayer. Form a group with people who support and nurture
you the most.

*Counseling support-Most churches provide some type of
individual counseling. If you feel comfortable, take advantage of
this. Sometimes, however, it may be wiser to seek outside
counseling so you can feel more at ease at disclosing whatever may
be troubling you.

Once you’ve examined your health, your relationship with God,
and your support systems, your next step is to consider other
counseling options. If you want a Christian counselor, two types of
counselors exist:

*Biblical counseling-This counseling is based on the belief that
the Bible is the only authority, and God is at the center of all
counseling. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If a person
remains in me and I remain in him, then he produces much fruit. But
without me, he can do nothing” (John 15:5). Biblical counseling
sees sin as the primary problem and developing a Christ-like
character as the primary goal.

*Christian counseling-This counseling integrates biblical
knowledge with secular psychological theory. Using the medical
model of psychology, Christian counseling makes diagnoses based on
symptoms. Counselors incorporate their Christian beliefs and use a
variety of psychological approaches.

In seeking a counselor, look for one who has biblical knowledge,
expresses the wisdom of God, is compassionate and bold, and firmly
holds you responsible for your part of the problem.

Once you decide to pursue counseling, it’s often tricky to
figure out who to go to. Talk to a trusted church member,
leadership staff, or the pastor. You can also get names from a
Christian college, a Christian counseling clinic, or a Christian
counseling referral line.

After you choose a counselor, look at your medical plan. With
the predominance of managed health care plans, you may have few
options for counseling. If your medical plan assigns restrictions
you can’t accept, look into receiving services from a biblical or
Christian counselor who’ll accept fees on a sliding scale.

No matter who you choose, remember the words of the
knowledgeable king: “First we should ask the Lord to guide us.”

Kimberly Gaines is a clinical psychologist in
California.


Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.

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