Yes, is the short answer to the first question. Read on to learn how, and to find the answer to the second!
Life isn’t fair, and it’s hard. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since Jesus himself tells us that we will have trouble and tribulation (read about it in John, Chapter 16). So why is it that, when troubles come, we go to such great lengths to try and hide them so no one notices our life isn’t perfect? In this complicated, fast-paced, ever-changing world, it’s important to have at least one person you can fully trust to hear, understand and help when needed. If you have that person in your life, thank God for them for you are indeed blessed. But many don’t have that person, and even for those who do, there are times and situation when more help is needed. That’s when a Christian counselor can be most helpful. Talking with a counselor can be life-changing, and sometimes life-saving for you or someone you love who is suffering.
To start, a great Christian counselor will be educated with at least a Master’s level clinical therapy degree from a credible university. This great therapist will also have years of successful experience providing counseling in the area of your concern. In addition, you should expect to see a current license to practice prominently displayed in their office, as great therapists have gone through the rigorous process of becoming credentialed and licensed by their state’s licensing board. You can expect this great Christian counselor to be knowledgeable about current mental health and marriage counseling topics and best treatment practices, and be able to access a variety of helpful resources. This counselor will pay attention to your physical, as well as your emotional and mental health, often working cooperatively with your physician since symptoms of depression, anxiety, withdrawal, and aggressive anger often have underlying biological causes.
Next, a great Christian counselor will be someone who has been gifted by God with a strong faith, and a willingness and ability to build their clinical practice on the tenants of that faith. This counselor will be able to understand God’s law, but equally so, His grace and what it looks like to live these both out in daily life as imperfect but forgiven and redeemed children of the Father. Many people who suffer from depression, anxiety and failed relationships have a vast amount of experience with the law, but very few encounters with grace. Working toward forgiveness of past hurts and letting go of unrealistic guilt and expectations of self and others, can be helpful to all of us who carry painful memories inflicted upon us by imperfect people over the years. Prayer can often be a helpful part of the counseling process, and you can expect that a great Christian counselor would always pray for you, and sometimes with you. A great Christian counselor will never replace your pastor and will never attempt to do so, and may direct you to additional pastoral care as part of your healing.
In addition to these qualifications – and believe it or not at times of equal importance, especially at the beginning of the counseling relationship – a great Christian counselor will be a real person in whose presence you will experience warmth, hospitality, gentleness, patience, kindness and sometimes even humor. A great Christian counselor is someone with whom you can feel safe, feel understood, and know that whatever you share will be heard with respect and held in total confidence.
For individuals suffering from overwhelming anxiety or nagging feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and negativity, to those who experience the disruptive and frightening thoughts of suicide to end the pain, talking to a trusted counselor who shares your faith and values can provide a way through, and a path towards healing.
Just as there is no perfect pastor (although we are blessed here in Iowa with many great pastors) there is no such thing as a perfect Christian counselor. But there are some that are pretty great! Know that the counselors at Lutheran Family Service work every day to bring their unique strengths gained through years of education, ongoing training, clinical and life experience, informed and guided by a strong, mature faith in our loving, gracious and just Triune God to each client’s work. We know it can be scary to ask for help. If you are trying to overcome an emotional or relationship challenge on your own and it’s not working, reach out to one of the LFS Christian counselors. In family or personal crisis, after suffering a significant loss, for depression, anxiety, addictions, or simply when life becomes overwhelming and you need a safe place to sort things out with someone who shares your faith and values, they are ready to listen and to help.