Interviewing A Prospective Counsellor 

Last week I suggested that “real men” aren’t afraid to get counselling when their marriage needs it. There was some discussion in the comments about how one finds a good counsellor and what kind of counsellors one should avoid.

Interviewing A Prospective Counsellor

Finding the right counsellor is critical. A bad counsellor can make things worse. However, it’s not just about good or bad, there’s also the issue of being a good fit. Personality and approach are factors here, and no counsellor is right for everyone. A counsellor who is a bad fit wastes your time at best and they could put you off counselling and doom your marriage to frustration and possibly divorce.

Deciding Factors 

One issue is gender. Many folks assume counsellors favour the spouse who is the same gender as them. In truth, good counsellors don’t do this. The reality is a female counsellor may be harder on your wife, while a man may be harder on you.

Secular or Christian is a big issue. On the whole Christian counsellors don’t have as much training, which may be a problem. However some have substantial training, and some are naturally skilled regardless of their training. The potential problem with a secular counsellor is advice that conflicts with your beliefs. Some secular counsellors will work with you on your faith, some won’t. I’d avoid those who won’t. To some degree, this question depends on why you’re seeking help. Is it an area where the world and Christianity differ a great deal, or isn’t it?

How a counsellor feels about divorce is another concern. Are they against it always, even if there is abuse? Do they see a very few places where the Bible allows it? Or do they see it as a viable option to almost any marital difficulty?

Looking at the image for this post, there will be times when race is a factor. If the issue is steeped in cultural issues, or there is a cross-cultural problem, it will help a lot to work with someone who can empathise with those things. Along similar lines, there may be very rare cases where age is a factor for similar reasons.

Get Information Then Interview

If you have friends who’ve done counselling, start by asking them who they liked and why. Gather as much information as you can. Many counsellors have a website, and this can help you weed out those who are a bad fit and focus on those who seem like a good fit.

Then ask the prospective counsellor for an interview session. This allows you to ask questions, and find out what they believe, and learn how they operate. It also gives you a chance to interact and see if you and your wife feel comfortable with them. Counsellors know a good fit is important, and most will be more than happy to do this with you. 

My suggestion is you agree with your wife ahead of time that you won’t book another session before you leave the interview. Sleep on it, then discuss it together and decide if you both feel good about the counsellor you visited. Don’t feel you have to go with them because of the time and money you have invested. It may take a couple of interviews to find the right person, but it’s worth it to make the effort.

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6 Comments on “Interviewing A Prospective Counsellor 

  1. Good article, Paul. All couples should be armed with this knowledge. And, although you didn’t mention it, there is a difference between counselors and therapists. A good counselor will know when to suggest individual counseling and/or therapy for their clients. Speaking from personal experience, some people have the mistaken notion that getting counseling means admitting to others that there is something wrong with you or that getting therapy means you are weak. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As for Christian counselors, I’ve experienced everything from the good to the bad in both Christian and secular realms, and both professionally credentialed and lay people. From what I’ve seen, the difference lies in the ability of the couselor to separate themselves and their issues from you and your issues. Some people can and some can’t. It’s a matter of a level of professionalism and maturity not education or religion.

    • @Roomtogrow – That gets tricky because it varied from state to state. For example, in some states a life coach can call themselves a therapists, in some they can not.
      I agree with you on good and bad. I think what makes a good counsellor is something that can’t be taught. If you have that you will be better with good training, but if you don’t have in no amount of training will make you a good counsellor.

  2. Hi Paul,
    Do you have any suggestions for those of us who live in smaller communities where finding a good (or even adequate) counsellor is almost impossible?

    • @Anon – There are a growing number of resources available via the web on Skype. I’ve talked to both counsellors and clients who have done this and found it excellent. If there is any licencing involved you probably will have to work with someone in your state. I am familiar with – and there are others.

  3. Paul, really great article. As a counselor I wish more people came in the first session with the idea of “interviewing” me. Yes I wanted to find out about you, but as you said, the right “fit” is critical. I always welcomed questions like you suggested, and I would be leery about any counselor not prepared to answer them.

    I do agree with you that there are Christian counselors out there who have little training, but there are many who have degrees too. Christian Universities have caught up and are now offering licence eligible degrees that are fully integrated with faith and practice considerations. I got my degree 16 years ago now and that wasn’t much of an option for me, so I had to do that integration work myself.

    One of your commenters asked about finding resources for remote communities. I have some experience with the new fully online counseling communities. They can be really great in that situation. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone who gives them a try specifically ask for a Christian counselor at the very beginning. They are available, but I’ve found that many of the online counselors can lean quite liberal, so be sure to ask good questions up front!

    • @Brad – Thanks for some words from the other side. I suggested an on-line resource in the comment above yours. Probably should have been in the post.
      I’m not aware of a Christian only online resource. The two I know about have closed down.

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