Networking Together: The Role of the Church Leader and Christian Therapist

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Therapy is about meeting people where they are, walking alongside them as they stumble through the muddy potholes of the past, present, and future. Therapy is a safe space allowing people to experience total acceptance and honesty within themselves. Many identify it as the first place they ever felt safe enough to disclose their deepest fears or honestly admit their sinful nature. Healthy people possess a realistic view of themselves–the good, the bad, and the ugly. A willingness to admit our imperfections only emphasizes our dependence on God; and a person’s ability to heal is tightly knit to their ability to know and serve God.

Pastors play a sacred role in the lives of Christians and hold an authoritative role concerning matters of faith. However, clients frequently report that feelings of guilt and shame keep them from sharing painful experiences with their spiritual leaders. While most church members desire to be honest and forth-coming, they also fear losing their pastor’s respect if they are totally honest. Church members may not feel comfortable admitting that they have failed to the person who admonishes them to live by biblical standards. Because pastors and therapists share in the roles of compassion, empathy, and support, finding a therapist who compliments the spiritual process of healing is an important task for any church leader.

Begin by building a trusted network of Christian counselors in your area, to whom you can refer laity. Just as no two pastors serve exactly alike, no two therapists practice counseling in the same way. Therapists are unique individuals with special skills, spiritual convictions, and preferred therapeutic approaches. It is important for you to develop a relationship with a therapist to whom you refer. Knowing them well allows for greater confidence and smooth transitions when referrals are necessary. Setting up meetings with local therapists can help establish partnerships with others who desire healing and growth within the Church. Consider creating a list of questions such as: What population do you treat? Do you have an area of specialty? And how do you incorporate faith into treatment planning? After the meeting, assess how comfortable you feel with the therapist, and prayerfully seek God’s guidance. It is not necessary to create an extensive list of referrals. Therapists typically have experience with other professionals in the field and are able to provide necessary referrals that align with an individual’s needs.

When seeking trusted Christian therapists, there are a few categorical insights that may be of assistance. Titles and credentials vary among states in the practice of therapy. Licensed professional counselors and therapists typically have an ‘L’ listed as the first letter in their credentials. State licensing boards protect the public and regulate a standard of care. Licensing ensures proper training, supervision, and education. Licensed professionals are required to pass standardized tests and follow a strict code of ethics. Additionally, there are specialties and unique licenses such as addictions counseling and marriage and family therapists. If specialized therapists can be paired with those facing particular hardships, care and recovery may be even more effective. God uses pastors and therapists to meet the needs of hurting people. Consider developing a network of practitioners in your area.

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Misty is a licensed marriage and family therapist associate and licensed professional counselor associate in North Carolina. Before joining Agapé, she completed an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University, and a BA in Bible and Theology from Asbury University. Her therapeutic approach is holistic, considering mind, body, spiritual, and social elements. Originally from Ohio, Misty has lived in Kentucky and Georgia, but is happily calling Charlotte a permanent home with her husband and Yorkie-poo, Ella. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, creating, relaxing, and exploring the great outdoors.

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