By Maribel Laguna, LPC-S
According to an article published in The Wall Street Journal in March 2019, millennials are the therapy generation. The article goes on to cite several studies that show young people seeking help more often than previous generations. Expectations of personal perfection, an increase in depression rates, and a focus on self-improvement are some possible reasons.
Whether you are part of that generation or a member of an older crowd, seeking counseling is an accepted and encouraged activity these days. Here are some tips to help a faithful Catholic find the right counselor.
Start with a Solid Foundation
Remember, you want to build your house on rock, not on sand. Start with the right foundation, and find Catholic counselors who practice their faith and take into account the teachings of the Church in their professional work.
In many cases, the secular world offers very different viewpoints about how to live a happy, healthy, and full life when compared with Jesus’ teachings. Finding a therapist who shares your world-view from the foundational level will increase the likelihood of a strong connection.
You can easily find a Catholic counselor by searching on www.catholictherapists.com. If you are interviewing potential counselors, be sure to ask their view about how faith plays a role in psychological healing.
Get a Personal Referral
Word-of-mouth is always a good place to start. If you have a family member or friend who has been in counseling, find out if they are happy with their therapist. Ask them to share what positive life changes they have made in their relationships, family or work situations, or in conflict management as a result of their work in therapy. Find out specific things they found helpful as well as things they may have found frustrating with their counselor.
You can also check with your parish priest for a referral in your area.
Interview Potential Counselors
Once you develop a short-list of potential therapists, call and ask if you can either set up a brief phone interview or come in for an initial meeting. If you’d like to conduct the interview in person, ask if the counselor will charge for that session.
During your interviews, ask potential counselors about their experience in working with your particular difficulty, whether that be anxiety, depression, marital issues, or another issue. Find out about the kind of therapy they specialize in as well as any special training they may have in areas such as trauma. Learning about educational background and licensure can be important as well.
If you’ve found an individual you feel safe and comfortable with and who shares your core values and faith, you may be most of the way to finding a good match. However, if you’ve found several potential therapists, you may want to research their particular methods of practicing or their licensure requirements to make a final decision.
For example, a clinical psychologist will be able to perform an assessment with a variety of testing tools while a licensed marriage and family therapist cannot. You may want to learn about the different types of therapy including psychodynamic models, attachment theory, and cognitive behavior therapy to see if one resonates with you more than another.
Perhaps one of the most important things about finding the right therapist is whether you can develop a trusted relationship and connection. You may not fully understand this until you start counselling, but remember that if you feel apprehensive after a few sessions about the individual you selected, it’s okay to make a change.
Once you begin therapy, you should expect to feel understood, encouraged, challenged gently, and cared for. However, it’s likely that you will feel worse before feeling better. Some people even feel physically exhausted after sessions. Therapy is hard work! Do not expect it to be easy, but always let your counselor know if it feels like too much for you so that appropriate adjustments can be made. Most importantly, have the courage to start.