Finding a Christian marriage counselor can be difficult.
Several different professions offer services to help overcome significant life issues and mental health concerns. Additionally, there are dozens of variations on these professions making it confusing to find help. The largest distinction between types of professionals is the educational background and what they practice.
Licensed Professional Counselor – Licensed Professional Counselors have Master’s Degrees and must complete several thousand hours of direct clinical experience prior to being granted a license to practice counseling.
Marriage & Family Therapist – These therapists generally have a Master’s degree (but can have as little as a Bachelor’s degree or less in some states) and must complete hundreds to thousands of hours of direct clinical experience to earn a license.
Clinical Social Workers – Clinical social workers will have a Master’s degree in social work and must complete thousands of hours of direct clinical experience prior to being licensed.
Other – There are a wealth of other professional designations and initials that follow professionals’ names. Most of these designate a specialty certification or the like, not an educational degree.
Psychiatric Nurse – Psychiatric nurses train first as a registered nurse (R.N.), then receive specialized training in mental health issues. Their training generally includes up to 500 hours of direct clinical experience.
Pastoral Counselors – Pastoral counselors may or may not have a master’s degree.
Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) specializing in mental health care. While some psychiatrists offer psychotherapy, most focus on prescribing and helping patients manage medications.
Psychologist - A psychologist has a doctorate degree (such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D.). Psy.D. programs tend to focus on clinical practice while Ph.D. programs can focus on either clinical or research work. Psychologists receive specific training in diagnosis, psychological assessment, a wide variety of psychotherapies, research and more.
Most professionals specialize in areas of practice. There are many areas of specialization including:
- Marriage Counseling
- Grief and Bereavement
- Substance Abuse/Addictions
- Anxiety and Depression
- Sex and Intimacy
- Spiritual Counseling
- Family Counseling
- Pre-marital Counseling
It is important that you and your counselor are a good fit. The quality of the therapeutic relationship is the foundation of your work together. The better the fit, the more likely you will make progress in your counseling and, ultimately, have a satisfactory experience. Don’t be afraid to “try on” a counselor or two. The only way you will know if it is a good fit is to try.
For more tips on finding the right counselor, see our article on Finding the Right Marriage Counselor For You.