The following associations of Christian therapists may be useful sources of referrals:
American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)
2421 W. Pratt #1398
Chicago, IL 60645
American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC)
9504 A Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22031-2303
Association of Christian Therapists (ACT)
14440 Cherry Lane Court #215
Laurel, MD 10707
Christian Association for Psycholgical Studies (CAPS)
PO Box 310400
New Braunfels, TX 78131-0400
Selecting a therapist could be one of the most important decisions you will make during your recovery journey. A therapist can lead you through discovering and healing the deepest pain you have experienced. Selecting a companion for the healing process is a significant decision, one that is worthy of thoughtful and prayerful consideration. It is important that the therapist we chose understand and, hopefully, be a step or two ahead of us on his or her own recovery journey.
Many people assume that all therapists have an understanding of the Twelve Steps or of the recovery process. While many do, it’s important to recognize that the mental health field includes many diverse methods and theories used to approach the same problems. Not all therapists adhere to the principles which we have come to realize are important in our own recovery. It is important to find a therapist with whom you feel spiritually compatible and who has a working knowledge of the issues which are central to our journey. The following may help you think through what you are looking for in a therapist:
How do I begin?
If possible, get recommendations from a variety of sources. You can develop a list of possibilities by looking at members of the associations listed above, by asking friends for names of therapists they have found to be helpful, or by contacting churches or recovery programs for referrals. It’s a good idea to interview several therapists – most will be happy to do a short phone interview with you at no charge.
Is it important that a therapist be licensed?
The appropriate state license or certification is a basic necessity. A licensed therapist has the education and training that meet established requirements and he or she has successfully passed an examination in their field. Some therapists are considered to be "interns" which means he or she is in the process of gaining a clinical license. Interns are able to legally provide therapy under supervision of a licensed therapist.
How do I know if a therapist has experience working with my particular issues?
When you make your first phone contact, describe your specific issues and ask if he or she has had experience with this area in the past. Competent therapists realize that you are hiring them to do an important job, and will welcome your questions.
How do I chose one therapist over another?
During an initial session, you will have an opportunity to ask questions in more detail. Feel free to ask anything that you feel is necessary for you to feel comfortable with the therapist. Incomplete or confusing answers may indicate that this therapist will not be helpful to you. Remember you don’t need a perfect therapist – a consistently adequate one will be able to support you on the journey.
How do I know I can trust this person?
Trust is a difficult issue for most of us in recovery. You have the right to feel reasonably comfortable with the therapist you choose. However, a sense of anxiety or discomfort is common when starting any new relationship. Meeting with someone to talk about painful issues will not be easy. Only you can decide if your sense of discomfort is because of the challenge of therapy or because you are sensing that this particular therapist is not appropriate for you.
Is therapy really worth it?
The point is: you are worth it. Your recovery journey will not be easy. It may be costly both financially and emotionally, but your healing is worth a lot! Therapy can be an invaluable ingredient in the recovery process.
How do I know if it’s working?
Most of us have times when we struggle with this. Because recovery involves change and change is disorienting – it can be confusing. You can’t tell it’s working just by asking "Is the pain going away?" because you may experience the process itself as painful – afterall you may be looking at stuff you’ve been avoiding for a long time. So, it’s not very helpful to ask: "Do I feel better?" It is, however, fair to ask "Does the pain feel more organized, more structured?" or "Do I have ‘handles’ on the problems that I didn’t have before" or "Do I feel less stuck?" You can talk with your therapist about these questions. You can talk to friends about these questions. You can get second opinions. You are responsible for your recovery – so be a wise consumer, make sure you get the help you need.