“Our country faces an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages.”
This statement from the White House last year not only describes the condition of our country but also reflects the suffering many Christians face. The stigma that once haunted believers who struggle with mental health is fading as pastors and church leaders more readily address such topics with their congregations. In addition, faith-based counseling offered by Christian counselors is becoming easier to find.
There are times when talking with someone who has focused expertise may be helpful.
But believers can still wonder if their situation warrants the need for formal counseling. Isn’t the care and support of friends, family, pastors, and our faith community enough? These God-given resources are vital, but they aren’t exhaustive. There are times when talking with someone who has more focused expertise may be helpful.
If you’ve ever wondered if you might benefit from counseling, here are six questions to determine the answer.
1. Do you feel stuck?
Are your best efforts to change ineffective? Do you feel trapped in a never-ending negative cycle of poor communication and hurtful interaction in your relationships? Is suffering unrelenting or does discouragement over unchanging circumstances feel overwhelming?
If you’ve sought help but still feel stuck, counseling may offer a much-needed fresh perspective.
2. Have you suffered a distressing or traumatizing event?
Tragedies come in a variety of forms: miscarriage, accidents, injuries, the loss of a job, or the death of a friend or family member. The trauma of victimizations and violations can lead you to places that are emotionally unfamiliar and challenging. A counselor can help you work through both unexpected and expected hardships.
3. Is emotional stress manifesting in physical symptoms?
Headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, or a racing heart are just a few symptoms that result from emotional stress. When you notice symptoms, a visit to your doctor is a good idea. If your doctor thinks stress is the cause of your physical issues, counseling is an excellent way to address what’s contributing to your body’s response.
4. Are you struggling to cope with the pressures of life?
To deal with the tensions of life, people find ways to cope. Some are helpful and healthy, like engaging in exercise, being with friends, meditating on Scripture, praying, spending time outdoors, or creating a quiet space for yourself. Other forms of coping are less healthy and are distractions that compound problems. If you’re coping with stress by turning to addictive habits such as drugs or alcohol, indulging in comfort food, watching shows excessively, scrolling social media, or other escapes, talking to someone is a wise and needed step.
5. Are your relationships strained?
Relationships are challenging. Whether it’s with your coworkers, church family, spouse, children, or parents, no relationship is immune to hard times. Even the best of friendships can take a difficult turn and cause unexpected challenges. Marriage and family relationships can fall into cycles of conflict, leaving you feeling hopeless. If you can’t make progress toward relational resolution, seek counsel.
Finding a counselor who can connect the love of Christ and the wisdom of the Scriptures to the interpersonal struggles you face can be a great encouragement.
6. Have your family and friends expressed concern?
Others often see us more clearly than we see ourselves. When friends and family voice concerns, don’t ignore them. It can be hard to see how things are affecting you when the situation has become part of your everyday life. If people who care about you say they’ve noticed concerning things, humbly listen and reach out for help.
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, know that the Lord doesn’t intend for you to struggle alone. Take advantage of the circle of care God has provided through friends, family, and your local church. But also consider counseling as another avenue of care the Lord may be providing to you.
This article is adapted from How to Get the Most Out of Your Counseling by Eliza Huie and Kyle Johnston (10 Publishing, 2022).