Dr. Karl Benzio, spokesperson for the Christian Medical and Dental Association says, “If your treatment provider exhibits any of the following, head for the door and call your state’s licensing board or other authorities.”
- Exhibits unprofessional behavior, such as lying or gossiping
- Flirts or makes sexual advances
- Requests to do physical exams, especially involving intimate touch
- Requires you to be sedated
- Requires payment in cash
- Misrepresents or advertises himself differently than how he is credentialed
- Asks you to invest financially in her practice or products
- Attempts to sell you products other than workbooks or books
- Refuses to provide standard consent forms or forms relating to privacy/confidentiality
- Breaches confidentiality in any way
- Has no affiliations or means to verify credentials
“Counseling or therapy is usually for people experiencing something new or different and who are wondering how to navigate the change,” says Karl Benzio, M.D., spokesperson for the Christian Medical and Dental Association and director of Lighthouse Network. “It is also helpful for those whose struggles are compromising their abilities to function on a daily basis in appropriate, healthy, and God-honoring ways.”
Benzio offers the following guidelines to help you evaluate your current need for help:
- Do you struggle to have an accurate perspective of yourself or your situations?
- Do you struggle with sadness, apathy, or despair?
- Do you have low motivation in life?
- Do you struggle to make meaningful connections in relationships?
- Are you a worrier, or do you have difficulty with change?
- Do your emotions often cause trouble to you or others?
- Do you have any habits which impede your functioning or which others have asked you to stop?
- Do you have any physical problems which are hard to diagnose or get worse with stress?
- Are you struggling to connect with God and /or not growing in your abilities to apply the Bible to your daily functioning?
- Do you honestly dislike who you are?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may benefit from speaking with a professional Christian counselor.
Understand your options
To most people, the term counselor can mean anything from a lay leader within the local church to a psychiatrist with a medical degree. Benzio says all mental health care providers fall into two broad categories—counselors or therapists.
Christian Counselors apply generalized knowledge and biblical principles to help clients make healthful decisions and work toward change. While counselors may be equipped to offer principles or skills about communication or behavioral techniques, they aren’t trained to look at internal dynamics or to dig into the origin of the problem.
Counselors can be either licensed or unlicensed.
- Licensed counselors must complete educational credits, class time, and supervised clinical time before obtaining their license.
- Unlicensed counselors complete similar educational experiences, but have not completed the clinical time required for licensure.
Christian Therapists, on the other hand, have significant training in how a person operates internally; that is, how childhood experiences influence today’s behavior. They then use biblical truths and principles to transform those issues, allowing Godly functioning from the inside out. Therapists are better equipped to provide diagnostic services because they look at the individual’s behaviors and investigate where those behaviors come from.
- Psychiatrists. As licensed medical doctors (MDs or DOs), they are the only mental health caregiver who can prescribe medication and order medical tests such as blood work, imaging, and EEG’s. Because of their medical training, psychiatrists see more complicated cases than do other therapists.
- Clinical psychologists. These are usually PhDs who have additional graduate educational training and internship before obtaining their licenses.
- Social workers. Social workers have Masters degrees and are licensed by the state. They have additional training in therapy, evaluation, and treatment skills, and must complete an internship.
Benzio recommends trying to match the practitioner’s expertise with your needs. “For example, if life throws you a curve, but you’re otherwise functioning healthfully, a counselor would be fine. But if you’re experiencing repeated patterns of issues over long periods of time, it would be better to choose a therapist who can explore the root cause of your repetitive struggle.”
And this is at the conclusion:
Benzio says, “The benefits of counseling can be life-transforming, helping a person actualize freedom from the baggage, sin, and dysfunction Jesus already won for us on the Cross.”