by Ricky Chelette
One of the more frequent calls and emails that we get at LHM is about counselors. There is this feeling that if your child gets the right counselor he/she will be healed. Of course, life is not quite that simple, but a good counselor will go a long way in assisting your child to understand their struggle and hopefully help him/her make wise and Biblical choices for the future.
HOWEVER, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, you must be very, VERY careful about the counselor you pick!
Besides the fact that you are likely going to spend from $70-$150+ an hour (actually fifty minutes) for their services, you are about to entrust your child to the care and influence of an “expert” who can powerfully speak into his/her life and greatly influence his/her future.
Just because a counselor IS a Christian and even counsels at a Christian Counseling Center, does not mean the counselor will be in agreement with a Biblical view of sexuality. I can’t tell you how many youths I have counseled who have had counselors who were Christian, even some in churches, who said to the child, “You simply need to embrace the fact that you are gay and there is not anything you can do to really change that fact.” These words are devastating to any young Christian youth who is trying to do right in the face of incredible hormonal and emotional longings. Such statements give youth the “expert permission” they need to fully embrace their gay identity, an identity we believe is not blessed in Scripture. Such proclamations can be incredibly devastating to them and to their future. Find a counselor who believes that change is possible, right, and the path of obedience that pleases God and brings ultimate joy and fulfillment to His followers.
So what do you do? Before you allow your child to see the counselor, you need to meet the counselor. You need to ask for an interview for the purposes of hiring the counselor for your child. If the counselor refuses, I would simply not go to that counselor. Now, they may want to charge you some fee for that consultation, but I would insist that this fee be significantly reduced for this short interview. Remember, this is the time that you are INTERVIEWING the counselor for your child, not getting therapy for yourself. Stay focused. Have specific questions in mind. Stick to your script and don’t dump your problems on the counselor. You can do that later if you like this person, but you are there for your child NOT YOU. If you want or need counseling, you should pay the counselor for those services.
What do you ask? How do you know where they stand?
Here are some questions you should have them answer. I would encourage you to cut and paste this list and bring them in with you for the interview:
- What is your position on homosexuality?
- What is the basis of your counseling? (Are they Biblically based, behaviorally based, cognitive reconditioning, etc.) You want someone who is strongly Biblically based but might incorporate other methods as well.
- What do they mean by Biblically based? (Have them explain this to you at length and ask additional questions to clarify.)
- Ask them, “If a person came to you and said they were gay and wanted to live that way, what would you say to them?” (A Biblically based counselor could NOT say this was OK or encourage them to accept this as their life-choice because it goes against Biblical truth. At the same time, the counselor should not be expected to “force” the client to change if he/she does not want to make those changes)
- What do you think healing will look like for my child? (Do they predict a quick fix? A cessation of activity? A shift in orientation? Management of temptations? All the above? You need to be sure they are responding in a way that shows balance and reasonableness in the treatment plan. )
- Do you think people are born gay? (They might answer this in the first question, but it’s always good to ask this again. People aren’t born gay according to the best scientific research to date. There is no singular reason for homosexuality as far as we know.)
- Have you worked with people who struggle with this issue before? How many? How successful was the counseling with them? How long did the counseling relationship last? You certainly want someone who has helped others and is familiar with this issue. Like anything, experience is important.
- What can we expect as your plan of action for counseling our child? What specific things will you be looking at and what will you be doing to move them therapeutically through the counseling process? (Though obviously every case is different and they might not know exactly what they will do until they meet with your child, they should have some general plan as to what they hope to accomplish. None of the treatment modalities should seem “weird” or “strange” to you. If they do, ask more questions to clarify and/or seek another counselor).
PLEASE BE CAREFUL. Please at least put as much effort in your search for your child’s counselor as you do your house painter or baby sitter (I doubt you would hire them without knowing of their work and asking them some questions). This is your child’s future and this person will/can have great influence in their lives. BUYER BEWARE!!).
Focus on The Family has a list of “preferred” counselors who should be on board with our understanding of homosexuality and healing, but even with then, you need to do your homework.
We are blessed in the Metroplex to have several counselors that we refer to, all of whom have very close connections with us, have been trained in part through us, or have continued to maintain relationship/work with us.
Also, I would say if there is NOT someone who knows what they are doing, have helped many folks before, and agrees with your theological positions on this matter, it would be better to ship your child to the counselor or the counselor to your child, then to waste money on someone who could do incredible, though unintentional, harm to your child.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional or licensed counselor. I am not saying all this to get business. I don’t need business and we don’t have a business, we have a ministry. I don’t charge for the pastoral counseling that we offer so it’s not about trying to make money. I don’t profit by offering these services and my time for pastoral counseling is very limited. I simply want you to be judicious in your choice of a counselor as I see the devastation that can happen when bad counseling takes place.