Morning friends,

Still acclimating to being home. I’ve lost a few things in the transition that I can’t find and it’s driving me crazy. This Saturday I’m speaking at the Desire Conference in Scranton, PA. It’s a conference for church leaders and people helpers. Would love to see you there. Register here.

I am excited to tell you about a free webinar that I’m doing on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship April 29, at 7:30 pm ET for 1 hour. If you know someone who is struggling in a toxic relationship – not only marriage but other kinds of destructive relationships and needs some help in understanding what is going on, invite them to sign up for this free webinar. If you’re unable to attend, no worries, you’ll get a recording of the webinar, but only if you sign up ahead of time.

In last week’s blog someone asked how to find a good counselor. Some readers responded with some great advice but I thought I would give you the things to look for and questions to ask so you have the best chance of finding someone who will truly help you.

 

What to Look When Seeking a Counselor

There are two crucial ingredients that are important in finding a good counselor and cost is not one of them. The first one is the expertise of the counselor the second is the personhood of the counselor. Let’s start with the second ingredient.

A good fit between you and the counselor cannot be underestimated. Relational pain and trauma is experienced within bad relationships and personal and relational healing is experienced within healthy relationships. The counselor must be able to model the ingredients of a healthy relationship with his or her client. For a Christian counselor it goes even deeper. The Christian counselor has the responsibility to represent Christ to their client so that their client gets an experience of what God’s grace and God’s love is like.

You want your counselor to listen carefully to your story. To not interrupt or put words in your mouth. You want him or her to validate your feelings, encourage your growth and help you set appropriate goals. (tweet this)

You don’t want someone who will just hold your hand and comfort you – you can get a friend to do that. Your counselor must help you grow, challenge (in a good way) your resistance to that growth, and help you process your negative emotions constructively.

It’s important that you feel comfortable, safe, understood and pushed in a good way to get to the next step of your journey. (Sometimes we can get too comfortable feeling stuck).

If there is something you feel uncomfortable about with your counselor, talk with her about it before terminating. This is wise for two reasons. You are building a therapeutic relationship together. You aren’t just client and counselor but you are two people who have a relationship and sometimes there are misunderstandings, hurts, or tensions that have to be talked out. Learning how to talk those things out or to disagree constructively or have a good conflict is part of you getting healthy https://accisotret.com.

Counselors are human beings and sinners just like you. Therefore your counselor may make some mistakes. She may be crabby, tired or having her own personal struggles. The biggest difference between you and your counselor isn’t that he or she is more educated or more spiritual than you are. She may not be. The biggest difference is that your counselor should be very aware of his or her weaknesses, flaws, past and current baggage and triggers.

Hopefully she is a healthy person but she will never be a perfect person. She recognizes when she is getting defensive, impatient, angry or anxious. She can own her own stuff, and takes responsibility and makes amends for mistakes she has made without toxic shame or self-hatred. If she gets defensive or makes mistakes and blames you, don’t take it personally. But it is a sign that your counseling relationship is not healthy and you won’t get what you need to heal.

When a counselor doesn’t protect the therapy relationship a lot of damage can occur, even if he or she is professionally competent. People have experienced setbacks, more pain, and trauma because the counselor did not have the personal maturity to hold to appropriate boundaries, to wisely handle her client’s strong emotions, or to speak the truth in love.

The best way to find a good counselor is to ask others who have gone to one and actually received help.

Another way to find a Christian counselor is to call several larger churches and ask what counselor they refer people to. If you hear one or two names mentioned repeatedly, try those counselors first. If their schedule is full and they are not able to take you right away, they often will give you the names of other counselors that they work with and trust.

Your insurance company may have names of counselors that they partner with to provide counseling services to their subscribers.

When you make your initial phone call it is very appropriate to ask some initial questions. This will help you gather information about their level of experience and expertise as well as give you a sense of who they are in the way they speak with you over the phone and respond to your questions.

Questions you may want to ask:

  • What are their fees per session?(Do they have a sliding scale if you can’t afford their fees?)
  • Do they take your medical insurance?(You may not want to use insurance and that is fine. Some clients are very queasy about confidentiality and managed care insurance companies ask a lot of questions).

Once you’re in counseling with someone if you choose to use your insurance ask your counselor what your diagnosis is and what she is going to write in the treatment plan before she submits it. You have a right to know.

  • What is their experience in working with abuse? With emotional abuse? With trauma? (Or whatever you are going to counseling for).
  • Have they taken any continuing education classes on Domestic Violence or abuse related subjects? If so, which ones?
  • What are their professional credentials? Are they licensed? How long have they been in practice? A psychiatrist is an MD and is needed if medication is involved. A licensed psychologist is usually a PH.D and can often administer psychological tests such as an MNPI or other tests. A LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker, has a masters degree in social work and several years of supervised clinical counseling experience. A LPC is a licensed professional counselor with a masters degree and several years of supervised clinical counseling experience. A MFT is a marriage and family therapist with a masters degree in that discipline. If they are licensed they will also have supervised hours. There are also lay counselors, church counselors, pastoral counselors, coaches, and mentors who offer some sort of people helping. When choosing who you are going to work with, understand their level of expertise. You would not have heart surgery by a dentist or even a general physician. Do your homework.
  • Do they have a Christian orientation and do they incorporate their faith into their counseling? If it’s important that they pray with you, ask them.
  • Can you make an initial appointment for a consultation?

The last question gives you the option to go for a session and check them out to see if you feel comfortable and are able to open up to this person. If for any reason after you have your first appointment you don’t feel it’s the right fit, you do not have to reschedule another appointment.

Here are some words from women I asked who went to counseling, what they found most helpful and most negative in their experiences:

What were the things you found most helpful from your counselor?

Being able to express my thoughts and feelings. Being heard. Talking about my past and receiving hope for the future. Being questioned about why I think the way I do and receiving a different perspective. – Stacy

My counselor really listened to me. – Kim

I had a Christian counselor, and she validated me and my feelings and helped me work through my problems. – Maxine

It was a safe place to share anything I wanted to say and know for sure it was confidential (such a rare thing these days, confidentiality!) At times, I felt the counselor was trying to take me down his path to wellness, but for the most part, he allowed me to gain resources to go on my own path through the grief and on to wholeness and happiness. – Melissa

Godly wisdom, a listening empathetic ear, loving correction of flawed thinking, making me consider and answer hard questions. It was not something I always looked forward to, knowing it would bring up pain, but I left knowing it was needful and good for me. – Gina

It was good to talk to an objective person who was really listening to me and could help me. She didn’t condemn me or bring up Scripture or Christian clichés. She gave me insight into the root of my feelings and helped identify ways I could improve my situation. She suggested helpful resources. Her gentleness and kindness was appreciated. – Karen

It was very helpful to have my feelings validated, especially about how I saw some of my marital problems. It was reassuring to have confirmation from a neutral third party that some of my husband’s attitudes and behaviors are not healthy and not emotionally supportive of me. – Wendy

My counselor has been telling me that my thoughts are not crazy like most people make me feel. – Sharon

I have been in counseling off and on for years. I have learned that finding a Christian counselor that “fit” is the #1 priority. – Sarah

What was most negative in your counseling experience?

The first Christian counselor I saw just told me to suck it up and be submissive. – Lois

Sometimes I would leave the session thinking I didn’t say anything right and feel very discouraged. I would think that everything the counselor said was right, as though she could read my mind. I didn’t realize that I needed to correct her wrong assumptions. Most of the time I agreed with her because I didn’t know how I felt. I had blocked out so many feelings and memories that I was just numb. – Sue

Crossing of professional boundaries and the therapist trying very hard to have me see things his way. – Edie

My counselor made me feel like if I didn’t jump through her hoops she would give up on me. She showed favoritism toward my husband. She turned to work with him if I didn’t or couldn’t do what she wanted me to. And that increased my depression. – Julie

Through our church, I found a husband and wife team and have seen the man a few times. The counselor liked to cross his legs and then uncross them and say “Change. It’s as simple as that.” I was banging my head against the wall wondering why I couldn’t have enough faith, enough trust, and enough courage to shake myself out of depression. – Sarah

Friends: How about you. Have you had a positive or negative experience with your counselor? If negative, were you able to speak up and if so, what happened?

57 Comments

  1. Linda@Creekside on April 15, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I love this post, Leslie … it made this pastoral counselor’s heart smile because this is important information. Finding a good counselor can be a hard task, but that right person is out there. Thanks for showing how …

    And this?

    Competent Counselors – 10 Standards to Look For
    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2012/02/competent-counselors-10-standards-to.html

    Maybe it will add to the conversation.

    Blessings …

    • Lonely wife on April 15, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      TY for posting this, Linda…very informative!

      • Linda@Creekside on April 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        I’m grateful that it was helpful for you, friend …

    • Leslie Vernick on April 15, 2015 at 9:35 pm

      Thanks Linda. Phil’s list mirrors mine and he’s a good friend.

  2. Mary on April 15, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Church counselor told me that it was no wonder my husband was mean to me because I was so angry with him. She told me to be thankful that he was such a good Christian when she had no idea what he was doing to the kids and I at home. I would be very guarded about church trained Biblical counselors if there is abuse. Since I didn’t recognize it as abuse, I tried to follow her advice. This drove me into deep despair and guilt because I could never get it right.

    • Lonely wife on April 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Wow Mary….that sounds like what I was told many years ago…that I should be “grateful” for my husband “instead of dragging him to counseling” Yep. That’s what I was told!
      I can only imagine the damage these kinds of “counselors” have done to women over the years!!! UGH!!!!

    • Leslie Vernick on April 15, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      I’m so sorry for this. I am working hard to get the word out to Biblical counselors that they need to see abusive marriages in a different light. Check out my blog at christiancounseling.com about these issues.

      • Mary on April 16, 2015 at 12:26 am

        Leslie,

        Keep up the good work with the biblical counselors. They need you and we need you to keep educating them about abusive relationships. I recently met with one of them and saw your books in their library. It was a relief to me when they recommended your book, I had already read it, but was encouraged. Thanks again for what you are doing to help.

        • Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2015 at 8:20 am

          Thanks.

      • Hope on November 16, 2015 at 6:15 am

        I had trouble with our church elders when I was trying to follow Matthew 18 with my husband. It’s not that they didn’t want to help. They just didn’t know how. My husband is very difficult to work with. Also, they had little or no experience with abusive situations. It’s like they couldn’t even begin to understand. I’ve forwarded them your information and they’ve expressed gratefulness for it. Hopefully they will be better equipped to help others now.
        Thanks!

        • Leslie Vernick on November 18, 2015 at 5:48 pm

          Thanks Hope. I hope they read it.

  3. Lonely wife on April 15, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you for this more detailed answer to my question from last week…I go to see my new counselor this evening, so I will be sure to ask some of the questions stated here….

    A bad counseling experience? About 15 yrs ago when my oldest son was 13, he came to me with tears in his eyes, asking me why he didn’t have a good relationship with his dad, like his friends had with their dad’s….I saw the pain my son was in, so I called a church in the area that had a reputation for great counseling, and I made an appt. for my husband and I.
    Long story short….I walked out of that session in tears, feeling worthless, and a bad wife….my husband walked out with a BIG smile on his face!
    The counselor (male) told me that my husband was a good person, a hard worker who held down a job that “allowed” me to stay home with my kids, that he sees women all the time for counseling who have to work 2 jobs because their husbands refuse to work, etc….He said a lot more, but I’m sure you all know where this is heading.
    I found out 3 yrs ago that my husband is passive aggressive, so that explains a lot. My husband doesn’t need or want a close relationship with any of us….so now I’m hoping to find a counselor who can help me as I work on my CORE and become the woman God wants me to be.

  4. Donna on April 15, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Wow can I identify with finding the right counselor! My husband and I went to the church our family had attended for many years, for marital counseling. The Pastor had an abusive childhood, so I naively thought that he would understand emotional abuse, and work with my husband. I found out in the beginning, of what lasted for 9 feudal months of counseling what his true belief system was. He enabled my husband on EVERY issue, and told me how important submission was. He emphasized that scripture deemed the husband the head of the wife all the time, she should submit to him all of the time, not just some of the time, and he had the final word all of the time. He drew a diagram of God at the top, the husband underneath God, the wife underneath the husband, and the children at the bottom. After the end of the sessions, my husband would tell me “see you don’t listen to anyone else who has a different point of view than you do!” My husband had slept on the couch for over 15 years because of sleep apnea, and because “I had poked him”. (his excuse). When the Pastor told me that my husband was old enough to determine when he needed to go to the doctor, and that I needed to submit to his authority, I told the Pastor that I didn’t marry my husband for his life insurance. I then told him he needed to go back to school and study his Bible more, and I walked out. I never walked through the doors again. I have been attending a different church for many years, and I hope to divorce when I am financially able to do so. I feel sorry for his wife. It is unfortunate that he probably enabled other emotional abusers, and did irreparable damage as well.

  5. I have to be anonymous this week on April 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    With fear and trembling–registering under my maiden name and paying cash–going to a nearby city, I walked into a beautiful office with an even more beautiful young psychiatrist. Five minutes in, she told me she was getting married in two weeks and she didn’t want to talk about marriage problems. Was there anything else I’d like to talk about with her?

    I tell this story because if I’d done my research as Leslie suggests I would have saved myself some money and a lot of grief. It was five years before I tried another counselor. One endorsed by a friend. One that was a good start for me.

    Another counselor endorsed by a doctor friend cussed the whole session–didn’t go back for that!

    Two pastors gave me the biblical submissive message.

    Several other counselors had problems with boundaries–wanting to be my friend or live vicariously through my willy-nilly experiences after I was divorced.

    (This brings me to something I have been wanting to share: Take care of yourself through and after the divorce. We are as vulnerable as tiny fledglings learning to fly. We don’t have our self-confidence in place and we are sitting ducks, to mix a metaphor. There are men who prey on recently divorced women. They are silver-tongued devils. They are adept at seeing our weaknesses and exploiting them. (Do I sound like I’m speaking from experience?!?))

    It’s also weird to date after a marriage. No virginity issues. A kiss can lead to bed really fast. I’m not preaching here–just saying you need to be sure that is what you want to do when you are clear headed and not in the moment.

    A counselor gave me the word HALT. Don’t get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely, or too Tired. This has been great advice for me. Divorced, we have to guard our emotions and energy so that we can make good decisions-on our own.

    Rebound marriages are famous for just filling up empty spaces in each other. Get healthy first–then you will attract a healthy mate, if that is what you want.

    This brings me to my life-saving counselor who walked me through the blackest time of my life. She was firm, accepted none of my excuses, in no way told me what I wanted to hear, and helped me get centered. She made a personalized relaxation tape for me based upon my happy place. I used it for years.

    Some hard-earned advice from someone who’s been there.

  6. Aleea on April 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    RE: I Found A Counselor – But Is She Right For Me?

    Excellent post and very important information! . . . .I started my search by seriously praying for the right counselor and begged the Holy Spirit to guide me. So, the counselor I found had just about every qualification possible and I knew from individuals far wiser than I that she was considered excellent. Even with all that, I just sent her a check for two hours’ time and then did an interview to see if it would be a good fit –and- to see if she could actually work with me too. I went in and asked lots of questions, obviously without her knowing what those questions would be. As kindly as possible I asked:

    1) I asked her to describe how she felt marriage problems are actually resolved? (Actually! —I had lots of theory vs. what happens when it goes “live” questions.) 

    2) I asked her to describe why emotional recidivism rates are so high and her thoughts about various conflict resolution models. –she had painfully honest, good answers.

    3) I asked her “Does Christ live in your heart and how do you know that?” –wonderful, serious answer, no (zero) defenses. . . I didn’t see textbook theology. I saw life, power, peace, authority. –And I know there are NO great women OR men of God. . . just weak, broken women and men of a totally GREAT and absolutely merciful, AWESOME God!!!

    4) I asked her to pray with me and I gave her three topics to pray about. –Generally speaking, nobody prays like she did that who doesn’t know Christ and have a serious prayer life.

    5) I asked her some complex Bible questions about marriage, repentance, about holiness and about the character of God.

    6) I asked her what she does to get to the main “engine” that’s fueling most of the symptoms in conflict. Etc., etc., etc.

    She told me how painful this was going to be and about the courage, with the help of God, I would need to face the pain I had been so frightened to walk through. I was more than satisfied that this was going to be a really bad, horrible time (-you know what I mean!) . . .but the right thing to do. She gave me so much homework that I felt I was on the road to healing before we even started.

    We are not going to run from our pain, or escape it –without going through it and allowing God’s love to come in and heal us– if not, then we just repeat it in the same or different forms! . . . We really worked on heart cleaning.  You MUST get your heart clean and keep it clean, if you want God’s love, life and direction to flow into yours.

    We have lots more to do, obviously, but we have worked hard on putting a stop to indulging my old defenses –and healing the factory of myself –and THAT is what we need to heal!

    You know what else? Male, Female: True repentance
    never leads to despair. It leads home. It leads to grace! . . . By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit can clean your heart and you will find, not at first, but you will find that cleaning your heart is something you will look forward to.  It shouldn’t even be this much fun, but it just is, –it just is!

    It is so, so important to ask questions regarding why we are here; what our purpose is; and which ideas/goals ought we to put first! Mighty is the wisdom of the Lord (Psalm 19:7-11, 33:11, 119:105) which says: You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved yet this love is at the edge of your soul but you have been blind to its presence. You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness!!! We have been called to heal wounds to unite what has fallen apart and bring home those who have lost their way (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

  7. Leonie on April 16, 2015 at 11:53 am

    My 1st husband & I split up 14.5 years ago. He was psychologically & emotionally abusive. He would say things to me like “if we lived in Texas and I found you in bed with another man I could shoot you both dead and not have go to prison.” (We are Canadians & I never cheated on him) or when we were living in Peru for a few years for my husband’s work he would say ” you could disappear down here and the only thing ‘they’ would have to identify you with are your dental records.”
    When he confessed to a pornography habit and left me for another woman we went to counselling together. The counsellors were aghast at the things he did & said to me and asked him if he was sober when he did those things. (He was) The church pastors embraced him and were obviously on his side (telling me to wear makeup & be pleasant and run to the door and kiss him when he gets home from work – but it made me feel like vomiting so I couldn’t do it) so I left the church with our 3 kids. I informed one of the pastors early on that I thought what was going on was abuse but he told me it was not. One pastor/counsellor told me that “what was the difference if he had sex with me or his girlfriend – sex is sex but it is better to stay with the mother of your children, the sex is the same” he said this while I was there with them. All the while I was thinking maybe they thought I was a block of wood or some inanimate object that had no feelings. They would minimize, saying things like “pretend he is an alcoholic, he’s just gone & had another drink” when I would find out he ran back to visit his girlfriend when I thought he wanted to reconcile. Finally I stopped all joint counselling and got counselling for myself with a more professional Christian counsellor who really did help me – to get away from that abuse. My ex was always able to turn each counselling session into a “what’s wrong with Leonie session, as though I was in kindergarten and they all needed to have meetings about me and my behaviour!”

    • susen on April 17, 2015 at 12:31 am

      It makes me wonder how they treat their own wives.
      susen

    • Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2015 at 8:16 am

      That is all too common. I’m speaking at a Christian counselors conference tomorrow. What would you all like me to tell them about this problem?

      • Mary on April 17, 2015 at 9:49 am

        Tell them we don’t need someone judging us and looking through a chart to find a bible verse to condem us! We are not sinning because we have anxiety when we find porn on our husbands computer. I was told by biblical counselor that anxiety is a sin, when I showed her the web sites with porn. She looked on a chart and started reading bible verses about anxiety to me.

        When you have a spiritually abusive husband, you cannot even listen to someone reading bible verses to you.

        Please tell them to show love and understand how trauma can make a women appear crazy. Hold off on the judgement. Jesus came to save us not to condemn us.

        • Leslie Vernick on April 19, 2015 at 8:46 pm

          I told them. They were listening.

      • Aleea on April 17, 2015 at 1:45 pm

        “I’m speaking at a Christian counselors conference tomorrow. What would you all like me to tell them about this problem?”
         
        I would just use the heartbreaking example Leonie reported here on this post: “My husband is verbally & physically abusive and uses massage parlors.” –Then I would invite Christian counselors to start understanding and speaking the real truth as the Bible would say it. The Bible would say that Leonie’s husband is σπαταλῶσα (self-indulging) ζῶσα (living) τέθνηκεν (dead)!!! Dead while he yet lives and positionally already in hell.  Followers of Christ are to speak the truth so men can really understand and repent.  For any man to seriously, truly repent he needs an avalanche of conviction of sin.  Where is that in the church or counseling of today?  We live in an absolutely unprecedented day that convicts men of nothing. We are so deep in the culture that we don’t even see it. Hard core devilry is now just some deficiency; adultery is a normative mistake . . . God have mercy on us!!!  Maybe it is irrecoverable at this point [tears]. . . . If God withdrew the Holy Spirit tomorrow, most churches would function just the same; they would not even know He was gone. The church is supposed to stop corruption but the world is corrupting the church.  If you don’t believe the Word-of-God on sin, on holiness, on the judgment to come why should I believe it on anything? If we don’t believe it, why should the world believe us?  People say to me: Aleea, you need a little sin to keep you humble —well, then why not a whole truckload of SIN and I’ll be REAL humble! Without holiness, no one shall see God. Jesus died to get total occupation of us. To be holy in speech… in actions… in everything. God wants our will… God wants our careers…
         
        And Leonie,
        –I bet you know what you need to do about that situation! If I was facing that devilry what would you tell me to do about it? Why? ––How would you tell me to guard my heart, my health, my wholeness in that situation (Proverbs 4:23)? ––Now, answer it for yourself. Your answer should leave your sense of reality intact (–tell the truth about reality.) It should leave you empowered. It should be as coherent as possible (–actionable, life-in-Christ affirming.)

    • Hope on November 16, 2015 at 6:28 am

      I don’t know how every case is, but I know in ours, my husband has a way of bringing confusion and being very intimidating and/or convincing. More than once close friends offered to confront him, only to back down in his presence and pat him on the back. Even the counselor we went to (who was a good counselor) had a struggle clearly confronting my husband.

      (I think there are demonic aspects to this, too.)

      Just saying that may also be an element here.
      I’d like to tell these folks that when abuse is an issue, be ready for this kind of spiritual battle.

      • Leonie on November 16, 2015 at 12:09 pm

        You are completely right island girl. I have had tangible oppression over me when my husband was doing things in regards to our legal case unbeknownst to me. We have separated now for almost 6 months and when that oppressive thing lifted off me – I didn’t know what it was but a few weeks later I found out what he had done (pleading not guilty to his criminal charges and on another occasion coming into the home to collect belongings) and realized those events coincided with the opressive heaviness that had come over me – it was shocking but I also became aware of the spiritual nature of the battle I am in and how being married to a person who chooses evil constantly and has a sex addiction affects the partner.
        It was my experience over and over that when I was in counselling with my first husband that whichever counsellor we saw he would twist everything to make ne the problem. I quickly figured out that it was futile to attend counselling with an abuser.

      • Leslie Vernick on November 18, 2015 at 5:48 pm

        Yes and counselors are also afraid that if they confront too hard, the person won’t come back and then they have zero chance of helping him or her.

  8. Lonely wife on April 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Leslie.
    My session last night went really well…it was not with the counselor I will have, but rather a time of filling out paperwork and asking me questions to see what counselor they feel will best suit my needs.
    I mentioned your books and blog, and the interviewer said she’d not heard of you, so she asked me for your name again and wrote it down…and then said she has someone that she’s counseling who could really use your book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage…so I was happy to share that with her!
    I praying that the counselor I end up with will be that open and receptive when I mention your books…and if she hasn’t read any of your work, I’m going to ask her to read your blog and books as we go along in counseling, because it’s very important to me that she understand exactly what working on my CORE truly means 🙂
    Thank you for this post, it’s been very helpful!

    • Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2015 at 8:16 am

      So glad your first step was helpful.

  9. Leonie on April 16, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    It is so confusing, my current pastor is telling me to call him if I need to but when I do he seems not know what to do or say.
    My husband is verbally & physically abusive and uses massage parlours. I initially did try to go to my church again, the one I chose after my separation from my 1st husband. The pastor will tell me to call him if I need anything but when I call he is quick to ‘get rid
    of me’ and it seems I no sooner call & he says “if you need anything just call me.” To which I reply, “I just did.”
    I feel like a cat chasing it’s tail, every time I shake my head and say to my self that there seems to be no point to this. I have now had 1 counselling session with a lady at the shelter. I did like her but am aware she is lacking a godly perspective. She was understanding & gentle but had a lot of check lists, I am going again on Tuesday.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Leonie, this is a perfect time to ask him that question I talked about in the blog. “I”m confused, you say call me, but when I call you for help, I seem to feel like I’m bothering you or you really don’t have anything to say to me to help.” Perhaps he’s saying call me because he feels bad but he really doesn’t have the time or expertise to help you and should refer you to someone who does. However, at the very least, as your pastor I hope he would pray with you.

  10. Leslie Vernick on April 17, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Makes me so mad.

    • JC on April 19, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      I’m concerned for the safety of person you replied to. Asking on their behalf to please conceal this person’s e-mail address which they probably did not mean to post! Maybe your blog admin can add a note near the “name” feature of the reply so that people posting understand that what they type in the “name” cell WILL appear with their comment?

      • Leslie Vernick on April 19, 2015 at 8:48 pm

        JC I’m not sure who you are referring to. I’ve scanned the recent replies and don’t see anyone with their last name posted. I will remind readers that their last name is not required to post.

        • Debby on April 22, 2015 at 12:29 am

          Leslie, April 16th 8:45 am, above your April 19th 8:48 pm reveals the first name, middle initial, and last name in the girl’s email address given in the “so and so says” space. You cannot see this? You responded to her comment, “Makes me so mad.”

  11. Leonie on April 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you Leslie, He has prayed with me whenever I booked an appointment and have seen him in his office. He has also said I am being abused and I should call police and get counselling at the shelter.
    I think a Christian counsellor needs to be in touch with the Holy Spirit who is Truth and is also called the counsellor to get it right.
    Thank you for your encouragement Aleea, you are right. Pray for me, my husband wants to talk this through on Monday. I know we need to separate but my biggest concerns are my custody and safety of our 4 year old and my safety of he goes berserk at what I know needs to happen.

    • Aleea on April 17, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Leonie,
      I will pray for you –rest assured of that—and I have already been praying for you. Please have someone appropriate with you and ensure the locations are as safe as possible (–I know that is WAY easier said than done, so this calls for REAL serious wisdom and timing).  I already fear for you because you are using the words “he goes berserk” and he has made those other horrible statements: “you could disappear down here and the only thing ‘they’ would have to identify you with are your dental records.” I don’t say that to scare you, Leonie, but to heighten your own concern for your safety.

    • Aleea on April 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      –Oh, and of course, I’m praying for your husband too. Without God’s mercy, we are all finished —every one of us.

    • Dianna on April 17, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Dear Leonie,

      Your courage and honest transparency is so refreshing. Am praying for you and your upcoming discussion with your husband.

      I have to admit concern for your safety, both physical and sanity. Have you had the chance to view Leslie’s short videos on her website regarding the issues to deal with in an emotionally destructive marriage? If not, you can go to her website at, leslievernick.com. The first page has a general video. Below this, at the bottom of the page, is a free invitation to get all of the twelve videos on emotional abuse, using your name and email address.

      Leonie, if this is safe for you to receive via your email address, then, I suggest you set the priority of watching the videos that address ‘safety and sanity,’ and I believe (been a long time…) the one on ‘making a safety plan.’ The other video that I found so helpful is, ‘CORE Strength.’ This one helps one get clarity with some specific steps. Leslie likens it to building one’s ’emotional core’ like one would build their physical core. That this is core strength for all occasions, as vital as having a strong core physically is to one’s body. The emotional core strength holds one together for emotional stability.

      Leslie has many other free resources on her site; articles by on various subjects and some additional, excellent video clips.

      Leonie, Leslie’s videos are short, with lots of great information to ‘clarify’ a person’s situation in their mind. It is like getting small clips of advice from an honest, godly, experienced counselor. She is adept at teaching just as concisely with scripture. It takes an excellent communicator to convey this advice so concisely.

      Praying for your strength, comfort, wisdom and safety from our gracious God. I believe that His protection (which I pray for you and your family) is explained in some verse as providing a shield all around you. I hope this gives you true comfort.

      • Leonie on April 18, 2015 at 7:52 pm

        Thank you Dianna, for your prayers. It has been a long road to here, I was always giving my husband the benefit of the doubt, excusing him because he’s from a different culture … And around Christmas I felt God saying – just watch I will show you the truth again about his cheating & he did. Coupled with his increased antagonism to the whole family & explosive rages – then I started praying that I would speak & live in truth and I am feeling so much more sane now. Leslie’s words ring true & are do helpful over & over again. Especially the quote about my husband being responsible for his own behaviour & that it actually has nothing to do with me & also a quote from COFJ about how when someone is trying to take away your rights it is control & when you are trying to protect your rights it is self defence. I did a lot of reading about narcissists and their lack of thought for anyone but themselves. His is good and I can trust him to guide me – I am gaining strength & hoping the day we part ways is soon – also to get my daughter out of the craziness. I find my husband always choosing to run toward evil and I think that demonstrates to me there is no repentance, their is no grief, there are no apologies, only a rejection of God and his truth over & over & I refuse to live in the lies, fog & chaos that he creates any longer.

        • Leonie on April 18, 2015 at 7:54 pm

          sorry, that should say – God is good and I can trust his Holy Spirit to guide me …

  12. Diannao on April 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Thank you got posing this question regarding finding the right counselor. Great tips, Leslie! I have made some blunders from fear, anxiety and just blind trust! Had open who was a great, empathetic listening (and I needed to spew some) and then gave advise to divorce, for she believed people outgrow their spouses. She went on to tell me that she had been married five times and only married the last time because she loved him!!! This was in a ‘Catholic Services’ counseling program..

    Had I the strength, foresight and some good advice, I would have asked several questions upfront. I liked Aleena’s questions and discussion, also. Sounds like you have made real godly headway in true healing.

    In my experience, one can calmly confront a therapist, with responsible people in the meeting about concerns and how further counseling would not work and still get lambasted by the counselor!

    I have had the help of two godly counselors, flawed, but sincere and helpful.

    I would add that it is necessary for the counselor to understand the support or lack of with the spouse. I believe that the spouse needs support from the counselor, to understand the client to a certain degree. My husband fell apart when I had overwhelming flashbacks, at home, after deep therapy sessions. I did not fight with him, just could not be close to him (not talking sexual) and that was unnerving for him. Also, I needed tools to use between sessions to cope with flashbacks, high anxiety and fear.

    Linda, appreciated the tips you shared, aso!

  13. susen on April 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Dear Leslie~

    I’ve been thinking about this for hours. This is what I would like every Christian counselor to hear:

    Listen to the voices of the broken pieces.
    Step carefully among the chards.
    Jesus is present,
    waiting for you to begin His miracle.
    Let Him use you for His purpose. Amen

    • Leslie Vernick on April 19, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      That’s beautiful Susen. Thanks.

  14. babs on April 18, 2015 at 6:47 am

    I was just thinking about this subject yesterday, after my last session, while listening to your aduiobook!
    And now I found your post 🙂
    The thing is, I like my counselor very much, she is wise and intelligent; she was my couple therapist before understanding (she did it before I did) that my relationship was destructive, so she suggested me and my husband to have two different counselors.
    After asking if we were ok with that, she started working with me and found my husband another (very googd) therapist.
    Things got better since then; my husband is aware of his mistakes, and I understood that I reacted critically and with rage to his abusive behaviour, making things worst and being resentful and bitter. He was blatantly wrong being abusive, but i made my mistakes, too. We are working very hard to fix things and be more loving, compassionate, for our sake and for our marriage’s sake (unfortunately, though in our mid 30’s, we have no kids).
    But sometimes I feel like my therapist is so worried about what happened in the past that she “would prefer” if I chose to leave my husband. She often reminds me that he’s been abusive, selfish, immature; and I know it’s true. But I would like to know that she wishes to save my marriage as much as she wishes to “save” me, at least until we both (I mean me and hubby) are working hard to do that.
    And I wonder: maybe she’s right? Even though I see changes (the kind of changes that you, Leslie, list in your book) and I know it’s a looooong road to recovery, maybe my impression is wrong? Maybe I should listen more carefully to her? Or maybe I just assumed something wrong, and she does not want us to split up, she just wants me to think about what happened to forgive but not forget?I talked to her, and she told me that she does not want us to divorce, and it is not her choice anyway, and that she just want me to have a more mature and happy relationship, but then she makes another remark and I get stuck again. I don’t know what to think, it’s quite confusing actually. Can you help me?

    • Dawn on April 28, 2015 at 9:48 am

      babs –

      When she makes the kind of comment that you are talking about it’s ok to stop the conversation then and ask her about it. You can ask for clarification and check your assumptions.

      You can also tell her that it’s the kind of comment that makes you doubt her when she says she does not want you to divorce.

  15. Leonie on April 18, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Aleea,
    We will meet in the mall to have this talk. The Texas & dental records comments were my 1st husband’s who wasn’t physically abusive but psychologically & emotionally abusive. We separated 15 years ago, he is the dad of my 3 older kids.
    The counsellor & CAS have gone over a safety plan with me. I was wanting to rewatch Leslie’s video about financial safety again before we talk also. Thanks so much for your prayers. I am scared of what he will do after I ask him to leave but I am praying that it will be obvious to him that we should separate too and he will go peacefully. I have a few friends at my church praying too.

    • Aleea on April 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Leonie,
      I apologize for confusing your 1st and 2nd husbands. I do all this on a mobile device, from the road and I have to tell you it is like a mouse in a maze sometimes. The reason that CORE–I call it the factory of myself (the engine) needs to be healed is that if we just work downstream and not back upstream nothing real changes.  Same factory; same engine; same sins; same issues, over and over and over and over and over again.
       
      Anyway, as you know, only God can get people to fully repent. The arm of flesh will always fail. Gossiping, over eating, romance novels, porn, alcohol use, creating godless drama, whatever the issue, none of this is going to teach us how to guard our hearts so we don’t get hurt because we are unhealthy. That hurt fuels even more addictions and even more shame.  We can’t study our way out. We can’t white knuckle ourselves there through effort. The Holy Spirit needs to come in, turn the lights on and clean all that mess out of there (reconfigure the very factory of ourselves: new affections, new desires!) We need to be extremely careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God and keep inviting the Holy Spirit to do all that painful heart cleaning and healing that brings REALlove to all those dark, lonely and sad places.  Otherwise, we will settle our whole lives for little lonely scraps of love/ approval/ affection from other people. If we don’t (with the Lord’s help) really heal, totally fix, radically renovate/repair the factory of ourselves (our CORE), the same issues and results keep coming out of that factory and show up everywhere again, and again, and again –even with a “new” spouse.  You can’t attract someone new if you are not really new. They will do old dance steps if ours are not new dance steps (I’m stating the obvious here and I am repeating myself I know, but it is so important.)  Thirty years with one spouse vs. three different spouses for ten years each, etc. -Oh, oh, but my former husband hit me over the head with a red frying pan, this new husband hits me over the head with a blue frying pan —-that’s different. How is it different? –And I don’t want to be harsh, please know that, –I so much hate harsh it is just such a critical (pivotal) point.
       
      Christ’s REAL LOVE!  Christ’s LOVE heals/ fixes just everything (-because it reconfigures the very factory of myself). I actually believe that’s the love everyone is always trying to bring into their lives often in ineffective, dramatic and dysfunctional ways. -I just always beg God for “addiction” of a different kind (RE:Psalm 112:7) –A singleness of heart, an undistracted mind. I just resort to begging God. I don’t know what else to do but beg. –And it hurts when reprimanded but it hurts Him more than it’s hurting us (1 Timothy 4:12, Ephesians 4:1). It truly is the path of victory (Psalm 19:7-11, 33:11, 119:105). I also really believe we don’t have the Holy Spirit / personal revival because we are content to live without Him, without it.  One day I became content NO MORE. So too our revelation of God depends directly upon the measure of my desire. The finding is still to those who seek with all their heart (Jeremiah 29:13; Deuteronomy 4:29, et. al.)  Finally, don’t be taken in by mere words.  If a man has real love, real repentance it will have sacrifice all over it, it will have blood all over it, just like real prayer is sweat on our very souls.

  16. Leslie Vernick on April 19, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    that is sad.

  17. birdie on April 19, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Leslie,
    My husband & I are working with a male counselor. My husband has been unfaithful with Porn, strip clubs, lap dances for years. He kept this a secret for the majority of our 22 year marriage.

    Some of the comments the male counselor makes concern me & my own therapist. (who is a female) When we “interviewed” several therapist , they were all men. Some had a “chauvinist” showing in their attitude. All said they were Christians.

    Do you think it would benefit us to switch to a female counselor? I think my husband would benefit from hearing a female perspective in counseling. Especially since we are dealing with his sexual sin & acting out.

    Thanks!

  18. Aimee on April 21, 2015 at 7:54 am

    I’ve been seeing my counselor twice a week for a year. I just told her last visit I want to drop down to once a week. I told her I want to start golfing again, want to be able to meet friends for lunch etc,
    She seemed mad and said we need to discuss dropping to once a week next visit????

    • Leslie Vernick on April 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Sounds like you are getting healthier and want to add new things into your life. Don’t assume she was mad, but do discuss it with her next week and your reasons why. It may have just caught her off guard. But you can ask her if she was angry about it. Again this is learning to assert yourself in relationships and work out conflict in a good way.

      • Debby on April 24, 2015 at 9:16 pm

        Good answer, Leslie!

  19. Robin on April 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Aimee, I so agree with Leslie to talk it thru. I used to be terrible at this, and felt misunderstood often. But now I am blessed when my counselor says, ” I love it when you know what you want and need.” Keep talking, keep letting her know when your need isn’t being heard. After 30 yrs of having no wise counselors, the Lord sent me one. She is committed to truth, humility, and speaking up even when its highly uncomfortable. But one thing I can count on- she is very close to the Lord and listens and prays for my very best. I have taken her advice many a day when I didn’t want too- but the fruit of doing that, has shown me time after time, to listen carefully, and sometimes submit even when I’d rather not. Some of the things she has saved me from, have been very huge, no small matters. All I can say, is if you don’t have a wise, truthful, humble counselor– keep looking. It is worth its weight in gold!! And I give praise to the Lord everyday for how He leads her and me both!!

    • Aimee on April 21, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Thanks Leslie and Robin
      I will let you know after my next session

  20. birdie on April 24, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Leslie,

    In my previous post ( 4-19 post) I asked your opinion about switching from male to female counselor. Any thoughts?

    Thanks

  21. Lynn M on April 25, 2015 at 7:45 am

    I will add here, that I have had a great deal of success with my current counselor — I had to pick one quickly, who was close to my house, who took my insurance, so I started with that and started looking at bios online. This was while I was preparing to leave and I wanted a counselor who understood trauma because I was still holding out hope that my husband could work through the childhood trauma that was causing his destructive behaviors. I chose one who was young and wanted to specialize in treating trauma. I was skeptical at first because she is young — only a couple of years in practice and at the time I thought I wanted a seasoned more experienced woman who would hold my hand an say honey, it’s going to be ok. but I gave it a try. After our second session she said, “I’m so glad that you recognize this behavior as abusive. sometimes it takes a year of counseling sessions just to get a woman to recognize she is in an abusive relationship. Where do you want to go from here?” She has been a wonderful guide through this process. I don’t know if it was the luck of the draw, but instead of following my instincts that I wanted someone older who specialized in relationships, and chose a young practitioner who specialized in trauma. Sometimes re-evaluating what you think you are looking for (as in, a Christian counselor who rebuilds marriages) might make a difference in the perspective you get from the counselor. (And I am not bashing the idea of a Christian counselor , it’s just that’s my thoughts on how I chose this time and it worked out — I saw an amazing Christian counselor in my Mom’s home town and she had Leslie’s book on her shelf and pointed it out to me)

  22. Amy Eroh on April 29, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Hang in there. Don’t lose hope. I too live in a small town where there were no close counselors plus at the time my husband forbade me to contact one. I sought help but there was no help. Twelve years later I was at the end of my rope with all that was going on and here I happened on one 45 minutes away. I called and asked for their most experienced woman christian counselor. Long story short God will come through in His timing and in His way. Please do not lose faith in Him. Counselors are just vessels that God uses but He will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you and in His time He will pave the way as He has and is doing for me. My counselor has been great and when I first walked through her door I was a shell of a person. Its been a journey but I sneaked to get Leslie’s book on the Emotionally Destructive Marriage and devoured it and here my husband did the same thing and our eyes were opened and he has repented. All that counseling and good stuff too and God used a book. You need hope. That hope is in our great God.

  23. viviany on September 23, 2015 at 12:02 am

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  24. Ella on October 13, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Hurrah! At last I got a webpage from where I can really get helpful information concerning my study and
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