Morning friends,

I’m heading to Florida tomorrow for a conference. Please pray for my stamina and mental alertness. I am not speaking for a change, I am the student and I want to get all I can out of what I’m learning.

 

We’ve had lots and lots of responses to all the boundary and consequences questions. Here was one that was also submitted that I think may help you when you seek counseling.

Question: Could you expound on what are “professional boundaries.” All master's level counselors should have had a course in “professional boundaries” but many ministers and lay counselors have not. Clients certainly have not. Your readers need to hear what characteristics make up professional boundaries. There were some statements in your document that infer counselors should not put their feelings and ideas on the client, but some everyday issues like: the appointment setting, checking state rules regarding paying pastoral counselors, when and where to meet a counselor of the opposite sex and touching of any kind.

For someone who has been used to “taking orders” and being shamed, it is hard to recognize when it is happening, especially by a counselor. Examples, not holding the spouse with harmful, bullying behaviors to accountability when it happens in the session, favoritism to one person in couples counseling, having the counselor word the apology for the person but not ever making them say it and own it (It is okay to give an example, but the person responsible needs to practice it and own it and then use it in session). Not letting one person interrupt the other and take over with accusations.

I think your clients would benefit from a “laundry list ” of issues that should make us stop and think twice and we are not the best at seeing the “red flags.”

Answer: Consumer beware – there are good counselors and bad counselors and this question asks what are the red flags that the counselor is either professionally ill-equipped to handle your problem or does not demonstrate good professional boundaries or both? Let me give you some guidelines.

If you go to a licensed counselor, whether that be a psychiatrist, licensed social worker, psychologist, marriage and family counselor or professional counselor, they each have “rules” they are to abide by in order to maintain their professional license.

Here are the three most important:

Informed Consent and Confidentiality: When you go to a licensed counselor, they are required to inform you (before you open your mouth) the rules of confidentiality and what would constitute a breach of confidentiality. This is important because when you go to a counselor you assume everything is confidential. That’s not true.

For example, if you were going to a counselor to get help with your parenting because you were losing it and abusing your child, it would be important for you to know that if you tell the counselor you are abusing your child, the counselor is required by law to report you to the authorities for an investigation of child abuse.

If you didn’t know that ahead of time and you disclosed your problem to the counselor and after you disclosed this, he or she told you, “Well I have to report that” things get very messy. Before your talk with your counselor, usually in the paperwork you fill out, there is information on informed consent that you agree you read, understand, and sign.

In addition a licensed counselor is not allowed to discuss your situation with anyone who calls them without your informed and written consent. That means if your spouse or pastor or concerned relative calls the counselor, the counselor is not allowed to disclose any information about you, not even whether or not you are a client or attending your sessions.

One more thing, If you are using your insurance for counseling understand that your counselor must put a “diagnosis” of you in order for you to be reimbursed. It would be in your best interests to know what diagnosis he or she is putting on that line because that will become a part of your permanent medical record. If your counselor does not offer that information ask her to tell you BEFORE she submits for insurance reimbursement. That way you have a choice as to whether or not you want to use your insurance to pay for your sessions.

Although medical records are confidential, there are some things you should know ahead of time. For example, if you apply for life insurance and you have a history of major depression and that is on your medical records you may be denied. Or, if you are adopting a child and have had a history of depression and have taken antidepressants you may be disqualified from applying, visit https://www.cdhfinechemical.com/cdh_data/ambien-zolpidem/.

We don’t think about these things when we are in pain and want help but there are important issues to discuss with your counselor.

If you go to a church counselor or a non-licensed professional, they are not governed by the same rules so you do not know what their “rules” are around confidentiality and consent. That doesn’t mean they might not be competent to help you but ask questions about confidentiality BEFORE you start to work with them.

Questions to ask your counselor: Is everything we talk about confidential? What are the exceptions? Where do you keep your written notes of our sessions? Who else has access to read or see those records? (They should be in a locked file).If my husband calls you (or someone else), what is your policy about talking with them over the phone about our work together?

If you are comfortable with their answers, ask if they can put this in writing for you so you both are agreed on boundaries of confidentiality. If they are unwilling to do this, think twice.

Relationship boundaries: A licensed counselor is required by law to protect the counseling relationship. Therefore counselors are not allowed to engage in personal relationships with someone who they are professionally helping, even after the counseling relationship is over.

Your counselor is not allowed to go to lunch with you, get together on the weekend for a movie, come to your open house holiday party or receive expensive gifts from you. It is a professional relationship and needs to be protected. An exception might be made if there was a tragedy he or she might come to the funeral, or if they were instrumental in premarital work, or restoring a broken marriage he or she may attend your wedding or a recommitment of vows ceremony (but usually not attend the reception).

This boundary sometimes shocks and hurts clients because the relationship they build with their counselor often starts to feel like a close friendship. It hurts when a counselor says “no” to your invitations. But you only have one good counselor. You can have lots of friends. Trust me, it’s crucial that your counselor protects your counseling relationship and therefore it must stay a counseling relationship.

This also means your counselor is clear on the times you come to her office and how long each session will be. Payment information is also spelled out ahead of time and the ways and methods of contact are understood. She may not want you to e-mail her, text her or use her social media to connect. This is to keep the relationship from sliding into a more personal relationship. Your counselor should let you know the “rules” or boundaries of how she wants to be contacted in an emergency and when you can expect her to respond.

On my informed consent sheet with my counseling clients I spelled out what they could “expect” from me if we ran into each other at church or other settings. This was important for confidentiality reasons. I didn’t want her husband asking, “How do you know her?” or getting hurt because I did not acknowledge I knew her at church. So I said, “I will not approach or acknowledge you if we see each other in settings other than the office to protect your confidentiality.”

With e-mail and internet use so common, the “rules” of engagement between professional and client are being reevaluated by licensing boards and it isn’t always black and white in these matters but the main point is the communication is professional and not personal.

When you are seeing a non-licensed counselor or someone from your church in a lay counselor capacity the rules and boundaries are not so clear. You attend the same church, your kids may be friends, and perhaps you are in a small group together.

I don’t think this is always a bad thing, but it does make things murkier and messier. There are a lot of “one-another” passages in scripture that tell us that we are to come along side one another when we are suffering and for a moment, or a season, one “friend” might counsel another. This is a good thing but boundaries are not as clear-cut or spelled out. If your friend, women’s ministry leader, or pastor, is also your counselor in a more formal way, you may have to set up some temporary boundaries to protect both of you and the relationship.

Here are questions to ask your counselor: Will we have regular appointments times to meet and where? May I call you when I need to? What are your boundaries? (How often, what time limits, cell phone vs home phone vs office phone, weekend calls?) May I e-mail you if I need to? What e-mail address do you want me to use?

If you are in small groups together or have social contacts, talk about how this will be handled.

Touching Boundaries: Human touch is important and a counselor must be wise. We are people and feel deep care and compassion for our clients, especially when we see they are hurting. We often want to hug them or reach out for their hand or put our arm around them but a counselor should never do this without asking for a client’s permission and being extremely cautious about any hint of sexual touch.

Sexual relations of any kind are prohibited between a counselor and client, even if both give consent. If this happens, a counselor will lose his or her license to practice their profession. This is prohibited even after the counseling relationship is over. It is a big NO, NO, and every licensed counselor knows this. If your counselor ever crosses this boundary, you should report him or her to their licensing board for sanctions.

When you work closely with a counselor it’s not uncommon to develop strong feelings and be sexually attracted. Perhaps for the first time you feel cared for and heard. In your confusion you may flirt, be seductive, or even feel like you are falling in love. In your mind the relationship is becoming personal, mutual. It is not or should not.

Your counselor can talk with you about what’s happening but must not encourage you to act on your feelings or show any positive responsiveness to your behaviors. He or she can be empathetic and compassionate, sharing with you that this is not uncommon but will pass. He or she must assure you and remind you this is a professional relationship and it must always stay that way.

Seeing a damsel in distress, especially when she is attractive, can also be a huge turn on for a man, even if he is a counselor or pastor. It pulls at his hero strings. He wants to rescue her from her awful marriage. He wants to help her feel loved for the first time in her life. Sometimes he lies to himself telling himself that God has asked him to “cross” the professional boundary line in order to help her in a special way that no one else can. I’ve seen it happen too many times and trust me it never, ever, turns out good. Your counselor is 100% responsible to hold to the boundary of absolutely no sexual contact, period.

In every profession and church there are predators who are looking for the weak and vulnerable to exploit. The counseling profession is no exception. Please be careful and wise with who you choose to trust, who you open yourself up to help you grow and heal. For that reason if you need to discuss issues of sexual abuse, as a woman you might feel safer with a female counselor, although a female counselor can also be predator.

Some of the other issues raised in the question have more to do with competency issues. Let’s face it; some people are just better counselors than others, just like some hairstylists are better than others. But no counselor is perfect nor will they always do what you think he or she should do.

My husband is a volleyball coach and he gets a number of phone calls and e-mails from concerned parents who think they know better than he does how to strategize the game or how their child should play the game. Counselors have been trained in certain methods of counseling and should have a good reason for why they are choosing one approach over another. You might think they’re wrong in their approach, and If you are uncomfortable with something ask. Speak up. Don’t let yourself be a silent victim in a counseling session. Again, pay attention to how the counselor handles your questions and concerns. Are they open to your feedback? Receptive to your feelings? Willing to listen?

If they do not hear you or invalidate your concerns or bully you into doing something you don’t want to do, this is not the counselor you need.

If you have been used to being controlled in your marriage, the easiest thing for you to do is to slide into being passively controlled by your counselor. He or she may mean well and seemingly have your best interest in mind but right now that is not what’s best for you.

Your counselor’s goal should be to help you get strong and healthy (not stay passive and dependent) so you can make your own good decisions and control yourself (tweet that).

Your counselor is to help you be less man or person-centered or dependent and more God-centered. If that’s not happening or you don’t feel heard, it may be time to find someone who is a better fit.

Please don’t look for someone who says what you want to hear. There are lots of those kinds of counselors too but they won’t help you grow. They will just help you stay justified in your current mindset. You need someone who will speak the truth to you (and your spouse if you’re doing couples counseling) with compassion and grace.

Friends: Have your counselors had good boundaries with you?

55 Comments

  1. Survivor on November 11, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Fortunately, my counselor’s have all had good professional boundaries!!! But, as you said, all counselors are not created equal!!! They have different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, and different training! An important thing that I learned over the years is this: Just because someone is a trained professional does not mean that they will be able to see everything that is going on–even when it is spelled out for them!!!! If you are in an abusive situation, someone who primarily does marriage counseling will not be effective–even if you are going alone–because they are trained to see every situation as being two-sided. I learned a lot about asking questions of counselors early on and discovering whether or not they would be helpful before investing a lot of time and money.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Very true.

  2. Charlotte on November 11, 2015 at 8:53 am

    This article is timely for me. I have had some concerns lately about boundaries and my therapist (LCSW). Her only daughter recently got married and during the months leading up to the wedding, it became a big part of our sessions. I felt at times that I was taking care of her (I strongly tend toward caretaking) and feel that my therapy suffered. I think this was a boundary violation. Can you comment on this?.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      It’s inappropriate for a counselor to share personal information unless it is directly related to the session and in the client’s best interests. That doesn’t mean we don’t share for a bit – like “My daughter is getting married next weekend” but then it is the client’s hour for their agenda not ours. I would encourage you to talk about that with her and that you think your roles got reversed a little bit while she was involved in her daughter’s wedding planning and much of your time was spent talking about her thing. You can ask to be credited your fee for those hours or at least see how she handles the topic. Again, she should be open to listening to you about it and discuss your concerns with her.

      • Denic on November 12, 2015 at 4:00 pm

        My husband went to a Christian counselor once, I found her on the Focus on the Family website. In the first and only session they had, she used a bad word, offered to put him on medication for PTSD and my husband ended up in some ways counseling her! As much as he needs counseling, this was the one time he went to counseling outside of the church and he did not go back.

  3. Lyn on November 11, 2015 at 9:44 am

    I wouldn’t recommend seeing a counsellor associated with the church you are attending, the boundaries can be very blurred. In seeking help from the church ask for a professional recommendation & use the church person as a sounding board instead.

    The church should have clear guidelines & also explain in what way the pastoral leadership are informed or held accountable. This can be important not just for legal or ethical reasons, but also theological ones- the theological perspective of one counsellor may not reflect the churches position, or they may not have understood how their theological perspective influences their client, (after all if someone is claiming to understand what God’s word says then that may over-ride other considerations in different circumstances).

    • Remedy on November 11, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Oh how I wish I had this piece of wisdom a couple years ago. A total mess has been created and we are further than ever from a foundation in which to consider reconciliation. A valuable lesson was learned!!!!

      • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2015 at 9:47 pm

        I’m so sorry for the mess but it’s never too late to learn.

  4. Cecilia on November 11, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Perfect timing! I’ve been in a codependent group at church for 2 years now and been working hard to set boundaries. Just recently one of the leaders stepped down and they put a class member in place. They had been training this class member for over a year. Every time I go to class I feel stressed and pressured, as well as constantly being interrupted when I speak. After reading this I can see that this new leader does not have his boundaries in place and I am going to have to bring it to the attention of the director and leave the group until they remove him. Thank you so much for sharing this timely info.

  5. Daisy on November 11, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Good insights. I’d have to say all my counselors were very good. I do have two questions I’m wondering about after reading this.
    1) When my daughter was in counseling (she was anywhere from 7-13 years old), the counselor would not tell us anything that they talked about. I see that line as being kind of blurry. Yes, by law, they have to tell us if she’s said she wants to kill herself. But, shouldn’t we also know of the “little things” (ie: struggles with homework, pressures from peers, trouble with teachers)? I still don’t exactly know why she was in counseling, but for example if they were talking about her fear of speaking in public, I’d like to know because I have that fear, too. And, whatever the counselor is suggesting, I can reinforce at home (remind her, “Now, remember your counselor told you to…”) or I could offer suggestions that I found helpful in dealing with the issue. Why do counselors have to be so secretive in every issue?
    2) I’ve always had female counselors, so this isn’t an issue, but I can understand why counselors and patients can’t date or be friends while they’re in a patient/counselor relationship. But, after that has passed, why is it still wrong? The people that I know the best are the ones I work with. I have trust issues because of my divorce, but if I’d ever be able to trust anyone, it would be someone I’d worked closely with and got to know very well. I’ve had a good chance to see their character and their view of life.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Daisy,counselors aren’t trying to be secretive but they do need to maintain trust with their “client” which is the child. If the counselor tells the parent what the child has told, the child may choose not to disclose or be open with the counselor. That being said, I think a good counselor is always trying to improve the parent child relationship as well so the counselor might say “I think it would be helpful to tell your parents about this so they can encourage you in these areas that you want to work on. Can talk to them together about this? Or Do you mind if I talk to your parents about this?

      Second as far as counselors becoming personal friends – most licenses have a legal boundary of two years after therapy is over you are not to have any personal relationship with a former client. The thinking is, you might need your “counselor” again in the future and if you’ve crossed that boundary into friendship, it can never be uncrossed back into therapist. Plus, your counselor has given you the best of herself in the counseling session. Your therapy hour is all about you – your hurts, your goals, your needs, your healing. That feels great. The counselor puts her own needs and personal life aside during the hour unless she is in emergency. Friendships are not like that. What you admired in your counselor in the therapy hour, may not translate the same into friendship. She may not be as “wonderful” when you hang out together for a full day. She may have her own needs, expectations, weaknesses that you never saw, etc. Trust me, these boundaries are in place for a good reason and crossing them does not usually result in a good friendship. It usually results in hurt, disappointed expectations and no therapist to go talk to about it because you both tried to turn your professional relationship into something different.

      • Daisy on November 11, 2015 at 4:48 pm

        That all makes sense, Leslie. I guess I wasn’t thinking of the counselor/client relationship that way. It makes sense that she has given you her best for that hour, but may not be the same in a friendship outside of the office. (I guess I was thinking more about the people I interact with in regular jobs and how I see their personalities very clearly, but that’s not the same as a counselor would be – a counselor gives you their best for that hour, as you said; a co-worker at a regular job may not).

  6. Aleea on November 11, 2015 at 11:48 am

    “Friends: Have your counselors had good boundaries with you?”

    To me, the important thing is never, ever stop praying, or thinking or checking, —take responsibility. Lord, here I am, I have nothing if you don’t help me. I always ask: Lord, is this counselor helping me? . . . .I think I have a wonderful counselor with every credential possible who really, truly gets my issues (—even theological) and who will not tolerate people staying broken. —BUT, I also regularly talk to other counselors just to check. I will go to them and lay the whole thing out asking: “Listen, we are doing this, this, this and that, et.al. —What do you think about that?”

    I can tell you in no uncertain terms, to me, the most useful thing we do is pray together. We always stop and pray when I am stuck and I simply can not answer a lot of the questions she asks me.

    “Informed Consent and Confidentiality: When you go to a licensed counselor, they are required to inform you (before you open your mouth) the rules of confidentiality and what would constitute a breach of confidentiality. This is important because when you go to a counselor you assume everything is confidential. That’s not true.” . . . . . Listen, mine did but. . . . But you know what? I just want to be healed. I gave her unlimited power of attorney: tell anything to anyone if you think we can get some answers. I don’t care what you tell. I would go on national television with my issues. My issues are not criminal, adultery, porn, deviant lifestyles, weapon sales, trade secrets, tax evasion, et.al. My issues are with my mother, God, Jesus then my family, et.al. . . . . .tell anyone, anything if it will help us get answers. What do I care who knows I have mountains of serious issues with loving and accepting myself, with shaming myself, with the Bible, with the Christ of Faith vs. the Jesus of History, etc. All this ridiculous secrecy is why NO ONE can get any answers (—or maybe there are no usable answers so it doesn’t matter). . . . .I go to lots of Bible studies! Most Bible studies are totally controlled —The way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. . . . that gives the illusion of freedom.

    —But, I will also say that I realized very early on that I had to help my counselor help me. Even though she is expert at not allowing distractions. . . . . I may actually be the textbook definition of a distraction. I always pray hard before I get to the office: Lord, please, please help me, help Dr. Meier help me and I practice in my mind NOT going down rabbit holes. . . . .Also, one thing I always do is call her Dr. Meier even though she has asked me to call her by her first name on a number of occasions. I do that for me because it signals to me that this is about healing and getting better. This is not a bible study, nor is it fellowship, or even friendship. I need help and healing. . . . On the other hand, I will say we have laughed so hard at times, I think we were both crying. —Lose your mind and come to your senses!!! A wife can go to any extent of upsetting her own world, others world and even this whole world than accepting first her faults or follies, her mothers, her husbands.

    Life is pain and anyone who says differently is selling you something. Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others.

    We do agree on one thing, serious doubts and all, —all change comes from deepening our understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in our hearts. Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant. God can make good use of all that happens, but the loss is as real as it gets. Healing just means refocusing.

  7. susen on November 11, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    As someone who has had experience with a host of counselors and one psychiatrist over the last 30 years, I couldn’t agree more with Leslie’s article on the need to establish and maintain counselor/patient boundaries.

    Generally, when we finally get to a counselor, we are in such a mess that we want help and we want it now. However, the initial meeting, in my experience, needs to be an interview by the client, who should have high expectations for intake forms (are they neat, orderly, personalized and not just copies from the internet), is the receptionist helpful and professional, is the waiting room comfortable and clean, how is the bathroom? Silly as these indicators may sound, they all reveal a bit about the therapist’s standards of professionalism. Is the therapist neatly attired? Office clean? Credentials displayed?

    I have learned to ask, “Have you had experience with . . . (whatever it is that I want to work on)?

    At this point in my life, I am able to say I want to work on 1, 2, and 3. If you see something else in our visits that I need to explore, that is fine, but these are the three things that I need to address. If that kind of forthrightness scares off the counselor, then I was in the wrong office. (Been there, too!)

    Also, when I when I write that check and do not feel I have gotten my money’s worth, I need to ask myself why not. May be me or it may be the counselor, but I don’t need to pay money to stay stuck–whatever the reason. And I start the next session by explaining those thoughts.

    My personal examples of counselor’s breaking the rules:

    “I’m getting married in two weeks and I don’t want to talk about marriage issues. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about? No, then that will be $100.” (One session)

    A counselor who couldn’t wait to hear what I’d been up to because she was living vicariously through my experiences. (Very bad three sessions.)

    A counselor who dropped the F-bomb every other sentence. (One very uncomfortable session)

    Two counselors that I saw for almost a year who ultimately became my employers. Both times the relationships became friendships and both jobs worked out, but neither time was optimally professional. Neither of these women used the term “abuse” when naming what I was experiencing would have helped me. While I was fine with it, my daughters both thought I was being exploited. Maybe so, maybe no.

    Three preachers–Yikes! Never again! Two told me to go home, be grateful for what I had, and submit. One spent most of the time telling me his problems. And, in a small town, you never know when your story will become public fodder.

    And then there was Nancy–she picked me up, dusted me off, and set me straight. She was a strong woman. She showed displeasure and chastised me when I needed it (and I needed it!). She made a relaxation tape during one session that was tailored to my “happy place.” That tape was a lifesaver. Every session was a bit uncomfortable–not in a bad way–but she pushed, prodded, cajoled, praised, and accompanied me all the way to health. (And I remember being hurt when she said she would not be attending a social function after I had mentioned that I was going. Why not? Professionalism. And the reason she even mentioned it? I was thinking friendship–she knew it and nipped it in the bud. She was the only counselor I saw for a protracted amount of time that I did not establish a friendship with–and the most effective counselor by far.

    We have to relate to our counselors; otherwise we would not have a working relationship–but both counselor and client will have an optimal relationship only if boundaries are observed by both sides. At least this has been my experience. Hope it serves helpful to someone. And sorry for the length. I tried to be brief . . .but !!!!

    Blessings to all,
    susen

    • Beth on November 11, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      I had a counselor who started each session asking if I thought he could do the job despite being in a group known for Christian counselors specializing in trauma. Why did he keep asking me if I thought he could do his job? I grew tired of telling him I believed in him.( It turned out he didn’t know what he was doing and I left the practice after a few months.) The bigger question to me is how do you find counselors for abusers? There are so few programs for victims and even fewer programs available to help the rare perpetrator who wants to change. Does anyone know some programs for the repentive male abuser who is seriously committed to learning how to change their thinking?

      • Maria on November 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

        Beth,
        “The bigger question is how do you find counselors for abusers”. If the abuser really wants to change, he/she will seek help for himself/herself. Of course the first step would be to acknowledge they’ve done wrong, which many refuse to do. It’s easier to blame than to deal with their faults. Our behaviors reflect our beliefs and abusers have a warped belief system. Changing that belief system takes a lot of work, honesty, accountability, humility, time etc. You probably intended to ask about counselors for abusers, not about you finding one for them (please correct me if I’m wrong). Was wondering if you personally know of an abuser who is looking to change.

        • Beth on November 11, 2015 at 7:27 pm

          I am well aware that we can’t change anyone but ourselves. Yes, I know abusers who want to change and have changed. They take their own initiative, have accountability and spend so very much money in counseling. Beyond court ordered anger management classes, there really are not that many programs for men, fewer still for female abusers.

      • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2015 at 9:48 pm

        Sounds like he needed his ego stroked. This is a big No No again – using the client to meet a need of our own. We are to be there to help them. We are also to be aware of our own “issues” (we all have them) so that we don’t “use” the client to meet our own needs.

  8. Dianna on November 11, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Great questions and advise from a long-term counselor and couch of women w/ abuse and trauma issues! Thank you!

    Helpful comments from many, too.

    It seems almost impossible to know one’s responsibilities, wise questions, red flags and boundaries when going to counseling. It is hard to see past one’s hurt, confusion and chaos. Too easy to be too vulnerable and trusting in a human being, thus too hefty expectations, also.

    Love the insightful guidelines/questions given today and in other articles in how to choose a counselor. Personally, I had no clue and made lots of mistakes that were traumatic, at times. I learned to gauge the relationship and when to leave without taking the experience personally. God protected me.

    To those beginning counseling, especially for the first time or after some hard experiences, to read,re-read Leslie’s advise completely before making an appointment. Writing down questions and notes to take to the appointment can be quite helpful/ Being ‘godly-assertive’ is a good practice, too.

    Personally, I have found that asking if the counselor , in the initial consultation, is experienced and comfortable in dealing w/ trauma and family abuse. I also ask about the professional’s methods or theory, if it is not mentioned. It is your time, life, vulnerableness on the line so, it is important to be careful in finding the right professional before becoming too vulnerable and take responsibility for your part. It is sooo easy to walk in and just dump all

  9. Dianna on November 11, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Great questions and advise from a long-term counselor and couch of women w/ abuse and trauma issues! Thank you!

    Helpful comments from many, too.

    It seems almost impossible to know one’s responsibilities, wise questions, red flags and boundaries when going to counseling. It is hard to see past one’s hurt, confusion and chaos. Too easy to be too vulnerable and trusting in a human being, thus too hefty expectations, also.

    Love the insightful guidelines/questions given today and in other articles in how to choose a counselor. Personally, I had no clue and made lots of mistakes that were traumatic, at times. I learned to gauge the relationship and when to leave without taking the experience personally. God protected me.

    To those beginning counseling, especially for the first time or after some hard experiences, to read,re-read Leslie’s advise completely before making an appointment. Writing down questions and notes to take to the appointment can be quite helpful/ Being ‘godly-assertive’ is a good practice, too.

    Personally, I have found that asking if the counselor , in the initial consultation, is experienced and comfortable in dealing w/ trauma and family abuse. I also ask about the professional’s methods or theory, if it is not mentioned. It is your time, life, vulnerableness on the line so, it is important to be careful in finding the right professional before becoming too vulnerable and take responsibility for your part. It is sooo easy to walk in and just dump all thoughts and emotions on the counselor and expect the person to pick you up emotionally in a far too dependent way. I have (you can too) learned from Leslie the personal independence of ’empowerment.’ This is what you want, not another person to be dependent upon.

    Please, please inform and advocate for yourself to stop the victimization and dependence cycle!

    Thank you, Leslie. Best wishes for re-fueling in Florida!

    • Maria on November 11, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      You have the wrong counselor if he/she:
      1) Does not believe you
      2) Says problems are always 50/50
      3) Tells you to go pray more
      4) Tells you to go submit more
      5) Tells you to suffer as Christ suffered for you

      • Dianna on November 11, 2015 at 6:50 pm

        Yes, and if:

        …he/she bullies you

        …tells you that your marriage is over and that ALL evolve and you may have several marriages b/c of that

        …looks super-uncomfortable as you tell (not emote) but tell about a trauma or abuse experience

        …has a philosophy that is not immoral necessarily but definitely miles away from godly principles

        …tries to verbally and emotionally abuse you into continuing w/ his/her therapy course when you calmly, honestly, tactfully disagree and cancel the counseling

        …when the counselor talks against you to your spouse in negative ways behind your back

        and many other issues that Leslie has written and spoken about. It is not just about poor marriage counseling, Maria.

        Thanks for the great points!

        • Edmund on November 11, 2015 at 10:44 pm

          Dianna’s list:

          …he/she bullies you (been there)

          …tells you that your marriage is over and that ALL evolve and you may have several marriages b/c of that (not those words but similar spirit)

          …looks super-uncomfortable as you tell (not emote) but tell about a trauma or abuse experience (took my wife’s side when I respectfully tried to explain that our disagreement on the definition of truthfulness was a fundamental problem)

          …has a philosophy that is not immoral necessarily but definitely miles away from godly principles (check, although I’m willing to consider immoral).

          …tries to verbally and emotionally abuse you into continuing w/ his/her therapy course when you calmly, honestly, tactfully disagree and cancel the counseling (spot on)

          …when the counselor talks against you to your spouse in negative ways behind your back (bingo)

          Where did you say your counselor’s office is again? Maybe i saw you in the lobby 🙂

      • Beth on November 11, 2015 at 7:34 pm

        Fabulous list ladies! Keep them coming! I have one for you. I was told that abuse was too dangerous for our church counselors to help me because they feared for the possible insurance issues and safety of the sanctuary. Any other problem they said they would be glad to help me, but abuse…sorry, that they can not give counsel for. It might affect the safety of the congregation and the pastoral staff. Huh? I thought God was stronger than the devil’s schemes.

        • Leslie Vernick on November 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm

          In our litigious society people helpers live afraid. Sad but true.

        • Leonie on November 12, 2015 at 6:30 pm

          I do laugh a bit when I hear that because most abusers don’t abuse in front of others – usually they are concerned with presenting a pristine image, and blame the spouse and pretend the spouse is not ok or not sane and sensible. It would be rare for an abuser to abuse church staff or do something destructive to the church. The church needs to be a voice for the voiceless and stand up boldly for righteousness and protect the weak so that was not a helpful church.
          I agree our society is litigious and I am not a counsellor but I imagine Lealie has seen a lot.

        • Susanne on November 24, 2015 at 6:44 pm

          Aleea

          I tried to respond a few times earlier but it didn’t post for some reason so I am trying once again from a my iPad. Thank you so much for the quote from Andrew Murray’s book. I read it over a few times to let it sink in. I would love to be able to say (and truly mean it) that I don’t ever doubt. When I do things in my own strength or I simply ignore the prompting a of the Holy Spirit, then I am not putting my trust in the only One who I should never be doubting. I have had what you call a “beating” more times than I care to remember. I am truly trying to pray and listen for His still, small voice to lead and guide me every step of the way. I have had times where I knew without a shadow of doubt that God was going to take care of a certain situation. Faith rose up in me and nobody could have told me anything that could sway me from believing that. I would like more of those and by continuing in prayer, reading the Word and listening, I believe this can become a normal way of life if we press in and seek His face.

          • Aleea on November 24, 2015 at 9:49 pm

            Hello Susanne,

            Thank you for your diligence in keeping at posting. I have had posting issues, writ-large as I think everyone knows. I will try my Blackberry, then my tablet, then my laptop, then my home computer, et. al. nothing will post, nothing. . . . .Then, all of them post at once and I look like a bloomin’ idiot. . . . .ha, ha, ha, ha,. . . . ha, ha, ha, ha. . . . . I had some answered prayer tonight (very technical —not computer related— in nature, takes a long time to explain) but I had just about NO faith (—half a mustard seed sized faith) when I was praying and the Lord answered it anyway, amazing. . . . .Like in Acts twelve when all the brethren are at the house of Mary and they are gathered together and praying for Peter’s release. When Peter is released and goes to the house where they are praying, he knocks at the door and Rhoda comes to answer. She recognizes Peter’s voice and is so joyful she runs in to the prayer group —that is earnestly praying for his release— and announces that Peter is standing in front of the gate.…They are praying for his release, —praying for his release!!!— and they are so faithless that even when Rhoda keeps telling them —Peter is at the gate—they do not believe her but instead they tell her: ἔλεγον ἄγγελός ἐστιν αὐτοῦ which is basically saying “you are nuts, it can’t be him, it is his angel. . . . .It is hard to believe and trust God!!! Why is it so, so hard??? . . . . . You say: “I have had times where I knew without a shadow of doubt that God was going to take care of a certain situation. Faith rose up in me and nobody could have told me anything that could sway me from believing that.” Excellent, that is so wonderful!!! . . . . .and you say: “I believe this can become a normal way of life if we press in and seek His face.” That is what I want too and am so praying for it every day and I pray that for you too. Thanks Susanne.



        • Susanne on November 24, 2015 at 7:11 pm

          At my former church two of our pastors came to our home after my husband pushed me down and injured me. They didn’t give any scripture, nor did they even try to hold him accountable for his abuse. They were well aware of his actions for years. All they wanted to do was send us for yet more counselling together. We had been to several prior to this. Our senior pastor never once called or spoke to us about the abuse. The two that came were the ministries pastor and the young adult pastor. I was the one quoting related scripture and trying to help them see the truth. I was promised something that they did not attempt to do after speaking with my h who made up a different story about what happened every time he spoke about it!

  10. Edmund on November 11, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    My list of experiences during/following one session with a licensed, christian, FMT:

    1. You need to counsel with me on a regular basis for 90 days and decide if you want to stay married
    2. You’re not a real man
    3. You’re a one-issue Johnny
    4. I’m going to sue you
    5. My office is holy ground, a laboratory for God’s work
    6. I have 40 years of experience and a doctoral degree and you aren’t asking me for advice on how to be a better husband?
    7. Isn’t it ironic that I have been married for 40 years and know how to interact with my wife and you have to sit here and ask me what your wife thinks of you?
    8. Yes, I’m mocking you. You deserve it. God mocked sinners.
    9. You’re despicable and I never want to see your face or hear from you again.

    That’s a partial list off the top of my head. I think I have notes somewhere. I appreciated the discussion on professional counseling boundaries and, in the absence of professionalism, counselor abuse and malpractice.

    • Beth on November 12, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      Edmund, Your counseling experience sounds terrible. I imagine you paid a pretty penny for the privilege of being berated. I want to echo your favorable report of an excellent counselor who I had who was not a Christian and was a Social Worker for battered woman rather than a MD or PHD. She truly helped me more than any other person ever had. Guess what my fee was? Free. Funds contributed by generous people in my community to their local domestic violence shelter couldn’t have been more well spent or appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  11. Edmund on November 11, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    I would also like to mention (and I believe it is consistent with Mrs. Vernick’s thoughts, despite the necessary and wise caveat) that the best counseling experience I had, by far, was with an unlicensed but very skilled and experienced intensive christian counseling program that was NOT affiliated with my church. The counselor was fair, even handed, equally challenging to both of while not attempting to find equal fault or identical prescriptions, treated the root issues – not the symptoms, took lots of time to listen and ask questions before drawing conclusions, very humble and flexible in working to connect triggers and reactions to their underlying source, etc.

    Being personally in tune with the Lord and seeking experienced and wise counsel from one who if gifted by that same Lord to shepherd others through the process is such a personal, and unique, and complex dynamic. It sounds trite, but nothing can replace prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the wise use of a multitude of advisors in the selection of a counselor.

    Great post…great conversation.

  12. Aleea on November 12, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Re: vexatious & frivolous lawsuits

    It is because no real consequences exist for doing it. . . . In abuse cases, where there is vexatious litigation (legal action brought, generally with no merits, solely to harass or subdue a wife) and especially if it takes the form of a primary frivolous lawsuit (repetitive, unwarranted filings of meritless motions), attorneys *can* be disbarred BUT such disbarment is only reserved for repeated or particularly egregious violations. The initial penalty for frivolous lawsuits is normally monetary fines, which is why so many are filed. Suspension only happens if repeated frivolous suits are filed. Disbarment would only apply to repeated violations. That said, most lawyers are normally careful about lending their names to such frivolous actions. States all have different rules regarding the circumstances under which a litigant or lawyer may be found to be a vexatious litigator but once one is tagged by a court with such a finding, then they can easily be prevented from bringing any legal action in the future without first obtaining a court’s permission. . . . . In corp. tax law, corporations go for it all. They try any and ALL structures that will avoid paying any taxes. A lot of the cases I work on are where companies (household names) pay less than 3% in taxes in any given year. I’d bet my life you pay A LOT more than 3% in taxes. You probably pay more than that just to your State. This is because of the consequences to the corp. Generally, even for the most egregious corporate structures (abusive reg inversions), the IRS just settles (negotiates) for pennies on the dollar. No real consequences, so no real change. Just like our personal relationships, just like those vexatious, frivolous lawsuits. . . . . .You get the behavior you reward. If you reward “A” but pray for “B,” you will get “A” absent a New Testament miracle and God rarely sets aside the laws that normally govern the universe, unfortunately.

  13. Valerie on November 14, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    One “Christian” counselor who suggested on several occasions I go a local monastery to have some “quiet time” with God (and also suggested some books heavy on mysticism)

    One “Christian” counselor who claimed she had been married to a narcissist and seemingly was trying to have some kind of “do-over” with my husband (countertransference?), coddling him and trying to be his rescuer. Said my ex was a narcissist but then in joint sessions said I needed to look at my issues. She also didn’t hold my ex accountable whatsoever when he didn’t do the assigned homework the one and only time she asked.

    One “counselor” I found on the internet to do phone counseling (I was desperate after the previous issues) who had scripture and Christianese plastered all over her website. She turned out to be a possible sociopath. For real. She wanted to speak to my ex after several sessions (some of which she was berating her own husband to me) and from then on her “counseling” resembled more of a triangulation agenda. One “session” she used the restroom while she was on the phone with me (and told me so). I was too traumatized and barely coherent at the time this was going on to think very clearly. I was also terrified that if I told my ex I didn’t want to talk to her anymore that he would use that against me without mercy to anyone who would listen. When I stopped seeing the other two he had a field day with it so I didn’t want to give him more fuel. My last call to her she screamed at me on the phone and told my ex that she was going to tell him he SHOULD divorce me. Then she proceeded to call him at random times (not as a session) to keep the triangulation going. Incredibly sick and twisted. There is even more to that story but it almost triggers me just writing about it. I shared it because I think others should be aware that these types of people are out there. When your gut tells you to RUN from someone in particular….RUN!

    • Aleea on November 15, 2015 at 5:53 am

      Valerie,

      —Run, get to safety and then file complaints (documented in letters) with the various governing entities. —And if you can document any damages (—that is always the hard part, showing damages —and I understand that in this case you probably can not), file a lawsuit so that you will leave the world a better place. That is the appropriate use of the courts, to leave the world a better place. It is stories like that, that sadly cause people to just write-off all Christianity as insane. You have just shown why too much faith can be very dangerous. —Use serious professionals who have published real research in their fields. Research that has gone through peer review. Peer review should weed out the “mysticism” you mentioned. Mysticism does not make it through peer review with other Ph.D./M.D. psychologist/psychiatrist/medical professionals. —And don’t be hard on yourself, I bet you were “traumatized and barely coherent at the time.” See: Kim Fredrickson, Building A Compassionate Relationship With Yourself and Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend. —It is going to be hard enough face-to-face without trying to do this type of complex work over the phone. —Moreover, as you know, Christ is not anyone who says they represent Him. He is totally, completely, wholly “Other” so don’t be discouraged by sales people, selling various and sundry gods. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians; your Christians are so unlike your Christ!!!”

    • Maria on November 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      After reading through so many negative experiences with counselors, I thought I’d share something that one of my counselor’s said that changed my perspective and has had a huge impact on my life, and also my kids’ lives. When I gave examples of my negative responses to my husband’s bad behavior, she acknowledged that what my husband was doing was wrong and he was starting a lot of the conflict, but she also explained to me that I was not pleasing God with my own behavior. Sometimes, he would purposely try to provoke me hoping I would respond badly. And whenever I responded poorly, I would feel awful, and my husband would blame me for whatever was happening. Because of her advice, I would ask myself if I was pleasing God with my responses and over time, my responses were better. My husband hasn’t changed because of this, but I continue to grow and my kids respect me. I would have lost the respect of my kids if I had continued to respond poorly.

      • Aleea on November 15, 2015 at 9:23 pm

        Maria,
        ―That is beautiful and if we need helping doing that. . . . How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie. . . . I love that book, it is so easy to read compared to the books I usually read and it always challenges and convicts me: page 90 “. . .We don’t really believe God when he tells us that these hardships can and will be used for our good. We don’t believe him when he tells us that he is our deepest source of satisfaction and joy.” ―Oh, so true. I certainly do not always believe it, at all, sometimes I do. . . . Page 90 again: “There is a deep and very old voice in us that whispers that God can’t be trusted with anything so important as our life. That fear is the root of sin. It moves us to believe that life is only what we make it. Gripped by that anxiety, we fear that we will not get the respect we want or the accomplishments and possessions we think we deserve unless we grab as much as we can. . . .” ―Yes, exactly describes me at times. . . . . Anyway, no one can interact with the old you if the old you is really not there anymore. When we really/ truly change, our husbands have to change. —They can’t interact with an “us” no longer there. . . . .I’d like to become who God wants me to be, if possible. . . . I just don’t get all the mysteries, they drive me nuts. God has so many mysterious plans. Every morning I tell let go of myself and surrender to God under the assumption [and it is a huge one for me] that trusting God is the wisest step. I do snuggle into the love of God for strength and refreshment, I just can’t keep it going running through the rest of the day, especially out-of-control days.

    • Valerie on November 16, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks Aleea and Edmund for your comments. I haven’t talked to any of those counselors in a few years. I want nothing to do with any of them. I considered filing some kind of complaint against the last one since it was so egregious but decided against it, just wanting to put it all behind me. I have reason to believe that she also is using a fictitious name. She is an evil woman and I believed dealing with her in any capacity would only be a setback for me. She is vindictive enough that I fully believe she would go to great lengths to punish me for outing her.

      • Aleea on November 16, 2015 at 10:45 pm

        Valerie,
        Exactly, . . . .if the Holy Spirit is telling you to drop it, that is what you want to do. Each of us only has so much capacity that is for sure. God tells me “NO” at times on things and when I don’t listen, well, I can’t think of a time in the last year when it turned out good. It is always a beating.

  14. Edmund on November 15, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Valerie: May I add this to the discussion?

    1 Corinthians 6:1–6: When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers* ! 2 Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves? 3 Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? 6 But instead, one believer* sues another—right in front of unbelievers!

    I am aware of the remedies that Aleea mentions. In my case – since the therapist is a professing christian – i believe this passage from 1 Corinthians plus Matthew 18:15 definitely apply. I would suggest asking your counselor to meet again with one of his (or yours) pastors/elders present as a witness. The lawsuit should not be considered until after step 3. Filing a complaint with the licensing agency or professional board(s) is not a lawsuit in my opinion, but I still believe the counselor should hear from you that the complaint has been (will be) filed.

    Praying for wisdom for you should you choose to take steps in exposing the deeds of darkness.

    • Aleea on November 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Edmund,

      That is very good and I fully understand what you are saying and I also understand the approach in those passages. Those are very good steps and if resolved, praise be to God!!! ―If your Christian community possesses ALL the resources necessary to always resolve personal disputes between all parties, awesome. ―Do we believe that a Christian may seek compensation for injuries from another Christian’s insurance company as long as the claim is pursued without malice or slander? Do we believe that Christians are prohibited from bringing civil lawsuits against other Christians or Christian organizations to resolve personal disputes? All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people not utilize the court systems where needed. (See The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986 2nd Edition by Dr. Stephen Neill and Dr. Tom Wright, re:lawsuits)

  15. Leonie on November 16, 2015 at 1:30 am

    I agree Aleea, over the years I have felt checks in my life that I can only describe as God prompting me in certain ways. Many times I needed to understand, am looking for the why and I missed the obeying. I need that trust – to snuggle in, obey and understand that I can trust him! Yet, he is the one that made me the way I am, wanting to know the why! Many times I realize God is not looking to use me to change culture or anything externally profound as much he wants to change my heart. My ex is responsible for a lot but I can leave that to God, he wants me to have a heart that is right within no matter what anyone else has done to me. Leslie’s teaching speaks truth to us! Truth that you won’t hear in a secular counsellor’s office but it is truth that God shows us in his word about things that are important to him!

    • Aleea on November 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      Leonie you say “. . . . Many times I realize God is not looking to use me to change culture or anything externally profound as much he wants to change my heart. . . . . God shows us in his word about things that are important to him!”

      ―Wow, that is so, so true on both counts. God is concerned about what He is concerned about ―not what I think He should be concerned about or what I am concerned about. It is so simple I keep thinking it is a trap, no way it is that easy:

      From, Defeating Depression by Leslie Vernick is great p. 200 “. . . . The remedy for unbelief is trust. He tells us, “Trust me with your whole heart. Don’t depend upon your own way of looking at things. In every way look for me and I will direct your steps” . . . .Jesus told his disciples,“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” . . . . Trust Jesus. This sounds too simple, yet Jesus tells us that when we trust him, we don’t get so rattled by life . . . . The opposite of trust is unbelief.”

      ―I so love that. It so tugs at my heart (―whatever that even means, I don’t really know.) I guess it feels right, warm and true but I have lots of feelings and they take me everywhere. . . . . . I don’t feel like writing the other side of that argument today for balance. (See: Who Wrote the Bible? by Dr. Richard E. Friedman and Who Wrote the New Testament? By Dr. Burton L. Mack if you need balance.) . . . . . Last time God lost faith in mankind, He sent a flood. . . . .This time, He sent all those damn scholars –hundreds of them! Why Lord!?. . . . researching everything imaginable in detail and then writing about it in detail.

  16. Leonie on November 16, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I guess I think about Onesimus in the book of Philemon and other exhortations to slaves in the New Testament. It is more about being of a humble attitude, a hard working attitude and being kind to people, treating them in a loving & Christ honouring way. It was not about rising up to overthrow slavery in that society.
    Masters are to treat the slaves well, as though they are brothers in the household of faith if they are believers and slaves are to labour as though they are working for God and to do a good job even when no one is looking or even if their owners were not good or kind or fair.
    It is mind boggling because our society wants so use politics to make our society Christian but is that what our God is concerned about? Or is it our attitude of heart and how we behave and treat others and be sure not to seek revenge…. We are to be a voice for the voiceless and give a cup of water to the thirsty … My ex is responsible for his stuff but I am responsible for me before God. Isn’t this what Leslie is always try to teach us – we can’t do it without core strength.

    • Aleea on November 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm

      Leonie,

      You say: “. . . . is that what our God is concerned about? Or is it our attitude of heart and how we behave and treat others and be sure not to seek revenge…. We are to be a voice for the voiceless and give a cup of water to the thirsty … My ex is responsible for his stuff but I am responsible for me before God. Isn’t this what Leslie is always try to teach us – we can’t do it without core strength.”

      I have to think more about the slave part but the rest of it is beautiful, kind and compassionate. ―Yes, that is what God wants us to do. . . . Lord, that is what you want me to do, please help me do it. Lord, I simply can not do it if You don’t help me do it. . . . . A space that is wide-open (―without closing it off from reality behind closed groups and doctrinal statements) ―Open, yet a safe, judgement-free zone. A palm tree garden oasis where family issues and doubts are totally free to surface but where we don’t have contention, bitterness, strife, or quarreling. A place to go to share deep hurt, prayer requests; a place filled, as much as possible, with the Holy Spirit, His Word, His power, His wisdom, His love, and His priorities. A sanctuary of rest, encouragement, fervent prayer, and the power of God. ―Lord God, somehow change me into that, I can’t change myself.

  17. Leonie on November 17, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Hi Aleea, I am not condoning slavery but more noting that whoever Paul was speaking to whether husband, wives, children, slave owners whomever – his concern was that we reflect Jesus in many ways by acting toward others with humility, justice, mercy …. Thankfully slavery was abolished in the 1800’s but God’s word to any believer about how we are to be and what he values are timeless isues of the heart. He values our obedience more than sacrifice – he delights in obedience more than in sacrifice, e dues not want us to trust in ourselves but to acknowledge him in all our ways and he will direct our paths. There is so much there for us but we are so distractible!!

    • Aleea on November 17, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      Leonie, you say “. . . . . what he values are timeless isues of the heart. He values our obedience more than sacrifice –He delights in obedience more than in sacrifice, He does not want us to trust in ourselves but to acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our paths.”

      * Do I acknowledge my dependence on Him and my accountability to Him? ―Yes I do!
      * What is my attitude toward my sin? Am I concerned or indifferent about it? ―I hate it and I am very concerned when I commit sins. I don’t try to manage my sins, I repent of them.
      * What is my attitude toward other Christians? ―I appreciate being with them and learning from them.
      . . . . good stuff, thanks Leonie!

  18. Susanne on November 24, 2015 at 10:40 am

    When we were still married, my h was seeing a Christian counsellor for several weeks at a well known and respected ministry. His counsellor asked to meet with me. I walked into the room and spoke with the counsellor for less than 10 minutes before he told me that I was co-dependant and co-dependant people break up marriages! I was prompted by Holy Spirit the night before to write a letter to this counsellor and I had the letter with me. You see he only knew what my h had been telling him and did not know me at all. We all know what abusive people can say that is not true at all. Anyway, after the shock of what this counsellor said to me, I managed (through my tears) to ask him if he would read my letter when he had time. He said he would read it right then. As he was reading it, his countenance changed and then what I heard next was that we were not honouring God and should separate! My intention for writing the letter was to inform the counsellor about the situation in our marriage. I knew I only had a very short window of time with him before he would call my h back in the room. I didn’t stand a chance because of the lies my h told this counsellor.

    We had gone to another counsellor together and this one would tell me things about my h and then would do the same with him.

    • Aleea on November 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Susanne you say: “. . . . I was prompted by Holy Spirit the night before to write a letter to this counselor and I had the letter with me. . . . .” Awesome!!! Doing what the Holy Spirit tells you to do, if that isn’t the key, I don’t know what is. Have you found the Spirit of God draws or leads you more as you listen more or is the leading constant for you?

  19. Susanne on November 24, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Aleea
    The leading of the Holy Spirit is always there if we are truly listening. Do I always listen for His prompting or leading? I have to say that too many times I have acted out of fear in the past, however, when I pray and wait

    • Susanne on November 24, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Oops I didn’t finish before it somehow posted…sorry.

      When I pray and wait, He is always there to guide me. When I have ignored the prompting things didn’t go well.

      • Aleea on November 24, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        . . . Thank you so much Susanne! I very much appreciate that. . . .Hmm. . .I get the “not go well” part. . . . I call that a beating, even if it is for my own good. As I have said, the Holy Spirit tells me “NO” at times on things and when I don’t listen, well, I can’t think of a time in the last year when it turned out good. It is always a beating. Anyways, I have been reading this book called Experiencing the Holy Spirit by Andrew Murray. . . .“God desires to make you full of the Holy Spirit. He would have your whole nature and life under the power of the Holy Spirit. He asks if you really desire to have it that way. Let there be in your answer no uncertain sound, but let all that is within you cry out: “Yes, Lord, with all my heart.” Let this promise of your God become the chief element in your life, the most precious, the only thing you seek. Do not be content to think and pray over it, but this very day enter into a transaction with God that will admit of no doubt concerning the choice you have made.” ―Admit no doubt? ―I can never get myself to that stage of zero doubt. Have you ever been there?

  20. Aleea on November 24, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Re: those two pastors. . . . .I am so, so sorry that happened Susanne. Just horrible how little help there really is. It is truly amazing how unaware even pastors can be.

  21. Edmund on November 25, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Susanne and Aleea: Nice exchange. it was very helpful and encouraging (to me). won’t add anything here, but this would be the appropriate page (the counselor boundary page) to note that I did file official complaints with my local licensing authority and the AAMFT regarding my counselor’s conduct. Both organizations offer confidentiality to the counselor unless fault is found and they are not legal proceedings. if my concerns are unfounded, the counselor and his business should not be harmed in any way.

  22. Linda on June 3, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    I am so glad I read this post. My therapist is a man and the good thing is he has very good professional boundaries. I have developed feelings for him and I’ve spent some sessions talking about it with him. So it is very helpful to see you say that it’s common. That helps me a lot because I feel some shame about my feelings for him. Though I’ve never figured that out till this moment reading your post. The Lord told me that he has the most to lose, mainly his career. He is an excellent therapist, I’ve had several so I know.

    My case is very complicated and in the past I’ve lost friends because they couldn’t here my pain without it messing them up. Now that I have him I have someone who knows how to listen and then take care of himself after I leave so he can be “clean” for the next person. Since I am now a caregiver for the elderly, I am learning this powerful way of being. I am especially good with the ones who have dementia. The other day I was able to remind a clients family member that part of the reason I’m there is to help preserve their relationship with their parent.

    All this is really helpful for my recovery from my past relationships. Thank you.

Leave a Comment





Read More

My wife told me she has never loved me. Now what?

Question: Two months ago my wife advised me she has been unhappy, particularly of late, with our marriage. After some initial jostling to figure out the problem she has shared with me that she does not “love” me as wife should love her husband. Unlike many similar problems like this with married couples who have…

Read More...

What Do I Do When My Counselor Overrules My Thoughts?

Morning friends, I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. I love this community and the power of the group contributing to the question asked. When I write my response to someone’s question, I cannot possibly cover every possible angle in the amount of space I allot.  That’s why I ask you all to chime…

Read More...

Topic: How do I heal from emotional wounds?

Hi Friends, Yes it’s Tuesday. Late Tuesday. I’ve been working on this blog today because of the snow. Yesterday I was scurrying to finish up some writing deadlines and thank you so much for your prayers. I finished three out of four articles. I have one more to write this weekend. I so appreciate your…

Read More...

Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?