As I said in Part 1 of this series, “Breaking Up is Hard to To Do,” I have found that information is empowering for people going through marital conflict or a divorce. Sometimes just knowing WHY you are feeling like you are, or the physiological and psychological reasons for it, can help you manage it better.
I have come to believe that when people find a counselor that is the right fit for them, it changes their world. I have been told that every time they see the counselor, that feeling of being overwhelmed is relieved, like a weight being lifted off their shoulder. But if you can envision a counselor as a personal trainer in “emotional weight lifting,” here is a visualization for that metaphor: when someone first goes to a personal trainer, they can only lift light weights and even then, they need the trainer to often help them, but as they get stronger, with the instruction and coaching from the trainer, they are able to handle more weight with less help, and eventually, many people are able to handle the weight of their life’s issues on their own, or at least with help from a coach only once in a while. So, that is what having a good emotional counselor can do for you, too, but first, you have to find them.
FIRST, FIND A GOOD COUNSELOR
Find a good counselor and go as often as you need to. Finding a good counselor is not as easy as it sounds. Counselors are not a one-size fits all.
- Are you a person who would prefer a counselor who incorporates questions of faith into the counseling? Ministers are often who individuals or couples go to first for advice and counseling, and while ministers are good referral sources and for basic advice and counseling, they should refer you to a trained mental health professional. My father-in-law was a well known and beloved minister, but he told me over 35 years ago that ministers are not trained counselors and so they should work with the individual or couple to find them a good fit for that specific need. Pastoral counselors are often ministers who are also trained mental health professionals; if you want a counselor that will address your issues from a mental health perspective and a faith-based perspective, a pastoral counselor might be a good choice for you.
- Do you have preference of a male or female counselor? There are plenty of counselors of all genders now, so think about who you would feel the most comfortable with when selecting a counselor. There is no reason to be embarrassed or even care why you may feel more comfortable with one gender or another. Right now, you just need to rely on your instincts and find the person that you feel would be the best fit for you.
- Word of Mouth: You can find counselors on the internet, just as once upon a time, people were located in the Yellow Pages, but now, just as in the past, there are better ways. Word of mouth remains a great way to get referrals for nearly everything, including counselors, BUT, take into account that what might be a great fit for your friend or family member may not be the perfect fit for you. The internet is good to get to know the counselors education, training and philosophy, but even with that, you need to know if they are a good fit for you, and the only way to usually know that is either an in-person, Zoom or telephone conference.
- Be Willing to Invest Time and Money to Find a Good Fit: There is a chemistry to personalities fitting for such an intimate relationship as counseling, and having a good personality fit with your counselor may mean the difference in whether your counseling is a success or frustration. Don’t be afraid to interview multiple counselors. Even if you hate to “waste” the money interviewing several to find the counselor that is the right fit, it will be one of the best investments you ever make – if you find the right counselor, they can not only help you through your current crisis but they may be able to help you in your own personal growth (and happiness) for years to come.
Choosing your counselor is an important decision – you may be working with this person regularly and for an extended period of time.
Do yourself a favor, and carefully select your counselor.
While there are many legal issues that must be dealt with in a divorce or other family law matter, dealing with the overwhelming physiological or psychological fallout from the conflict, should be on your list of things to do along with seeking legal counsel. Once you find a counselor that you feel comfortable working with, it will be much easier, more efficient, and less expensive to deal with the legal issues in your case.