The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Counseling Q&A

 

Every counselor has their own approach to helping people.  The following questions are answered by our staff counselor, Anna Diehl, to help you understand her approach to counseling so you can decide if she sounds like someone you would want to work with.

Q: “I’m a man.  Not sure I’m comfortable talking with a woman.”

Anna: “I work with a lot of men and the gender difference has never been a problem. It might sound awkward at first, but there can actually be a great benefit to talking to the opposite sex–especially about communication and sexual issues.  I’ve been able to put men’s minds at ease about many concerns they have dealing with women, and I find my guys really appreciate having the insight of a woman on certain subjects.  I am totally comfortable talking with men who have issues with abusing and/or sexually assaulting females.  It doesn’t make me think less of them at all–instead, I enjoy helping them understand what’s really driving their behavior and how they can find more productive ways of handling their stress.”

Q: “What if I want to talk about a crime I’ve committed?  Or what if I’m currently engaged in illegal activities?  Is there a risk that you’ll turn me in?”

Anna: “The reason I offer to counsel people anonymously is so that I can help people who are not getting help for fear of being turned in.  My concern is not with legalities–it’s with helping people turn away from self-destructive patterns and get aligned with God’s best plan for their life.  I don’t turn people in. I talk with them about how they can improve their choices where they are currently at.”

Q: “Do you help people prep for court trials even if they’re guilty of the crime?”

Anna: “Absolutely!  Guilty or not, no one should have to endure a traumatic trial experience.  I can teach you how to stay calm in the face of public scrutiny, how to defend against manipulation tactics that lawyers use, and how to preserve a sense of dignity through legal proceedings.”

Q: “I’ve never done counseling before.  What does it involve?”

Anna: “Counseling is essentially having a conversation.  In counseling, you are free to openly discuss things that you normally wouldn’t feel safe to discuss with other people.  Because the counselor isn’t making any emotional demands of you, you are free to express your honest self without the usual guarded give-and-take that happens in other human relationships.  For counseling to be effective, you need to feel like your counselor is a safe, trustworthy, compassionate, and knowledgeable person.  You need to feel like they are attentively listening to you, that they sincerely care about you, and that they are not judging you.  You also need to be comfortable with their therapeutic methods, and those methods vary from counselor to counselor.”

Q: “What kinds of therapy methods do you use?”

Anna: “I use a very gentle approach.  I believe that the mind is a very fragile organ which should be treated with great respect.  When stressed, our minds use a variety of methods to protect themselves–things like suppression and denial.  My goal in therapy is to help the mind relax enough to discuss the things that it is feeling stressed by.  My main form of therapy is mental imagery exercises which are customized to fit someone’s specific needs.  After identifying how your mind copes with stress, I suggest specific mental exercises you can use to either improve on those methods or switch to better ones.  You then give me feedback on how the exercises worked for you, and we revise them as needed.  You are never forced into doing anything that you don’t want to do.  I’m always watching for signs that your mind is getting too stressed by therapy.  If that happens, I will help you understand those warning signs and we will slow the pace of therapy to reduce your stress level.

All of my therapy is God centered, which means the health of your soul is a top priority.  What is best for your soul is to be moving forward in a positive relationship with your Creator, and I help you identify steps you can take to do that.  I believe that every struggle can be turned into positive lessons for growth right now.  You do not have to wait to be “cured” before you can greatly benefit from your struggles, and I help you identify how you can start getting maximum benefit out of whatever you’re struggling with.

Self-compassion is a critical part of healing, and understanding helps people empathize with themselves. I am big on helping my clients gain a deeper level of insight into why they do what they do.  Every human behavior makes sense in context, and helping people see how logical their own behavior is (no matter how dysfunctional) helps them have compassion on themselves.  If we’re going to receive God’s mercy and love for us, we need to stop condemning ourselves, and understanding is an important step in that direction.  A lot of my clients come to me feeling really bad about what they do.  I help them build more positive self-images, and I help them identify their strengths and positive traits in the midst of their struggles.”

Q: “Do you pray with people?”

Anna: “No, I don’t, but I am happy to teach you how you can more effectively pray for yourself.  When people ask for counseling, they are usually in a very vulnerable state.  In such a situation, prayer can be too easily used as a manipulation tactic.  I will never encourage you to think that I have more of God than you do, because I don’t.  Instead of teaching you to view my prayers as superior to yours, I will help you gain confidence in talking to God for yourself.”

Q: “Do you use the Bible as a reference tool in therapy?”

Anna: “Unless you have a specific question about something the Bible says, it probably won’t come up in our session. While I am well-versed on the contents of the Bible, I don’t expect other people to be.  Quoting verses out of context is very misleading, and I don’t spend time explaining Bible passages unless that is what someone is interested in discussing.  I will always encourage you to go to God directly for guidance–not to a book.”

Q: “How fast can I expect to progress?”

Anna: “It entirely depends on what God’s plan for you is.  Fabulous progress doesn’t always look like what we want it to look like.  It isn’t usually God’s will to instantly fix our core wounds and issues–that doesn’t mean we can’t greatly benefit by learning to improve how we are coping with those things.”

Q: “What if I’m not a Christian?”

Anna: “People come to me for help with how to even find the real Gods.  Other people grew up in Christian cultures, but they are currently having a crisis of faith.  As long as you sincerely want to know the truth, I can help you understand how to pursue it.  I never pressure anyone to become a Christian, but I am a Christian counselor, and my advice to you will align with the theology presented on this website (which differs quite a bit from mainstream Christianity).  I suggest that you first search on this site for the topic you want to discuss and see if there is already an article posted here on that subject.  That will give you an idea of how I will handle that topic in therapy.  You will find that many of the views posted here are radically different than what is posted on other Christian websites, so before you assume you know how I’d handle a particular subject, look it up or send in a question.”

Q: “How long is a session?”

Anna: “I like to start with 60 minute sessions until I have a good understanding of your background as it relates to the issues you want to discuss.  Time flies when you’re talking about life.  When all that’s needed is a brief check-in, I schedule shorter sessions–usually 30 minutes.”

Q: “How do I quit therapy?”

Anna: “You simply tell me that you don’t want to continue.  You can’t offend me by doing this, and if you don’t feel comfortable talking to me, you definitely should cut ties.  With so many personalities in the world, not every therapist is going to be a fit for you.  Part of the way we create a safe environment is by giving you the option of cutting ties with me at any time.  Also, I am a crisis therapist, meaning that I don’t work with people for many months or years on end.  My goal is to help you understand root causes, equip you with some productive ways to approach healing, and teach you how to benefit spiritually from your struggles.  Those goals are usually accomplished in a few weeks.”

Q: “Do you ever terminate therapy?”

Anna: “My goal is to provide a professional level of therapy for no cost.  I am always punctual, prepared, and focused during therapy sessions.  I will not work with people who are not willing to take their therapy seriously.  My time is limited, and I only schedule appointments with people who are motivated to work.”

Q: “Will you counsel multiple members of a family?”

Anna: “Yes, but I will not share what is said in private sessions with other members.  Each person needs to feel that they have the freedom to talk about other members of the family without negative consequences.  When I work with couples, for example, I prefer to talk with each partner privately so that I can get their unique perspective of the situation.  Group therapy can be very helpful in resolving communication issues, but individual therapy is always recommended since people have different needs.”

Q: “Are you willing to help someone who doesn’t speak English?”

Anna: “The only way this can work is if there is a trustworthy translator available who is fluent in the necessary languages.  It is really not ideal to filter counseling through a third party, but I understand how desperate some situations can get, and I am willing to try it with someone who is ready to work.”

Q: “Can I recommend this service to someone I know?”

Anna: “Absolutely!  I am equipped with the resources I need to do this job–often this is not the case for the family and friends of someone who is in a crisis.  So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by someone who is trying to force you into the role of their counselor, I recommend that you send them here.  I am also happy to help stressed out friends and family who don’t know how to deal with someone who is in a crisis but is refusing to get help.”