Have you ever been to DSW? The designer shoe warehouse? (This place is huge!) Even though I love that store it can be overwhelming at times. And not every pair of shoes feel as good as they look. I’ve impulsively left with that black-striped, brown-bag after a good sale on the latest trend only to experience buyer’s remorse a few weeks later.
Finding a “perfect fit” in a counselor is a lot like shoe shopping. Not every counselor is going to be a good fit for you. (And you can be left with the buyer’s remorse feeling.) Moreover, if you have experienced the impact of pornography or sexual addiction, finding a “perfect fit” is critical.
So if you are looking for a good counselor and find your mind spinning, I hope you find this article on how to find a good counselor helpful.
Let’s start with the basics.
Professionals can have a variety of educational backgrounds and practice emphases. Here is a brief rundown of some the more common credentials:
- Doctoral degree: These clinicians have achieved the most advanced level of education available, which is usually indicated by the initials Ph.D., Ed.D., or PsyD.
- Master’s degree: These clinicians have completed both undergraduate work as well as a graduate degree. The graduate degree is usually identified as a M.A., M.Ed., M.S., MSW or MFT.
Types of Counselors:
- Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed advanced training in mental and emotional disorders. This professional may prescribe medication and typically is more focused on managing medication than on providing talk therapy.
- Psychologist – A psychologist has a doctoral degree but isn’t medically trained. This professional may be specifically trained in testing or assessments but will also conduct traditional therapy.
- Licensed Professional – These clinicians have at least a master’s degree and have completed supervision requirements for licensure in their field. The different types in Washington State include Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
- Chemical Dependency Professional – A Chemical Dependency Professional (CDP) has an associate degree and has met the requirements to treat Chemical Dependency. They specialize in treating alcohol and drug use and abuse. A CDP is not necessarily a Licensed Counselors (listed above).
- Unlicensed Counselor – Either a trained counselor who for whatever reason hasn’t completed the requirements for licensure, or a lay counselor or minister who doesn’t have professional clinical training.
Sex Addiction Treatment and Recovery
As a Christian, you may find that a Christian counselor trained in sex addiction is the ideal choice, but unfortunately, such professionals are rare. Because more resources are available to provide spiritual support, look first for a clinician who understands sexual addiction. If that person is also a Christian, that’s a plus.
What about a secular counselor who is a Sex Addiction Therapist?
If your counselor is practicing good ethics, they won’t do anything to challenge your faith, and someone who doesn’t understand sexual addiction can do more harm than good. So seek a Sex Addiction Therapist first and pray that God will lead you to a specialist who is a Christian.
Where can I find a Sex Addiction Therapist?
This is a database of therapists who have fulfilled the requirements as a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT). Dr. Patrick Carnes, the leading expert in the field, developed the CSAT training and certification program. This program is the highest training in the field of Sex Addiction.
This is a database of therapists who are members of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), an association for professionals who treat sex addiction and trauma.
The Process of Finding a Counselor
Finding a counselor that is best for you can take time and energy. Trust me, all the work you put into this process will pay off in the long run. Here are some helpful ideas to finding the right counselor.
- Ask other recovering people for recommendations. A good recommendation from a recovering sex addict or co-sex addict who has personally worked with the counselor is ideal.
- Ask other mental health professionals or physicians for counselors trained in addictions.
- Check the listing of counselors who are Certified Sex Addiction Therapist or CSAT (Pronounced “see sat”). The professionals are trained through the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals and can be found by searching HERE. Ask if they studied under Patrick Carnes and who might have been their supervisor. This information will give you more insight into their experiences.
- Check the listing of therapists who are members of The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, which is the secular professional organization for clinicians who treat sexual addiction.
- To find a Christian counselor, check the listing of therapists who are members of an organization like the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). This listing does not mean that the counselor is familiar with sexual addiction.The AACC does sponsor a certified sex addiction certification.
- Consider contacting the Board of Christian Professional & Pastoral Counselor to find a Certified Sexual Addictions Specialist (CSAS). Keep in mind that this certification is in its infancy and the basic level means that an individual has simply watched a video series about sexual addiction. At present there is not a database available for CSAS.
Interview your counselor before you commit to counseling.
Many people don’t think about interviewing their counselor but it’s wise to take time to get to know the counselor before you start therapy. The interview process will allow you the chance to see if they are a good match for your therapeutic needs. After all you will be paying them for the work you do with them. This is an investment and an investment that should be thought out. When you contact a good counselor see if they offer a free initial session. This session will allow you time, at no charge to you, to see if they are a match. Here are some interview questions that you might find helpful:
- Are you trained in treating sex addiction?
- What does your training consist of?
- How long have you been treating sex and pornography addiction?
- How many sexually addicted clients have you treated?
- Are you specifically familiar with sexual addiction?
- Have you heard of Dr. Patrick Carnes? Have you studied under him?
- Do you recommend the 12 Step program of recovery?
- Do you work from an attachment-based model in treating addictions?
- Are you able to treat trauma?
- What’s your approach in helping partners of addicts?
- Are you able to help facilitate a formal disclosure?
- What about couples? How do you work with them?
- What about my family? How do you work with them?
- Are you a Christian counselor? How do you use faith in your work?
Ideally you want the counselor to answer these questions with experience and confidence. Depending on how the counselor answered your interview questions you may want to say, “no thank you” or “let me meet with a few more counselors before I decide”. Just like trying on a new pair of shoes, you may need to take your time to try a few on before you decide to buy.
If you still have questions about how to find a good counselor or if you wish to explore more about the counseling process, please do not hesitate to contact one of the BeFree counselors. One of our Certified Sex Addiction Counselors would be delighted to partner with you as you enter this challenging and important healing process.
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