At my denominational meeting last week, I co-led a workshop on creating networks of care. Below are some of the notes for my piece of the workshop, which focused on finding non-peer professional support. (Note that my section followed a discussion of the value of peer learning groups.)
What are the benefits of non-peer professional support?
- Non-peer professionals come with particular expertise and credentials. They are also often able to be more objective about your situation and needs than peers.
- Professionals are generally bound by confidentiality clauses in the professional-client covenant and in the ethical codes of their disciplines, thus creating a safe environment for you to share freely.
What are the biggest differences between a coach, spiritual director, and therapist/counselor?
- Coach: Coaches concentrate on forward movement from the present, helping the coachee name particular action steps toward reaching goals. The coach believes that the coachee is the expert on his/her situation, and the coach asks focused questions to draw out inherent wisdom and new awareness in the coachee. The coachee sets the agenda, meaning the coach asks questions that help the coachee reach her/his stated goal.
- Spiritual director: Spiritual directors help clients pay attention and respond to where God is at work, letting go of whatever is in God’s way. Spiritual direction’s main emphasis is growth in relationship with divine. The spiritual director’s primary tools are study, narrative, questions that prompt reflection on the spiritual life, and spiritual disciplines.
- Therapist/counselor: Therapists assist clients in healing from past events and learning how to move forward in light of them. Therapy uses narrative, problem-solving, and various exercises to help the client find health.
Each of these fields has nuances, and many ministers engage more than one of them. The different approaches often complement one another.
Where would a minister look for one of these professionals?
- Ask for referrals from ministerial colleagues and/or denominational staff.
- Additionally, if you’re looking specifically for one of these professionals:
- Coaches: Check with coach accrediting bodies, seminaries, and parachurch organizations.
- Spiritual directors: Look for spiritual direction accrediting bodies and retreat centers.
- Therapists/counselors: Contact nearby pastoral counselor centers, your insurance provider, or your physician.
How does a minister determine a good match with a professional?
- Comfortable talking with the professional
- Clear about nature and goals of relationship
- Confident in professional’s skills, willingness to listen, and commitment to confidentiality
- Sense support and/or progress in the issues raised
Don’t hesitate to end a relationship if you and the professional are not a good match!
How does a minister pay for this professional support?
- Check on insurance coverage for counselors/therapists.
- Use professional expenses as appropriate. (Check with your ministry setting or a tax professional if you have questions about appropriate uses of funds.)