A note from Kelly King: I took a seminary class in Pastoral Counseling three years ago, and my mind was opened up to the differences among mental health providers. While I knew some basic information, I gained a new respect for professionals who put in thousands of hours to get full licensure. Kaye Hurta’s article today is a good place to start as a ministry leader when you are gathering a referral network for those you serve.
When it comes to ordering at Starbucks (or your favorite coffee hub) we know just what we want and how we want it! For the first-timer or coffee novice, ordering at Starbucks can be daunting. Some give up and simply say, “Medium coffee, please.” Trying to find help and direction for life’s hurts and hang-ups can be just as daunting. Some learn the vernacular but sadly, others just give up. I can’t blame them really.
If we are going to help women who are hurting, we need to build a network of referrals with a variety of selection, and we must be able to explain exactly what the differences are. While I’m no expert on every detailed difference in mental health providers, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some subtle differences to help you direct women appropriately.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in prescribing psychiatric medication. If you suspect someone’s situation will require medication, refer to a primary care physician first, psychiatrist second. (Also include OB/GYNs on your list!)
Psychologists/Counselors are counseling therapists with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Many master’s level counselors are in a practice with a Psychologist and rarely is there a need to differentiate between the two.
LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and they help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives as well as diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. They are community resource focused.
Christian Counselor is a licensed or master’s level counselor who is a Christian and will bring theology, the Bible, and God into therapy at the request of the client. They desire to expose their faith but never impose it.
Biblical Counselor is a person trained to use the Bible as the only source of remedy for a client’s concerns—generally speaking. There are some biblical counselors who integrate psychology together with the Word and others who would never consider it.
Spiritual Coach/Director/Life Coach/Director is someone who has received specialized training at the certificate level. Their interest lies in helping a person navigate the twists and turns of life. This is an excellent referral for someone looking for direction versus therapy.
This is a general overview of who could be included in your counseling referral network. At our church, there are nearly 100 Christian therapists in the area that are in our network and managed by our Pastoral Response (Care) team. They are screened for approval by a personal interview. They are re-screened yearly in a membership renewal process and re-interviewed every three years. They all hold full and active state licensure and about half attend our church.
In order to minimize the risk of liability there are two primary guidelines when giving referrals:
- Always give at least three names so the guest/woman has a choice.
- Give your referral in writing and it must include a disclaimer paragraph.
Just as ordering at Starbucks can be a costly venture, so is counseling. In the varied world of insurance providers, many have not caught up with the importance of offering mental or behavioral health benefits. For this reason, it is a time consuming but valuable effort to include community agencies or services and therapists offering sliding scales. Some help is better than no help at all.
Grande, decaf, mocha latte, two pumps, double shot, extra whip, please. No, I don’t suggest that be part of your referral list. However, there is great value in sharing a cup of something with a woman to hear her story and her heart before sending her into the world of referrals. The first and most important entry on any network referral list is…you.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.