Summit Counseling FAQ’s (6 of 9): How Do I Know If My Life Struggle Merits Counseling?

This is the sixth post in a 9 part series on frequently asked questions about Summit’s counseling ministry. The 9 questions in this series are:

  1. What is the difference between meeting with a Summit campus pastor and a member of the counseling team?
  2. What is the relationship between Bridgehaven and Summit?
  3. What are the differences between a Summit small group and a G4 group?
  4. How do I know if Bridgehaven or the graduate program is a better fit for me?
  5. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  6. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling? (This Post)
  7. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?
  8. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  9. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?

This is a question that many people aren’t sure how to frame. We know we shouldn’t wait until things are “that bad” but we want things to be “bad enough” to merit the time and energy of counseling. If only it were as clear-cut as holding your kids out of school – if they have vomited or had diarrhea in the last 24 hours they stay home.

We will offer nine points of reflection to help you identify whether making the time and energy investment in counseling is wise for your life struggle. The more of these you identify with, the more likely counseling would be a wise step for you.

  1. “I don’t have anyone I feel like I can talk to.” (Isolation) Being alone with your struggle may be the strongest indicator that it’s going to get worse. Counseling provides an outlet for you to get comfortable talking about your struggle. The counseling ministries at Summit will encourage you to begin connecting with a small group so that this isolation relief can begin to occur in more natural, day-to-day relationships.
  2. “I don’t know what to do next” or “What I’m doing isn’t working.” (Confusion) Another major factor that causes a struggle to get worse is a sense of powerlessness that emerges from confusion or ineffectiveness. Counseling can provide additional strategies and recommend new resources to offset the sense of powerlessness when we’ve done everything we’ve known to do and it hasn’t provided relief.
  3. “You are trying to hide your struggle.” (Shame) Hiding is isolation on steroids. When we are tempted to hide our struggle the confidentiality of counseling can provide a safe context to begin breaking that habit.
  4. “My struggle is getting progressively worse.” (Depth) Whether it is intensity of unpleasant emotions, level of dishonor in conflict, or sense of desperation about circumstances, when you can tell that your struggle is trending in a bad direction in spite of your efforts to change, then counseling is a wise step to prevent allowing the struggle from becoming more rooted in your life.
  5. “My struggle is dominating my thoughts or emotions.” (Frequency) Do you notice that the struggle is beginning to consume a larger percentage of your waking hours and/or disrupting your ability to sleep? Even if the intensity is remaining relatively constant, an increase in the frequency of your struggle can make counseling a wise step towards reclaiming this part of your life.
  6. “I am withdrawing from or losing interest in things I enjoy.” (Adhedonia) Sorry to include a little Latin. “Adhedonia” means the loss of pleasure. When we lose interest in things we normally enjoy that is an indicator that we are experiencing a level of time or emotional pressure that is unsustainable. Counseling can provide a context to think about what can and needs to be done.
  7. “My ability to function at home or work is being affected.” (Productivity) When your life struggle impacts your ability to fulfill your basic life roles, then it is likely to begin deteriorating your sense of value as a person. That is a very emotionally dangerous way to think about life. Counseling can be helpful in assisting you to navigate the sense of failure you feel and the ways you can address the struggles that made it hard for you to fulfill these life roles.
  8. “I think everyone around me is wrong, lazy, or an idiot.” (Blame-Shifting or Cynicism) When our attitude towards life means either everyone else is wrong, or we’re wrong, we should assume that’s a big red flag. It also likely means we’ve burned many of our relational bridges. Counseling can be a context to see things more clearly while we take steps to mend the bridges we’ve burned.
  9. “I am beginning to escape or numb myself through substances or mindless activities.” (Addiction) When we are satisfied to escape or numb our struggles in a manner that does nothing to resolve them, we are surrendering. The likely result is that our numbing or escaping activity will become addictive because, as the struggle inevitably grows, so will the duration of time given to our numbing or escaping activity. When you see yourself entering this pattern, counseling is highly recommended.