How to Find the Right Counselor for Your Situation

How to Find the Right Counselor for Your Situation

With a teen who is struggling, counseling often becomes a family affair, and there are certainly times when the entire family should be involved. Also, keep in mind that parents can benefit greatly when they seek counseling for themselves. Cathy and I have never hesitated from seeking the wisdom and counsel of experts. Seeking counseling is a sign of strength, not of weakness.

  1. Ask a trusted friend or pastor for a recommendation. People who have had positive experiences with counseling can be a good resource for finding the right counselor.
  2. Whenever possible have a brief conversation with potential counselors before you make an appointment. Speaking with a counselor before you make an appointment provides a good opportunity to sense whether you or your teen will be able to create a sense of rapport with the prospective counselor.
  3. Ask the right questions in your brief phone call. Ask about the counselor’s experience with your teen’s issue(s). Ask about costs upfront. In a sense, look at the phone call as if you are interviewing the counselor, more than getting help for your teen’s problem. Briefly state your teen’s issue, but focus on getting to know the counselor.
  4. Choose a counselor and take him or her for a “test drive.” You can often tell if you or your teen will connect with a counselor in a first or second session.
  5. Evaluate the first session. Make your longer-term decisions after you have met with the counselor. Typically, there is a big difference between a few sessions of receiving wisdom and long-term therapy. So, evaluate whether you can see yourself or your teen spending numerous sessions with this counselor.


Excellent residential facilities are available for struggling teenagers, but as I mentioned earlier, they are not always quick fixes. In fact, in most cases, a residential facility should be considered as a last resort after other sound options have failed.

If your teenager is totally out of control and experiencing ongoing self-destructive behavior, it is time to consider a change of environment and an extreme intervention. Most teen boarding and rehabilitation facilities are expensive, but they really do a good job. It’s difficult to make good decisions in the face of a crisis, so I suggest doing your homework on residential programs early on when you see your teen starting to demonstrate some out-of-control behavior. Here are some questions to ask of potential residential facilities:

  • Does the program specialize in your teen’s key problem? For example, if your teen has an eating disorder, look for programs that specialize in addressing eating disorders.
  • Do you want a rehabilitation center that is based on the Christian faith?
  • What educational components are a part of the residential facility program?
  • Does the program offer a customized family training element and a parental support system?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Are any parts of treatment covered by insurance?

Make a list of facility options. Do your homework. Ask lots of questions. Speak to parents who have sent their kids to the facility you are considering, and also look at who endorses the program.

The fearless Maasai warriors of Africa greet each other with an interesting question: “How are the children?” The traditional response carries a lot of meaning: “All the children are well.” Their commitment to caring for the young members of their community is strong.

Today, in our country, could it be said that the children are not well? Frankly, until all kids are free from abuse and addictions, we must do everything in our power to come alongside them. It has never been easier for teenagers to slip through the cracks of society. With various addictions so prevalent today, very good families have kids who are hurting and making really bad choices. Hurting parents feel the pain, guilt, and despair of their teen not being well.

The good news is no matter what the issue, hope and transformation can be just around the corner. Don’t suffer in silence, but rather seek whatever help you need for this journey. And remember: Never give up on someone. Miracles happen every day.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

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