I can’t tell you the number of people who write to me looking for help in the midst of a full-blown crisis. They have no idea how to set up a support network—and no ready-made shelter now that the storm has hit. Finding a good counselor can be hard. And it’s even harder when you needed it. . .yesterday.
You likely check in with a medical doctor. You get that your body needs nourishment, exercise, and periodic check-ins to stay healthy. Yet so many of us don’t give the same attention to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Here’s the best piece of advice I can give:
Don’t wait until you’re in crisis to learn how to set up a support network.
I’ve been there. As a counselor, I struggled with burn-out early on in my work. I had to learn the hard way what’s it like to face crisis without a trusted network of support. But I learned from that mistake.
I started by asking a friend to pray with me bi-weekly, then I asked another woman I respected to mentor me spiritually on a monthly basis. Lastly, I found a counselor through my insurance network and added her into the mix as needed. To this day, a month doesn’t go by without intentional, soul-nourishing conversation with trusted advisers. Sometimes I need these check-ins more than others, but I never regret them. Looking back, it couldn’t be clearer that setting up a support network has kept me strong through life’s challenges. By caring for my own emotional and spiritual health, I’ve had more to give to others.
Here are 6 ways to help you set up a support network:
1.) Ask yourself:
Who is checking in on my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being regularly?
It might be a pastor, a mentor, a small group, or a spiritual director. But if you can’t list at least 3 people who are regularly checking in with you, then consider locating a counselor. You were not designed to do life alone. We all need trusted advisers.
2.) Think about your needs individually and the needs of your family.
Are you struggling to hold it together as a parent? Do you have a child who struggles with anxiety or behavioral problems? How’s your marriage? Are you single parenting? Think about your specific situation and consider whether an individual counselor, marriage counselor, or even a family coach might benefit you and your family.
3.) Take a look at your budget.
Look at other health investments (such as gym memberships and personal care) and think about whether an investment in mental and emotional health might also be needed. Then check with your insurance company to determine your benefits. There’s a reason why many insurance companies provide mental health benefits—regular mental health check-ins are good for your health!
4.) Start your search.
If you decide to add a counselor into your support system, here are a few tips on how to find one:
- Contact a local church, university, or seminary to see if they provide free or discounted counseling. If not, ask them for a referral list of counselors in your area.
- Check with friends that you trust.
- Ask your primary care physician.
- Use Psychology Today or Christian Counselor Directory to search for licensed counselors in your region. You can filter your search by insurance provider, areas of specialty, and religious affiliation. You can also use these search engines to find psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups.
- If scheduling is an issue for you, consider online options. Here are several affordable online Christian counseling resources:
https://www.faithfulcounseling.com/—rates between $35 to $80 per week
https://www.betterhelp.com/ —rates between $40 to $70 per week
https://www.regain.us —primarily for couples; rates starting at $40/week
5.) Narrow your list.
When selecting a counselor, I always tell people to narrow the list down to 2-3 that seem to meet your needs. Contact those individuals and ask them for a brief phone interview. During that introductory interview, you’ll get a feel for personality and fit. Be clear about what you need, especially if you’re not currently in crisis. Let the person know you’re wanting to cultivate a relationship that will last over time.
6.) Consider joining free support groups in your community.
It may be that you’re in need of peer support with others facing similar challenges. If that’s the case, there are a wide variety of support groups available in most communities. Check with your local hospital or churches for various options. Here are a few to consider:
- Celebrate Recovery groups meet regularly in churches all over the country, addressing such issues as addiction, anger, codependency, eating issues, and perfectionism within supportive, caring community.
- Fresh Hope connects those diagnosed with mental illness and their loved ones with support groups all over the country.
- Alcoholics Anonymous remains an amazing and effective resource for those struggling with addiction.
- Alanon provides support for those whose loved one struggles with addictive tendencies and behaviors.
- GriefShare provides support for those walking through grief.
Counseling can be an incredible asset to your support network, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Take the time you need now to put your support systems in place—you won’t regret this important investment in your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It will help you on your own journey toward wholeness, and it will help you create even more authentic connections with others.
“Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)