When choosing a grief counselor, the range of academic degrees and professional licenses can be confusing. Mental health professionals come from a variety of educational and philosophical backgrounds. Perhaps the best place to begin when looking for a therapist to help you through your grief is your doctor. In addition to being able to explain the list of initials after a therapist’s name, and knowing what state body you should contact to check out the therapist’s standing, your doctor will know you.
By diagnosing your condition, your doctor may be able to guide you to a therapist who can treat you effectively and whose personality, credentials and approach will suit you. Your doctor can help you evaluate a therapist’s academic and practical qualifications, but it’s up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable with the practitioner. Without that element of compatibility, you’re unlikely to be sufficiently open and forthcoming in therapy sessions to achieve the best result. You might also know someone who benefited from grief counseling and can put you in touch with a good counselor.
Trust your instincts. But if you’re feeling too overwhelmed by your grief to rely on your own judgment alone, ask a friend to help you choose, and to accompany you to your first session. Pastoral counseling offers a spiritual option, combining faith with psychotherapy to treat the whole person.
The American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) sets the standards for certified pastoral counselors and oversees training programs. The organization is non-sectarian and recognizes the wide range of cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs of the people who turn to pastoral counseling as a way to integrate their faith with their need for mental health therapy.