15 June 2018

Counselling & Clergy Families: What's It All About? (Interview)

In our recent study, Doing Ministry Together, 62% of respondents felt that clergy and their families would benefit from counselling. We wanted to learn a bit more about what counselling is and how it might help clergy families around Australia. So today, we chat with Valerie Ling, an Australian psychologist and clergy wife, who specialises in preventing ministry burnout and promoting clergy family resilience. She helped us debunk some of the mystery about counselling - and offered some great advice for finding a counselor who suits you.

What’s involved in counselling?
Valerie: Counselling is a two way conversation, with plenty of listening by your counsellor. You would expect your counsellor to get a good understanding of your situation, the issues you are facing, and some goals you would like to work through. Then a counselling plan is put together to work through those goals in a supportive and open way.

In your experience, what are some of the challenges that clergy and their families might face in ministry?
Burnout, discouragement, hurt, rejection, and multiple stress factors. This is from the paid staff all the way to their children and spouse. The ministry life is unlike any other vocational setting where you cannot leave or escape your work environment. Conflict is always there. Finances are challenging, and change and privacy issues are always pressing. It is also difficult for people to seek help because they interact so closely with the community, it is hard to have confidentiality and personal space.

How could counselling help clergy and their families?
By being a safe space to say it as it is. The grief, the anger, the hurt. Slowly by working through our feelings, identfying what it is that is pressing our buttons, and entangling ourselves out of the situation, you can start to heal and put small steps into place to feel more in control of yourself and difficult situations

What should I look for in a counsellor?

Professional qualifications and Accreditation by counselling associations such as PACFA, CAPA and the Psychology Board of Australia. Word of mouth is helpful, as is a recommendation from your doctor or other health professional. Finally a good fit that you feel works for you between yourself and your counselor.

What would you suggest for those who might be interested in finding a counsellor?
Don't wait! Ministry stress builds up and impacts physical and mental health.

Handy Tool! If you're looking for a counsellor, try visiting the Christian Counsellors Association of Australia or ask a friend if they know someone who might be a good fit for you.

~ Rachel

www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- journeying together with clergy families

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