Then we moved. While my depression has lifted and a million things about my life seem better I am not confident enough to be apart from the care and attention of a professional counselor. The upheaval of moving, coaching kids through a move, cancer, a new congregation, approaching winter.... it seems ripe for a repeat appearance of my Great Foe, depression.
Finding a therapist is hard. On my list of considerations:
Gender (I am more readily at ease with a woman)
It doesn't work to ask around about a good therapist the way I do about dentists and hair salons. Recommendations for mental health care require a little discretion. My husband identified a couple of good people to ask, as did I. Some of our inquiries were fruitless - generated no names or suggestions that did not suit us for various reasons. He finally found someone who referred us to a useful list.
Then I sorted through the list and eliminated most of the names off the bat. Some have specific areas of expertise - family conflict, teens, etc. Others had religious affiliations that are inappropriate for me: buddhism, new age, or branches of Christianity with which I am not comfortable. One Christian counseling office near us posts its intake form online. I browsed it and noticed this item: "Does the client consider him/herself to be born again?" I understand that question to refer to an understanding of the Christian faith with which I do not identify. I don't want to battle off theological questions in pursuit of good mental health.
During my husband's vicarage year - an internship during seminary - we visited a therapist together because we felt overwhelmed by loneliness and stress. Being far from family and friends, in an unfamiliar and challenging situation, was sometimes confusing for us. The counselor we saw was not helpful. She couldn't figure out what our problem was, so she spent half and hour talking to my husband about nurturing his inner child when he preaches. It was very weird.
I landed upon a Christian counseling practice with an office near my home. My schedule is so full of doctor visits and child-tending responsibilities that travel time could seriously limit my ability to see a therapist as often as I could need. I judged from the web site that the practice is overtly Christian but respectful of the fact that clients are looking for mental health care, not theology lessons.
I described my first appointment as "auditioning a new therapist." It was important to me to remind myself that establishing a therapeutic relationship is my decision. I felt perfectly at ease with this therapist and appreciated the questions she asked at my first appointment. I discovered that she is also married to a pastor and recognizes everything I describe about my anxieties related to that role. Her affiliation is with a different denomination, but every reference to Christian faith falls inside of what I think of as Apostles' Creed Christianity: things we all agree on. She has not asked me if I am born again.
In the course of writing this blog, I've made friends with other pastors' wives who realize they would benefit from professional counseling. For some of them, identifying a therapist who meets their criteria is an arduous process. I pray for them, that God will provide what they need and give them eyes to recognize it when they see it.