Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

A Warning Sign – Counselors who are Self-Centered

Philippians 1:15-17 ESV  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.  (16)  The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  (17)  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

I wanted to take time in this post to caution everyone in regard to a particular brand of counselor or therapist or pastor or other such person who claims to want to “help” people. There are many kinds who we must be wise to and avoid, but the kind I want to talk about here is the “counselor” who makes the counseling all about themselves. I don’t know if you have met such people, but I have and I have run across them often enough that I felt this warning to be necessary.

Many people in “ministry” operate out of a purely selfish motivation. They use people such as victims of abuse or other trauma to magnify themselves. (Related topic: this is why we discourage abuse victims from launching out into some kind of ministry to help other victims too quickly. To be an effective counselor and helper, you must first travel down the road of healing yourself – often for quite a long time. Otherwise, perhaps without knowing it, your help of others will take on a self-centered direction addressing your own issues).
But here is my point in this post – when you have contact with a counselor of any kind, including some informal counseling from a professing Christian, for example, be careful to watch out for the counseling taking on a focus that isn’t about you any longer, but is about the counselor’s own issues.
For example, let’s say you are meeting with a person who claims to be a counselor. You are seeking help in overcoming the trauma you have suffered or in gaining wisdom about your abuser and so on. And during that meeting, and frequently in subsequent sessions, you realize that the conversation has turned its focus upon the counselor’s issues. “I am soooo discouraged right now.” Or, “My husband has not been the husband I need.” Or if the counselor is a pastor, “My marriage isn’t the greatest either.”  This thing is far more common that you might realize.
Think about how inappropriate and selfish this kind of thing is. Here is a person who has made a claim to be a minister or counselor to help others. And yet these signs indicate that really their “ministry” is all about them! Guess what? The counselee is being used. Big time!
Consider this dynamic in another setting. What would you do if you were ill and you went to a physician for help? And while you are meeting with him in the exam room, he starts talking about himself rather than getting to the bottom of your troubles?  His job is hard. Patients can be so difficult. His marriage is not the greatest, etc. Pretty inappropriate, right? This kind of “helper” is no help at all. He or she is in it for themselves.
So, beware of such people. Run from them. And to such people I say – take your shingle down and stop advertising help to the hurting. It’s false advertising. It’s all about you.


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  1. Free

    Pastor Crippen, thank you – this is it – and RUN is what needs to happen…. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and never look back…..

  2. Norma

    I suppose one must look at the person’s motivation for sharing their story. Empathy may drive the use of personal story. Safe examples are their own stories which support and give credibility to what they have to say. Yet there is the danger you speak of and we would be wise to heed it.

  3. I saw a counselor for two years that in the beginning would quietly slip in little phrases about herself. “My husband doesn’t appreciate me”, “my relationship with my daughter is strained” “my husband isn’t a good father”, etc. It evolved into her calling me at home to go check on her suicidal clients and my appointments with her dealt with how I was managing her other clients. During those two years I went from having mild depression to having panic attacks and suicidal ideation. I wasn’t strong enough to break free when she was doing this to me but when I saw her start to use another client like that I finally could see what she was doing was wrong. The LPC board found her in violation of SIX ethical codes in her care for me but she only had to sign up to take an extra training course (one of her choosing). So she is still out there creating co-dependency and chaos for her clients. Over sharing is a HUGE sign that a counselor is trying to have their own needs met. If you ever feel even a little inkling that something isn’t right please listen to your intuition and choose a safer counselor.

  4. It seems to me that the high standards characterizing “real “(professional, licensed, credentialed, yada) counselors stand the tests of time and consideration for the people being counseled. I’m starting to get offended at the untrained idealists calling themselves “counselors”. I asked her what standard of confidentiality applied to her services. “Huh?”. Like she had never considered that before. (I’m not sure she knew what it meant, really)

  5. Ms. E.

    It’s hard to report such “counselor” or ‘minister” to the pastor because of that person’s tenure. I agree it’s best to just get away from such person.

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