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10 Questions To Ask: How Counseling Can Help Pastors

10 Questions To Ask: How Counseling Can Help Pastors

Even by those closest to them, pastors oftentimes go unnoticed and unhelped. The truth is, pastors need help, just like every other human being.

CHURCH TECH PODCAST
Tithely media icon
TV
Modern Church leader
Category
Leadership
Publish date
June 27, 2023
Author
Noe Rivera

Why should a pastor ask themselves if they’d benefit from counseling? Because pastors need help too. Truly!

So why do we think pastors don’t need counseling? Because pastors are still assumed to have it all together or have all the answers. We tend to think about pastors, “Heck, they preach about it every Sunday, so I’m sure they’re living that way, right?”

Even by those closest to them, pastors oftentimes go unnoticed and unhelped. The truth is, pastors need help, just like every other human being. Even though they preach and lead others spiritually, it does not make them immune from the trials of life, and from needing their own community of people and support that helps them live out their own words they preach and teach.

In fact, if you ask many pastors, they will say that being a pastor is extra lonely, extra isolating, and that they often feel even less able to reach out for help out of fears of church members finding out and gossip starting or their church work being negatively impacted.

Therefore, many pastors go unhelped.

Here are 10 questions a pastor can ask themselves if they would benefit from counseling.

#1: Am I noticing anything unusual about my mood, thoughts, feelings, behaviors?

We all have moments or days where we’re in a bad mood, or we get irritable. That’s normal. But unusual behaviors or feelings are when they are out of character for ourselves, or others would say it’s unusual for us.

With depression or anxiety, these could be thoughts like, “I’m a failure. It’s never enough. Why am I like this! Nobody cares. I can’t overcome it. I’m too weak.”

Feelings like: sadness, dread, fear, panic, regret, loneliness.

Behaviors like: aggression, retaliation, self-harm, stuck in bed, isolating.

You can also use helpful questionnaires to assess your current state, such as the Beck Anxiety or Depression Inventory, CRAFFT, or the pediatric symptom checklist.

If you have changes in these areas, now could be a great time to see a counselor.

#2: Why can’t I seem to shake these feelings?

Times of sadness or worry happen to all of us in waves throughout our lives. But when we’re down or anxious about something for more than a few days or weeks, it typically needs more attention if it won’t go away.

For example, one criteria to be diagnosed with depression is to have two weeks where most days you are feeling down or have low motivation for more days than not. If you’re noticing, or those around you are noticing, that your low mood won’t go away, even after a round of golf, visiting the grandkids, or watching a funny movie, then you might need to talk to a counselor to assess if something more is going on. 

#3: Are any areas of my life suffering?

A universal way to measure the need for help, and specifically mental health, is to look at the different areas of your life (work, school, relationships, hygiene, sleep, finances, spiritual, hobbies), and ask yourself if any area is suffering.

This goes especially for pastors.

Pastors sometimes can be great caretakers of others, but neglect their own friendships, gain excess weight, or have trouble sleeping. These life areas difficulties could point to a mental health concern that needs to be addressed.

A simple way to answer this question is to grade your life areas A through F. If you have any low grades, that could signal something more or deeper is going on, impairing your mood, thoughts or behaviors in a life area. This would be a great time to chat with a counselor. 

#4: How would those closest to me say I’m acting or how my mood is?

What others say or hint at can be very telling, that we could benefit from getting some help.  Maybe someone around you has said something like, “You’ve been extra moody lately,” or, “Why are you so angry now?”

You can also ask yourself some questions, such as:

Have I become more sad recently?

Why do I feel more anxious than normal?

Why am I crying more?

If the answer is yes to having a change in mood, thoughts or behaviors, then you might benefit from talking to a counselor to help figure out what is going on and what to do.

#5: Did a big life event recently happen, or a memory of one?

We might not recognize that a life change or event is having a negative impact on us. Sometimes it is obvious to ourselves and those around us. But sometimes it’s not. This is where a counselor could help you determine if your mental health is affected by this event or memory of an event.

Examples would be moving homes, children graduating, health issues, marital difficulty, loss of friendship, a birth or death. For pastors, this could include a cut in income, loss of church members, change in role or responsibilities. A life event or change is often a good time to chat with a counselor who can help you navigate that well. 

#6: Is my personal relationship with God lacking, suffering, or dying?

Yes, even pastors can have difficulties in their relationship with God. And it may surprise you to know that this could be even more true of pastors than the rest of the people who go to church. There are blurred lines between being a pastor and being a Christian. Therefore, sometimes pastors will neglect their personal relationship and walk with the Lord, because there is so much emphasis on having to do for the congregation. This can cause immense guilt or shame in pastors if they feel they aren’t doing enough.

This could be a great time to get help and see if it is negatively impacting you in any way.

Especially for pastors, where spirituality is a large part of their profession and day-to-day world, when there is a crisis of faith, small or large, having someone to talk with could prove beneficial.

Also, talking to a counselor could be a great way to ensure confidentiality, as some pastors might prefer not to share details of their personal faith challenges with church members. A professional counselor or therapist is bound by confidentiality by their license, with only a few limits to that confidentiality. 

#7: Am I complaining more, unhappy, stuck, and can’t seem to make progress?

Being “stuck” is often one of the most consistent complaints a counselor will hear from a prospective client. Maybe they are stuck in their marriage, career, life satisfaction, with children, or with a behavior.

Pastors are also not immune to this struggle. Sometimes taking time to identify what is causing you to be stuck, the impact it’s having, and tools to correct or improve your situation is all you need. The simple act of “talking” is the most widely used tool by counselors. It allows the client to talk it out, bring the buried to the surface, bring the subconscious to the conscious, and use that gained insight to get unstuck. 

#8: Am I dreading someone or something? 

Relationship difficulties are one of the biggest struggles in life, including for pastors. They’re not immune to struggles in relationships. In fact, they manage many relationships, depending on the size of their church. And relationship struggles lead many people into times of benefiting from talking with a counselor.

When we are dreading or avoiding something, it often leads to other negative symptoms, such as increased anxiety, addictions, anger, or hiding and isolating. That thing we’re avoiding could have a bigger impact than necessary. 

#9: Am I ashamed to get help, embarrassed, or worried my church members will find out? 

It’s understandable to feel embarrassed or ashamed about seeking help. After all, it goes against our pride, and many people don’t want to be seen as “weak.” However, there is great strength in being vulnerable when needed, and also taking the initiative to look after one’s mental wellbeing.

If you find yourself in this place, even a little bit, then this could be a sign that it’s something your heart needs or longs for. It’s hard to ask for help, especially when you’re a public figure like a pastor. And especially when it’s for sensitive personal topics.

But instead of this embarrassment or shame causing you to further hide, ignore, or brush off, it could be a life-changing decision to open yourself to another person where they see beyond the shame or worry.

Others might not be ready to see you as a pastor in counseling. But don’t let that stop you from going. Your life is worth it. 

#10: If someone would be willing to truly listen, does that interest me?

Pastors do a lot of talking and listening with others. But who listens to them? And do they have genuine listeners where they are truly open and feeling heard? Pastors might have a close spouse, good friends, or a few board members they share with, but oftentimes it’s hard to be open for different reasons.

This is where a counselor could be of great service to a pastor. Pastors need to know they have a safe and neutral person they can go to when they need to sort things out. If this is you, talking to a counselor could be the jump start you need to get back on track.

If you have a hunch, most counselors will provide a free 15-minute consultation to help you explore if talking with a counselor could benefit you. 

It's OK to prioritize you.

Ultimately, pastors have to make the decision for themselves as to whether or not counseling is right for them. However, if you find yourself struggling with any of these issues, it might be worth considering talking to a counselor who can provide an objective and confidential space to work through your problems.

Counseling can help people gain insight into their own behavior and develop healthy coping skills they can use throughout life's journey. With the right guidance and support, you may begin feeling more empowered on your path towards growth and healing. Don't hesitate – take charge of your wellbeing today!

AUTHOR
Noe Rivera

Noe Rivera has been in the people business for over 20 years, serving the church body through his work in ministry, missions, and the marketplace. In his current work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Noe continues to serve the church by providing therapy for pastors, ministry leaders, and their families.

Why should a pastor ask themselves if they’d benefit from counseling? Because pastors need help too. Truly!

So why do we think pastors don’t need counseling? Because pastors are still assumed to have it all together or have all the answers. We tend to think about pastors, “Heck, they preach about it every Sunday, so I’m sure they’re living that way, right?”

Even by those closest to them, pastors oftentimes go unnoticed and unhelped. The truth is, pastors need help, just like every other human being. Even though they preach and lead others spiritually, it does not make them immune from the trials of life, and from needing their own community of people and support that helps them live out their own words they preach and teach.

In fact, if you ask many pastors, they will say that being a pastor is extra lonely, extra isolating, and that they often feel even less able to reach out for help out of fears of church members finding out and gossip starting or their church work being negatively impacted.

Therefore, many pastors go unhelped.

Here are 10 questions a pastor can ask themselves if they would benefit from counseling.

#1: Am I noticing anything unusual about my mood, thoughts, feelings, behaviors?

We all have moments or days where we’re in a bad mood, or we get irritable. That’s normal. But unusual behaviors or feelings are when they are out of character for ourselves, or others would say it’s unusual for us.

With depression or anxiety, these could be thoughts like, “I’m a failure. It’s never enough. Why am I like this! Nobody cares. I can’t overcome it. I’m too weak.”

Feelings like: sadness, dread, fear, panic, regret, loneliness.

Behaviors like: aggression, retaliation, self-harm, stuck in bed, isolating.

You can also use helpful questionnaires to assess your current state, such as the Beck Anxiety or Depression Inventory, CRAFFT, or the pediatric symptom checklist.

If you have changes in these areas, now could be a great time to see a counselor.

#2: Why can’t I seem to shake these feelings?

Times of sadness or worry happen to all of us in waves throughout our lives. But when we’re down or anxious about something for more than a few days or weeks, it typically needs more attention if it won’t go away.

For example, one criteria to be diagnosed with depression is to have two weeks where most days you are feeling down or have low motivation for more days than not. If you’re noticing, or those around you are noticing, that your low mood won’t go away, even after a round of golf, visiting the grandkids, or watching a funny movie, then you might need to talk to a counselor to assess if something more is going on. 

#3: Are any areas of my life suffering?

A universal way to measure the need for help, and specifically mental health, is to look at the different areas of your life (work, school, relationships, hygiene, sleep, finances, spiritual, hobbies), and ask yourself if any area is suffering.

This goes especially for pastors.

Pastors sometimes can be great caretakers of others, but neglect their own friendships, gain excess weight, or have trouble sleeping. These life areas difficulties could point to a mental health concern that needs to be addressed.

A simple way to answer this question is to grade your life areas A through F. If you have any low grades, that could signal something more or deeper is going on, impairing your mood, thoughts or behaviors in a life area. This would be a great time to chat with a counselor. 

#4: How would those closest to me say I’m acting or how my mood is?

What others say or hint at can be very telling, that we could benefit from getting some help.  Maybe someone around you has said something like, “You’ve been extra moody lately,” or, “Why are you so angry now?”

You can also ask yourself some questions, such as:

Have I become more sad recently?

Why do I feel more anxious than normal?

Why am I crying more?

If the answer is yes to having a change in mood, thoughts or behaviors, then you might benefit from talking to a counselor to help figure out what is going on and what to do.

#5: Did a big life event recently happen, or a memory of one?

We might not recognize that a life change or event is having a negative impact on us. Sometimes it is obvious to ourselves and those around us. But sometimes it’s not. This is where a counselor could help you determine if your mental health is affected by this event or memory of an event.

Examples would be moving homes, children graduating, health issues, marital difficulty, loss of friendship, a birth or death. For pastors, this could include a cut in income, loss of church members, change in role or responsibilities. A life event or change is often a good time to chat with a counselor who can help you navigate that well. 

#6: Is my personal relationship with God lacking, suffering, or dying?

Yes, even pastors can have difficulties in their relationship with God. And it may surprise you to know that this could be even more true of pastors than the rest of the people who go to church. There are blurred lines between being a pastor and being a Christian. Therefore, sometimes pastors will neglect their personal relationship and walk with the Lord, because there is so much emphasis on having to do for the congregation. This can cause immense guilt or shame in pastors if they feel they aren’t doing enough.

This could be a great time to get help and see if it is negatively impacting you in any way.

Especially for pastors, where spirituality is a large part of their profession and day-to-day world, when there is a crisis of faith, small or large, having someone to talk with could prove beneficial.

Also, talking to a counselor could be a great way to ensure confidentiality, as some pastors might prefer not to share details of their personal faith challenges with church members. A professional counselor or therapist is bound by confidentiality by their license, with only a few limits to that confidentiality. 

#7: Am I complaining more, unhappy, stuck, and can’t seem to make progress?

Being “stuck” is often one of the most consistent complaints a counselor will hear from a prospective client. Maybe they are stuck in their marriage, career, life satisfaction, with children, or with a behavior.

Pastors are also not immune to this struggle. Sometimes taking time to identify what is causing you to be stuck, the impact it’s having, and tools to correct or improve your situation is all you need. The simple act of “talking” is the most widely used tool by counselors. It allows the client to talk it out, bring the buried to the surface, bring the subconscious to the conscious, and use that gained insight to get unstuck. 

#8: Am I dreading someone or something? 

Relationship difficulties are one of the biggest struggles in life, including for pastors. They’re not immune to struggles in relationships. In fact, they manage many relationships, depending on the size of their church. And relationship struggles lead many people into times of benefiting from talking with a counselor.

When we are dreading or avoiding something, it often leads to other negative symptoms, such as increased anxiety, addictions, anger, or hiding and isolating. That thing we’re avoiding could have a bigger impact than necessary. 

#9: Am I ashamed to get help, embarrassed, or worried my church members will find out? 

It’s understandable to feel embarrassed or ashamed about seeking help. After all, it goes against our pride, and many people don’t want to be seen as “weak.” However, there is great strength in being vulnerable when needed, and also taking the initiative to look after one’s mental wellbeing.

If you find yourself in this place, even a little bit, then this could be a sign that it’s something your heart needs or longs for. It’s hard to ask for help, especially when you’re a public figure like a pastor. And especially when it’s for sensitive personal topics.

But instead of this embarrassment or shame causing you to further hide, ignore, or brush off, it could be a life-changing decision to open yourself to another person where they see beyond the shame or worry.

Others might not be ready to see you as a pastor in counseling. But don’t let that stop you from going. Your life is worth it. 

#10: If someone would be willing to truly listen, does that interest me?

Pastors do a lot of talking and listening with others. But who listens to them? And do they have genuine listeners where they are truly open and feeling heard? Pastors might have a close spouse, good friends, or a few board members they share with, but oftentimes it’s hard to be open for different reasons.

This is where a counselor could be of great service to a pastor. Pastors need to know they have a safe and neutral person they can go to when they need to sort things out. If this is you, talking to a counselor could be the jump start you need to get back on track.

If you have a hunch, most counselors will provide a free 15-minute consultation to help you explore if talking with a counselor could benefit you. 

It's OK to prioritize you.

Ultimately, pastors have to make the decision for themselves as to whether or not counseling is right for them. However, if you find yourself struggling with any of these issues, it might be worth considering talking to a counselor who can provide an objective and confidential space to work through your problems.

Counseling can help people gain insight into their own behavior and develop healthy coping skills they can use throughout life's journey. With the right guidance and support, you may begin feeling more empowered on your path towards growth and healing. Don't hesitate – take charge of your wellbeing today!

podcast transcript

(Scroll for more)
AUTHOR
Noe Rivera

Noe Rivera has been in the people business for over 20 years, serving the church body through his work in ministry, missions, and the marketplace. In his current work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Noe continues to serve the church by providing therapy for pastors, ministry leaders, and their families.

Why should a pastor ask themselves if they’d benefit from counseling? Because pastors need help too. Truly!

So why do we think pastors don’t need counseling? Because pastors are still assumed to have it all together or have all the answers. We tend to think about pastors, “Heck, they preach about it every Sunday, so I’m sure they’re living that way, right?”

Even by those closest to them, pastors oftentimes go unnoticed and unhelped. The truth is, pastors need help, just like every other human being. Even though they preach and lead others spiritually, it does not make them immune from the trials of life, and from needing their own community of people and support that helps them live out their own words they preach and teach.

In fact, if you ask many pastors, they will say that being a pastor is extra lonely, extra isolating, and that they often feel even less able to reach out for help out of fears of church members finding out and gossip starting or their church work being negatively impacted.

Therefore, many pastors go unhelped.

Here are 10 questions a pastor can ask themselves if they would benefit from counseling.

#1: Am I noticing anything unusual about my mood, thoughts, feelings, behaviors?

We all have moments or days where we’re in a bad mood, or we get irritable. That’s normal. But unusual behaviors or feelings are when they are out of character for ourselves, or others would say it’s unusual for us.

With depression or anxiety, these could be thoughts like, “I’m a failure. It’s never enough. Why am I like this! Nobody cares. I can’t overcome it. I’m too weak.”

Feelings like: sadness, dread, fear, panic, regret, loneliness.

Behaviors like: aggression, retaliation, self-harm, stuck in bed, isolating.

You can also use helpful questionnaires to assess your current state, such as the Beck Anxiety or Depression Inventory, CRAFFT, or the pediatric symptom checklist.

If you have changes in these areas, now could be a great time to see a counselor.

#2: Why can’t I seem to shake these feelings?

Times of sadness or worry happen to all of us in waves throughout our lives. But when we’re down or anxious about something for more than a few days or weeks, it typically needs more attention if it won’t go away.

For example, one criteria to be diagnosed with depression is to have two weeks where most days you are feeling down or have low motivation for more days than not. If you’re noticing, or those around you are noticing, that your low mood won’t go away, even after a round of golf, visiting the grandkids, or watching a funny movie, then you might need to talk to a counselor to assess if something more is going on. 

#3: Are any areas of my life suffering?

A universal way to measure the need for help, and specifically mental health, is to look at the different areas of your life (work, school, relationships, hygiene, sleep, finances, spiritual, hobbies), and ask yourself if any area is suffering.

This goes especially for pastors.

Pastors sometimes can be great caretakers of others, but neglect their own friendships, gain excess weight, or have trouble sleeping. These life areas difficulties could point to a mental health concern that needs to be addressed.

A simple way to answer this question is to grade your life areas A through F. If you have any low grades, that could signal something more or deeper is going on, impairing your mood, thoughts or behaviors in a life area. This would be a great time to chat with a counselor. 

#4: How would those closest to me say I’m acting or how my mood is?

What others say or hint at can be very telling, that we could benefit from getting some help.  Maybe someone around you has said something like, “You’ve been extra moody lately,” or, “Why are you so angry now?”

You can also ask yourself some questions, such as:

Have I become more sad recently?

Why do I feel more anxious than normal?

Why am I crying more?

If the answer is yes to having a change in mood, thoughts or behaviors, then you might benefit from talking to a counselor to help figure out what is going on and what to do.

#5: Did a big life event recently happen, or a memory of one?

We might not recognize that a life change or event is having a negative impact on us. Sometimes it is obvious to ourselves and those around us. But sometimes it’s not. This is where a counselor could help you determine if your mental health is affected by this event or memory of an event.

Examples would be moving homes, children graduating, health issues, marital difficulty, loss of friendship, a birth or death. For pastors, this could include a cut in income, loss of church members, change in role or responsibilities. A life event or change is often a good time to chat with a counselor who can help you navigate that well. 

#6: Is my personal relationship with God lacking, suffering, or dying?

Yes, even pastors can have difficulties in their relationship with God. And it may surprise you to know that this could be even more true of pastors than the rest of the people who go to church. There are blurred lines between being a pastor and being a Christian. Therefore, sometimes pastors will neglect their personal relationship and walk with the Lord, because there is so much emphasis on having to do for the congregation. This can cause immense guilt or shame in pastors if they feel they aren’t doing enough.

This could be a great time to get help and see if it is negatively impacting you in any way.

Especially for pastors, where spirituality is a large part of their profession and day-to-day world, when there is a crisis of faith, small or large, having someone to talk with could prove beneficial.

Also, talking to a counselor could be a great way to ensure confidentiality, as some pastors might prefer not to share details of their personal faith challenges with church members. A professional counselor or therapist is bound by confidentiality by their license, with only a few limits to that confidentiality. 

#7: Am I complaining more, unhappy, stuck, and can’t seem to make progress?

Being “stuck” is often one of the most consistent complaints a counselor will hear from a prospective client. Maybe they are stuck in their marriage, career, life satisfaction, with children, or with a behavior.

Pastors are also not immune to this struggle. Sometimes taking time to identify what is causing you to be stuck, the impact it’s having, and tools to correct or improve your situation is all you need. The simple act of “talking” is the most widely used tool by counselors. It allows the client to talk it out, bring the buried to the surface, bring the subconscious to the conscious, and use that gained insight to get unstuck. 

#8: Am I dreading someone or something? 

Relationship difficulties are one of the biggest struggles in life, including for pastors. They’re not immune to struggles in relationships. In fact, they manage many relationships, depending on the size of their church. And relationship struggles lead many people into times of benefiting from talking with a counselor.

When we are dreading or avoiding something, it often leads to other negative symptoms, such as increased anxiety, addictions, anger, or hiding and isolating. That thing we’re avoiding could have a bigger impact than necessary. 

#9: Am I ashamed to get help, embarrassed, or worried my church members will find out? 

It’s understandable to feel embarrassed or ashamed about seeking help. After all, it goes against our pride, and many people don’t want to be seen as “weak.” However, there is great strength in being vulnerable when needed, and also taking the initiative to look after one’s mental wellbeing.

If you find yourself in this place, even a little bit, then this could be a sign that it’s something your heart needs or longs for. It’s hard to ask for help, especially when you’re a public figure like a pastor. And especially when it’s for sensitive personal topics.

But instead of this embarrassment or shame causing you to further hide, ignore, or brush off, it could be a life-changing decision to open yourself to another person where they see beyond the shame or worry.

Others might not be ready to see you as a pastor in counseling. But don’t let that stop you from going. Your life is worth it. 

#10: If someone would be willing to truly listen, does that interest me?

Pastors do a lot of talking and listening with others. But who listens to them? And do they have genuine listeners where they are truly open and feeling heard? Pastors might have a close spouse, good friends, or a few board members they share with, but oftentimes it’s hard to be open for different reasons.

This is where a counselor could be of great service to a pastor. Pastors need to know they have a safe and neutral person they can go to when they need to sort things out. If this is you, talking to a counselor could be the jump start you need to get back on track.

If you have a hunch, most counselors will provide a free 15-minute consultation to help you explore if talking with a counselor could benefit you. 

It's OK to prioritize you.

Ultimately, pastors have to make the decision for themselves as to whether or not counseling is right for them. However, if you find yourself struggling with any of these issues, it might be worth considering talking to a counselor who can provide an objective and confidential space to work through your problems.

Counseling can help people gain insight into their own behavior and develop healthy coping skills they can use throughout life's journey. With the right guidance and support, you may begin feeling more empowered on your path towards growth and healing. Don't hesitate – take charge of your wellbeing today!

VIDEO transcript

(Scroll for more)

Why should a pastor ask themselves if they’d benefit from counseling? Because pastors need help too. Truly!

So why do we think pastors don’t need counseling? Because pastors are still assumed to have it all together or have all the answers. We tend to think about pastors, “Heck, they preach about it every Sunday, so I’m sure they’re living that way, right?”

Even by those closest to them, pastors oftentimes go unnoticed and unhelped. The truth is, pastors need help, just like every other human being. Even though they preach and lead others spiritually, it does not make them immune from the trials of life, and from needing their own community of people and support that helps them live out their own words they preach and teach.

In fact, if you ask many pastors, they will say that being a pastor is extra lonely, extra isolating, and that they often feel even less able to reach out for help out of fears of church members finding out and gossip starting or their church work being negatively impacted.

Therefore, many pastors go unhelped.

Here are 10 questions a pastor can ask themselves if they would benefit from counseling.

#1: Am I noticing anything unusual about my mood, thoughts, feelings, behaviors?

We all have moments or days where we’re in a bad mood, or we get irritable. That’s normal. But unusual behaviors or feelings are when they are out of character for ourselves, or others would say it’s unusual for us.

With depression or anxiety, these could be thoughts like, “I’m a failure. It’s never enough. Why am I like this! Nobody cares. I can’t overcome it. I’m too weak.”

Feelings like: sadness, dread, fear, panic, regret, loneliness.

Behaviors like: aggression, retaliation, self-harm, stuck in bed, isolating.

You can also use helpful questionnaires to assess your current state, such as the Beck Anxiety or Depression Inventory, CRAFFT, or the pediatric symptom checklist.

If you have changes in these areas, now could be a great time to see a counselor.

#2: Why can’t I seem to shake these feelings?

Times of sadness or worry happen to all of us in waves throughout our lives. But when we’re down or anxious about something for more than a few days or weeks, it typically needs more attention if it won’t go away.

For example, one criteria to be diagnosed with depression is to have two weeks where most days you are feeling down or have low motivation for more days than not. If you’re noticing, or those around you are noticing, that your low mood won’t go away, even after a round of golf, visiting the grandkids, or watching a funny movie, then you might need to talk to a counselor to assess if something more is going on. 

#3: Are any areas of my life suffering?

A universal way to measure the need for help, and specifically mental health, is to look at the different areas of your life (work, school, relationships, hygiene, sleep, finances, spiritual, hobbies), and ask yourself if any area is suffering.

This goes especially for pastors.

Pastors sometimes can be great caretakers of others, but neglect their own friendships, gain excess weight, or have trouble sleeping. These life areas difficulties could point to a mental health concern that needs to be addressed.

A simple way to answer this question is to grade your life areas A through F. If you have any low grades, that could signal something more or deeper is going on, impairing your mood, thoughts or behaviors in a life area. This would be a great time to chat with a counselor. 

#4: How would those closest to me say I’m acting or how my mood is?

What others say or hint at can be very telling, that we could benefit from getting some help.  Maybe someone around you has said something like, “You’ve been extra moody lately,” or, “Why are you so angry now?”

You can also ask yourself some questions, such as:

Have I become more sad recently?

Why do I feel more anxious than normal?

Why am I crying more?

If the answer is yes to having a change in mood, thoughts or behaviors, then you might benefit from talking to a counselor to help figure out what is going on and what to do.

#5: Did a big life event recently happen, or a memory of one?

We might not recognize that a life change or event is having a negative impact on us. Sometimes it is obvious to ourselves and those around us. But sometimes it’s not. This is where a counselor could help you determine if your mental health is affected by this event or memory of an event.

Examples would be moving homes, children graduating, health issues, marital difficulty, loss of friendship, a birth or death. For pastors, this could include a cut in income, loss of church members, change in role or responsibilities. A life event or change is often a good time to chat with a counselor who can help you navigate that well. 

#6: Is my personal relationship with God lacking, suffering, or dying?

Yes, even pastors can have difficulties in their relationship with God. And it may surprise you to know that this could be even more true of pastors than the rest of the people who go to church. There are blurred lines between being a pastor and being a Christian. Therefore, sometimes pastors will neglect their personal relationship and walk with the Lord, because there is so much emphasis on having to do for the congregation. This can cause immense guilt or shame in pastors if they feel they aren’t doing enough.

This could be a great time to get help and see if it is negatively impacting you in any way.

Especially for pastors, where spirituality is a large part of their profession and day-to-day world, when there is a crisis of faith, small or large, having someone to talk with could prove beneficial.

Also, talking to a counselor could be a great way to ensure confidentiality, as some pastors might prefer not to share details of their personal faith challenges with church members. A professional counselor or therapist is bound by confidentiality by their license, with only a few limits to that confidentiality. 

#7: Am I complaining more, unhappy, stuck, and can’t seem to make progress?

Being “stuck” is often one of the most consistent complaints a counselor will hear from a prospective client. Maybe they are stuck in their marriage, career, life satisfaction, with children, or with a behavior.

Pastors are also not immune to this struggle. Sometimes taking time to identify what is causing you to be stuck, the impact it’s having, and tools to correct or improve your situation is all you need. The simple act of “talking” is the most widely used tool by counselors. It allows the client to talk it out, bring the buried to the surface, bring the subconscious to the conscious, and use that gained insight to get unstuck. 

#8: Am I dreading someone or something? 

Relationship difficulties are one of the biggest struggles in life, including for pastors. They’re not immune to struggles in relationships. In fact, they manage many relationships, depending on the size of their church. And relationship struggles lead many people into times of benefiting from talking with a counselor.

When we are dreading or avoiding something, it often leads to other negative symptoms, such as increased anxiety, addictions, anger, or hiding and isolating. That thing we’re avoiding could have a bigger impact than necessary. 

#9: Am I ashamed to get help, embarrassed, or worried my church members will find out? 

It’s understandable to feel embarrassed or ashamed about seeking help. After all, it goes against our pride, and many people don’t want to be seen as “weak.” However, there is great strength in being vulnerable when needed, and also taking the initiative to look after one’s mental wellbeing.

If you find yourself in this place, even a little bit, then this could be a sign that it’s something your heart needs or longs for. It’s hard to ask for help, especially when you’re a public figure like a pastor. And especially when it’s for sensitive personal topics.

But instead of this embarrassment or shame causing you to further hide, ignore, or brush off, it could be a life-changing decision to open yourself to another person where they see beyond the shame or worry.

Others might not be ready to see you as a pastor in counseling. But don’t let that stop you from going. Your life is worth it. 

#10: If someone would be willing to truly listen, does that interest me?

Pastors do a lot of talking and listening with others. But who listens to them? And do they have genuine listeners where they are truly open and feeling heard? Pastors might have a close spouse, good friends, or a few board members they share with, but oftentimes it’s hard to be open for different reasons.

This is where a counselor could be of great service to a pastor. Pastors need to know they have a safe and neutral person they can go to when they need to sort things out. If this is you, talking to a counselor could be the jump start you need to get back on track.

If you have a hunch, most counselors will provide a free 15-minute consultation to help you explore if talking with a counselor could benefit you. 

It's OK to prioritize you.

Ultimately, pastors have to make the decision for themselves as to whether or not counseling is right for them. However, if you find yourself struggling with any of these issues, it might be worth considering talking to a counselor who can provide an objective and confidential space to work through your problems.

Counseling can help people gain insight into their own behavior and develop healthy coping skills they can use throughout life's journey. With the right guidance and support, you may begin feeling more empowered on your path towards growth and healing. Don't hesitate – take charge of your wellbeing today!

AUTHOR
Noe Rivera

Noe Rivera has been in the people business for over 20 years, serving the church body through his work in ministry, missions, and the marketplace. In his current work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Noe continues to serve the church by providing therapy for pastors, ministry leaders, and their families.

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10 Questions To Ask: How Counseling Can Help Pastors

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