When It's Time for a Professional

Sometimes people in your group need more than you're able to give.

Sometimes a person in your small group needs more help than you can give—professional help from a counselor or pastor. Knowing when and to whom to refer is a humility -based art. It means acknowledging that you can not be all things to all people. Like any art, there are no hard and fast rules. However, some guidelines may be helpful.

When to Consider Referral

  • The person appears severely disturbed—hallucinating, considering suicide, unable to function.
  • You've discussed the same issue four or more times, but without improvement or change.
  • You begin to feel "in over your head."
  • You have either a strong dislike or strong attraction toward the person.
  • The problem is rooted in drug or alcohol addiction.
  • You suspect a physical problem is contributing to fatigue, weakness, or fainting.
  • Conversations consistently center on childhood experiences, relationships with parents, or other issues more relevant to therapy.
  • You feel this individual is taking more of your time than you can provide.

Facing the Facts

"Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow into [Christ]" (Eph. 4:15). Your aim is to help the person toward maturity and completion in Christ. This requires speaking honestly about your perception of the situation, giving one or two viable options for help, and assuring the individual of your continued support.

Making the Referral

Your pastor probably has a list of doctors, clinics, hospitals, social services, counseling centers, 12-step programs, and other support groups in your area. Most likely, he or she is acquainted with some caregivers and can steer you in the right direction. Some professionals will agree to an initial no-commitment screening interview with you. This may increase your confidence about making ...

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