What is the difference between member care, psychotherapy, and counseling?

Member Care is the ongoing preparation, equipping and empowering of missionaries for effective and sustainable life, ministry and work. Member Care addresses all aspects of well-being of missionaries and their dependents. It includes spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, and economic matters, and addresses the needs of single people, couples, families, and children. Member care seeks to empower missionaries to make healthy choices by offering ongoing training, resourcing, and equipping in all these areas. It is integral to all aspects of mission including leadership, logistics, spiritual formation, and church life. It begins with selection and continues throughout the missionary life cycle to re-entry or retirement and beyond.

Member care providers bring various levels and types of training and experience to their roles. Some member care workers are licensed as counselors while others may have a pastoral background or other type of training. Some are asked by their organization to become member care providers after years of experience living cross-culturally or after demonstrating good listening and “people care” skills, even though they have no formal training whatsoever.

Policies regarding confidentiality in member care vary from organization to organization or situation to situation. If you are to receive organizational member care, you may want to ask your member care provider what to expect concerning confidentiality.

Psychotherapy and professional counseling imply a confidential process with a licensed, trained clinician. Psychotherapy is helpful when the ways by which you have coped in the past are no longer working for you, or when you recognize unhealthiness in your coping patterns. Psychologists and other trained clinicians help you get to root issues so that you can more clearly see your choices for dealing with and managing those things which distress you—either in yourself or about others. Counseling is also recommended when persistent or troubling thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are beyond what would be normal for you.

The decision to pursue counseling is a healthy response that provides an opportunity to grow in insight, faith, and character.