A frequent question we hear from individuals who are trying to stop hurting the ones they love is, “Do you know any good domestic violence counselors in my area?” Our answer is yes, we have a “Find a Counselor” button on our Counseling page that can help generate a not-so-short list of possibilities. Our answer is also no, because no counselor is going to be right for everyone. The better answer, however, is that it’s the wrong question to ask.

Who is a good counselor is the wrong question to ask.

My friend Cal, who is a counselor, humbly shared with me that studies show that when people experience the desired change from counseling (success), only 15% of that success can be attributed to the skill of the counselor. Fifteen percent! Cal smiled sheepishly when he told me that statistic because he knows it doesn’t speak strongly about anything he or others in his profession contribute to the change.

Client’s strengths and resources

So what’s the most important factor? The strengths and resources of the client are 40%. “Strengths” include things like the client’s motivation, openness to new ways of thinking, willingness to try new techniques, inclination to seek out other resources to supplement their counseling, and sheer grit when they feel confused or stuck.

Components of “resources” include whether the person receiving counseling also has individuals in their life who encourage their efforts and set good examples–mentors. The surprise in this study is that counseling success is primarily up to us—the attitude and motivation we take in the door, and the people we surround ourselves with—not the counselor we select.

Counseling success is primarily up to us, not the counselor we select.

Rapport between clinician and patient

The second most important factor, at 30%, is the relationship the therapist establishes with the client. Does this counselor get me? Do I trust that they have my best interest in mind? The saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” applies to counseling. None of us will connect with everyone, including counselors, so it may take some trial and error before you find one that fits.

It may take some trial and error before you find a counselor that fits.


Is change possible? We believe it because we see it happen on a regular basis. In fact, “Change is possible!” is one of our taglines at the Ananias Foundation. What really matters, or at least accounts for 15% of the predictors of change according to the study, is whether the client has hope. Do you believe change is possible?

Clinical skill

As I mentioned above, the clinician’s skill predicted only 15% of counseling success. Of course, finding a therapist who is licensed, has an advanced degree (Masters, PhD) from an accredited university, and specializes in anger management or domestic violence counseling will increase the odds. Cal tells me that good counselors will help clients identify and access their strengths, work hard to connect and be trustworthy, and will provide encouragement and hope to their patients. Maybe 15% underestimates their contribution.

By the way, if you’re looking for individuals to hang around that will share your struggles and be good examples, consider our online domestic violence support groups. Also consider getting involved with missions, ministries, or small groups at a church. For more considerations on domestic abuse counseling, see our Counseling page and this recent blog on couple’s counseling. Change is possible!

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