What Are The Differences Between Christian Counseling And Secular Counseling?
Updated December 09, 2019
When you need help, there are many therapists you can turn to, and your choice can depend on many factors of your life, including your faith. If you are Christian, are interested in religion, or want another perspective, you may turn to Christian counseling. If you are more science-minded, not that religious, and want someone who can give your information that can apply to anyone, you go to secular counseling. In this post, we shall discuss the differences between the two.
What Is Christian Counseling And Secular Counseling?
You can probably guess that Christian counseling is therapy through a Biblical lens, while secular counseling does not have any religious bias and is instead follows modern psychology. That is true, but there are a few more differences than just that.
First, let's look at the similarities. Both types of counseling have a similar goal: they want to make the person better. If they are suffering from mental problems, both therapists want to help the person overcome their disabilities. If the client has relationship issues, both therapists want them to resolve their issues or learn how to break away from that person. If the client wants to meet their goals, both counselors will help come up with a plan that's effective.
Both professions are designed to help the person be the best they can be, and the person who helps them is educated. Both Christian and secular counselors have studied hard and are experienced in what they do. Both may use similar techniques to help the self out.
The difference comes in the fact that Christian counselors look at many of the issues through the lens of the Bible. They believe that the Bible has the answers to many of life's problems. From wisdom offered in Proverbs to relating the struggles of the clients to the characters in the Bible, it puts life into perspective through a Christian lens.
Meanwhile, secular counseling does not offer any religious bias. A secular counselor may use a client's religion as a talking point, but a secular therapist should not outright promote any religious beliefs or shame the client for having a belief.
For non-Christians, or people who aren't religious, Christian counseling may not seem that useful, but for people who are Christian, Christian counseling can help. From normal issues, like anxiety, depression, or addiction, to more spiritual issues like losing one's faith, Christian counseling offers many services.
There is no right choice when it comes to which one you pick. You may find value in both Christian and secular counseling. For the spiritual side, you may like what the Christian counselor teaches you, and for the more scientific side of you, you may enjoy hearing about the psychology of the brain and how you can change around your thinking.
Let's discuss other differences between Christian and secular counseling, starting with education.
For both counselors, a master's degree is required. For a secular counselor, social work or psychology are needed to become a counselor. For a Christian counselor, a clergy member does not need a master's to be a counselor. As you can expect, a Christian counselor needs to have the Biblical and Christian knowledge to be an effective counselor.
Different licenses are required to be either a Christian or secular counselor. Christian counselor specific licenses are available in six states. Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee allow you to get a unique license. Every other state requires you to get the same license as any other mental health counselor. To get the license, you need to take an exam, and it can vary depending on what state you're in.
The salary for counseling will vary, but on average, a Christian counselor makes more than a traditional counselor. On average, a Christian counselor makes about $50K, while a secular counselor makes about $41K.
Both professions have different places of operation. Both counselors can operate in their private offices and hospitals. A Christian counselor operates in churches, Christian schools, funeral homes, homeless shelters, and adoption agencies. A secular therapist is in nursing homes, outpatient care, and government offices. As the government tries to avoid religious themes, many Christian counselors are of the private sector.
What about when it comes to subject matter? Both forms of counselor do offer similar subjects. They offer couple's therapy, depression, and addiction. Christian counseling offers more family-based counseling and premarital counseling, while secular counseling may offer more psychiatric counseling and deal with PTSD.
And as mentioned before, counseling styles will be through different lenses. Let's say there is infidelity in a marriage. A Christian counselor will look at it through the lens of sin and how people give into temptation. They will help the couples resolve their problems while strengthening their relationship with God.
A traditional therapist will look at your relationship and find the causes. Be it unconscious thoughts, past trauma, or communication issues. Both seek to fix the marriage, but one may focus more on the religion of the clients more than the other.
For secular counseling, there is more concentration on the individual. While many problems have similar roots, each situation is a bit different, and the counselor will have to try many different techniques to find the solution that best fits them.
Meanwhile, Christian counselor may be more monolithic. While individualism is still a factor, a counselor of the Christian faith believes that all our problems come from sin or the lack of belief in God. The solution is to put more faith in your life and live for God.
For depression, the approach differs as well. Someone who has a secular counselor will try to find the cause of the depression. It may be a past issue, a current issue, or something else lying within the unconscious. Often, talking about your problems and replacing your thoughts with better thoughts can treat your depression.
Christian counselors, the root of depression may be the lack of God and the feeling of emptiness in your life that comes from not having enough faith in God. A Christian counselor will help the person treat anything that is bothering them while offering spiritual advice.
Man Vs. God
One theme of Christian counseling vs. secular counseling is man and God. Christian counseling believes that God is the final authority and that humans are trying to resolve their issues never works. Instead, you need to submit yourself to God, and He can help guide you to wherever you need to go.
Some Christian counselors may look at secular counseling unfavorably, believing that they put humans as the final authority and try to solve problems that are best left to God. It's a bit of a cynical look at secular counseling. Often, secular counselors will respect their clients' religion and try to help them based on their faith, but they just don't promote one faith over the other. Instead, they look to the mind. The brain is complex and still not fully understood, but secular counselors will take all the knowledge they know and try to help you in the battle with yourself.
Meanwhile, a Christian counselor believes that all your problems are due to sin and not being connected with God, and their teachings will be based on this premise.
Which Is More Effective?
When it comes to Christianity, their evidence tends to come from testimonials. People who have converted, or have taken Christian counseling, and have stories to prove its success. Meanwhile, secular counseling is more scientific and requires heavier research. If a technique doesn't yield too many results, it's typically not used in the field of psychology and gets tossed to the side.
It can be hard to figure out which is more effective. For many, the power of faith is not measured by science or studies, but it's a feeling you can't explain and won't appreciate until you've experienced it firsthand.
With that said, it all depends on your needs. As we said before, someone with a strong faith could benefit from Christian counseling, while someone who isn't as religious may benefit from secular counseling. Sometimes, a little bit of both may be needed for your spiritual side and your body itself.
The point is not to judge someone based on what type of counselor they use. It's effective for them, it's a good thing, and you shouldn't shame them for which path they choose in bettering themselves.
If you're having troubles with your life, you need to seek a therapist. A good therapist will be able to help you resolve your problems, find the causes of your trauma, and help you move on with your life. Sometimes, therapy comes in the form of a Christian counselor or a normal therapist. Whatever the path you take, by seeking a therapist who is the most effective for you, you can get better.