Why You Might Seek Out A Christian Counselor

Updated November 22, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There are many types of therapists that may provide services, one of them being Christian therapy. As the name implies, Christian therapy is when you obtain therapy from a Christian perspective. Many people who seek religious therapists do it because there is an element of faith tied to their problems, but others may seek religious therapy for different reasons. Some religious therapists and their clients may opt to not incorporate spiritual elements into therapy or may utilize a mixture of both religious and secular approaches if that is what is desired and deemed most helpful for the client.

Faith Based Therapy Defined

A Christian therapist is a therapist whose advice and teachings are rooted in a Christian perspective. They may believe that many of life's answers can be found in the Bible, and teaching values from there can enrich the lives of their clients and anyone else interested. The amount of emphasis placed on these themes can typically be adjusted person-to-person.

History Of Christian Therapy & Christian Counselors

The origins of Christian counseling are rooted in the Bible and the values of Christianity today. Many reverends, preachers, and other Christian figures have offered guidance and advice since the dawn of Christianity, but the modern form of Christian counseling started 50 years ago. In 1968, the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation was formed, where counselors are trained and abide by a code. Just like secular counselors, they have a series of principles they must follow; however, Christian counselors believe the Scripture provides teachings to diagnose and treat a number of psychological and spiritual maladies, as well as interpersonal issues.

Reasons To See A Christian-Based Counselor

Many seek out a Christian therapist for spiritual reasons. Others prefer Christian counseling. For example, if you feel like you're losing your faith or your connection with God, a Christian therapist can help discover what might be causing this and get you back on the right track for yourself.

However, a religious therapist is more than just someone who can help you with the aspects of your life related to your faith. They believe the Bible can offer many teaching to enrich your life and overcome mental health concerns and personal challenges, as well. If desired, they can also provide guidance without relying on Biblical teachings, or do so minimally. They may be able to help you in other ways, just like any other counselor.

Some examples of these ways can include:

  • Marriage problems. Religious counselors can be couples’ counselors and help resolve issues that you may have, be it disconnection, miscommunication, disagreements, or trouble with you and/or your partner’s faith.
  • Grievance. Even when your faith is strong, loss such as the death of a loved one can be hard to fathom and overcome. A counselor may be able to help you heal by providing guidance and coping mechanisms that allow you to continue with your life, often at least partially by leaning on your faith.
  • Mental health concerns. A religious therapist may be able to provide guidance and treatment through the teachings of the Bible that may be able to help you overcome any mental health concerns you may have. Biblical passages have many interpretations and can often be applied to a wide breadth of life experiences and difficulties.
  • Help you reach your goals. If you’re finding it difficult to accomplish goals in your life or find your purpose or passion, a counselor may be able to help you gain a new perspective or give you tools and strategies provided in the Bible to help you find and pursue your desired path in life.
  • Substance use. A religious therapist may be able to help you manage any substance use that is negatively affecting your life based on various Biblical teachings, and without judgment.
  • Anger management. A religious therapist may be able to help you develop ways to manage your anger in a healthier manner through faith-based teachings. 

Challenges Christian Counseling May Be Able To Help With

If you seek the help of a religious therapist, here are a few ways they may be able to treat you and how they differ from secular counselors.

Addiction

A secular therapist’s treatments are not rooted in faith or spirituality (though this can differ therapist to therapist). They believe that individuals may be able to overcome mental health concerns by creating solutions through science. A secular therapist sees addiction as a disease that can be treated and overcome with a variety of science-based techniques. They may teach you behavioral techniques that you can use to avoid relapse, teach you to associate whatever you're addicted to with something you don't like, and provide you with valuable techniques to cope with overcoming addiction. A secular therapist may look for certain triggers that may contribute to your particular experience with addiction, and help you to minimize these triggers and deal with them in healthy ways.

A religious therapist may believe that addiction comes from sin or a lack/loss of devotion to God. They may be able to teach you ways to avoid temptation and stick to the plan that God has given you. For example, they may teach you how to pray whenever you're feeling tempted, and prayer may help you shake off any urges you may have. 

Everyone is different, and both secular and religious counseling can be incredibly beneficial for treating addiction and a variety of other concerns depending on circumstances and who you are.

Depression

Depression can have many different causes and influences, depending on the individual. Stressful life events, grief, chemical imbalance, genetics, medication, or medical problems are all common causes of depression. A secular counselor may be able to teach you ways to improve your symptoms of depression through different counseling, mindfulness, or coping strategies. Your recommended treatment will ultimately depend on you as an individual and the treatment methods that the therapist specializes in.

Christian counselors may find solutions based on the teachings of the Scripture. A religious therapist will try to help your situation typically by applying a more Biblical lens to the problem. They may believe that by seeking God, you can find that purpose that you need. This can come in the form of you trying to pray more, read the Bible more, or find other ways to stay connected to your faith. Many Christian counselors combine the schools of psychology, psychiatry, and religion, and so may use a combination of both faith-based and secular approaches.

Marriage

Both religious counseling and secular counseling offer couples’ counseling to help deal with any marital issues that you may be experiencing. Parenting problems, infidelity, miscommunication, or financial issues are all some of the concerns that married couples may experience. A religious therapist believes in the foundation of a strong family unit and believes that if your faith in God is lacking, it can cause the family to face challenges. They may help resolve marital issues you're having by helping you to renew your faith in God.

A secular counselor typically has a different strategy and will look at the issues you're facing, find the psychological cause of them, and help develop a strategy to overcome them. For example, if there are miscommunication issues between you and your partner, you may be advised to both write them down to better understand where the other person is coming from and determine how to work through the communication issues.

Spirituality

A secular counselor’s treatment is based on science (primarily psychology and psychiatry), so there most likely won't be any spiritual needs you will have fulfilled when it comes to a secular counselor. A secular counselor will usually respect your religion and will not try to convert you to what they personally believe when it comes to religion. If you desire to have somewhat of a spiritual component in your secular counseling, you can discuss this with your therapist to help come up with a treatment plan and approach that works for both of you.

A Christian counselor’s treatment focuses more heavily on the Christian faith, and they will often use the Bible as the core of their treatment and to help you renew your faith. For many, a renewal of faith can help them better approach other difficulties in their life, such as loss, depression, and a variety of other things.

Christian Counseling Education And Licensing

You may wonder what kind of education a religious therapist needs to have before they become a professional counselor. A religious therapist will need to have a master's degree in almost all cases, just like a secular therapist would have. A clergy is the only exception to this rule. A religious therapist also needs to have a substantial understanding of the Bible and the faith to be a counselor. There are many interpretations of the faith and the Bible; therefore, each religious therapist may have their own individual take on how they provide counseling related to the Bible and their education, both that of psychology and religion. 

Like secular counselors, a religious therapist typically needs to be licensed as well. In six states, there is a specific license for a Christian counselor, with a title of a Licensed Pastoral Counselor. The states that require this specific license for religious counseling are New Hampshire, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, and North Carolina. In the remaining 44 states, Christian counselors may gain licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or a Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).

Although their practice is based in religion, a religious therapist typically has a lot of formal education behind their practice and may receive a similar education in counseling as a secular therapist would. They are spiritual but still educated in the field of psychology and how the mind works, therefore enabling them to help people from a variety of approaches depending on their own experience and the needs of individual clients.

Where To Find Christian Counseling Near You

There are many ways to find a counselor or religious therapist if you want to speak to one. You can search online for a faith-based therapist or ask at your local place of worship. One place you may be able to find a religious therapist is at a church in your area. They may have a religious therapist that practices at the church or may be able to provide a recommendation of one. You can also talk to attendees of your church to see if there is a Christian therapist whom they go to. Local religious schools may also be able to provide a recommendation for a religious counselor. You may also be able to find a religious therapist in hospitals and funeral homes, where they often provide counseling to grieving families.

A government office will most likely not have a religious therapist due to the legal separation of church and state. Locally operated non-profit and not-for-profit counseling and outreach centers often have both secular and religion-based counselors. 

Christian Counseling Vs Secular Counseling

If you’re trying to decide between a religious therapist or a secular therapist, it may depend on your views of the world, your faith, or your level of spirituality. If your faith is rooted in Christianity, you may benefit from seeking a religious therapist to help you with any challenges you may be facing. A religious therapist may be able to provide counseling and guidance through a spiritual lens and may be able to strengthen your relationship with God.

If your personal beliefs are not rooted in religion or you have another faith besides Christianity, you may not benefit from seeing a religious therapist, as most of their counseling is based on the Scripture and teachings of the Bible.

Christian Counseling Conclusion - How Christian Counseling Can Help

A religious therapist may be able to help you overcome challenges you may be experiencing or help you find a suitable path through your faith. If you are a Christian, it may be beneficial for you to seek support from a Christian counselor.

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