Why You Might Seek Out A Christian Counselor

Updated August 22, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

There are many types of therapists who may provide services, with 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 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. Ahead, we’ll explain faith-based therapy, ways Christian counselors can help those in need of support, and where you can find the best religious therapist to support you in reaching your goals.

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 from one person to the next.

In faith-based counseling, the therapist may incorporate prayer, readings from scripture, and other spiritual rituals into the counseling sessions. In doing so, they aim to support the client in connecting with their chosen higher power and to find a greater meaning in their lives and struggles.

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History Of Christian Therapy And 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. 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 help solidify your beliefs or show you how to manage doubt.

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 teachings 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. 

Resolving Marital Issues

Religious couples’ counselors help resolve issues that you may have, be they related to disconnection, miscommunication, disagreements, or trouble with faith. Both religious counseling and secular counseling offer couples’ counseling to help cope 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.

Grieving A Loss

Even when your faith is strong, loss of a loved one (through death or the end of a relationship) 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 by leaning on your faith.

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 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.

Treating Addiction 

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.

Addiction is a common issue that compels many religious people to seek Christian counseling. 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 devoted to you. For example, they may teach you how to pray whenever you're feeling tempted, and prayer as a form of mindfulness or meditation may help you shake off any urges you may have. 

A secular therapist’s treatments are not rooted in faith or spirituality (though this can differ from 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 cope with them in healthy ways.

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.

Finding Your Purpose

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.

A secular counselor’s treatment is based on science (primarily psychology and psychiatry); typically, they will respect your religious beliefs, if shared, and 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, medical illness, and a variety of other issues.

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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 obtain. 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. 

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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. Many Christian counselors may also specialize within a domain like marriage and family counseling or substance use recovery.

Christian Counseling Versus Secular Counseling

If you’re trying to decide between a religious or a secular therapist, it may depend on your views of the world, your faith, or your level of spirituality. One is not necessarily better than the other in healing mental illness or pain.

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 Christian or religious therapist, as most of their counseling is based on the scripture and teachings of the Bible (or other associated religious text, like the Quran or Torah). 

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. If you belong to a church or other religious group, they may have a relationship with a religious therapist. You can also talk to attendees of your church to see if there is a Christian therapist whom they go to for guidance. 

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. 

If you’re struggling to determine whether to begin counseling with a religious or a secular therapist, online therapy might be the best place for you to start. Through online therapy platforms like MyTherapist, you can match with a counselor who is best suited to assist you in reaching your mental health-related goals. If your first consultation doesn’t quite work out, you can meet with another therapist! People who engage in online counseling may find it easier to experiment with different therapy services, which is actually encouraged. 

Other benefits of online counseling include the ability to schedule appointments at convenient times and the freedom to meet with your virtual therapist from any location with a secure internet connection. Many people often find that online counseling is a more affordable option when compared to traditional in-person therapy, as well.

One study affirmed equal or better effectiveness of religious-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) when compared to conventional CBT. Results indicate that both treatment approaches are effective in adjusting dysfunctional, maladaptive beliefs and replacing them with positive, realistic behaviors and beliefs; in turn, these changes showed increased positive emotions.

Takeaway

Whether you decide to seek faith-based therapy or conventional psychotherapy, the choice to reach out for help is likely a good one. When you invite a professional therapist into your support network, you open yourself up to new possibilities, including more rational and empowered ways of thinking and acting. You can learn to think and behave in new ways with practice and support, and your religious or secular counselors will share at least one thing in common: the desire to help you be the best version of yourself. When you’re ready to start your counseling relationship, reach out to MyTherapist for support.

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