Christianity and psychotherapy: Two different solutions to two different issues

Have you ever wondered what’s the point of going to counseling when you have Jesus in your heart? Does seeing a therapist mean you don’t trust God? Or is there any difference between a spiritual issue and a mental health issue? I have asked all of these questions and many more myself. Over time I have discovered what Christianity solves is something very different from what counseling attends to.

“Now what pscyhoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man better raw material for his acts of choice; morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.”

C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity”

What does Christianity seek to solve?

Christianity is a faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to solve the moral consequence of our sins and provide a redirection of our actions. In other words, the bad moral choices we knowingly made as being bad moral choices are consequenced. Faith in Christ remedies that consequence. Per Christianity, the consequence of sin is separation from God forever. When one commits their life to Christ, they are “saved” from that consequence. They will instead spend their forever with God. Also the more the Christian makes room for God in their life the better choices they will make.

This does not at all mean the Christian will no longer experience pain, suffering, anxiety, depression, or any other mental turmoil. This is not what Christianity seeks to resolve. This also doesn’t mean the Christian is better than a non-Christian. Because the Christian’s salvation is to God’s credit, so too is the redirection of their life.

This can be rough for the Christian. As with faith comes a new brand of pain and suffering atop the difficulties the Christian was already experiencing. While the aim of salvation is not to end one’s suffering, it does offer immediate resources to turn to for relief. These resources include wonderful things like inner love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control. There’s also a new outlook on life and the hope in it, a positive view of the future that no one can take away. And the more the Christian learns about their faith, grows in and yields to it the better. The result is more power their faith and hope have over their life and circumstances. This is a perk, instead of their life and circumstances having power over their faith and hope.

What does psychotherapy seek to solve?

Psychotherapy is the management of the mind and understanding of the psyche. It seeks to increase functioning in a person’s life. With it they can understand their feelings and achieve reduction of mentally unhealthy symptoms. This is succeeded by building a trusting relationship with someone who cares and helps them through their challenges.

So psychotherapy does not seek to concern itself with the moral choices one makes. Although, of course there is some overlap incorporating one’s choices as a topic of discussion during counseling. This is because the moral choices one makes influences their mindset. Also one’s mindset influences their moral choices. The more healthy of a mindset one is in the better choices one tends to make. People who feel better, do better.

In summary…

Christianity is about salvation and psychotherapy is about achieving mental health. Psychotherapy gives good material to work from to make choices with. Christianity concerns itself with what one does with what they have. Both Christianity and psychotherapy have two different aims but they do overlap somewhat in territory. Christianity isn’t about relieving emotional and mental pain and suffering. However, it does offer relief and comfort from the unpleasantries of this life. Psychotherapy isn’t about moral choices. Nonetheless, it does offer a healthier mindset to operate from which yields making better choices for oneself.

So Christians can need counseling too and it does not mean the Christian doesn’t trust God. A Christian challenged with a mental health issue is no worse a Christian than one who is not and it does not mean the Christian does not have faith. Faith is a spiritual issue, while mental health issues deals with one’s emotional, psychological, and social life. There’s indeed overlap between both Christianity and psychotherapy, but at bottom they do not attempt to resolve the same thing.

by Brittany M. Black, M.S., LMFT

photo cred. ~ Diana Simumpande (@dianasimumpande)

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