What is Christian Counseling?
A Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. A counselor is a professional guide to help someone in resolving personal challenges. Both Christians and counselors have diverse beliefs and approaches. There are varying theological and psychological perspectives, so it’s easy to become bogged down with philosophical opinions and whatnot. Because such diversity can be overwhelming to sift through, it may be helpful to begin with what Christian counseling is not.
- Christian counseling is not an evangelism program. The goal of Christian counseling is not to “save souls”. It is a personal decision, and only a personal one, to believe in Jesus Christ as God, follow him, and/or grow such faith. Whether or not receiving Christian counseling will lead someone on a journey toward a proclamation of faith, is not the intent of a Christian counseling approach, unless, of course, that is the stated goal in which a client sought Christian counsel.
- Christian counseling is not “bible-thumping”. To piggy-back off of the prior point, Christian counseling is not an aggressive evangelistic strategy. Therefore, Christian counseling is not a bible study, church program, or sermon lecture. In-session-scriptural-readings are not a requirement for Christian counseling. The bible mentions some psychological subject matter, but this does not make it a psychotherapy textbook any more than the bible’s descriptions of meals make it a cookbook. In the end, understanding scripture is not the optimal aim of Christian counseling.
- Christian counseling is not anti-secular. Secular only means denotation of things without a religious or spiritual basis. Although philosophically speaking, it can be argued that everything has a metaphysical basis, for the sake of simplicity consider how everything is not viewed religiously or spiritually by many, including Christians. Christians are involved with many irreligious things including exercising, watching television, getting dressed in the morning, etc. So too is Christian counseling not strictly “Christian” nor detached from any secular involvement.
- Christian counseling is not only for Christians. Christian counseling is not only for those who follow Jesus Christ and it is not only for those who believe in God. Anyone can receive Christian counseling because Christian counseling aims to help someone with improving function in their life, not to emphasize the Christian religion. Both the religious and irreligious can receive Christian counseling to help with any personal challenges they encounter.
So, what is Christian counseling? Imagine a pair of glasses, and this pair of glasses help you see the world through the teachings of Jesus Christ. You don’t give anyone your glasses, instead, you only see through them which filters your perspective as you think and act. Simply put, Christian counseling is using a Christian lens to help someone through what’s challenging them. That’s all. Nothing more, and nothing less. Although there are different approaches and beliefs Christian counselors may have, the uniting fabric of Christian counseling is the use of a Christian lens. There is an agreement among Christian counselors in the theological reality of Jesus Christ’s teachings as biblical truth. This agreement of biblical truth extends to belief in the reality of the creation of the world by God, humankind as morally imperfect, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of people, the reality of his resurrection, and the indwelling nature of the Holy Spirit. So now we can explore further how Christian counseling applies.
- Christian counseling affirms psychology. Christian counseling must incorporate psychology to be reasonably considered “counseling”. Whoever and whatever people are, psychoanalysts argue there are forces at work (our environment, our rearing, our experiences, our biology, our personality, etc) which reveals our nature isn’t under our direct control. Christian views support this idea with biblical stories illustrating conspiring forces since the beginning of time, working against us despite our best efforts and intentions to live well. So techniques to overcome these inhibitions and obstacles are offered in both Christianity and psychology, and there’s much overlap. Now, how much Christianity and how much secular psychology someone receives in Christian counseling depends on the Christian counselor. Some Christian counselors are more secular in application and some Christian counselors are more religious in practice. A culturally competent professional will base spiritual integration on your preferences.
- Christian counseling is concerned about people who are hurting. Christianity teaches that every person has intrinsic value, therefore Christian counselors believe people are worthy of being seen, heard, and shown compassion. Christian counselors have a heavy burden to keep people encouraged and uplifted. Motivated by the example of the unconditional love Jesus Christ shows, Christian counselors demonstrate care about people, their hopes, and the quality of their lives.
- Christian counseling is concerned with finding purpose and meaning in a fallen world. The lens of Christian counseling reveals life as being experienced in a world filled with good and evil, joy and pain, love, and suffering. When such warfare seems bankrupt of purpose and meaning, Christian counseling restores a foundation of reasons for continuing to pursue hope and contentment. Christian counseling also implores consideration of how someone is impacted by devastating immoral choices of others, or disastrous circumstances in life, or generational patterns.
- Christian counseling values choices. The bible claims people have the freedom of will and emphasizes the importance of using this human ability. From the wise behavioral teachings found in books like Proverbs, to remedies for managing negative thoughts like Paul offered the Philippians, Christian counselors affirm their belief in individual autonomy and responsibility as a vehicle for change. Christian counseling also enables people to deal with their moral load, so people can cope with the pain and suffering received from others, as well as manage the pain and suffering they personally project. A good Christian counselor is non-judgmental and meets a person where they are, just as God provides an example for inviting people to come to him as they are and only holds people accountable for what they know.
- Christian counseling is open to allow for spiritual inclusion. Religion is welcome into the therapeutic experience of one’s mental and behavioral health to the extent a person desires. Christian counselors offer themselves as a channel for God to flow through as they deeply believe it is God who transforms lives. With a rooted belief in purpose, meaning, and goal-directed livelihoods, Christian counselors highlight hope and victory as real destinations. Christian counselors can provide biblical insight into the consequences of various choices, they can understand spiritual conviction rooted in the Holy Spirit, and engage God’s intervention in personal lives.
In conclusion, Christian counseling offers psychology through the lens of Christ’s teachings and uses biblical truths to understand the challenges facing people. Christian counseling is for anyone who wants the benefits of human responsibility and human value it prescribes. Overall, the pursuit of Christian counseling is to help people live healthier lives, cope well in this challenging world, and be encouraged.
by Brittany M. Black, M.S., LMFT
photo cred. ~ Christina (Christina@wocintechchat.com)