When we think of counseling, we often think of the stereotypical phrase “and how does that make you feel?” Most of us understand that counseling is about getting in touch with our emotions. But, when it comes to the healing process, it is important to recognize we are more than just our feelings. Though we are emotional beings, we are also physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual beings! That being the case, it is natural to wonder . . . what about God and faith? How does that play out in therapy?
[For clarification, although we have numerous belief systems, for the purposes of this article, I am sharing information regarding Christian Counseling. However, it is very easy to replace Christianity as discussed here with any other faith or belief system]
When it comes to counseling and Christianity,
people tend to fall into one of three categories. The first group are those specifically seeking a “Christian Counselor.” They want a counselor with beliefs that emulate their own and a desire to include in counseling an understanding of God as they know Him. The second group tends to be more apathetic when it comes to faith. They may not hold to any specific religious belief or, if they do, are not as interested in a counselor that mirrors that belief. They are not opposed to including faith or spiritual guidance in the counseling process, nor do they necessarily desire it. The final group are those who specifically prefer NOT to work with a “Christian counselor,” though they may be open to a “Christian” counselor.
Are you confused yet? Are you wondering what the difference is? Well, let me explain.
What’s the difference between a Christian Counselor and a “Christian” Counselor?
A “Christian Counselor” – this is a counselor who identifies himself or herself as more than just a counselor. These counselors tend to use counseling skills but also draw from their own beliefs based on their Christian faith. It is the perfect combination of counselor and pastor, all in one! Some “Christian Counselors” are licensed and operate under the authority of the State (which can get a little tricky here, given church and state issues), while others may be certified Pastoral Counselors working under the authority of the church. The pro is their belief system is an integral part of services and for a client whose life reflects a strong Christian faith, it can be a perfect fit. The down side is it can lead to exclusionary feelings for those struggling with beliefs that conflict with Christian values.
A “Christian” Counselor – this is a counselor who happens to be a Christian. These counselors draw from counseling skills and only share Christian faith ideas if either requested by the client or as these issues arise during the counseling process. The pro is this counselor may be more open to spiritual and faith ideas that include Christian values as well as ideas from other faiths or systems of belief, including agnosticism and atheism. The down side is if clients are seeking help from someone who embraces only Christian ideas, then this type of counselor might be inappropriate.
Regardless of which you choose, a good counselor should always be able to separate their own beliefs from counseling services, including a good licensed “Christian Counselor.” In fact, State licensing laws maintain ethical standards and practices for this very reason. This skill allows the counselor to connect with the client and help meet their needs. Remember, the spiritual part of us is only one area of who we are. Good counseling is more about the relationship, regardless of any differing religious beliefs.
Make sure you “Connect”
The most important thing is that you and your counselor connect and are able to work through issues. If that is not happening, it often has little to do with religious differences and is most often simply a personality clash. In that case, my advice is to keep looking, don’t give up. It will be well worth your time and effort!
As for me, I am a “Christian” counselor. It is my nature to research so I spent many years studying writings and materials from various teachings to help me understand faith, God, and the church. This effort brought me to Christianity. That being said, however, it is my personal belief it is not my job to make anyone a Christian. I am called to simply love others and let God do the rest.
I hope that helped clarify it a bit more. If you have questions or comments, feel free to message me or share a comment below!