WHAT IS CHRISTIAN COUNSELING?

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Christian counseling, also called biblical counseling and Christian psychology, combines your faith with psychology principles to improve your mental well-being and relationships. More importantly, this counseling approach uses scripture and biblical teaching to help you cope with life’s challenges.

The truth is, when you’re in the midst of troubling events like the death of a loved one or a pet, job loss, declining health, financial difficulties, or relationship issues, good and resilient faith might be just what’s missing from your life.

The ultimate aim of Christian counseling is to help Christians recognize behaviors that are inconsistent with God’s teachings, so they can accept God’s will – even when it is not their will. A Christian counselor believes that the Bible is the ultimate guide on how people, particularly Christians, should think and act. In other words, this Holy Bible is seen as the only truth.

HOW DID CHRISTIAN COUNSELING BEGIN?

The root of Christian counseling lies in biblical accounts. In his book, Qualified to Counsel, Jay E. Adams, the pioneer of the Biblical Therapy Movement, addressed this faith-based approach to treating mental health, relationship problems, depression, emotional distress, violence, addiction, etc.

This approach was controversial because it differed from the more popular therapy approaches of the time. But in the late 1960s and 1970s, this modern form of counseling started to later become one of the most popular therapy options for Christians and for others who want to involve their religion in the therapy process.

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, founded in 1968, was established to provide present-day and future Christian counselors with instructions on properly treating those seeking a faith-based therapy approach.

It is important to be mindful that counselors not only adhere to the basic values and beliefs of the Bible but must also observe the guidelines and ethical rules of the law, the DSM-V, and the APA (American Psychological Association).

WHO CAN PRACTICE CHRISTIAN COUNSELING?

Psychologists of any specialty, counselors, reverends, pastors, religious leaders, clinical social workers, etc. can practice Christian counseling, but they must have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in counseling, psychology, Christian counseling, or some other discipline in mental health to treat people. They have to be licensed to practice or give counseling to clients.

However, a person who wants to offer Christian counseling to others, but only has a bachelor’s degree can still practice by graduating from a Christian counseling program. This training teaches potential Christian counselors how to correctly apply the fundamental values of the Bible to counseling sessions, the importance of family therapy, and how to help clients make the most of rehabilitative counseling.

WHAT ISSUES DO CHRISTIAN COUNSELORS ADDRESS?

Christian counseling aims to use faith-based principles and psychological instruction to help people better handle and overcome any problems in their lives. More importantly, these mental health professionals not only identify, diagnose and manage mental disorders but also give clients the ability to cope so that they can better respond to any changes that might arise in their lives.

WHAT ARE SOME GOALS OF CHRISTIAN COUNSELING?

As mentioned above, clients deal with a wide range of problems, so Christian counselors set a wide range of goals, ranging from adjustment issues to mental illness.

Here are some common goals of counseling:

Overcoming Marital Problems

Christian counseling puts a great deal of value on the sacrament of marriage. When a couple enters into a marriage, they commit to love and respect each other for life. In Christian faith, divorce isn’t seen as an option, so couples are encouraged to work through any issues together in marital counseling, instead of giving up on their marriages.   

The fact is, many problems can occur in a marriage. Also, these problems may have a significant impact on the relationship. Some common marital issues include infidelity, communication problems, loss of intimacy, addiction, and conflict. The aim of Christian counseling is, therefore, to help couples fix their damaged relationships.

Coping With Parenting Challenges

While parenting is gratifying, it’s not easy to raise children. As a parent, you will experience many ups and downs, joys, and frustrations – that is normal. There may be occasions when your parenting skills are extremely challenged; this is where a Christian counselor can come into play.

They will guide you on your parenting journey. However, suppose the parenting challenges are more complex or severe, such as mental illness, physical ailments, learning disabilities, abuse, eating disorders, or developmental problems. In that case, you may be referred to a therapist or psychiatrist. Christian counseling can also be very helpful when you cannot determine what your child needs or if you become overwhelmed by the responsibilities saddled with parenting. These counselors can teach you strategies that will help you deal with parenting pressures.

Support For Mental Health Conditions

Having a mental illness is hard enough without having to deal with it alone. Counseling helps people with mental disorders by providing them with encouragement and a way to communicate their feelings.

It is important to note that people with mental illness – such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder – often have lower self-esteem and self-acceptance than those without mental illness. With Christian counseling, you learn how to recognize that you are a Child of God, just like everyone else. It is this understanding that gives you some much-needed comfort and relaxation when you need it most.

Recovering From Grief & Loss

The loss of a loved one is tragic, and the mourning process can seem never-ending. But, for many, this is the time when they rely most heavily on their faith to help them get through this taxing time. But sometimes the grief is too deep to find the Light of God.

Often the bereaved one becomes “stuck” in a phase, during the mourning process — a stage that feels difficult to move past. In such cases, Christian therapy allows the bereaved to accept the loss, remember the loved one, accept reality, and recover from pain.

Healing From Substance Abuse & Addiction

It requires courage to seek help for addiction. But, acknowledging that you have a problem with drugs, alcohol, or gambling is often the first step in getting the help you need to turn your life around. If you accept that you need help, a Christian counselor will provide you with the resources you need to kick the habit.  Moreover, Christian counseling will help you uncover deeper issues that could lead to your addiction, such as childhood trauma, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, or low self-esteem.

During Christian counseling sessions, you learn how important and precious you are in the eyes of God. You also realize that you have the power to conquer your addiction. Christian counselors also teach you techniques to help you turn towards your religion instead of illegal substances or destructive behavior when life becomes stressful or intolerable.

Strengthening Your Faith & Improving Your Relationship With God

In today’s fast-paced, materialistic world, it is easy to lose sight of your faith and become “caught up” in life’s everyday pressures. With all these stressors, your faith can be pushed aside. However, it is in these high-pressured times that you need your faith more than ever before.

Christian counselors understand these struggles and are in a position to help you reconnect with God and your faith. Moreover, they will teach you practical tools to use when you lose touch with your religion and become lost.

WHO SHOULD SEEK CHRISTIAN COUNSELING?

Anyone who is experiencing psychological or health problems should seek Christian counseling. It is necessary to understand that Christian counseling does not focus on a particular problem, concern, or mental illness, but rather on a wide range of personal, relationship, parent-child, social and mental health issues. Instead of pursuing scientific or non-religious guidance on these topics, Christian counseling uses your faith to help you overcome and heal them.

The reasons you should seek Christian counseling include:

• Relationship, parent-child, or marital issues

• Parenting guidance

• Grief and loss

• Mental illness or psychological distress

• Poor goal-setting skills

• Low self-esteem and lack of confidence

• Substance abuse or addiction

• Weak faith or a poor connection to God

WILL CHRISTIAN COUNSELING BENEFIT YOU?

Christian counseling may be most useful for Christians and those who have strong faith or spirituality – although you don’t have to be religious or spiritual to benefit from this therapeutic counseling approach. Anyone – religious or non-religious – can take part in Christian counseling. If you are dealing with grief or relationship problems and can no longer cope with these issues on your own, Christian counseling will most likely benefit you.

If you have a strong belief and faith in God, you would most likely benefit from this form of therapy because it focuses on biblical teachings. The hope is that by focusing your knowledge of the Bible, strengthening your relationship with God, and understanding God’s commandments, you will be able to turn your life around and solve your problems.

You can benefit from Christian counseling if you have the following issues:

• Panic attacks

• Social isolation or avoiding spending time with family and friends

• Anxiety that stops you from completing everyday tasks

• Sudden extreme weight loss or weight gain

• Insomnia or being unable to fall asleep and stay asleep all night long

• Out-of-control, irrational anger

• Feeling hopeless, helpless, or overwhelmed, or feeling unable to manage your problems on your own

• Feeling disconnected with your faith in God

• A loss of interest in exercises you used to enjoy

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM CHRISTIAN COUNSELING?

Christian counseling is based on various counseling methods – one of which is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). One of the main differences between Christian counseling and some of the more secular counseling methods is that Christian counselors use a wide range of materials, tools, resources and psychological techniques, including meditation, scripture, affirmation, bible study, self-evaluation or self-auditing, to help you combat your “personal demons” (problems).

Unlike most secular counselors and therapists, Christian counselors do not agree that secular therapy methods sufficiently resolve the spectrum of problems that an individual might be experiencing. As a result, these experts integrate your spiritual health with your mental health.

In other words, Christian counseling focuses on your spiritual well-being, your personal relationship with God, and the belief that through therapy, your personal problems, mental health issues, and emotional distress can be replaced with increased self-esteem and spiritual fulfillment.

Some of the things to should expect from Christian counseling include:

Prayer, scripture and other supplemental materials throughout the session and as homework assignments

• Family education and support

• Learning how to deal with serious life events such as death or sickness.

• Learning how to make good judgment calls and decisions

• Referrals to other professionals, i.e., psychiatrists, social workers and/or doctors, if necessary;

• Wedding arrangements for couples preparing to get married and funeral services for families who have lost a loved one;

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CHRISTIAN COUNSELING SESSION?

During the initial sessions, the Christian counselor will attempt to get a feeling of who you are through structured intakes (interviews) and thorough conversations. Then they will observe you as you tell them about your problem(s) and how those problems make you feel.

Next, your counselor will ask you what you would like to do after finishing the counseling phase. After that, you and your counselor will discuss your goals and take action to help you reach them. Eventually, you will verbally pledge to contribute 100 percent to the recovery process or sign a statement stating your commitment to care.

After the first few sessions, you will be able and ready to jump right into therapy. During later sessions, biblical homework and assignments will be assigned to you, and the results will be addressed in the following session. You will also have bible verses to read at night, reinforcing your trust in God and His plan.

The counselor will use Bible passages to help you see the mistake in your directions. In other words, they will use the Bible to show you how your actions and thought patterns are contradictory and incompatible with biblical teaching. Christian counselors believe that for people to really heal from trauma, mental illness, psychological distress, etc. they must turn to the Scriptures.

They also claim that, in many cases, mental health conditions result from “sinful acts” or actions that go against the teachings of God. When people commit these “sinful acts,” they encounter turmoil and mental anguish. Therefore, the only way to relieve mental pain is to reaffirm one’s devotion to God and eradicate sin from one’s life.

CHRISTIAN COUNSELOR PROGRAMS

Many Christian colleges and theological schools offer Christian counseling programs that can award a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. These programs incorporate counseling and psychology theories with Christian morals. You will learn how Bible verses can be used for family therapy, depression, stress, guilt, and addiction.

You can also decide to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and several universities offer consulting degree programs. In most types of therapy services, you will look at case studies that will help you understand counseling techniques, conflict management, and assessment. Master’s and doctoral programs, such as those that lead to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), include clinical practice and the opportunity to gain some real-life experience with patients.

If you have a degree in counseling and want to learn more about Christian counseling, you can consider a certificate program in Christian counseling. Certificate programs study the fundamentals of family counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and the use of scripture in counseling.

LICENSING

According to the United States of America Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the LPC must at least hold a master’s degree. Beyond that, requirements differ depending on the state and counseling area. For example, all 50 states require marriage and family therapists to have state credentials, but licensing requirements for other counseling forms may not be mandatory. Some work environments, such as working in a church, do not require a counseling license. You will likely need to complete your clinical experience and sit for a state-approved exam to earn a license.

CERTIFICATIONS

The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers national advisory certification, which is voluntary but can help you prove your therapy skills. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) can complement or sometimes substitute state credentialing. You must have a master’s degree in therapy and 3,000 hours of clinical time to sit for the test. The NBCC also offers specific certificates in mental health and addiction counseling, but you must first complete the NCE to receive these certifications.

The National Certification Program is offered through the Association of Addiction Professionals. You will receive certification as a Master Addiction Counselor, Nicotine Dependency Specialist, or Licensed Recovery Counselor through this program. The accomplishment of these certifications includes the fulfillment of clinical experience and degree requirements.

HOW MUCH COULD I EARN?

The BLS doesn’t offer salary details specifically for Christian counselors, but salary statistics for marriage and family therapy, mental health counselors, and clergy are available. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced a minimum annual wage of $44,630 for all substance disorder, behavioral illness, and mental health counselors in 2018. Marriage counseling and family therapy certificates earned higher salaries at $50,090. Members of the clergy earned a minimum of $48,990 in that same year.

References

Christian Counseling – Top Counseling Schools. 

“Syracuse Area Economic Summary.” The Business Journal – Central New York, vol. 33, no. 7, Central New York Business Journal, Feb. 2019, p. 4.

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