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Christian Counselor vs A Counselor Who Is A Christian

Christian Counselor vs A Counselor Who Is A Christian
Christian Counseling vs A Counselor Who Is A Christian

In this article learn the important distinction in this terminology and the impact it can have in the treatment clients receive.

In my therapy sessions I have had clients with all different world views wanting to start therapy by getting reassurance from me their faith (or lack thereof) will be supported in our on going sessions. Some clients request that we start sessions with prayer while other clients have been so adamant about making sure I do not talk about faith, they become offensive, indicating that anyone that does have a faith is just plain stupid. So I wanted to explain these important differences in these titles and the way they impact clients' experiences.

Unfortunately, this is a pretty complex topic. There is a some confusion in terminology even in the Christian community that provides mental health counseling. Some counselors go to great lengths to distinguish themselves as "Biblical counselors" compared to "Christian counselors." The theory behind both Biblical and Christian counseling is that the more in alignment a person lives out God's prescribed life style, the more mentally healthy they will become. However, the big distinction comes with their treatment. Biblical counseling holds to the belief that the Bible includes all instruction necessary for people to learn how to cope and heal from mental health issues. While Christian counseling treatment combines Biblical principals as well as contemporary psychological treatment. When clients receive services from a Biblical or Christian counselor they are addressing their mental health problems within the boundaries of the counselor's interpretation of a Biblical life style. I think of these counselors as serving two roles. One, helping their clients address their mental health concerns. Second, these counselors also take on the role of a pastor, giving clients spiritual guidance and encouragement of living out specific values.

However, a counselor, who is a Christian, views themselves as only a mental health provider, focusing on their role of giving education on mental health problems and evidence-based treatments. This separates them from the Biblical/Christian counselors mainly in what values are prioritized in the session. As stated before, the Biblical/Christian counselors will emphasize the importance that clients live out morals and rules within their interpretation of the Bible. Counselors, who are Christians, help clients explore, identify and prioritize their own values they want to exemplify in their own lives (even if a client's values does not align with their own).

As for myself, I received my degree at a seminary. I find a lot of meaning and connection in my life because of my faith. That being said, with my clients, I view myself through the lens of only a mental health provider; encouraging my clients to identify and demonstrate the values they choose for their own lives. If a client does share that they want to focus on incorporating their Christian faith into their mental health treatment, then I am happy to explore what this looks like for the client. But I don't make the assumption any client wants a particular faith based lens incorporated in our sessions unless requested. One of the biggest reasons for me choosing to practice therapy in a way that I set aside my own faith and values in sessions (besides the fact that I believe it is the ethical thing to do) is because I do not want to create an extra barrier for people receiving the mental health support they need. If I were practicing medicine, I do not believe it is ethical to withhold a diagnosis or medication until a patient expressed they held the same worldview or values I did and I do not believe it should be any different in the mental health profession. In addition, the majority of my clients do not practice my faith just like me. Yet, I have made great connections and helped people overcome their mental struggles. I loved these connections and am proud to have been a part of my past clients' healing.  I would hate to think I would have missed out on these experiences and they would have missed out on healing because they hesitated to seek help from me for the fear of faith being pushed on them.