What is Christian Counseling?
Christian counseling is a therapy focus area centering on intertwining the disciplines of faith and psychology to provide an approach to mental and emotional health that pulls from biblical teachings. Practitioners of this style of counseling incorporate religious scripture and teachings to guide you through challenging life issues. When facing turbulent life events, integrating and strengthening your faith may be the missing piece in finding proper treatment. A Christian counselor can help you to navigate life’s challenges in ways that respect your faith.
Origins of Christian Counseling
Rooted deep within biblical accounts, this form of therapy emphasizes fundamental values and beliefs that comprise the framework of modern Christianity. Ministers, Reverends, and other religious figures must seek licensed training and accreditation to provide this service to you, much like a secular counselor. In 1968, Christian counselors officially formed the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation to provide a model for current and future counselors. These counselors are bound not only to religious code, but secular standards of ethical practice as well.
What is Spiritual Health?
Spirituality extends beyond what your religious beliefs are. Spirituality encompasses your sense of connection to a higher power, with the understanding that there is something bigger than ourselves in the universe. Spirituality can be part of anyone’s life, regardless of their religious denomination.
Spiritual health is defined by your faith, principles, values, and moral beliefs. A person’s spiritual health is characterized by:
- The ability to love and be loved
- Community service
- Personal fulfillment
- Caring for others
- Experiencing and spreading joy
- Self-care and reflection
As part of a person’s spiritual journey, they will inevitably experience challenges and hardships along the way. This is a universal experience; no one is immune to life’s difficult times. When a person is in sync with their spiritual health, they are open to receiving guidance from their faith that allows them to handle tough situations with love, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and self-acceptance.
What Issues will Christian Counseling Address?
Christian counseling is a broad therapeutic approach that can be applied to a wide variety of situations. There is no singular problem that a person should seek Christian counseling for; instead, this type of therapy is used to treat many of the personal issues a person experiences in their life. Rather than seeking traditional therapy for these problems, Christian counseling prioritizes your faith as an important part of the healing process.
Some of the common issues that people seek Christian counseling for include:
- Marital or relationship problems
- Parenting guidance
- Mental illness
- Grief and loss
- Personal goal setting and development
- Self-esteem issues
- Enriching your faith and connection to God
- Substance abuse and addiction
Signs That You May Benefit from Christian Counseling
Many people who have not worked with a counselor before may wonder if therapy is right for them. While anyone can benefit from spiritual guidance, some people are in greater need of assistance. Everyone can struggle with issues like grief or marital problems, but when a person’s suffering is more than they can cope with on their own, they will display signs that they need help. You may already have a strong basis for your faith, so therapy oriented around biblical teachings could be the turning point in overcoming your mental and emotional distress. Some of the signs that indicate that a person is having trouble coping with their situation and should seek counseling include:
- Anxiety that interferes with your ability to carry out everyday tasks
- Panic attacks
- Insomnia or not being able to get out of bed
- Social isolation or withdrawing from spending time with friends and family
- Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Feeling overwhelmed or feeling that you cannot cope on your own
- Irrational anger that is difficult to control
- Loss of interest in activities that you typically take pleasure in
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling disconnected to your faith
Goals of Christian Counseling
As seen, Christian counseling can address many issues that may arise in your life, and in working with a faith-based therapist, you can heal while also turning towards your faith in a time of need. In therapy, you will work with your therapist on identifying the problems that you’d like to address and discussing your desired outcomes. For each of these therapy topics there are common goals that people share when they begin their counseling journey:
Overcoming Marital Problems
Christian counseling places a great deal of respect on the sacrament of marriage. When a couple enters a marriage, they are making a commitment to love and honor each other for life. In the Christian faith, divorce is not seen as an option, and couples are encouraged to work through their problems together through marital counseling, rather than splitting up.
There are many problems that a couple can encounter, and they can have a serious impact on the relationship, and many can threaten the union itself. Some common marital issues include infidelity, communication problems, loss of intimacy, dealing with addiction, and resolving conflicts. Christian counseling works with individuals and couples so they can learn tools for repairing damaged relationships.
Coping with Parenting Challenges
While it’s gratifying, raising children is not an easy task. As a parent, you will experience many ups and downs, joys and frustrations. There may be periods in your children’s upbringing that are more difficult to navigate, and a Christian counselor can assist you in your parenting journey. For some parents, their children have more serious issues including mental illness, physical illness, learning disabilities, bullying, eating disorders, or developmental challenges.
Christian counseling can be very beneficial when parents find themselves unable to identify what their child needs or if they are overwhelmed by the responsibilities that come with parenting. Therapy can teach techniques for dealing with parenting pressure as well as strategies for giving their children the care they need.
Mental Illness Support
Having a mental illness is challenging enough without struggling with your condition on your own. Counseling can help people who have mental illness in many ways, primarily by providing support and an outlet for talking about their experiences. People who deal with mental illness, whether it’s depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, often have trouble with self-esteem and self-acceptance. In Christian counseling, individuals learn to accept that they are children of God in the same way as everyone else is, and this understanding can provide much-needed comfort and solace when they need it most.
Coping with Grief and Loss
The death of a loved one is a difficult time for anyone, and the grieving period can seem insurmountable, as if you’ll never be able to move past your loss. This is a time to call on your faith, to help see you through the sadness and mourning stages that follow a loss. For many people, their grief is too deep to find the light of God, or they become stuck in a phase of grieving and cannot seem to move on. In these cases, Christian counseling works with people to accept their loss, to remember and honor their loved one, and to accept their own healing journey.
Recovery from Substance Abuse and Addiction
Seeking help for addiction is a brave step in a person’s recovery process. Admitting that you have a problem with drugs, alcohol, or gambling is a critical first step. Once you accept that you need help, a Christian counselor is an ideal support person to have in your life. Christian counseling assists recovering addicts in uncovering the deeper issues that contribute to their addiction, such as childhood trauma or low feelings of self-worth. Through the counseling process, a person will learn that they are important beings in the eyes of God and that they have the inner strength to overcome their addiction. Addicts can learn techniques for turning to their faith instead of substances or destructive behaviors when life becomes overwhelming or seems too hard to cope with.
Enriching your Faith and Relationship with God
In today’s fast-paced, materialistic world, it’s easy to lose sight of your faith and become caught up in the pressures of daily life. With all your everyday stressors, fostering your faith can seem unimportant, or like one more thing on your to-do list. However, these busy, high-pressured times are when people need their faith more than ever. Christian counselors understand the challenges that modern adults face and they can help you to reconnect with their faith. Counselors can teach practical tools that you can call upon during times when you need to bring more faith into your life.
What to Look for in a Christian Counselor
Much like seeking a traditional therapist, your decision should be based on the credentials and ability of the prospective counselor. With a Christian counselor, an additional factor in your decision is your personal faith. Finding a counselor who expresses religious beliefs in a way you find agreeable, and having a willingness to accept and understand the spiritual aspect of counseling is necessary if you wish to gain the full benefit of the treatment.
A good interpersonal connection is another marker that you’ve found the right therapist for you. Sometimes it takes meeting several counselors to determine who will be the best fit. You will get the most out of your counseling sessions if you work with a therapist who you are comfortable and at ease with.
What to Expect When Seeking Christian Counseling
Just like secular therapy, Christian counseling is diverse and can follow several counseling methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). One of the main differences, and what you can expect when you attend Christian counseling sessions, is the use of a broad range of materials and resources, including prayer, scripture, affirmation, and bible study.
Like other therapists, Christian counselors understand the importance of your mental and emotional health and the symptoms which may lead to diagnosing a problem. Current psychological methods of evaluation, such as self-auditing, are key tools for a Christian counselor when evaluating your current status. However, these counselors do not feel that traditional methods provide a comprehensive overview of what may be ailing you. With the additional focus on your spiritual health and your personal relationship with God, those who practice Christian counseling believe that with therapy, your personal problems, mental concerns, and emotional instability can be replaced with increased self-worth and a sense of spiritual fulfillment.
When you see a Christian counselor, there are many different things your therapist may do as part of their practice. In a faith-based counseling practice you can expect to see your counselor perform some of the following in addition to providing therapeutic support:=
- Providing prayer and scripture readings for in-session work as well as for supplementary materials.
- Working with the family unit to cope with serious life circumstances like death or illness.
- Assisting with ethical decision-making.
- Providing reference and referral to other specialists, like a psychiatrist, if needed.
- Ceremonial preparations for couples who are getting married or families who had had a loss of a loved one.
How to Find a Christian Counselor
There are many ways to find a Christian counselor in your area. Personal referrals from a physician, friend, or clergy member are a good starting point. If you are starting from scratch and want to locate a Christian counselor near you, the TherapyTribe directory will connect you with a therapist where you live. You also have the option of online therapy with a certified counselor, psychologist, or social worker as a convenient method that connects you with your therapist regardless of where you are located at the time.