Exploring the Differences Between Secular and Christian Counseling

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Unsure which type of counseling is right for you? Whether you are looking for secular counseling or Christian counseling, finding a wonderful counselor is something you do not want to miss out on. This post explores the key difference between secular and Christian counseling and answers all your questions.

Are you considering counseling, but unsure which approach is best suited for your beliefs? Secular and Christian counseling both have unique benefits that can help you achieve different goals. In this article, we’ll discuss these two approaches in order to help you make an informed decision- and their fundamental differences.

Why does it matter what counselor you see?

Christian Counselors and Secular Counselors typically have the same goal in mind. That goal is to help you with your heartache, experiences, and situation, and how you view or respond to certain things. The goal should be to set you up with your own resources to ensure you have a lot of tools in your tool belt to give you the best outcome possible. Counselors, whether Christian or secular, should not impose their own problems onto their clients. I wish I could say this doesn't happen- but it does. 

The primary difference is when it comes to how they help you. A secular counselor may have no worry about how some modalities (or ways of conducting therapy) may help or harm your faith. 

A secular therapist may not have as many, or any, qualms about how a specific therapy may open to bringing in different aids from another religious aspect- that counter Christianity.

Is it Important for a Christian to see a Christain counselor?

It depends. The answer may vary from person to person. Obviously, someone who is not a believer is likely not going to find value in counseling from a Christian standpoint. However, a Christian going to a secular counselor could have a negative effect on your relationship with God. Here are some questions to help you reflect on your relationship with them.

  1. What are your personal convictions about therapy and faith?
  2. Do you know your beliefs will be respected? What will you do if they aren't?
  3. Do you know where the boundary is when it comes to your faith? Are you ok with anything if it doesn't contradict God's word?

What is Secular Counseling?

Secular therapy, or non-religious counseling, focuses on using evidence-based treatments and techniques in order to address mental health and any other common issue. This approach relies heavily upon science, psychology, and research in order to provide the best possible care. A secular counselor will work with you to identify your individual needs and establish attainable goals that can be achieved through talk therapy and psychological interventions.

Some of these goals secular counselors incorporate are from other religious practices. Yoga is one of these. This is more than just an exercise and does have religious roots. 

Knowing what the counselor uses in therapy, and then doing research will help you to make your decision on if it is something that should be entertained or not. A good secular therapist will not push their beliefs onto you and can even provide religiously accommodated treatment.

What is Christian Counseling?

Christian counseling is a type of religious counseling that emphasizes spiritual principles and doctrines for reaching emotional healing and personal development. It is based upon the belief in Jesus Christ as the source of hope, real healing, and transformation. During Christian counseling sessions, mental health professionals rely on biblical teachings and prayer to provide advice, direction, and comfort to individuals dealing with very real problems.

Some Christian counselors do use secular tools like EMDR, breath work, and guided imagery. A Christian counselor, or someone who understands your faith, will help guide you towards God and not away from Him. Excellent Christian counselors are ones that seek God, and his word as their double-edged sword, throughout your treatment and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit for spiritual growth.

A Christian counselor's role is to apply the word of god, and biblical principles, to remedy the issues that their Christian clients are experiencing. 

What are the Benefits of Each Style? 

Christian counseling offers many benefits, including a warm, nonjudgmental atmosphere and the belief that God is involved in the healing process. It gives individuals a chance to talk openly about their thoughts, feelings, and behavior while placing faith at the center of their healing journey. 

Secular counseling, on the other hand, focuses more on empirically therapeutic concepts such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy. These types of therapies can help individuals gain insight into how their thinking affects their behavior and explore new coping strategies for dealing with a difficult life and common issues.  Both are professional counselors that are licensed and trained.

The main differences stem from the foundation they help their clients build to carry them on their healing journey. A secular counselor focuses on the self for the ultimate healing, and a Christian builds the foundation on God as the ultimate healer. Both Christian and secular counselors should keep a treatment plan to guide both of you in each therapy session- and ultimately your healing journey.

The primary difference is the focus on who holds the hope of healing. And trust me, Christian counselors get this wrong over and over again.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Each Style?

Both Christian and secular counseling have their drawbacks. In Christian counseling, for example, there is a focus on religious beliefs and faith as the basis for healing which might not be suited to everyone. Those who do not believe in God may find it difficult to embrace this type of counseling. 

Similarly, secular counseling may overlook spiritual concerns or experiences that have significant importance to an individual’s overall health. Counselors must be well-versed in both psychology and spirituality to effectively address the needs of their clients in secular counseling, provided through their counseling model.

How Can You Choose the Best Type of Counseling for Your Needs?

Deciding which type of counseling is right for you can be a difficult choice. Ultimately, you need to determine which approach speaks best to your beliefs and needs. Consider talking with friends and family about their experiences with various types of counseling and ask professional counselors for advice or recommendations. You may find that you need to experience counseling before you are able to know what to look for. Secular and Christian counseling can help you to achieve health and healing but knowing what you need in a therapist can help you not to be retraumatized by a counselor you see. 

Is any Christain Counselor Good Enough?

Great question. No. “Christian counseling” really just means a counselor who is a Christian, and does not necessarily mean that they went to a Christian college (though in some ways this is irrelevant). Like in any field or situation, a Christian counselor can still have a skewed view of God and God’s word. They may also have an agenda. 

It is wise to be aware that not every counselor, Christian or secular therapist, knows your situation. When there is abuse or trauma, it becomes even more important to have a counselor who truly understands.

Think of it like this there are lots of different types of doctors. The title ‘doctor’ signifies the level of education they have received. Though they're all doctors you would be foolish to trust an orthodontist to perform heart surgery or a mathematician to diagnose an illness. This is an obvious example, but when it comes to counseling this could cause grave consequences. And counselor you need to see is not as cut and dry as what doctor you need to see. 

Here is my guide to finding the right therapist. 

Biggest Issues When it Comes to Choosing a Counselor

You may be surprised that I am not as concerned if a counselor is a Christian or not when it comes to Christians seeking help. When it boils down to it, I am more concerned about the following when you are looking for a therapist for whatever situation you find yourself in. 

  1. Is the counselor respectful of your beliefs and desires? It is important for the counselor to see what beliefs, like your spiritual beliefs, are beneficial and which are not. An example of an unhealthy belief is when an event in a person's life causes them to believe something untrue about themselves, like “I am unworthy of love,”. This can get further muddied because the bible tells us that we fall short of the glory of God. It is a true statement. But the Bible also tells us that God loves us, despite our sins, despite our failings. God knows you, and He still longs to call you His own. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14 .You can imagine how tangled beliefs can get. So, you don't want a counselor messing with beliefs that are beneficial, or rooted in Christ.
  1. Does the counselor have your best interests at heart? A counselor, who is worth their weight, will only be willing to counsel someone who they believe they can help. This means that a counselor will need to be knowledgeable about your situation. Remember, don't go to an orthodontist for heart surgery. The best way to know if a counselor has your best interest at heart is in the way they treat you and what they believe the solution is. If there is ever a push for you to return to a dangerous situation, even a gentle nudge, then this is a reason to be concerned.
  2. Biblical counselors are not state-licensed counselors. The counseling process is very intricate and the therapist (in a very real way, though not literally) is holding your brain in their hands. They have the ability to influence your thoughts and healing in a way that will influence the rest of your life. So, if Christian counseling is important to you, it is important that your therapist does not have an agenda. It is very common for Christian counselors to misinterpret god’s word, leading to misguidance.

Do You have to get therapy?

Not necessarily, however, support goes a long way. Jesus Christ is the real hope for the human heart, and healing does come through Him. When we are dealing with our deepest problem He has a peace that surpasses all understanding. 

What does it mean that God is the Wonderful Counselor?

Don’t make a mistake in your healing journey to put all your hope in man. Jesus Christ is referred to as the Wonderful Counselor in the bible, and for a good reason because He is! His wisdom is above all earthy wisdom. He created you and you are made in His image. He knows you. He knows all. Why not ask Him to make a way and rescue you?

So first seek Him. There is no shame in finding a therapist just as there is no shame in getting a tooth pulled, or surgery when needed. God can absolutely use human beings, doctors, or counselors, to speak to you and help you. But don't seek those people without first seeking Him.

What does one do with all of this information? Well, if you aren't a believer in Christ then there is not much reason for you to be seeking out a Christian therapist. 

If you are a Christian seeking therapy then finding someone who will not lead you astray is the most important thing. The decision is yours. Seeking God can help bring some peace and clarity to you in the process of finding the right counselor for you. And remember- you don't have to stay with a counselor just because you can change at any time.

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