Why Needing Jesus AND Therapy is Totally Okay – A Guide to Christian Therapy
Sometimes we need Jesus AND therapy. That’s right, I said it. Sometimes, we need Christian therapy.
In today’s world, therapy often gets treated like a dirty word. As Christians, we fall prey to a lot of myths about counseling and our faith.
Only “crazy” people go to therapy.
If I pray enough, my problems will disappear.
There aren’t counselors who help Christians.
These myths are all wrong, but they still exist in the world and keep many Christians from seeking out the support and guidance they need.
Therapy isn’t just for treating mental disorders. It’s not always a matter of mental illness, though I will be the first to admit I’ve gone to therapy for anxiety treatment.
Sometimes, ladies, we need Christian therapy because life is crazy, our relationship is tense, or our self-confidence is non-existent. Sometimes it’s a perfect storm of all that and more.
Many Christians avoid therapy because they believe counselors will insult or ignore their faith. It’s a valid concern; our faith shapes our world. We don’t want anyone, not even a counselor, to take that away from us. I know I was scared of that when I first started therapy. I was terrified my counselor would science away my faith. I was certain that they’d tell me God wasn’t real, and I had to go through this alone, without His support.
Thank God I was wrong.
You don’t have to get through mental illness or life’s struggles alone. God walks beside us through it all, and he sends help our way when we need it.
We just need to learn to ask for and accept that help when it comes our way. And yep, sometimes that help comes in the form of Christian therapy.
Why Go To Therapy?
Before we start talking about finding a counselor, you probably want to know why you should even consider going. Well, there’s a ton of reasons people go. Here are a few reasons I’ve gone: Marital disputes. Stress from raising a baby. COVID-19 throwing my life out of whack. The constant fear of failure… the list goes on.
But there’s more to therapy than just fixing a behavior or talking through stress. Christian therapy is good for your relationship with God.
Think about it, when we’re stressed and busy, we don’t think about God; we think about surviving the day. We don’t have time to pray or worship Him. When you go to a counselor for guidance, you start to create a better version of yourself. When we aren’t stressed, scared, angry, or overwhelmed, we can focus on our relationship with God.
What Does The Bible Say About Therapy?
Despite how badly we need it, many of us don’t seek out therapy because we don’t think we’ll find the right help. It’s a more common worry than you might think. But the Bible reminds us we should seek out experts for aid.
The Bible says it is wise to seek counsel.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15 ESV
“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10 NIV
Sometimes we try to solve our own problems when we shouldn’t. As humans, we struggle with pride, and often, our pride can lead to us ignoring the advice of people who can help us find solutions to our problems.
Often, we want to solve our problems alone because we believe we can – but instead, we end up making them worse. Proverbs reminds us that through the advice of others, we can find wisdom.
But, not every counselor can help a Christian patient find that wisdom. You don’t expect a math teacher to do the same job as an English teacher, so you shouldn’t expect a counselor with no Christian training to treat a Christian. Luckily, there are so many counselors that are Christians themselves or are trained to treat Christians.
A Guide to Christian Therapy
What is a Christian Counselor?
It may surprise you to find out that there are counselors out there who don’t try to science away faith. In fact, there’s a whole section of counselors who specialize in treating Christians with scientific therapy techniques paired with scripture and spiritual guidance.
However, not all counselors who specialize in treating Christians are Christians. Many counselors won’t share their faith with you, regardless of what it might be, as a matter of practice.
What Defines a Christian Counselor?
Technically, a Christian counselor is any counselor who treats their clients within the confines of their faith. They generally utilize scripture and spiritual guidance within that faith as a supportive part of treatment for their client. However, there are different kinds of Christian counselors.
Types of Christian Counselors
Generally, you have two options for a counselor: you can go with a secular counselor who chooses to work within a client’s faith during treatment, or you can go to a licensed Christian counselor who works solely with research and worldviews compatible with scripture. Selecting who to go to will depend on your preferences and needs. I’ve met with counselors on both ends of the spectrum. They both worked for me at that specific point in my life.
What’s A Secular Counselor And How Can They Help Christians?
“Secular” means a view not concerned with religion. Instead, it focuses on worldly, tangible things like science. Secular counselors traditionally adhere to a treatment based on science with no spiritual basis. Therefore, they treat individuals of all faiths without distinction towards their religion.
On the other hand, a secular counselor who chooses to work with Christians uses Faith Informed Counseling principles to treat patients. They apply spiritual resources like scripture, theology, hymns, and psychological understanding to help clients work through mental illness, stress, and life events.
However, it’s important to note that all secular counselors generally have a license and Master’s Degree in their field that qualifies them to treat patients. Their education means they have a lot of background and training to help you through your situation.
Benefits of Seeing A Licensed Christian Therapist
A licensed Christian Therapist is not necessarily a licensed counselor. Many states do not require Licensed Christian Therapists to have mental health or similar counseling degree to practice. However, many licensed Christian counselors and counselors have ministry backgrounds and decided to move into the counseling field.
Licensed Christian counselors usually have a deeper understanding of faith than a secular counselor with Christian training. In addition, most licensed Christian counselors practice only within their specific denomination, meaning they are more aware of the nuances and practices of your denomination than a secular counselor would be.
Picking A Christian Counselor – Tips From Someone Who Has Been There
Choosing a counselor can be scary. You’re making a commitment to yourself and someone you don’t know. You’re opening yourself up to a stranger and hoping for good results. So, of course, you want to go to the counselor that God has in mind for you.
I’ve mentioned that I have seen counselors on both ends of the spectrum, secular and licensed Christian. I’ve also worked with counselors in between, Christians who have a mental health license and choose to work with scripture in their practice with Christian clients. So how did I choose one? Well, first off, I prayed about it. Then I started asking questions.
Finding Christian Therapy in Your Area
I recommend asking your minister if they know of any good counselors in the area. Often, they can recommend both secular and licensed Christian counselors for you to consider.
I also recommend that you check out Psychology Today’s counselor search engine. You can search for Christian counselors in your area, and it will pull a list of all licensed counselors who treat Christians in their office. That’s how I found my secular counselor who helped me work through some significant life challenges.
Finally, consider why you are going to therapy before picking a counselor. If you’re going because of chronic anxiety, sleeplessness, and nightmares, you may need more than just spiritual guidance; God could be guiding you towards a professional with more medical experience. On the other hand, if you’re seeking help with your marriage, a Christian counselor who works with married couples could be the answer.
Don’t be afraid to try out counselors. On more than one occasion, I met with a counselor a few times and decided they weren’t the one for me. It’s okay to do that; God is just showing you what you don’t want or need in a counselor as He guides you to the right choice.
Therapy Is About Trust
I’ll say it one more time for the ladies in the back. Sometimes, we need therapy. God will help you find the right counselor to help you through whatever life throws at you, and ultimately, you will be better for it. When you take the step to begin therapy, you’ve started a journey to draw closer to God. It is a journey that relies on trust, trusting yourself to do the work, trusting the counselor to guide you, and trusting God to be with you every step of the way. The result of your trust will be a stronger relationship with God and a more balanced, calm life.