What is Christian Counseling?

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Christian counseling, also known as biblical counseling, connects faith with psychological principles to enhance a person’s mental and emotional well being.  Christian counseling uses teachings from the Bible and scripture to help promote healthy coping mechanisms.  Christian counseling uses faith to help people to navigate life challenges and difficult circumstances.  Christian counseling helps individuals to generate awareness of negative behaviors that are incompatible with teachings from the Christian faith.  Christian counseling is based on the premise that the Bible should always guide a person’s thoughts and actions. 

The Christian counseling movement was founded by Jay Adams, who introduced the concept that faith focused interventions could be used to treat mental health, emotional, and behavioral challenges.  The Christian Counseling movement asserted that faith based approaches could effectively treat mental health conditions, abuse and trauma, and other issues related to substance abuse. 

Christian counseling was originally controversial, as it differed greatly from other therapeutic approaches.  Despite this fact, Christian counseling caught on and became popular and a widely used modality during the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  In 1968, the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation was developed to create standardized guidelines for Christian counselors to follow in their practice. 

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It is important to note that Christian counselors still need to abide by state licensure laws, legal standards, and ethical guidelines.  Christian counselors need to follow diagnostic criteria from the DSM-V and abide by the code of ethics set forth by the American Psychological Association.  In order to practice Christian counseling, a practitioner must have an advanced degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related discipline and must practice under a state license.  An individual with a bachelor’s degree could potentially provide Christian counseling without an advanced degree by completing a Christian counseling certificate program.  This program educates individuals how to utilize the basic fundamentals of the Bible in counseling sessions.

Christian counseling seeks to help people use their faith and psychological interventions to help people to cope and problem-solve life issues.  Like other mental health clinicians, Christian counselors provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for mental health issues and behavioral concerns. 

Christian counseling places a strong emphasis on the sacrament of marriage.  As divorce is not viewed as a viable option in the Christian faith, couples are motivated to participate in marital counseling as opposed to giving up and leaving their marriages.  Christian counseling also focuses on parenting skills and instruction to help parents to provide effective discipline and structure to their children in their homes.  Christian counseling educates parents about healthy and effective coping mechanisms to employ when they are frustrated and overwhelmed.

Christian counseling works with individuals who are struggling with various diagnoses and mental health challenges.  Christian counseling provides support, validation, and a safe place for a person to explore and process their feelings.  Christian counseling helps people to improve confidence and self-esteem by reinforcing that all people are children of God.  This principle helps to provide reassurance during difficult times.  Christian counseling can assist individuals who are suffering from grief and loss by helping them to accept and heal from the loss of a loved one.  Christian counseling helps to treat those struggling with addiction by showing them their strength and value in the eyes of God.

Ultimately, Christian counselors attempt to help people to connect with their faith and with God.  Christian counseling is mostly helpful for those who practice the Christian faith and for other individuals who have a strong foundation in faith and spirituality.  Despite this fact, a person does not have to be highly religious or spiritual to participate in Christian counseling.  Christian counseling will help anyone by promoting knowledge from the Bible, enhancing a person’s connection with God, and teaching about the significance of God’s commandments.

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.