Can Online Christian Counseling Replace In-Person Sessions?

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June 28, 2020
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Christian virtual counselling session

Online counseling is booming. The coronavirus has made virtual therapy almost a necessity if you want to receive mental health services. Similarly, the demand for Christian counseling is growing in popularity. In a survey conducted by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), 83% of Americans believe their religious beliefs are closely related to their mental health. Of those people, a majority wanted to be seen by a therapist who would incorporate their spirituality into counseling. As a result, over the past 25 years, the number of faith-based providers has skyrocketed.

When you think of Christian counseling, a meeting with the local clergy in an intimate setting comes to mind. How is it possible to get the same experience from virtual sessions?

What Is Christian counseling?

Christian counseling is a combination of secular therapy and Christian teachings. It is not that far a stretch to say that the theory behind the counseling is part psychology and part Bible.

A Christian therapist believes that spirituality plays an integral role in our lives and we cannot expect to fully address our issues without involving a Christian component. Not only will a Christian therapist help you cope with difficult problems, he or she will also assist you in strengthening your relationship with God.

What type of Christian counseling is right for you?

Whether or not you can effectively replace in-person counseling with online therapy may be based upon the type of experience you desire.

Meeting with clergy

Being able to meet with your local clergy online depends primarily on their personal preference. For example, a pastor at your church who provides counseling may not be affiliated with any online service. It is up to them to decide whether or not they want to meet with you on a platform like Zoom or Skype. If you want that intimate face-to-face encounter with a local clergy then online counseling is probably not for you.

Meeting with a professional counselor

Specific platforms for online Christian counseling have been popping up with increasing frequency. Popular sites, such as Faithful Counseling and Cornerstone Christian Counseling, offer therapy with licensed counselors who have a Christian background. It is important to recognize, though, that having a Christian background does not necessarily mean they have specific training in Christian counseling.

They may just be licensed therapists who happen to be Christian. On the other hand, clergy are not usually licensed therapists. If you have concerns about qualifications or Christian training, you can always talk directly with the person from whom you are seeking help.

What to expect from online Christian counseling sessions

Online Christian counseling differs from traditional counseling in two major ways. First, there is the virtual component. Online therapy may include live video sessions that are similar to in-person sessions but also have the inbuilt option for email and messaging. What’s more, you can send messages at almost any time, rather than waiting for a scheduled session. Another advantage is that you don’t have to sit in a stuffy office. You can receive therapy at home in your pajamas if you so desire. That is the primary draw of online therapy. It is much more flexible and convenient.

The other major difference is the Christian aspect of counseling. For those people that have engaged in traditional counseling, it is a very different experience. You should expect your Christian counselor to use the teachings of the Bible to guide your coping mechanisms. For example, say you are thinking of leaving your spouse. Whereas a secular therapist may explore the possibility of a divorce, a Christian counselor would most likely encourage you to try and work it out with your partner because that is more consistent with Christian teachings. Using Bible passages to support your actions should be expected in Christian counseling.

Is online Christian counseling for you?

Two key questions need to be answered if you are interested in virtual Christian counseling. First, are you comfortable forgoing the intimacy of in-person meetings? Second, are you looking for the scripture to guide you in resolving your issues? If the answers to both these questions are yes, then online Christian counseling may be exactly what you are looking for.

MS Broudy is a psychologist, writer, and consultant. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and a master’s degree in Social Psychology. He has spent over 20 years providing therapy and assessment services for a diverse set of clients. MS specializes in writing about mental health, parenting, and wellness. He has his own blog, mentalspokes.com, where he writes about psychological issues.