Question #1: Is Christian counseling biblical? How do you integrate Christianity and psychology?

Counseling has its roots of origin in the Bible. Just take a look at the following scriptures:

  • Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Prov 15:22
  • Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Prov 19:20
  • Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. Prov 27:9
  • For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isa 9:6
  • Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, a man of insight and a scribe. 1 Chr 27:32 (NIV)

God is our counselor, Jesus is the wonderful counselor and the Holy Spirit is our counselor. Mature Christians are exhorted to encourage others, warn the idle and help the weak. (1 Thess. 5:11;14). Most Christians who counsel believe that God is the author of all truth and that the Bible is the authoritative guide in the counseling process. Sound psychology is used to promote change and wholeness in the counseling relationship when it supports scripture, such as holding people responsible for their behavior and helping people change their thinking and behavior to coincide with truth. Christian counseling evaluates and considers the mental, physical and spiritual needs of people using a process in which the Bible is the authoritative guide.

Question #2. What is the goal of Christian counseling and the core issues that are addressed?

Christian counselors recognize their work as redemptive and restorative in character. The Christian counselor brings the entire counseling enterprise under the lordship of Christ. He or she aims at reconciling the counselee’s relationship with God. This helps the counselee find personal significance and meaning in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and facilitates the restoration of human relationships.
The core issues addressed are:

  • exploring personal problems, purpose, significance and longings
  • establishing meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ and with others
  • developing biblical self-worth, thinking, choices and behavior experiencing a wholesome emotional state.

What is a definition of Mental Health from a Christian perspective?
“Mental health, from a Christian perspective, is a state of dynamic equilibrium characterized by hope, joy and peace in which positive self-regard is developed through love, relationship, forgiveness, meaning and purpose, resulting from a vital relationship with Jesus Christ and a responsible interdependence with others.”

How does secular psychology play a part in Christian counseling when Christians believe that the Bible should be the ultimate authoritative guide in their lives?
Secular psychology includes similar goals such as:

    Assess/evaluate needs, problems & disorders

  • Change behavior, attitudes, and values/perceptions
  • Teach skills, social skills, responsibility
  • Encourage recognition & expression of emotion
  • Give support in times of need
  • Instill insight. Guide decision-making
  • Teach problem-solving skills
  • Mobilize resources, inner & environmental
  • Increase counselee competence & “self-actualization”
  • Treat people with respect & empathy

Secular Psychology has Some Similar characteristics

  • Arouse belief that help is possible
  • Correct erroneous beliefs about the world
  • Develop competencies in social living
  • Help counselees accept selves as persons of worth

Secular Psychology has Some Similar considerations:
physiological, environmental, relationships, life history, behavior, thought processes, worldview, feelings and values.

Secular and Christian counseling use similar assessment & diagnostic tools
Listening, showing interest
Attempting to understand
Exploring problems; Giving direction
Providing resources
Referral to psychiatrists & physicians for further evaluation, & medication.

Secular and Christian Counseling includes Similar concepts, principles:
1. People are responsible for their behavior and will experience the consequences of that behavior.
2. Life events, development, family systems and “significant others” have greatly affected the client and need consideration in the counseling process.
3. Thinking influences behavior and feelings (Cognitive/Ellis)
4. People need meaning and hope and must regard their present life as significant and meaningful and their future as desirable. (Existentialism/Frankl)
5. People function more effectively in the context of wholesome social relationships.
6. People make choices to move towards goals that they think will meet their needs.
7. People need to accept themselves, develop self-worth and to be accepted by others.
8. People need personal authenticity and an open awareness of feelings .
9. People are limited and influenced to some extent by their environment.
10. Generating intelligent and creative decision making skills is necessary for achieving various personal goals.
11. Values and goals must be identified, and explored.
12. Real client issues and problems must be identified, prioritized & dealt with.
13. People can learn to move forward and act on their world, becoming intentional individuals. 14. People are unique and need to be respected and understood in light of their differences and complexities.

Secular and Christian Counseling includes Similar methods, training & credentials:
Assessment & diagnostic tools
Listening, showing interest
Attempting to understand
Exploring problems; Giving direction
Providing resources
Referral to psychiatrists & physicians for further evaluation, & medication.

Christian Counseling is: Psychologically sound, scripturally congruent and Holy Spirit directed.
Christian Counseling has Unique Assumptions:
Christian counseling
:                       vs.                                Traditional psychology:
Starting point-God                                                                  Starting point-man
Authority-Scripture                                                                 Authority-man’s knowledge
“God has spoken”                                                                   Man speaks
Biblical value system                                                               Societal & personal values

Christian counselors believe in the deity of Christ, salvation through Christ alone and the authority of scriptures:
Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” Jn. 14:6
St. Paul wrote in 11 Tim. 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God…”
Secular counseling is based on humanistic teaching and philosophy:
Sigmund Freud said “At bottom God is nothing more than an exalted father.”
Karl Marx’s famous line..”Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

Premise of Christian counseling: God has spoken and revealed Himself through the Bible and Jesus Christ His Son. People are separated from God by their sin, need to receive the salvation offered through Christ’s death on the cross and be reconciled to God. The Christian’s goal in life is to live wholly for Christ and His purpose, and to worship, love and serve God forever. The Bible is inspired by God and functions as a guide for the Christian’s daily life.

Christian Counseling has Unique Goals:
Stimulate spiritual growth
Encourage confession of sin & experience divine forgiveness
Model Christian standards, attitudes, values, & lifestyles
Present the Gospel & encourage commitment to Jesus Christ.
Stimulate development of Christian values & biblical living.

Christian Counseling applies Unique Methods:
Consistent with biblical teaching….ex: living a moral lifestyle
Praying for client and encouraging a meaningful prayer life
Reading scripture
Gentle confrontation with Christian truths
Teaching & encouraging biblical thinking and behavior
Encouraging worship and involvement in local church

Christian Counselors have Unique Counselor Characteristics, training:
-Ability to counsel & respect clients who prefer traditional counseling as well as those who prefer the Christian counseling process.
-Has an understanding of problems (how they arise & how to resolve), a knowledge of biblical teaching about the problems and how to apply that teaching to life.
– Prepares self by prayer, and meditation on the Bible.
-Uses techniques which Jesus modeled such as the directive-confrontational approach or non-directive “client-centered” techniques.
-Displays the fruit of the Holy Spirit in his/her life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
– Teaches the Bible and commitment to Jesus Christ.
-Determines to be used by God to touch lives, change them and bring others toward both spiritual and psychological maturity.
– Training, courses in Christian & biblical counseling

How great is the need for Christian counseling?
Carl Jung, “Among all my patients in the second half of life…there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.”

We are a society which places great emphasis on respect for individuals with diverse beliefs, lifestyles and differences. Counselors are taught to respect these differences and allow individuals to make choices in their lives accordingly. The health care field has various choices of treatment as does the mental health care field. Clients need to be able to choose counselors and centers which provide guidance based on their values and belief systems.

The need statistically:
Statistics about America’s spirituality based on surveys conducted within the last 12 months:
1. Born again Protestants-35%
2. Not born again Protestants-25%
3. Born again Catholics-7%
4. Not born again Catholics-17%
5. Jews-2%
6. Atheists & agnostics-9%
7. Others, not born again-9%

The need to provide accessibility:

These fears may hinder Christian clients from seeking help in times of crisis due to distrust of the traditional counseling process:
1. Ignore spiritual concerns
2. Treat spiritual beliefs and experiences as pathological or merely psychological
3. Fail to comprehend spiritual language and concepts
4. Assume that religious clients share nonreligious cultural norms (e.g., premarital cohabitation, intercourse is acceptable outside of marriage, etc.)
5. Recommend “therapeutic” behaviors that clients consider immoral
6. Make assumptions, interpretations and recommendations that discredit revelation as a valid epistemology.
7. Fear having values changed and misunderstood or being misdiagnosed because of beliefs.

The need for Mental Health organizations to recognize, accept and refer to credentialed Christian providers:

Christian counselors can promote change, guide, empathize & understand the Christian client more effectively because their core beliefs about life, Jesus Christ, God, the Bible, values and goals coincide.

…Christian clients need to acquire the support and guidance of counselors who can provide both a biblical & psychological response to help them cope with life problems, crises, mental health impairment or family problems.

How effective is Christian counseling?

Empirical research indicates that Christian counseling approaches appear at least as effective as traditional approaches, and on some outcome measures, more effective. In one study from 1980 Propst found a religious approach to be more effective than a nonreligious one; with religious imagery treatment producing significantly lower levels of depression on both self-report and behavioral measures than nonreligious imagery. This finding was based on an analysis of proportions of clients in the clinical range of depression.

In what is considered one of the most comprehensive and well controlled psychotherapy outcome research with religious treatments to date, Propst et al. (1992) found that clients in a cognitive-behavior therapy with religious content and clients in a pastoral counseling treatment reported significantly less post treatment depression and maladjustment than did clients in CBT with no religious content or a wait-list control condition. The authors reported an unexpected treatment-therapist interaction.

“If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene-if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage-if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here…rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimism, mental health, and contentment.” Psychiatrist J. T. Fisher

Are you interested in becoming a Christian Lay Counselor? Or maybe you have need for the CounselCare Connection Church Lay Training Curriculum.

© Copyright 2003 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC