Christian counseling is a type of therapy that integrates traditional talk therapy methodologies with Christian belief practices by incorporating theological concepts.1 It focuses on the navigation of spiritual concerns and everyday life struggles encountered by Christians.
Someone may decide to receive Christian counseling if they are seeking spiritual advisory. This form of counseling may be considered valuable to those already within the Christian faith hoping to gain further guidance, as well as those searching for a greater understanding of the religion itself.
Christian counseling can be embedded into one’s usual sessions with a therapist or psychologist if this arrangement has been discussed with the client and mental health professional. It can also be administered by a spiritual leader such as a pastor, minister, priest, etc.
Religious counseling has been conducted by spiritual advisors for centuries, but it wasn’t introduced into psychotherapy until more recently. Ironically, the history of psychology actually began with theology. Since most Americans identify themselves as having a religious affiliation, a large portion of which are Christian, it is important to have the opportunity to receive Christian Counseling.2
Types of Christian Counseling
While there aren’t necessarily any types of Christian counseling, there are multiple subcategories in which Christian counseling can be integrated into such as psychotherapy, Christian psychology, Bible counseling, and Pastoral counseling. Each of these categories are all very different and offer varying contributions to a person’s life.
Christian Counseling With Psychotherapy
It’s possible for psychotherapy to incorporate Christian counseling. A psychologist or therapist may practice a form of Christian counseling if they are equipped with adequate experience to give spiritual advice.3
Some therapists may consider spirituality and religion to be important topics to discuss with clients, but some still remain hesitant to cross that line. The decision to include religion in sessions must be determined by both the client and therapist.
Christian psychology usually involves therapy sessions with a Christian psychologist. These psychologists are also referred to as integrationists because they seek to integrate Christianity into psychology.1
Christian psychology incorporates both psychological theories and theological approaches to talk therapy by using biblical concepts with psychotherapy practices.4
This form of psychology may also include a focus on the subject of God’s grace in that God forgives sins and offers His love.
Biblical counseling uses the Bible as a guide in counseling individuals as opposed to psychological theories.1 Content in the Bible is studied as an exemplification of virtuous acts.
Counselors attempt to connect its meanings to the present world and personally relate its content to an individual’s life. This form of Christian counseling is more so practiced in Protestant denominations within a religious setting or theological institution.
Pastoral Counseling is counseling either provided by a pastor or by one who has received graduate credentials in ministry and counseling.1 It is similar to psychotherapy but takes place within a religious facility and focuses more on spirituality while also integrating psychology.
Although Biblical counseling is only related to Protestantism, Pastoral counseling is more diverse and is a shared practice throughout Christianity.
Techniques of Christian Counseling
Christian Counseling techniques will be similar to that of traditional therapy with the incorporation of Christian belief practices such as prayer and bible reading:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) could be involved in Christian counseling with a therapist. This type of CBT is considered Religious Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (RCBT), which helps an individual process irrational thoughts pertaining to religious matters, such as feelings of guilt or religious doubt.3
In RCBT, religious concepts are used to facilitate healthier thinking and actions. The client is encouraged to utilize their religious beliefs to transform depressive feelings into a more positive view of the world. RCBT can also help with understanding your faith. It coincides with the notion of strengthening virtues such as hope, meaning, optimism and purpose.
Meditation can be an impactful strategy taught during counseling that helps one to focus their attention on the grace of God and how He has blessed their life.5
It may also be combined with mindfulness techniques that teach how to be more in the present moment with God and feel a deeper connection with Him.
Meditation also targets destructive thinking that may distract from a person’s relationship with God. Therapists often remind the client to not judge oneself for these thoughts but to acknowledge them and begin the process of understanding the thoughts a bit further.
Clergy leaders may engage in words of prayer before and/or after Bible or Pastoral counseling. During prayer, they can ask God for a successful session, as well as invite Him to provide spiritual guidance.
Prayer is also used as a healing technique and meditation method that Christians believe allows them to communicate with God about circumstances that are burdensome. Prayer is a very sacred practice for those within the Christian faith that essentially connects believers to God.
Through prayer, a person is able to speak words of praise, gratitude, and humility to God but also ask for protection, deliverance, and intervention within their life and the lives of others. Clergy leaders providing counseling may partake in prayer to encourage and uplift the client as well as help them feel the presence of God.
The Bible is used during Bible counseling as a learning tool for studying theology while relating its stories and philosophies to everyday life.1
It can also be utilized in other Christian counseling as a way of providing additional support to what is being discussed and worked on in counseling. Scriptures or chapters within the Bible may be referenced to clients as words of affirmation for encouragement. Christians also use the Bible as a way to connect to God since it is considered a guide that He left for believers to follow.
The Bible is known to be a book crafted by God from collections of letters and books written by multiple authors throughout biblical times. It conveys lessons pertaining to God’s Will and uplifting messages.
Anxiety May Play a Role in How Religious Beliefs Are Formed, Study Reveals
What Christian Counseling Can Help With
Christian counseling can be helpful in addressing conditions and life concerns such as those mentioned below:
- Chronic Illness
- Domestic Violence
If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Benefits of Christian Counseling Religion and spirituality are both associated with greater mental and physical well-being. It is very beneficial to engage in religious/spiritual practices and seek spiritual advisory for mental health challenges as well as additional life concerns.
Integrating religion into psychotherapy is correlated with more positive traits, such as gratitude and optimism, which are linked to less depressive feelings. Religion and spirituality are both associated with greater mental and physical well-being.6
Overall, investing in spiritual growth adds great advantages to a person’s life, and a Christian counselor may aid in the development of spiritual well-being.
Christian counseling is effective for spiritual enrichment, strengthening one’s relationship with God, and overcoming or managing mental health issues like depression.3 It also helps individuals in enhancing positive traits and feeling a sense of purpose in life.7
One study found that integrating a client’s religion into therapy is just as (if not more) effective in treating depression than “secular treatments” for clients who have a designated faith.8
Religion provides a set of beliefs that a therapist can use to help someone replace their own harmful thoughts. In this way, therapy centering on religion can help someone reduce their depressive thoughts and behaviors.
Clergy members can be effective in helping an individual manage depression or anxiety to an extent, but if symptoms persist or reach a certain severity, professional mental health treatment should be considered.
Things to Consider
Christian counseling can be a complex subject matter. It is important to be clear in your expectations of what you hope to receive from Christian counseling because some may have different ideas of what it is than others.
You should also keep in mind that not all therapists discuss religion in sessions. If you want to incorporate this type of counseling into psychotherapy, search for a Christian therapist and inquire about Christian counseling.
It’s possible that what you are looking for is in fact Bible or Pastoral counseling to receive a more theological approach. In this case your search would be geared towards a clergy leader or minister.
How to Get Started
If Christian counseling seems like something that you are interested, here’s what you can do to get started:
Decide Exactly What Type of Counseling You Have in Mind
Remember that Christian Counseling can have various subcategories, so it’s important to identify what kind of counseling you’re referring to. If it seems like Bible or Pastoral counseling is what you’ve been looking for, then contact a church or institution that can give you the right information.
Maybe you’re considering Christian counseling with a therapist. If so, search for a Christian psychologist. For those who already have a psychologist, discuss adding religion and spirituality into your sessions. If your therapist doesn’t do Christian counseling, they may be able to point you in the right direction of a therapist better suited for your needs.
Search for a Counselor or Therapist
If you currently do not have a therapist and want to find one that will incorporate Christian counseling. You can browse the internet for online or in-person therapy. Consult with your primary care physician or other health professionals, or contact your insurance to find therapists specifically in your network.
Expect to Tap Into Spiritual and Emotional Subjects
Talking about these topics may feel awkward at first but will eventually be easier to open up about. You don’t ever have to share information you are not comfortable discussing. Your counselor will try to go at a pace best for you and they should always approach your feelings with patience and sensitivity.
Have an Idea of What You Hope to Gain From Counseling
Be prepared to potentially be asked during your first session what you want out of your therapeutic experience. The counselor will create the best plan for your sessions, but they will need a little understanding of why you decided to begin counseling. Together, you both can contribute to your progression.
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