What’s the difference between Christian counseling and other types of counseling?
I probably get asked this question more than any other question during initial calls with potential clients. I love this question mostly because it’s so complicated; there is no single practice for what “Christian Counseling” is. There are an array of formats, opinions, and preferences for how different therapists approach counseling in a Christian context, which is why I’m glad people ask this question.
To be clear, not all of my clients identify as Christian, and many of those who do aren’t necessarily seeking an emphasis on faith at the foreground of the counseling process. However, there is a significant group of people reaching out to me specifically seeking a therapist who is Christian.
What it’s NOT
Sometimes defining something can be easiest when we start by naming what it’s not.
Christian counseling is not a space for me to express my theological viewpoints (I’ll leave that to the pastors, priests, and other experts).
Christian counseling is not my place to give advice based on my interpretation of the Bible or any other religious texts.
It is also not on my authority to know – let alone say – whether God approves or disapproves of a choice you make.
Christian counseling is not a place for shame, judgment, or any other form of spiritual abuse.
What it IS
This list doesn’t necessarily need to be specific to faith-based counseling. Nonetheless, here is a list of what I believe Christian counseling ought to be:
A space where clients can feel safe to express their theological beliefs and can be free to live from that space.
A place where clients can feel supported in the choices they make based on their faith, including their understanding of the Bible or other religious texts.
A place where love, acceptance, and grace are the top priority.
How it Manifests in my Office
Often I’ve found that when people are looking for a therapist who specifically identifies as Christian, they are seeking a place where they can feel understood and not questioned in their faith, including their experiences and choices.
For a moment I began to write out some examples of choices and experiences I’ve heard people reference as faith-related, but I realize how posting such examples can be unhelpful to include in this blog platform because even within the Christian faith alone there is a wide range of understandings, beliefs, and experiences. My hope is to be respectful of the array of flavors of faith that I interact with, with the awareness that my own understanding of faith does not need to be in alignment with others’, yet we still have the full freedom to share the same space together.
I’ve been surprised to find how rarely potential clients ask about my specific faith-related beliefs. Rather, they usually want to know if I’ll be okay with them the way that they are.
Ultimately, regardless of faith or any other factors, my top priority when someone walks through my door is to let them know I am okay with who they are.