There are widely different expectations and descriptions of Christian Counseling. One client might be upset if a counselor didn’t incorporate scripture in every session and another might be offended if the counselor mentioned the Bible, thinking the counselor overstepped his professional boundaries. (I will be discussing the ways I do Christian counseling later this week.)
Christian Counseling versus Secular Counseling – Why This Topic Matters to Christians
Research finds that when a therapist’s religious beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and when there is congruence between client and therapist, treatment is enhanced and outcomes are more positive. Of 2000 quantitative studies, 2/3 found that religiousness was related to significantly better mental health (less depression and anxiety, lower rates of suicide and substance abuse, greater well being and life satisfaction, happiness, optimism and hope, more forgiveness, altruism, compassion, and gratefulness). They experience fewer emotional disorders, have more positive emotions, and have stronger relationships. They also live longer.
As the therapist and client connect on a spiritual level, the degree of nurturing may go deeper than what happens in secular, humanistic therapies.
People are complex. Emotional wounds develop from poor choices, difficult life situations, developmental wounds (from parents, siblings, and peers), and genetic influences (genetic factors can make people susceptible to conditions such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, dysfunctional personality traits). Furthermore, a person’s spiritual beliefs impact their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Psychiatrist Harold Koenig’s defines Christian counseling as: “The process whereby the Christian beliefs, attitudes, and practices of the patient (and the therapist) are used to support, encourage, and build up the patient through a caring relationship, and to correct dysfunctional beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are driving negative emotions.”
Simply put, he believes, like I do, “Christian counseling is best directed at developing, strengthening, and deepening a patient’s relationship with God…the extent to which patients can trust that God loves them and will take care of them in every circumstance will influence emotional and behavioral responses to every situation in which they find themselves.”
In spite of all this, I have worked with secular counselors who were extremely helpful and some Christian ones who were emotionally abusive (as I mentioned in previous posts). I thought this research was interesting.
What do you think?