Understanding the modality of Christian Psychology
When you hear the words “Christian counseling”, what comes to mind? I know that for me (before I started graduate school to become a therapist) it was something along the lines of “a therapist who probably just uses the bible (most likely exclusively) to do therapy”.
But as I began my graduate work at a theological seminary, I began to realize that my idea of Christian counseling had been influenced by those who identified themselves as “christian who counseled” and not the actual modality of christian psychology (counseling).
So, what is “Christian counseling”?
Christian counseling, or Christian psychology (these terms are used interchangeably), is the practice of integrating biblical principles, which typically align with the clients religious values, along with evidence-based psychological modalities. (Evidence-based psychological modalities include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Emotion Focused Therapy, to name a few). A licensed counselor, who is a Christain and has training in utilizing Christian psychology, can offer to provide Christian counseling in a therapeutic session, IF that is what the client wants.
There are also other types of religious counselors who offer Christian counseling, however, its important to understand the distinction between the different types. But the big difference between these types of counselors is that they don’t necessarily have to have a license to provide Christian counseling. For example, Biblical counseling typically relies exclusively on scripture and biblical teachings to counsel and a Pastoral counselor is often a clergy member or minister with a degree in pastoral counseling, which includes training in christian counseling as well as evidence based psychological modalities.
Integrating Christian psychology into therapy
For many people, religion and/or faith play a huge and integral role in their lives. So it only makes sense that when they seek a therapist, they seek one who shares their belief system. Other people may want more of a full integration of Christian psychology, which could look like referring to biblical references, discussing application of biblical principles or how a client’s religious values can guide them through challenging times, and/or praying in session.
For me personally, as a therapist who is also a Christian, when a client mentions that they want “Christian counseling”, I am going to spend time asking questions about what the person sitting in my office means when they say they want “christian counseling”. Do they have specific ideas? Are they wanting lots of biblical references, etc.? Or, are they just wanting to know that I adhere to the same religious belief system as they do?
Integrating religious values isn’t for everyone. And that’s ok! So my standard approach with all of my clients is that I don’t bring it up or discuss it, unless my client does so first. So often we focus on the things that are out of control in their lives, and so I feel strongly that they absolutely get to choose what their therapeutic journey looks like.
Sarah Howard, LPC
Through the use of EMDR therapy, I work with my clients to facilitate the natural healing process their brain wants to engage in. By strengthening skills you already possess and developing new skills you might need, you will be able to work towards overcoming the aspects of your life that you may feel stuck in.