The purpose of this blog post is to help answer the question, “What is Christian Counseling?” As with most things, there is not one universal answer to this question. Christian counseling can mean something different depending on who you are asking. For Christians who are experiencing anxiety or OCD, working with a counselor who understands and appreciates the Christian faith can be very helpful.
If you are a Christian and starting to search for a therapist, you might begin your search by asking people within your Christian community or head straight to the internet and search with terms like “christian counselor” or “christian counselor near me.”
You will likely end up with a variety of options and still feel unsure of what is meant by Christian counselor. It can be very confusing. You might even come across terms such as “Biblical Counseling” and “Pastoral Counseling.”
Three kinds of Christian counseling:
Biblical Counseling- Uses the Bible as the source of authority for how to help guide and direct someone who is facing challenges. Largely dependent on the individual’s Biblical interpretation. The person doing the counseling could have a non-clinical certification from a non-clinical setting, i.e. Bible college, non-profit, etc.
This can be beneficial for someone who is seeking Biblical wisdom and guidance on a particular issue and needing support that falls more into the category of mentoring. Some licensed mental health professionals do refer to their work as Biblical Counseling.
Pastoral Counseling- Usually done by someone who is in a pastoral position with a church or non-profit. Their edducation and background experience can vary. There are some seminaries who offer Master’s programs in Pastoral Counseling where the person can learn how to integrate spirituality and psychology to support people facing mental health issues and other common challenges and stressors.
There are some licensed mental health professionals who refer to their work as Pastoral Counseling but not all Pastoral Counselors are licensed mental health professionals.
Christian Counseling- Typically a licensed mental health professional who overtly identifies as being a Christian.
There are some devoted and studied Christians who are not licensed mental health professionals but do refer to themselves as Christian Counselors. This mostly refers to them being willing and able to address matters of faith with someone vs. specific mental health issues.
Keep in mind that even non-mental health related fields such as finance, offer services that are referred to as “financial counseling.” Just because you hear and see the word counseling does not mean that the individual is providing licensed, clinical, mental health services.
If you are looking for therapy for anxiety or OCD in Virginia, North Carolina, or Florida, you will want to look for a counselor or therapist with a graduate degree and a clinical certification. This could be a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor, or a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Credentials to look for when seeking Christian counseling:
-Psychologist, PhD or PsyD
-Licensed Clinical Social Worker, LCSW or LCSWA
-Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC
-Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, LMFT, LMFTA
-Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, LCMHC, LCMHCA, LCMHCS
You won’t always know from a therapist’s website or bio whether or not they are a Christian or of some other faith. Some therapists choose not to disclose this while others make it very well known. The reasons for this vary but it generally has to do with the approach a clinician takes in session and/or what types of clients the clinician would like to work with. You can view my bio here.
Two Expressions of Christian Counselors:
1- Overt- A counselor or practice who makes faith a central element in their presentation of services to clients, i.e scripture on their website and Christian decor on their walls, praying with a client during a session, etc. This is not to say that the counselor or practice pushes faith on their clients. That would be unethical and a misuse of the role of the therapist/counselor. A therapist who presents their Christian faith overtly is doing so because this is in line with their therapeutic approach and meets the needs of a subset of the population looking for counseling.
2- Covert- A counselor or practice who makes faith a part of therapy, as desired by the client, but not central to their overall messaging about their practice and services. This is the approach that Evercare Counseling takes. This could mean that spirituality is emphasized over a particular religion or faith. Within a group practice, it could be that there are clinicians of various faiths to best support a wide variety of faith practices. Another reason a therapist might not overtly make their faith known is out of desire for wanting to work with a wide variety of people regardless of faith. Use of the word covert is not meant to be manipulative or misleading. Again, that would be unethical and a misuse of the role of the therapist/counselor. Whether or not faith or spirituality is incorporated into a session is entirely dependent on the client’s goals and needs.
Questions you can ask your therapist about their approach to counseling:
- Are you a Christian?
- How do you incorporate faith into sessions?
- What if I don’t want to include church-like activities in my sessions?
- How do you handle working with people who believe differently than you?
Keep in mind that sometimes therapists choose not to answer personal questions, typically for reasons related to the therapeutic process and relationship.
As mentioned earlier, Christians who are experiencing anxiety and/or OCD can really benefit from working with a provider who can support them through the lens of their faith and their mental health. This is particularly helpful for individuals whose symptoms are connected to issues of faith or their beliefs, as is often seen in the OCD theme of scrupulosity.
Therapy Services Offered at Evercare Counseling
Evercare Counseling offers a range of mental health services to help provide you with more support. These services include anxiety therapy, ERP therapy, OCD treatment, therapy for women, and Christian counseling. Online therapy is provided throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. You can find information on our counseling rates and how we work with insurance here. For more about us check out our FAQs and blog!