So, what is a Christian Counselor anyway?

The following quote was taken from the first Chapter of the Counseling Theories Textbook we use at Criswell College:

“Counseling is indeed an ambiguous enterprise. It is done by persons who can’t agree on what to call themselves, what credentials are necessary to practice or even what the best way is to practice – whether to deal with feelings, thoughts, or behaviors; whether to be primarily supportive or confrontational; whether to focus on the past or the present. Further, the consumers of counseling services can’t exactly articulate what their concerns are, what counseling can and can’t do for them, or what they want when it’s over.” (Kottler & Brown, 1996.)

The ambiguity described above takes on a new twist when you try to define what is meant by “Christian Counseling.” So many people desire “Christian Counseling” but the task of coalescing thousands of individual perceptions on the subject is like trying to mix oil and water with a candy spoon.

Do Christian counselors pray with every client? Must they open the Bible and quote from it during every session? Should they be evangelistic, calvinistic, optimistic, pessimistic, directive, nondirective, listen to confession, share personal testimonies, be apart of the same denomination as their clients? What mix of faith, psychology, and biology should they espouse in their approach to counseling? What would your answers be?

If I were to even attempt to define Christian Counseling in one sentence it would go something like this:

“A professional interaction between two or more individuals by which a trained expert in human behavior espousing the core doctrines of the Christian faith attempts to guide a willing client/clients toward an accurate understanding of themselves in relation to God and others with the goal of strengthen all three relationships: relation to God, self and others.”

Questions: If you were looking for a Christian Counselor, what kinds of qualities would you seek out? How would you define Christian Counseling in a few sentences?

photo courtesy of www.nycounseling.org

  1. Mira Ahn’s avatar

    I think that Christian counselors need to be ready for crying, laughing, and interacting with the clients with the deep compassion. Like Jesus laughed and cried with his compassionate heart. Jesus loved people, but at the same time, he did not hesitate to speak the biblical truth. Likewise, christian counselors need to speak the truth based on compassionate love for the souls.
    Nowadays, we have many educated people intellectually, but I think there are a few people who have a compassionate heart.
    The longest journey of our lives is that from the head knowledge to our heart.

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  2. Jackson Wanjeru’s avatar

    A christian counselor should be a person with a sound biblical interpretation and understanding well nurtured in the client’s culture and denomination. This is because we are a product of our cultures, denominations and worldview.

    However Christian Counseling should seeks to carefully discover those areas in which a Christian may be disobedient to the principles and commands of Scripture and to help them learn how to lovingly submit to God’s will.

    I believe it is important to pray and share a scripture with the client as instructed in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” and where possible be of the same denomination with thye client.

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  3. ola oyatayo’s avatar

    The major goal of all counselors, Christian or secular is to help clients overcome any psychological or emotional difficulties they may have.But what sets a Christian Counselor apart and I believe distinctive is that they have an absolute standard they can follow in order to measure their objective which is the Bible-the source of all truth(John 8:32).
    Secular counsellors have no such standard, instead they follow a common norm, or the latest psychological findings, with no absolutes to judge morals or the choices people make.
    At the end of the day, recognising that the Bible, and not Psychology is the final authority.
    Christian counselling helps clients understand and also follow biblical truths.
    Christian counselors have to learn to have patience to be able to listen to clients and have the spirit of wisdom to guide their clients in the best biblical way as possible, as well as not being too judgemental about their clients, or telling them that it is because they are not born again that is why are they are having all these problems, No, a Christian Counselor should be able to integrate core beliefs of Christianity as well as other techniques or theories into the service they offer to their clients

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  4. Bryan Lynch’s avatar

    If I were looking for a Christian Counselor, I would definitely want someone whose beliefs were, at the very least, fundamentally close to my own. A lot of people call themselves “Christians” who are not. I would assume this would apply to the field of Counseling as well. I think a Christian Counselor should probably have a Statement of Faith for potential clients to view, and should inform any potential client that they approach counseling from a Christian Worldview.

    In the counseling setting, the Christian Counselor should be both compassionate & firm where necessary. They should have a firm grasp of Scripture, as well as an understanding of psychological & emotional disorders, in order to incorporate the best possible methods of helping their clients. All truth is Gods truth. So, just as physicians have learned about the functions of the body, I see nothing wrong with gleaning from those that have studied the mind, & borrowing from them those techniques that might prove helpful.

    As for praying with clients, I think if the client requests it, or is comfortable with it, it should be incorporated into the counseling setting. Regardless, the Christian Counselor should be praying inwardly for their clients during sessions, ad well as praying for them before and after sessions.

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  5. martin villoria’s avatar

    Christian Counseling: well, i would prefer to separate the the word Christian,from Counseling. Based on our reading, pinning Counseling with a clear cut definition is difficult, so i would prefer to give it a vague/ general definition. I see Counseling or Psychology as a professional friend, or simply a paid conversation (talk therapy). The term Christian should not modify the word Counseling, nor any vocation for that matter; rather, it modifies an indiviual. to be fair, being Christian does affect one’s ethics, but it does not create a specific category for the vocation. i could be wrong…and probably am. :)

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    1. purposebeyondpain’s avatar

      Hmm, A professional friend? A paid conversation? That’s about as vague as you can possibly be :) I hope by the end of the course that I have convinced you it is not as simple as all that. Or is it?! I see your point about the term Christian defining an individual not a vocation. On the other hand, I would say that your Christianity should and will determine the way you practice any vocation, including counseling. It is, therefore, right to beg the question: What would set a Christian counselor (or to follow your argument “A counselor who professes to be a follower of Christ”) apart from a counselor of another faith/religion/worldview.

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      1. martin’s avatar

        just thought i would mention that i have changed my position on the issue…there is a distinct difference between a secular and a Christian counselor.

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      2. Bruce’s avatar

        I would seek a Christian Counselor who was described as wise and had a minimum of ten to twenty years of life experience as well as a solid biblical background. I would want them to believe “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Regardless of the different theories and techniques, the Christian counselor should help the willing patient see the wisdom and direction found in the bible and work to help the client understand their situation/relationship issues and the choices they have to deal with it. A Christian Counselor should discover what the client believes and where they are in their spiritual journey. This will be invaluable in discussing and framing biblical based solutions for the client to understand and consider.

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      3. Jacobie Robinson’s avatar

        If I were looking for a christian counselor, I would seek a licensed professional who uses scripture ( the principles of Christ) and spirituality as apart of the foundation of their therapeutic practice. I would look for someone who is competent and respected, one who expresses genuine concern for people. When I was counseling in VA I was required to attend a training called Crisis Wave. In that training, the instructor emphasized the importance of love. In order to help the clients we serve we must love them. In the process of the training he explained what that love should look like on a professional level. All that I could think about during that portion of the training was this is what Christ was teaching us to do, to Love! Of course the services the counselor provide would go beyond just simply loving the client, but the services that are provided yield from a prospective of love. In the end of sessions, I would think that a Christian Counselor would not only have encouraged the client to hope for better living, but to also have encouraged them to choose a path that leads them to a closer relationship with Christ, while finding purpose in their process. Essentially, through Jesus Christ is the way to experience true life.

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