What is Christian Counseling ?
Christian counseling, also sometimes referred to as pastoral counseling, is a form of therapy that draws upon both the teachings of Christianity and psychology. Christian counseling is often provided by church ministers but may also be provided by anyone who is trained in psychological counseling and who is a committed Christian.
In Christian counseling, modern psychological techniques and therapy methods are combined with the Christian ethos to provide a form of counseling that is spiritually-oriented and that reflects facets of the Christian religion. However, Christian counseling also has a basis in sound psychological practice. A person who is agitated and unsettled can prove to be a difficult patient for a doctor to treat with mere prescription medications.
In order to practice Christian counseling, the therapist must be trained in any of the various “talking therapies”, such as counseling or psychotherapy. He or she should also have a strong knowledge of the Bible and Christianity have and abiding, strong faith in Christian religion.
What is the difference between Christian counseling and secular counseling?
Christian counseling has many things in common with other types of counseling. The aim of Christian counseling, as with secular counseling, is to help people to overcome their difficulties, find meaning in life and improve the person’s overall health and well-being.
What distinguishes Christian counseling, with its focus on Christianity and the teachings of the Bible, from secular therapy? In a Christian counseling session, the therapist will refer to Bible teachings that (by analogy) may help the patient work through his or her problems or that will provide them with strength or guidance, whichever is needed. The therapist utilizing these techniques may also pray with the patient during a Christian counseling session, which does not typically occur with secular therapy.
The basic premise of Christian counseling is that the Bible and its teachings has much to offer a person in terms of practical wisdom, guidance and advice, particularly when dealing with areas that commonly cause conflict or distress to people. This may involve relationships with others, the trials and tribulations of marriage, the family, or may deal with suffering and human nature in general.
While methods and techniques from modern psychology may be employed in Christian counseling, some Christian counselors believe, and will promote the concept that the Bible is the ultimate authority and not psychology. The range of emphasis on the Bible over the field of psychology varies widely with the particular Christian counselor.
What is the difference between Christian counseling and Nouthetic counseling?
Nouthetic counseling is a form of Christian counseling that is based on the belief that any form of counseling should be focused solely on the teachings of the Bible. This type of Christian counseling shuns the teachings of psychology and psychiatry completely.
An American Reformed Christian, Jay E Adams, developed the Nouthetic branch of Christian counseling in 1970 after publishing his book Competent to Counsel. In the book, Adams criticized the use of psychological theory and methods in Christian counseling.
Nouthetic counseling, as a form of Christian counseling, has come under fire from secular psychologists and Christians alike for the extreme views it promotes. In Nouthetic counseling, a great deal of focus is placed on sin and negative behaviors by the individual being treated. This form of therapy tends to lack emphasis on areas such as grief counseling, and addressing human suffering and emotions. The main objection that critics verbalize about this form of Christian counseling is that it appears to lack a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature.
Secular psychologists may be supportive of the less extreme forms of Christian counseling that combine Christian teaching with sound psychological theory. But, many secular psychologists do not support the techniques used in pure Nouthetic counseling and believe that this type of Christian counseling may cause long-term damage to patients.
Choosing a Christian counselor
If you are considering Christian counseling it is important to find a counselor that has a thorough knowledge of modern psychological techniques and also possesses training and qualifications in those techniques. He or she can blend that range of therapeutic knowledge with a strong faith. You should also seek a counselor who is accredited by a recognized counseling body or organization. If you already belong to a church, speak to the minister to find out your best options for Christian counseling.