Am I a Christian Counselor?
I am most often contacted by individuals who are so troubled by marriage/relationship problems, or PTSD/trauma, that they just want a competent therapist. That is, most potential clients who call me don't care what I believe, they care what I can do. I like to think I do these things well, as I have a high success rate.
However, there is a significant portion of clients whose personal beliefs and personal experience lead them to ask potential therapists about religious beliefs, and how this affects the therapist's approach to therapy. That deserves an answer, and that answer shouldn't be complicated. For those to whom this is important, it is usually very important.
So the most common question I get from potential clients who contact me is, "Are you a Christian counselor?" The most straightforward answer is yes, I am a Christian who attends church and is involved in church life. I take clients from all walks of life. I hope my clients are not ashamed of their beliefs either. If you think differently, and stop reading this post here, then who is the prejudiced one, you or I? However, if you're actually interested in your mental health, keep reading, and I will expand on my answer.
Sure, it affects my work: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as to the Lord." (Col. 3:23, ESV) My hope is that my clients will find true peace in this life and the next. If I didn't, I would be a fraud, secretly judging people. I hope the last thing anyone wants is an arrogant therapist, or a dishonest therapist, or a judgmental therapist.
I do not use so-called "Christian" therapies such as "Biblical Therapy" or "Nouthetic Counseling," which are very popular in some circles. Often, however, "Christian" therapies aren't very Christian, or effective. That's why they were not taught in my MFT graduate program, which was at a Christian university! Nouthetic Counseling, for instance, which a friend of mine was traumatized by, has as its main assumption that mental health problems are the result of "unrepentant sin." I won't claim to be an expert in it, but what happened is that they shouted and raved at my friend to try to uncover some hidden, horrible sin! My friend was so open about his weaknesses that they failed miserably. And I am happy to say that he never went back after that. That therapy was not Christian. It was remarkably similar to what Job's friends said to him (in the Old Testament book of Job), and if you don't know or remember, God judges those fake friends severely at the end of the book.
My primary therapeutic methods of dealing with families, couples, and trauma victims, while not Christian in their origin, are well-accepted by Christian therapists, even very conservative ones. Gottman Method marriage therapy and EMDR trauma therapy even have their own associations of Christian practitioners. The big difference between what I use, and so-called "Christian therapies" is not related to compatibility with clients' beliefs. The difference is that my methods are research-based, and research-proven to free people from their emptiness, hopelessness, and mental anguish. This can result in a spiritual breakthrough, just like the work of an oncologist treating cancer. Most doctors report having seen things they cannot explain. I don't credit the healing to myself either.
Atheists might say that I have chosen effective methods based on education and sound training. Religious folks might say I have a deliverance ministry. I wouldn't disagree with either. If I don't meet my clients where they are, I can't help anyone.