Christian Counselor Seattle
As a pastor and theologian, I am often asked of how my theology lines up with psychotherapy. That question suggests that counseling cannot be therapeutic when scripture is incorporated into it. Likewise, biblical scholars argue that the use of psychotherapy in Christian counseling somehow violates the integrity of the Bible itself.
As a Christian counselor, it continues to be my pleasure to integrate psychotherapy with spirituality in order to establish a well-rounded and holistic process of moving my clients to a place of wholeness. In this article, I explain what this means for my practice as a Christian counselor.
Integrating Therapy and Spirituality
Both the gospel and counseling seek to meet people where they are – spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I admit that many of my clients have complained that others have done a poor job of connecting with their spiritual convictions while challenging their emotional dysfunctions. The integration of therapy and spirituality requires one to be comfortable functioning in both areas. This is no different than integrating cognitive behavioral therapy with emotional focused therapy. I have to be comfortable using both CBT and scripture if I am to help the client manage the cognitive distortions of “all or nothing,” while at the same time soothing their anxiety by reading Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield.”
More and more clients are seeking counselors who can honor their faith. This is less about religious preference and more about respect for what they consider to be sacred. But I have also had clients enter therapy who are hesitant about whether a pastor should be involved with the science of the mind. It is interesting how we can go to the doctor for direction, but question the therapeutic relevance of counseling. If an annual check-up were to identify high blood sugar, we would take the doctor’s advice about taking a prescribed medication without hesitation. Yet it is somehow taboo to see a counselor when depression or anxiety presents itself because prayer is supposed to be all we need. The individual diagnosed with diabetes and the individual diagnosed with depression require prayer and professional support.
God is the Ultimate Healer
I believe that God is the ultimate healer, but the manner in which that healing comes can be dynamic and diverse. Some people can pray themselves out of an anxious or depressed mood. Other people need to call on others for help in order to overcome their struggles. God made both medical doctors and counselors for a purpose and as society continues to find value in counseling, our spirituality has found a healthy way into the counseling room. Therapy can assist Christians who have a rigid view of God as punitive and without grace. Many of my clients enter therapy to find their way back to the loving God that they read about in the Bible. There are clients who have spent a great deal of time in therapy without much progress or change until a Christian counselor took them through a survey of their spiritual journey.
Spirituality Helps Us to Make Sense of Life
One could say that both faith and therapy can be perverted, leading someone to a feeling of abandonment and neurosis. For example, I had a client who could recite passages from the Bible as a coping skill, but could not allow herself to verbalize what she felt and needed from her abusive husband. A counselor can help a client to identify abusive behavior both inside and outside her spiritual community.
In the world of church, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 1:14-26)Confronting your past relationships or your defensive mechanisms can produce anxiety or depression and research has proven that spirituality serves as a psychological and social resource for coping with stress. Without faith, many clients would be hard-pressed to make sense of suffering and would find it difficult to manage the overwhelming forces of life.
Christian Counseling Provides an Integrated Way to True Healing
Is it possible that therapy and faith can co-exist with one another without one violating the other? The answer has to be “Yes.” It is through my faith that I have the ability to be a witness of the goodness, kindness, and hope of God, even when the individual cannot connect with their own faith. As a Christian counselor, I am privileged to be Christ’s witness in the therapist’s seat. I am a Christian counselor and am proud of it. If would like to explore how Christian counseling can help you in your struggles, please reach out to me here.
“Autumn Stream,” by Art G., Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)
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