Christian Counseling Versus Secular Counseling.
What is the goal of Christian counseling?
First, to make counseling truly Christian we must bring our faith and our counseling together in our mind. Christ-centered counseling requires more than devoted Christians who are expertly trained in the fields of counseling. It is the presence of God and the Holy Spirit into the counseling process that makes Christian counseling. This begins by recognizing Christ as the only wonderful Counselor. He becomes our model. Christian counseling is grounded in the Bible, and most often seeks to help a person embrace the pain of his experience through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of the processes will be similar to those employed in secular counseling, but the motivation will be different. For example, a Christian counselor may also employ cognitive restructuring techniques, but the end goal for renewing the mind will be a greater knowledge and enjoyment of God not based on circumstances. With Christian counseling, God remains the focus; one important goal is helping the person to grow a rich and accurate view of God specific to that person’s life.
What is the goal of secular counseling?
Secular counseling is grounded in humanism, and most often seeks to help a person adjust to difficult circumstances. The processes may include client education, behavioral techniques, and cognitive restructuring (changing one’s thoughts), just to name a few. But the end goal will most likely be some type of adaptation that provides symptom relief. In secular counseling, the problem and/or the client often remains the focus.
Professional counselors – whether Christian or not – understand that clients have the right to choose their treatment goals. Both types of counselors, however, will most likely offer some assistance in clarifying and evaluating what the goal(s) should be. Practically speaking, the most effective therapy gets underway when the counselor and client are in agreement on the focus of treatment. In my experience, some clients are prone to wanting a quick fix in the problem in one or two sessions--that is not realistic.
In the sessions, I remind myself at the beginning of each session, "God please help me to say the things you want them to hear." God knows the client the way I need to know them. He knows how to motivate them to use their pain as stepping-stones that can lead them from where they are to where He knows they should be. In addition, the Holy Spirit distributes gifts of healing to the client. Although, as Christian counselors we play our part in the process of bringing people to healing, we recognize the gift of healing that comes to our clients is from the Holy Spirit — through God.
Food for Thought —
“ You do your best and God will do the rest!”
How many times have you found yourself asking God, "Why?" I am sure it has been too many to count or remember. I have asked God this same question many times over in my life when I have gone through a period of difficulty. God seems to take His time to respond. I think we tend to forget God has His own timetable and we want a quick fix to the problem.
We all know the story of Job and the trials and tribulations he went through. Job lost his wealth, his children, his health, the support of his wife and friends, and for a period he felt like he lost the shield of God. It is reasonable to say we all have experienced some form of pain similar to what Job went through. It is difficult to adequately appreciate the real horror of Job's circumstances. Physically, Job loses vast amounts of wealth and all of his children -- all in single day. Job himself is struck with a terrible disease which left him with awful boils all over his body. Socially, Job is brought from the most outstanding leader of his community, to sit on an ash heap at the city dump. There he is alienated from his friends and family, while unfeeling neighbors taunt him with cruel songs. And even those who had come to console him now turn on him. Spiritually, it seems he has been separated from his God -- God remains hauntingly silent through the entire ordeal. And emotionally, we can only imagine the bitterness of Job's groanings of pain and troubled mind and spirit, the depths of his despair and loneliness which I am sure made him question his faith that he stood by his entire life. I think Job eventually came to the same conclusion as I have so many times, that although I may not understand God’s reasons or His way, He will always make things work out the way it is supposed to be. I have also found that when I am struggling with some issue, I am closer to God and it makes me yearn for His presence. Does that take the emotional/ physical pain or turmoil away? Of course not. However, life circumstances and my faith have taught me to seek God for understanding and go to Him for comfort when no one else can comfort me. It has been my honest experience that there has not been a single request that I have made to God that He has not answered. It sometimes take months or years but it comes in the way God intended. As the Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen.”- Hebrews 11:1 . We have to believe that God will deliver us through our life struggles and when He does not, from a humanly perspective ,we have to understand God is allowing us to go through the storm to mold us to become the person God wanted us to be. Notice the relationship between faith and hope. Faith grows out of hope.
Clinically speaking, I have seen numerous clients who have struggled with mental health and familial issues, who have also claimed some form of spiritual belief system. It has been my experience that these families and individuals tend to have a greater support system and longer lasting therapeutic outcomes when combined with faith and hope. One of the early priorities of the Christian counseling process is to inspire hope in the client. Hope, inspired by the Holy Spirit, can give birth to a gift of faith that enables the client to believe that the recovery hoped for will become a reality. There has been numerous clinical studies on this matter that supports this. One can readily go online and find studies on the effects of spirituality /religion on overall wellbeing. I encourage all readers to explore how faith, spirituality, or belief systems can positively impact their life. You do your best and God will do the rest!
Hector Oswaldo Chavez, MS, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Counselor, and Substance Abuse Counselor. He serves on multiple boards and has worked in a variety of clinical settings such as with the Army, Navy, Hospital Inpatient and Outpatient, Community Mental Health, and Private Practice. His personal and professional views may not necessarily reflect the views of other mental health or medical professionals. If you have any personal or family concerns about the topic discussed, please seek professional assistance.