I used to be a pastor. When I was it was clear to me that there were Christians that were suspicious of counselors and counseling. There were apparently things about counseling that they felt uncomfortable with. They weren’t sure that a Christian should see a counselor. However, when I studied Marriage and Family Therapy at Liberty University I became aware that some counselors and psychologists are equally suspicious of people of faith. Both the community of faith and those in the business of counseling are guilty of misunderstanding the nature and motives of the other. I would suggest that a number of myths exist about faith and counseling.
Faith and Psychology Contradict Each Other
No, they don’t. Some think that it’s impossible to be religious and value counseling. I don’t. This is definitely a myth. It is simply untrue. As someone who is a consumer of both faith and counseling, this drives me crazy. Obviously, there are areas of disagreement between certain types of counseling theory and the Christian tradition. However, there are many things they have in common. Case in point is the counseling therapies that focus on distorted or negative thinking. This is not so different from the Bible’s focus on the renewing of the mind and thinking positive, encouraging thoughts. Two examples of this are Romans 12:1 and Philippians 4:8. Consequently, there are many types of theological and psychological thinking that are similar. The proponents of both seek to help people. And perhaps the area that theology and counseling are most in agreement about is helping people. I see the practice of faith and counseling as allies. They both seek to help others.
Counseling doesn’t work
Myth #2: Counseling doesn’t work. I’ve heard it many times. I can’t count the number of times that people of faith have proclaimed their distrust in counseling or therapy. I sometimes wonder if some people think that the only place healing can take place is at church? You would think that people of faith would have a broader understanding of how God might work to help people confront their fears, insecurities, and struggles. Unfortunately, this is not always true. It is true that every counseling relationship is not ideal. However, it would be inaccurate to say counseling doesn’t work. And there are reasons that people might think that. It may be the client’s unwillingness to work with the therapist. It may be the counselor’s theory of practice not being the best fit for the client’s problem. Maybe the client and counselor don’t’ really click with each other. Or perhaps the client is fearful of getting that close to their pain. Consequently, there are explanations for those who would claim counseling doesn’t work.
All I need is Jesus
Another common myth. It is clear from the Bible and the Christian tradition that Jesus is a healer, However, there are some who would say that Jesus is enough and we don’t need to look for help in a counselors office. There are some Christians and even counselors who suggest that we should not avail ourselves of medicinal solutions. They see the study psychiatry and counseling to be enemies of the church. The problem is sometimes people need more than upgrading their church attendance and prayer. Sometimes faith is taking advantage of the resources available to you to be healthy. The best example of this is the treatment of alcohol and drug use. Treatment of these problems can consist of one on one, group counseling, and support group meetings. Many people continue with their meetings for years. Consequently, it is true that Jesus is enough for many struggles. However, there are some problems that the discerning Christian should seek further help for. Therefore, this does not make our faith smaller. It simply means that we find hope in many people and situations. Perhaps this means counselors and ministers should be allies in helping people.
In my view, counselors and pastors do a similar work. Both tend to be motivated to help and support others to make changes. However, it’s more helpful to look for ways in which we are alike instead of the ways that we are different.