What Is Christian Counseling And How Is It Different From Other Counseling? – Christian Families Today
What is Christian Counseling?
|318 By Dr. Bill Gillham (www.Lifetime.org)
“Christian” Counseling must counsel the soul with techniques generated by the Spirit of God; counseling which is not Christian counsels the soul with techniques generated by the spirit of this world. “…I heard you refer to obsessive/compulsive disorders on your radio program. That’s a problem I have. I feel that I must spin around precisely three times and flip the light switch once before leaving the house, especially when I’m nervous about something. Do you think you can help me?” Would you throw up your hands at how to help this woman? Would you send her to a “professional”? That’s what I would have felt like doing, even after I’d completed my doctoral studies in counseling. I knew what the textbooks said, the techniques and procedures to use, but I also knew that the success rate for treating folks who were struggling with this behavior was far from encouraging. I would have felt helpless, hopeless, inadequate. Her problem is not uncommon. Many of you know someone who is troubled by obsessive/compulsive behavior, though it may not be incapacitating. It could be as harmless as a baseball player who feels that he must step on second base, heading for his position. Should he fail to do so, it would interfere with his concentration. He would feel insecure, as though a piece were missing, and worrisome thoughts would plague him. Next inning, he’d make sure to step on that base. So what would you do with the woman who wrote us the letter? Would you see her problem as light-years beyond the abilities of a pastor or plain-vanilla layman in the church? Okay, let’s say that the therapist we refer her to is a Believer. Since he knows Jesus, is even perhaps on the church staff, the therapy will be Christian…or will it? Tell me, does a Christian mechanic use Christian oil and grease? When we use the word Christian as an adjective, we imply that the skills and techniques—even the results—of the practitioner are Christian. Have you ever used a “Christian mechanic” who left a lot to be desired as a craftsman? It’s better to describe him as a “mechanic who is a Christian.” I would have no problem using the services of an unsaved, skilled, orthopedic surgeon to set my fractured hip. When I submit myself to his knife, I’m more interested in his surgical skill than his theology. But submitting myself to a counselor who uses therapy developed by the minds of lost mentors is dramatically different. Counseling that is Christian must counsel the soul with techniques generated by the Spirit of God; counseling which is not Christian counsels the soul with techniques generated by the spirit of this world. Attaching scripture to such therapy does not make it Christian in that the goals of these two therapies are diametrically opposed. Holy Spirit-led therapy seeks to lead the soul to abandon all hope in personal strength and thus to total reliance upon Christ’s strength, while secular therapy seeks to lead the soul to greater autonomy (alas, even with “God’s help”)! I don’t question the sincerity or integrity of any counselor who is a committed Christian, assuming his desire is to help people overcome their problems in a Christ-honoring manner. But my concern is this: Does this counselor use Christian therapy or psychotherapy in his counseling? Let’s face it, while both saved and lost plumbers may do an adequate job using identical wrenches, there is a world of difference between counseling with Biblically-based therapy and psychotherapy. While Biblical counseling seeks to lovingly cut the Believer’s fleshly water supply off and lead him to tap in to the rivers of living water (Holy Spirit) within, psychotherapy seeks to prime the flesh’s pump to get it “flowing” again. Notice that I referred to counseling the soul. The word soul and the word psychology come from the same root, meaning personality. Your soul is your personality. Psychotherapy is a discipline which uses techniques developed by unregenerate minds to “treat” man’s soul. The Christian who takes his soul to a psychotherapist for service is like the man who takes his car to the florist to be overhauled. Psychotherapy is not God’s plan for ministering to the soul, especially the Christian’s soul, regardless of whether the practitioner is saved or lost. To reiterate, I do not question this counselor’s motive; I question his method. I’ve taken my stand, now let me back it up by discussing how a Biblical counselor can lead our hurting sister into God’s “rest” (Heb. 4:1). God hates self-reliance. This is the sin Adam and Eve committed; they were the first ones to hum the tune, I Did It My Way. That’s what got our friend into the mess she’s in. The instant she was born she began to hum that tune, to live to get her needs satisfied her way. She drew a circle around herself and set up her own private little kingdom, and she declared herself “lord of the ring.” Her goal: to be in control. Her attitude.
Source: What Is Christian Counseling And How Is It Different From Other Counseling? – Christian Families Today
Finding a Christian Counselor
It’s important to make an informed decision about each counselor you consider. For many people, just making the decision on whether to seek counseling for marriage and family issues is difficult. Once you’ve decided (see “Do I Need Counseling?”), the next difficulty is finding a qualified counselor who can help you.While Family Life is unable to provide counseling, we want to encourage you in your pursuit of a qualified, godly counselor who can help you in your journey to resolve marriage and family problems. We believe it is strength, not weakness, to acknowledge the need for help. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”Important qualifications in a biblical counselor Look for someone who:can provide evidence of solid biblical and counseling training and experience;loves people, perseveres through tough times, and is confident that Jesus works in His people;believes that the Bible, God’s Word, is sufficient for providing wisdom and direction for dealing with life’s issues (2 Peter 1:2-4; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17); and gives clear evidence of a personal, passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Steps to take1. Ask God for wisdom to make the right decisions as you seek a biblical counselor. God promises to give you wisdom if you ask in faith (James 1:5-8). As you step out in faith, He will direct your steps to the right counselor (see also Psalm 23, Proverbs 16:3 and Philippians 4:6-9).2. Seek counsel from your church. The Bible teaches that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). If you belong to a church, it is important to seek the counsel of your pastor (Hebrews 13:17), and other church leaders.God has placed your pastor or elder in the local church to give direction and care for the body of Christ, the members of the local church. Your pastor or elder might be able to offer some biblical direction or resources that can meet your needs or help you with the problem you face. One or more of the elders of your church might also be trained in counseling. At the very least, your pastor needs to know the scope of your problem so that he can pray consistently for you and your family.The pastor is also the first resource to ask about finding a Christian counselor. He cares for you; He is responsible to God; He probably knows individuals in the area or state that can serve you well and with integrity.You might begin talking to mature or trusted believers as well. They may have already spent time with a Christian counselor. If the counselor was able to minister to your friend, then he or she may be worth your prayerful consideration.If your pastor or church is unable to provide you with the name(s) of good Christian counselors, FamilyLife provides lists of national and regional counseling organizations and counselors. These individuals and organizations listed have agreed in principle with our views on Christian counseling and with the principles in our Family Manifesto.If you do not belong to a church, seek the counsel of godly, Bible-believing Christians. They may also have recommendations of godly pastors who can help you. And consider this: One reason many people face problems in their families is because they lack the right biblical information, encouragement, and modeling to help them succeed. Being involved in a local church may be one of the most important steps you take toward resolving the issues you face.3. Seek outside counsel, if necessary. In some cases, wise, biblically-sound counsel might not be found in the current leadership of a church. Or, if you do not belong to a church, you may be looking for biblical counsel outside the context of a local body of believers. Look for a qualified and experienced biblical counselor who can help you. For more information, consult our lists of national and regional counseling organizations.4. Consider whether you need to start with conflict coaching. A competent biblical counselor will help you gain a clear understanding of the biblical and heart issues involved in your problem. In some cases, however, there is such a breakdown in communication between different individuals that no constructive discussion can take place; couples may be so focused on attacking each other, for example, that they won’t listen to constructive counseling about what caused the hurt.If this is your situation, you may need to find a trained conflict counselor—a Christian mediator—to help you resolve conflict so that you can move toward counseling. The mediation process often reestablishes communication so that a couple can go on to seek counseling for the deep issues or problems that trouble their marriage. For more on conflict coaching, click here.Issues to consider 1. Your faith. Personal faith is essential to the process of growth in and through trials. Even in the midst of intense suffering and pain, God is willing and able to help you.
Source: Finding a Christian Counselor
by Mike Sorenson, LPCMH [download printable PDF version]
I often stand amazed at the enormous number of marriage resources on the market, and it seems like every book I read has that 6 Simple Steps… feel to it. After reading 5 of these books, I have 30 steps that I have to remember and practice on a daily basis, yet somehow still relate to my spouse like a normal human being and not a science project. It is no wonder to me that so many people feel powerless to fix their marriage and end up more confused and overwhelmed than helped. I believe the problem here is that we’re focusing on the wrong things. There are so many external, behavioral things we can do to try and improve our closest relationship—help out around the house, improve our communication skills, plan a date night—but my experience is that those things, while helpful, don’t get to the root of the problem. I want to simplify the issue here, because I think there isone primary ability that is necessary to build oneness in a marriage, and we won’t get it from reading a list of self-help books. For our marriages to grow, we must nurture the ability to care about what is important to our spouse.
By the looks of the shelves at your local Christian bookstore, you might think that the Bible passages on marriage would be littered with practical tips on communication. Not to say that there are none, but the most direct passages on marriage speak more about our attitude than our listening skills. In Ephesians 5, Paul directs wives to “be subject to” their husbands, and husbands to “love” their wives, more specifically to “nourish” and “cherish” them. Notice Paul did not implore them to take turns sharing or repeat back what their spouse had said so they would feel heard. These are not descriptions of behaviors, though behaviors will naturally come from them. These are heart attitudes that are necessary for a marriage to succeed. If we want to develop these kinds of attitudes, I believe there is one skill we need to develop. A hint is found in the Greek word translated “cherish.” It gives the image of a mother holding an infant, comforting and soothing it. You can teach a mother a million different techniques for holding a baby, but if she is unable to feel compassion for the child, it won’t make a difference. It is the same with our marriages—if we are unable or unwilling to listen and care about what is important to our spouse, all the books and techniques in the world won’t save us. We have to put ourselves in the other person’s place and imagine what a situation must have felt like from their side. It is amazing how many of the “techniques” come naturally once we feel the compassion that comes from this understanding. We naturally compromise and work to meet the needs of our mate when we finally get how they are hurting. The funny thing is we also see things in ourselves that we didn’t see before when we look through another person’s eyes. There is no need to over complicate it with a 10 step process. The solution is really quite simple. So why do we have such a hard time doing it?
I often tell my clients that good communication isn’t hard to understand, it is just hard to do. The problem with allowing ourselves to see our spouse’s perspective and feel their pain is that deep down we often don’t want to, unless of course they will see ours first. And thus, the real problem in our marriages is revealed: our own selfishness. Most of us have no problem feeling compassion for a complete stranger on television or someone we just met. That’s because we don’t have any stake in their problems. But, when their hurts, needs or concerns interfere with our own, suddenly we develop communication amnesia. You may be thinking I am oversimplifying it, but am I? Think back to when you first met the person you married. Every word she said, every story she told was fascinating. You valued his opinion and even asked for it. Because you were trying to impress that other person, you didn’t mind setting your own needs aside. Did you have trouble identifying with her feelings then? Did you have communication issues then? With time and commitment come expectations, and we begin to think a great deal more about getting our own needs met. If you go back to how you listened when the relationship was new, you already know how to make your husband or wife feel loved because you have done it before. The next time that difficult conversation comes up, make a decision to set your needs or desires to the side for a few minutes and try to experience what the world is like from your spouse’s perspective. Care as if their hurt was your own. I think you will be amazed at what a skilled communicator you will become.
Strengthening Family Relationships
All too often, God’s people lose generation after generation to the distractions and cares of this life, bringing up children who leave faith behind as they reach adulthood. We want our children to continue on in the faith. This outcome does not happen by accident. It is necessary to have a loving relationship with our children in order to influence them for the Lord.
As Christian parents, we must become students of the Lord as He teaches us how to raise Godly children. Through times of fervent prayer and demonstrating genuine love, we can increase the harmony in our family and lay the foundation for loving relationships that last a lifetime.
Experience the Power of Prayer
In seeking to build our family relationships, we must pray and ask God to show us how to strengthen these relationships. We all experience struggles within our families, and nothing can replace the power of praying for our children.
Many times we have experienced discouragement over the spiritual growth, character development, or academic achievement of our children. From our perspective, things seemed hopeless and we felt it was too late to make any corrections. When we called on the Lord in desperation, to our amazement He answered and we saw Him do more than we could even imagine in the situation. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…be glory” (Ephesians 3:20–21).
Home education brings us to the end of our abilities quickly and gives us many opportunities to cry out to God. As our children see God answering prayers and meeting our needs, their faith is strengthened. Our children receive training for life as they see our great needs and God’s faithful answers to prayer. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6).
Develop and Maintain Loving Relationships
The foundation of a dynamic home must be a love for God and for His Word and loving relationships between parents and family members. It is vital to maintain a good relationship between the father and mother in order to have peace within the home. It is essential to win the hearts of our children by accepting and understanding each child, resolving any anger problems, and being the first to ask for forgiveness.
Daily family devotions are also important for the spiritual growth and unity of the family. As we have meaningful devotions, our children see that the Word of God is powerful and has answers for their needs.
When we become overwhelmed with all of our responsibilities within the home, church, and ministry, it is easy to miss out on the loving relationships within the family. To keep our relationships strengthened, we try to spend our evenings together as a family as much as possible, whether at home or when out ministering as a family.
We also try to schedule an evening once a week where we have special time together. In our family, we have designated Saturday night as “Family Night.” We have a special dinner that evening, along with our favorite snacks. We spend the evening enjoying our family, playing board games, outdoor games, or doing some other type of activity together. We may invite other families over, or just spend time together with our family. The Lord has used this time to continue to build our relationships.
A favorite activity for “Family Night” was taking turns putting together presentations on character qualities. We gave our children the freedom to be creative with the ways in which they presented the quality, such as through a skit, object lesson, game, project, or activity. The entire family usually enjoyed a good laugh over the unique presentations! We have wonderful memories from such evenings.
Demonstrate Genuine Love
God establishes a pattern for loving one another when He demonstrates His love for us. His love is unconditional. In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” He did not say that He would send His Son when we stopped sinning. There are no conditions mentioned. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us while we were still unlovable sinners. (See Romans 5:8.)
Our love for our children must follow this pattern. We need to love them unconditionally, no matter what they say or do. Even as we correct and train our children, it should always be done in an attitude of love. “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Psalm 16:24).
It is this unconditional love that will be a key as we raise our children for God in the light of eternity. It will be the strength of our relationship with them and a model of how they should have a relationship with their Savior. We can begin this at any time—the sooner the better. It is never too early or too late to begin loving our children.
I Corinthians 13 reveals many insights on demonstrating genuine love. Living out these aspects of love will increase family harmony.
“Charity suffereth long…” (I Corinthians 13:4)
- Love is long-suffering when exhausted and discouraged.
- Love is long-suffering when relationships are strained.
- Love is long-suffering when expectations are unfulfilled.
“And is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4)
- Love is kind when other family members are unkind.
- Love is kind during times of conflict.
- Love is kind when correction is in order.
“Charity envieth not…” (I Corinthians 13:4)
- Love is content with God’s design for our lives.
- Love does not wish for the temporal things that others may have.
- Love does not compare ourselves with others, but rather with God’s Word.
“Charity vaunteth not itself…” (I Corinthians 13:4)
- Love seeks to glorify God in all that is done.
- Love expresses gratefulness to God and others.
- Love encourages those around them.
“Is not puffed up…” (I Corinthians 13:4)
- Love walks in humility.
- Love does not take credit for God’s working in our lives.
- Love is not ruined by success.
“Doth not behave itself unseemly…” (I Corinthians 13:5)
- Love walks in God’s Spirit, not in the flesh.
- Love responds to life from God’s perspective.
“Seeketh not her own…” (I Corinthians 13:5)
- Love seeks first God’s kingdom.
- Love puts family members ahead of self.
- Love remembers “one for all and all for one.”
“Is not easily provoked…” (I Corinthians 13:5)
- Love has patience with family members.
- Love disciplines with love, not anger.
- Love maintains a clear conscience by asking for forgiveness when wrong.
“Thinketh no evil…” (I Corinthians 13:5)
- Love focuses on God’s working in a life rather than on failures and struggles.
- Love looks for the good in those around us.
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity…” (I Corinthians 13:6)
- Love corrects sins without being harsh with the sinners.
- Love realizes that God is merciful and has forgiven our sins.
“But rejoiceth in the truth…” (I Corinthians 13:6)
- Love praises the good in others.
- Love trains our family in the truth of God’s Word.
- Love shares the truth of the Gospel with those we meet.
“Beareth all things…” (I Corinthians 13:7)
- Love shares one another’s burdens.
- Love serves family members.
- Love overlooks the shortcomings of others.
“Believeth all things…” (I Corinthians 13:7)
- Love trusts God to accomplish His best.
- Love has faith in the sovereignty of God.
“Hopeth all things…” (I Corinthians 13:7)
- Love looks for the best in others.
- Love keeps praying and caring.
- Love rests in God’s faithfulness.
“Endureth all things…” (I Corinthians 13:7)
- Love does not give up when discouraged.
- Love withstands pressure while rejoicing.
“Charity never faileth…” (I Corinthians 13:8)
- Love is unconditional, even when others are unlovely.
- Love endures even in the midst of broken or strained relationships.
- True love mirrors Christ’s love for us.
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Corinthians 13:13).
God is establishing families around the world who are making a difference for His kingdom. They have by no means achieved “perfection,” but they are seeking to take each situation to the Lord so that they can respond correctly to it. The potential addressed in the statement “The world has yet to see what God will do through one man who is totally dedicated to Him,” can be multiplied by the number of people in your family when you are all following the Lord together.
May the Lord richly bless your family as you seek to develop strong relationships that will last a lifetime and will influence others for Jesus. May He receive all of the glory!
- Do I seek after God’s wisdom for training my children?
- Do I pray daily for each of my children?
- Am I an example of God’s love to my family?
- Do I ask for forgiveness when wrong?
- Do I focus on meeting the needs of my family before reaching out toothers?