In a social system where one-fourth of the women have been sexually or physically abused, at least one-fourth are codependent, half of all marriages end in divorce and one out of a thousand is chemically addicted, almost everyone knows someone who needs the help of a good counselor. A study by the National Institute for Mental Illness states that approximately 26.2 percent of adult Americans are affected by some type of mental illness. This equals out to more than 50 million Americans, diagnosed each year with illnesses such as depression, panic disorder, schizophrenia and thousands of others.
Psychology can be defined as the science of behavior and mental processes. Specifically, psychology is the study of human perception, learning processes, memory, human development, intelligence, psychological disorders and the treatment of psychological disorders. Counselors go by many different names. They also come from many different areas of study. Therapists use talk therapy to counsel patients with mental emotional and nervous illnesses. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental illness. A psychiatrist is the only counselor who can order medications. Psychologists have a master’s degree or a doctorate and can diagnose and treat a wide Varity of emotional and other psychological problems. A person must be licensed by the state to be a psychologist.
There is a dramatic difference in a Christian who is a counselor and a Christian counselor. This difference is very important when choosing a good professional counselor. Christian counselors are accountable only to their religious organization. They are required to pray, provide guidance only through scriptures and only counsel the word of God. The counseling program is open to anyone who feels the “calling” to counsel. After taking a basic Christian counseling class, creation therapy and an ethical and legal issues class any “lay” person can become a counselor.(NCCA)
State licensed counselors are not allowed to religiously influence their clients. It is considered unethical to promote their personal religious beliefs. It is forbidden for a counselor to pray, read from or discuss the bible, or counsel against particular acts or lifestyles on which the church takes a moral stand. (ACA) State licensed counselors are nonjudgmental. They accept their clients as human beings who need help. Christian counselors, though, believe that “counseling is vain, unless it is founded upon and directed by the word of God.” (NCCA)
According to Edward Welch, M.DIV PhD, a counselor at CCEF, Christian counselors are not even allowed to use certain psychological terms because “there is no biblical interpretation” for these words, words such as emotional problems, stress, addiction and psychotherapy. A Christian counselor is not allowed to use terms such as ADD, Bipolar, Aspergers and Schizophrenia. They do not recognize Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These “words” are all major areas of counseling. To be unable to recognize these terms make counseling virtually useless. Christian counselors do nothing to help with the stigma of being mentally ill. They believe that state licensed counselors support “politically correct” notions of right and wrong, including accepting homosexually as a perfectly normal life style, divorce as a desirable outcome of marital difficulties and abortion as the preferred solution for inconvenient children.” (NCAA) These intolerant behaviors are why Christian counselors choose not to be state licensed.
Christian counselors urge their patients to realize how much they are loved by God. They believe that the love of God demolishes self-esteem and makes it unnecessary for man. Christian counseling is God-centered. Men are considered dependent creatures. The counselor’s goal is to help the client experience intimacy with God.
State licensed counselors believe that man is basically good and the answers to his problems lie within himself. With the help of the counselor, the patient works through his emotions in order to discover the cause of his problems. The counselor relies on theories influenced by behavioral, humanistic and existential thought. The counselor’s goal is to ease the suffering of their patients.
Both types of counselors listen to people, both care about people and both get to know the people they are counseling. All counselors explore motivation, thoughts and behaviors and give feedback. Counselors, Christian and state tested, “Preach the word, be prepared in season and out; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.”( 2 Timothy 4:2) but when choosing a counselor, one must remember that it wasn’t long ago, that religious organizations believed that spirits cause mental illness by invading an individual. Some Christian counselors have even used exorcism on their patients, believing that Bipolar Disorder is caused by demons. These Christian counselors tell their patients that if they were better Christians or prayed harder, they wouldn’t be having these feelings and thoughts.
The discipline of psychology contradicts religious ideation. As a Christian, we should be aware of the evil within the world and the evil within ourselves but as counselors we must be able to understand that mental illnesses are exactly that, illnesses. Medical science has shown that many illnesses are abnormalities in the way some nerve cells in the brain function. In the early days of psychology, Sigmund Freud found that environmental factors play a major role in the way our feelings, thoughts and emotions are formed. A good counselor accepts the client without judgment. The counselor must make judgment calls to help the patient but they should not be “sitting” in judgment of the patient. A good counselor does not use scripture to counsel. A woman who has been abused by her husband should not be told “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife.” (Ephesians 5:22-23) A soldier who has PTSD should not be told “Happy is the man that feareth always.”(Proverbs 28:14) And a person with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia should never be told they are possessed by demons.
It is understandable that these Christians would want to help their fellow man but without the proper education more harm than good could come from their efforts. Make sure your counselor is a professional with a good working reputation within the medical community. It matters little if you choose a psychologist or a psychiatrist but they must have earned an advanced degree in a mental health related field, have underwent a supervised clinical residency in a mental health setting and hold a government issued license.
Works cited and read
Counseling From Hell, June 21,2006, Wonder
Exorcisms as Psychotherapy, Sunday, February 27, 2011
National Institute on Drug Abuse, Vol 23, No.3, December 2010
NCCA- National Christian Counseling Association, www.ncca.com
ACA-American Counseling Association, www.aca.org