When contemplating the need to see a psychological counselor, what factors need to be considered so that you feel comfortable sharing the struggles you are facing? Is finding a therapist who is a licensed counselor enough, or are there other factors you need to investigate? I would suggest you not only seek out a Christian therapist, but find one who counsels from a biblical worldview.
First Corinthians 9:19-27 gives insight into what it means to counsel from a biblical worldview:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Many people engage in what they call “Christian counseling.” Their reasoning is – “I am a counselor, who is a Christian. Therefore, I am practicing Christian counseling.” Yet the truth is that Christian counseling involves so much more. Someone may be a born-again Christian and yet counsel clients in the mindset of the current culture. That is not Christian counseling. So, what makes Christian counseling distinctive from non-Christian counseling? The following is derived from the 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 passage:
- A Christian counselor must be “free from all men” (1 Corinthians 9:19). This means we are not bound to a counseling methodology that has to fit the cultural and political “correctness” of our day. Romans 12:1-2 (PHILLIPS) admonishes us “not to let the world squeeze us into its mold.” Galatians 1:10 also instructs us to seek favor from God rather than man.
- A Christian counselor must be a servant: “I have made myself a slave to all” (1 Corinthians 9:19). A Christian counselor is there for the client, not vice versa.
- A Christian counselor must be empathic and caring: “I have become all things to all men so that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). We must never elevate ourselves above our client. We must realize that except for by the grace and mercy of God, we could just as easily experience what our client is facing. This verse also indicates that we counsel from the clients natural “bent.” There is an underlying proclivity toward certain behaviors in each of us. It is the duty of the counselor to discover those tendencies and identify with them if possible. The counselor should then use that knowledge and identification to help their client move toward positive choices that are emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy.
- A Christian counselor must realize that the ultimate goal and objective of therapy is to advance the kingdom of God. First Corinthians 9:23 says, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel.” We achieve this by providing sound principles derived from Scripture that can help the believer and nonbeliever alike through the difficult issues they face.
This passage also gives us exhortation on how to prepare ourselves as counselors to serve.
- A Christian counselor must think ahead, preparing beforehand the best way to serve the client in an attempt to encourage victory. First Corinthians 9:24 says “Run in such a way that you may win.” It is an admonishment to prepare for this profession. This verse can relate to therapists, as well as clients. “To win” mandates that counselors be proactive. We must protect ourselves from falling into any kind of trap that will cause us to lose our credibility.
Therefore, a Christian counselor must be a good example to their client by exhibiting self-control. First Corinthians 9:25 says, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Furthermore, it is a sign of submission to God.
- The Christian counselor must have a broader vision for themselves and their clients: “They then do it [run] to receive a perishable wreath, but we [receive] an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Even though financial remuneration is important, it can never be the primary motivational force for our practice. A Christian counselor sees each session with a client as a divine appointment.
- The Christian counselor must come to the session prepared, with a strategy in mind. First Corinthians 9:26 says, “Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim.” Part of preparing is spending time praying and asking the Holy Spirit for specific wisdom for each client’s problems.
- A Christian counselor must be known for their integrity and must keep in shape physically, mentally and spiritually in order to best counsel and serve others: “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26).
- Christian counselors may be the only follower of Jesus a client ever sees. Philippians 2:5 (NKJV) admonishes us as Christian counselors to have the “mind of Christ.” In the Greek text, this involves the use of the right and left-brain. The word “mind” is interpreted as “feelings/sensitivity (right brain); plus cognitive function and understanding (left brain).”
In Isaiah 9:6, one of the names of Jesus is “Wonderful Counselor.” The word “counselor” means “to advise or guide.” When we give advice as a counselor, we are to impart truth as if Christ Himself were sitting in the session and speaking through us. What a responsibility!
- However, a word of caution is given from James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers … knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” A Christian counselor is often called on to teach and instruct others. We assume that obligation when we engage in the process of helping a hurting client. The Greek word for “teacher” is “one who has mastered the subject,” and “one who is trained to expound truth to another.” Those who are negligent in “speaking the truth in love,” Ephesians 4:15 tells us, will incur a stricter judgment. Second Timothy 4:3 warns us against being the kind of counselor/instructor who simply tells people what they want to hear. The Bible says this is simply “tickling ears,” and is an approach that yields no real lasting benefits for others.
- Our vocation is a high calling, and we cannot take it lightly. Our work often drains us emotionally and even physically; but it is also one of the most rewarding fields of work. Each of us who gives our life to this vocation receives blessings now and in eternity.
- Finally, we must note that counseling from a biblical worldview does not mean each session is to be treated like a Sunday school lesson where Scripture is expounded. Rather, counseling from a biblical worldview means that we counsel Christians and non-Christian alike, using God’ recipe for successful living … found in the Scriptures and beneficial for all issues. Sometimes our biblical approach is direct, and sometimes it is indirect. But our approach is always from a biblical worldview.
- For those seeking to be a Christian counselor, here is my prayer for you: “As a bond servant of God, I commit to integrate God’s truths and principles directly or indirectly when counseling others. I further commit to live my life in such a way that all will know me for my integrity, empathy and compassion for those I counsel. Finally, may it be said of me that I finished well.”
Dr. Rick Fowler earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Theology (Greenville College), a Master of Arts degree in Social Science Education (University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point), an Education Specialist degree in Social Science (University of Georgia), a Doctorate of Education in Social Psychology (Highland University), and received his LPC, LMFT certification (University of Texas at Tyler).