Therapy FAQ

What is Christian Counseling? How to Decide If Faith-Based Therapy Is Right For You

Christian counseling merges therapy with faith, offering support aligned with Christian beliefs. It integrates scripture, prayer, and spiritual growth, addressing mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges for holistic healing. Let’s learn if it’s right for you.

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on May 13, 2024

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If you’re a Christian struggling with your mental health and you’re curious about therapy, you’ve come to the right place.

You might have heard of Christian counseling before, but what exactly does it entail, and how do you know if it’s right for you? Whether you’re a devoted believer, someone seeking a faith-based approach to therapy, or just intrigued by the idea of integrating religion into counseling, this unique type of therapy can certainly be a source of support, healing, and growth.

Here’s what you need to know: 

An Introduction to Christian Counseling

Christian counseling is sometimes also called faith-based therapy. Simply put, it merges traditional therapy with faith and Christianity.

“It integrates psychological principles and Christian beliefs, offering individuals support and guidance that is aligned with their faith-based perspective,” says Minagrace Knox, a licensed Christian counselor. “It combines therapeutic techniques with biblical teachings to address mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges, aiming to promote healing, personal growth, and a deeper connection with God.”

Christian counselors recognize the link between overall well-being and a person’s spiritual life, helping you thrive in all aspects of life. Kristina Anzell, a licensed Christian counselor with Grow Therapy, says that in therapy, she addresses four pillars of health: biopsychosocial and spiritual. Biopsychosocial refers to biological, psychological, and social aspects of life. Many secular (or non-religious) practitioners use these three pillars, but Anzell says Christian counseling is a chance to add spirituality for a more holistic approach. 

How Does Christian Counseling Differ From Church-Based Services?

Not to be confused with religious leaders or spiritual directors, Christian counselors/faith-based therapists are licensed mental health professionals who identify as Christian. They blend modern psychotherapy techniques with spiritual principles to help people overcome various mental health struggles. These individuals have undergone extensive schooling and training to provide therapy to those with mental health conditions, relationship troubles, and life obstacles/transitions. 

A mental health counselor will talk about your mental health and integrate Christianity rather than solely talk about faith, Anzell says. If you turn to a religious leader (such as a priest or pastor) or someone who is a spiritual director, you will have an opportunity to ask questions about your faith and strengthen your beliefs. They may provide you with advice, but they are not trained mental health professionals who can diagnose or treat mental health conditions. 

On the other hand, Christian counselors are experts in mental health, and they will not claim to be religious leaders. “I make it clear to clients that I am not a pastor or any kind of authority on God. I am here to support their healing journey and be in awe together,” Knox says.

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Principles and Foundations of Christian Counseling

Every Christian therapist is different, but there are some basic principles and foundations that they may draw from when helping their clients, such as:

The Integration of Christian Faith and Counseling Practice

To reiterate, Christian counseling doesn’t only focus on just therapy or just Christianity. Instead, they are intertwined with one another, so you get the best of both worlds.

“I’ve found there’s an impression out in the community that you have to give up one for the other – it’s either therapy or Jesus,” Knox says. However, this is absolutely not the case, and Christian counseling makes an excellent case for this.

How deeply integrated faith is in your counseling sessions is up to you and your therapist. Christian counseling is basically just therapy with the added support of knowing that your counselor shares the same faith as you,” says Anzell.

Beyond that, the level of faith incorporated into your counseling sessions varies among therapists and clients. She says while some clients simply just want to know that their therapists practice the same religion, others want to interweave spirituality more deeply throughout sessions. It all comes down to personal preference. 

The Role of Scripture and Biblical Principles

If you and your therapist decide to incorporate the Bible into your sessions, this can be a great tool for strengthening your faith while working on your mental health.

Knox says the Bible can help serve as a foundation and a common language between the therapist and client to create a therapeutic connection. Both parties come into sessions with shared knowledge of scripture and biblical principles that they can discuss and build upon.

Scripture also offers a chance to relate teachings from the Bible back to what you’re dealing with in your personal life. For example, Anzell says she may pull from the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, helping the client relate to what Jesus was saying and what it looks like to heal and come out on top of a struggle.

Incorporating the Bible into therapy can help you explore theological concepts such as forgiveness, redemption, and purpose, providing religious insights and perspectives alongside traditional therapy principles. 

Note: this differs from the practice of “biblical counseling” which is entirely based on faith and the Bible. It is not rooted in mental health or carried out by a licensed professional.

Focus on Spiritual Wholeness and Healing

Faith-based counseling is an excellent option for people who desire a holistic approach to therapy. For those who believe in the connection of mind, body, and spirit, this counseling offers an opportunity to address emotional and mental health concerns while also exploring spirituality with someone who shares the same beliefs. 

This goes back to Anzell’s four-pillar biopsychosocial and spiritual approach to wellness. Many researchers in the field of health are pushing for spirituality to be added to the biopsychosocial approach to wellness, saying that this can help make for the most comprehensive care for an individual, addressing all aspects of oneself.

Having faith to lean on while you’re struggling with your mental health, relationships, or life transitions can be an additional tool, providing you with even more hope that you can heal and get through whatever challenges you are facing. 

Incorporating Prayer and Relationship with God

Prayer may be a part of Christian counseling, both in and out of sessions. Again, this depends on the client and therapist’s personal preference. For example, Anzell says some of her clients like to open and close counseling sessions with prayer. She may also recommend prayer as “homework” outside of therapy, noting that prayer can be like a grounding technique.

Knox says she likes to pass on the power of prayer in sessions, and when things get heavy in a session, she’ll pause and ask the client, “Can I pray for you?” and then they will pray together before resuming the session. She will also urge clients to add their struggles to their “prayer list” to pray about and reflect on outside of sessions.

All of this prayer, whether in or out of sessions, can help strengthen your relationship with God, contributing to the overall holistic approach to healing.

Areas of Focus in Christian Counseling

Just as non-Christian people go to therapy for a wide variety of reasons, people seek faith-based counseling for various purposes, too. Here are some examples of areas of focus in therapy and the benefits of Christian counseling:

Mental and Emotional Well-being

Therapy, in general, is a great way to improve your mental and emotional well-being. Through counseling, you can better understand yourself, your emotions, and your experiences. Therapists provide a non-judgmental and supportive environment where you can freely express all your thoughts and feelings.

Some examples of benefits of therapy include:

Interpersonal, Marital, and Familial Relationships

Therapy can benefit people who struggle with interpersonal communication and relationships, whether that’s relationships with friends, romantic partners, or family members.

Depending on the therapist, you can seek counseling as an individual, couple, or family. Even if you’re going to therapy on your own, you will learn valuable relationship tools and get to talk out your problems with your counselor. Going to couples counseling with your partner or family therapy with your relatives can help you work on communication skills together along with problem-solving skills.

Some Christian counselors, such as Anzell, offer premarital counseling for couples who are planning to be engaged or already engaged. While some Christian churches may offer their own premarital classes, working with a mental health professional will offer a more specialized and individualized approach. Anzell says premarital counseling is a chance to learn more about your partner and master valuable communication and conflict-resolution skills to take with you into your marriage.

Spiritual Growth 

When working with a counselor who shares the same beliefs and integrates faith into your work, you can experience great spiritual growth. Christian counselors can help you explore and deepen your faith and relationship with God. They will help you tie your religion into your daily life and well-being. Plus, they can aid you in aligning your values and actions with your Christian beliefs, helping you live out your faith. Again, the Bible and prayer may come into play here. 

All this being said, both Anzell and Knox believe Christian counseling can benefit non-Christians. Of course, it depends on the individual, but some people who are curious about exploring their relationship with God and faith can benefit, Knox says. Additionally, Anzell says faith-based therapy doesn’t have to be heavily focused on Christianity; you can explore whatever spirituality means to you. 

Addressing Specific Concerns

Mental health professionals are educated and trained to help people with various mental health concerns, such as addiction, grief, trauma, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and more. They use evidence-based interventions and therapeutic modalities, personalizing treatment plans based on individual needs and concerns. Therapists create a safe space for clients to explore their challenges, gain insight, learn coping strategies, and work toward healing and recovery.

Some therapists choose to specialize in a certain area of care and undergo additional training to learn more specific treatment modalities. For example, therapists like Knox work from a trauma-informed approach and are trained in specific techniques like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy or internal family systems (IFS). 

If you’re seeking therapy for a specific concern, make sure you ask the prospective counselor if they have experience or specialized training in the area.

Tips for Seeking Christian Counseling Services

There’s a lot to think about when you’re looking for the right therapist for you. But first, how do you go about finding a Christian counselor? The internet is your friend. Online searches make it easy to find Christian counselors in your area. Platforms like Grow Therapy allow you to search for licensed therapists and filter by your needs. Alternatively, you may ask religious leaders at your place of worship if they have any referrals for Christian mental health counselors.

Make sure the counselor is qualified and licensed within your state. Some examples of licensure for qualified therapists are:

Anzell suggests setting up consultations with counselors before locking in with one to ensure a good fit. When talking with a potential counselor, ask them what their license is, and how much experience they have to ensure they’re qualified. Anzell says you should also be upfront about how much or how little you want Christianity to be involved in your sessions.

Considerations in Choosing a Christian Counseling Provider

As you look for the right therapist for you, here are some points to consider: 

Ultimately, Christian counseling offers a unique and holistic approach to healing by combining traditional psychology with Christian values and beliefs. If you want to incorporate your religion into your therapy journey, Christian counseling can be a transformative experience for you as you seek support for your well-being – growing your faith along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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