People often ask me what “Christian counseling” means and what does it looks like. Many clients wonder if it means praying during sessions or if we’ll discuss theology. From parents of teens I often receive questions about my beliefs regarding specific issues and how I’ll be talking with their teen about faith. Needless to say there are a lot of questions and wonderings around Christian counseling, and not surprisingly there are probably as many answers to each question as there are Christian counselors.
This article is kind of like an FAQ about Christian Counseling. My aim is to explore some of the questions clients and/or parents most commonly ask me about what it means when we say “Christian Counseling.” The perspective I’m about to give is just one among many. Nevertheless, I hope it sheds some light on the way that at least one Christian counselor thinks about these questions, and also that it sparks further questions and conversation.
What Does the “Faith Piece” Look Like in Christian Counseling?
This question often comes from my adult clients. I have found the best way to respond is to turn the question around— “What do you want the faith piece to look like in our time together?” People land all over the map with this question; some clients don’t want to talk about faith at all, and some come in primarily for that reason. At times in conversation it can be helpful to have a Bible nearby for reference, however when it comes to strictly theological conversations I tend to refer clients to their pastors and youth leaders. Perhaps most importantly, the faith piece will not look like me putting my own theology onto you or demanding that you do something you’re uncomfortable with (i.e. pray or read the Bible in session). Prayer, scripture, and conversation about theology are all on the table, but you most certainly have a say in how and whether they’re used. For many people, knowing that we share the same foundational beliefs and that I come from a Christian perspective is enough, but more is also welcome.
I’ve Known a Lot of Judgmental Christians. Will I Be Judged Here?
Not many clients state this so directly, but it may come up in other ways, particularly for clients who have had negative experiences with Christians. The truth is that every person has some system of “judging” what they believe is the best way to live, and since Christian’s believe God is the ultimate authority on how best to live, we naturally turn to Him for direction. Having said that, Christian counseling is not about condemning a person for their choices or asking that they change their theology to match my own. Instead, Christian counseling is an invitation to reflect and to examine. It’s an invitation to wrestle with the hard questions instead of pretending they’re not there, and it’s a call to intentionality not just for the time we have in-session, but for life out in the world and in community.
What if I’m Not a Christian?
If you’re not a Christian you are still welcome here. I meet with clients from all different faith backgrounds and fully enjoy doing that. I’m not here to convert you to Christianity but to help you find a fuller way of living. I believe God designed us to be in relationship with Him and that we are mostly whole and most fully ourselves when we step into that relationship daily. If you have a picture of wholeness different from my own, let’s talk about it— let’s put it on the table, and then let’s work toward the goals you have for your life with a mutually agreed upon approach.
Are You Actually a Christian?
Parents often ask me this question before I begin treating their son or daughter. Once again, this question often isn’t asked directly, but I think it’s natural and normal for parents to want reassurance that the person claiming to be Christian on a website or on the radio is actually that: an active follower of Christ. The answer is yes, every counselor affiliated with Bellevue Christian Counseling, including myself, is active in their faith. This doesn’t mean that we all agree on all theological points, but our foundation in Christ is the same and our faith informs how we approach counseling.
What If My Son or Daughter Asks A Specific Question About Faith?
Again, this question comes from parents. If a client is wrestling with a specific area of faith, my job is to help them wrestle well. I encourage teens to seek out trusted leaders in their church to talk with, I encourage them to pray and journal, to read their Bible, to talk with their family, and to learn to sit in the uncomfortable space of not knowing. Often it’s helpful to talk about what this particular area of faith means for the client’s life both now and for their future. It’s common when wrestling with the big issues to feel frustrated with faith and the church and with God, and that frustration is best spoken to and put on the table, rather than stuffed down. God doesn’t always answer our questions within our timeline, so in the meantime let’s wrestle well and be intentional in the process.
Continuing the Conversation in Christian Counseling
These are just a few short answers to a handful of common questions about Christian counseling, but there are many more questions out there. If you’re interested in Christian counseling but have hesitations or concerns about the faith piece, we would certainly enjoy continuing the conversation with you. Every counselor at Bellevue Christian Counseling offers a “risk-free” first session, meaning you’ll only pay for the session if you decide to continue working with that counselor. We offer this risk-free session so you can meet with us in person, get to know us, and ask any questions you have about counseling before making a financial commitment.