I know it has been a long little while since I’ve blogged, and I do plan to complete my last series soon; however, this topic has been weighing on me for some time and for various reasons. There is a lot of confusion out there about how, or if, religion should play a role in psychotherapy and if Christians should seek psychotherapy if they feel it would be beneficial.
The first thing to note is that I am indeed a counselor; I received my Master’s degree from a secular University, and am licensed to practice in my state. Obviously, then, I do believe psychology is legitimate and can be beneficial under the right circumstances. Having said that, this article is mainly a warning for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ; do NOT go to a psychologist, counselor, therapist, etc… who is not a believer.
One mistake people make is trying to compare going to a therapist with going to a different kind of doctor. There isn’t a comparison. How a surgeon operates on your knee is not directly and intimately connected to whether or not s/he believes in God. Not so with psychotherapy. Any therapist worth going to will bring up your religious and spiritual beliefs in therapy, and no matter how (or if) they try to fight it, their beliefs WILL change how they choose to do therapy and how they see your faith impacting your life.
There is also little doubt that atheists or agnostic therapists, regardless of their past beliefs, will be incapable of sufficiently connecting with a believer in the therapeutic relationship. At best, there will simply be a disconnect, at worst the therapist would harbor a negative view of the patient’s religious beliefs, oftentimes believing any and all spiritual beliefs to be detrimental or mental defenses that need changing.
Take marriage for example; there is no absolute and sure grounds for trying to save an ailing marriage outside of God’s will. Meaning, an unbelieving therapist is a threat to a believer’s marriage if there is trouble in the marital relationship because outside of God, and Jesus, there are no absolute, unchanging, unwavering reasons why a marriage should be saved even if people within the marriage are having a rough time of it. Instead of offering aid and healing to the marriage itself, there is the potential that an unbelieving therapist could add more poison to a relationship, or push one party to get a divorce for their own “mental health.”
Notice that I’m not saying that there is never a reason for divorce, there are scriptural reasons for one; however, a nonbeliever will be incapable of truly understanding those reasons from a biblical perspective. The mental, spiritual, and physical is what makes up a human; to neglect any one of the three invites trouble.
I also believe that therapy, done correctly and in a Godly manner, can save a person’s life, help their faith, and help to grow them into the person God wills them to be. Too many Christians only know the secular side of psychology, and do not realize there are plenty of biblical teachings that are psychological in nature and that God desires our mental health to be seen to, just as much as our physical health, and that mental and physical health impacts spiritual health as well.
In short, if you think therapy is for you, keep shopping around til you find a therapist with similar biblical beliefs to yours. They are out there, and it is worth the search. Never be afraid to ask questions about your therapist’s religious beliefs to see if you agree with them, and if they will be a good fit for you as you attempt, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to change yourself for the better! Don’t be unequally yoked within a therapeutic relationship.