Christianity and Psychotherapy…

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.

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16 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Musings, Of Interest, Psychology

16 responses to “Christianity and Psychotherapy…

  1. john zande

    With this type of thinking you should have your license revoked. You’re not fit to counsel anyone if Iron Age myths are your clinical compass.

    • Kliska

      I approved this comment so I can use it as the perfect example to my readers. Note several things. First, it proves my point. Atheists, in the main, are extremely vitriolic and usually wind up resorting to the logical fallacy of scare tactics (“you should have your license revoked”), notice the insult (“Iron Age myths”), and then notice the lack of actually having read the article (“your clinical compass”). Also, they he apparently is not aware that there are Christian counselors in the profession, are quite popular, and there are even professional organizations for them in every state and country.

      I never said that my scriptural beliefs are my CLINICAL compass, I’m actually psychoanalytic leaning in my clinical work; however, I also include cognitive-behavioral, non-directive, and multicultural approaches. I’m also firmly aware that humans, being spiritual, as well as physical and mental, MUST have all 3 areas addressed, regardless of beliefs. If someone is of the atheist religion, that IS going to affect their lives, just as being Hindu is going to affect someone.

      As to the “myth” idea; this responder is illogical. The Christian worldview fits the facts that are directly observable, and fits the evidence which all people can look into. All it takes is an open heart, a keen mind, and a bit of research. Jesus lived, died, and rose again, and that fact contains the greatest news of all, which can radically change a patient’s life for the better.

      • john zande

        You can “practice” whatever counseling you choose… My point was merely that if you are claiming to be a scientific practitioner then you will be lying to your clientele.
        “Atheist religion” ??? You might want to re-think that notion. Tell me, do you believe in Thor, Jupiter, Berstuk, Veles, or Tepeyollotl? No… Then you are an Atheist, too. I just take it one step further and deny the existence of your particular god as well. Once you understand why YOU dismiss Thor you’ll understand why I dismiss your magical sky being.

      • Kliska

        Again, thank you for displaying my points so well; especially the insults. You seemingly don’t know how psychotherapy works, or should work. My Christian beliefs don’t affect the science of counseling whatsoever. The science of psychotherapy is about both the techniques employed and the psychotherapeutic relationship established between patient and therapist. You can go read about it.

        Atheism, in its extreme, is indeed a religion. You might want to calm down a bit and reflect on what I’m saying. My view that atheism is a religion isn’t just opinion based on no evidence, but rather a worldview, practical, and philosophical observation. You see, I’m also a college prof. I teach logic, philosophy, and comparative religions in a secular college. Atheists such as yourself display hallmarks of religious beliefs, such as proselytizing, and a strict adherence to your beliefs, as well as displaying your faith. Your faith is in nature and in man.

        Now, as to your last part, that is a rhetorical analogy, meaning a logical fallacy. It is also an attempt at another insult but falls flat. The belief in Thor, or lack of belief is not comparable to the lack of belief, or belief in Jesus. It’s all about evidence. Did Jesus exist? Can you trust the Bible? Is it the world of God? Did the universe have a Creator? and on and on… You see, my belief is anything but blind; I don’t believe in Thor because there isn’t enough evidence. There is no historical, archaeological, prophetic, etc… evidence of Thor’s existence. I have studied all the major world religions, including atheism with it’s roots in materialism, and have found the overwhelming evidence to lead to my belief in the God of the Bible, including Jesus.

        As such, that worldview is indeed going to lead me to certain actions and opinions in my daily life, including my work with patients. Further, science is about knowledge, it always has been (“Theology is the queen of the sciences and Philosophy her handmaid”), it is only recently that materialism has taken over science. Materialism is a belief and a philosophy, too bad secular scientists can’t see that.

      • Kliska

        John, regarding your latest comment that I will not post to the public (read my “respect” tab as to why); you are a Jesus myth believer, meaning you are so fanatic in your dislike of God and Jesus that you can’t even admit Jesus did indeed live, something that mainstream secular historians all agree upon. Because of your fundamentalist atheist perspective, further dialogue would be useless and a waste of time.

        I truly hope you find a way past your issues and begin to logically research the question of God and Jesus. Further my prayer is that you come to the saving knowledge of Jesus and what he most assuredly has done for you, even though you hate the thought of it.

  2. Hello Kliska —

    First, as an atheist, I would like to apologize for zande. I truly hope that such an incessant barrage of insults doesn’t tarnish your view of atheists as a whole. I don’t want to get into a religious debate – at least, not on this thread – but I did have one question (which I perhaps already know the answer to given that you ended by saying, “Don’t be unequally yoked within a therapeutic relationship,”):

    Do you think it wise for an atheist, or agnostic, to seek a therapist that does have religious leanings?

    • Kliska

      Hello, and thank you for your thoughtful reply. I think I need to clarify; there is a world of difference in going to someone who flat out denies the impact of spirituality on someone vs. a therapist who may not be that spiritual, but completely realizes the impact of spiritual matters in every single human’s life. So, in a sense, what I am trying to communicate to my fellow believers, who do indeed see spiritual matters to be important, is to steer clear of a therapist who denies the impact of spirituality and who refuses to bring it into therapy.

      Now, to specifically answer your last question; I believe that is up to the atheist or agnostic, though I think it would be more of a concern for atheists. I, for example, am quite up front about my views, I bill myself as a Christian Therapist. What makes this answer much more contingent is that fact that an atheistic therapist is going to enter into therapy with no true realization that the spiritual is just as important as the physical or mental, while the Christian therapist is going to enter into therapy with all three in mind.

      So, from my perspective (the reality of the Spiritual self, alongside mental and physical), the danger comes from someone going to an atheistic therapist antagonistic toward spiritual reality because of the neglect of the third aspect (spirit) of the person. An atheist going to a Christian counselor would not experience that neglect to one-third of their being. I do fully realize it is all a matter of perspective. If the atheist is open to the possibility of spiritual matters, I see no reason for them to avoid a Christian therapist, but if they do not wish to have any mention of spirituality at all, I’d think it would be best to avoid the Christian counselor for the sake of the therapeutic relationship.

      I do hope I answered your question fully, and I do appreciate it!

  3. Joel

    I’m not sure I entirely agree with your idea because psychology is dealing with the matter of human mind and soul, which because it is a prioduct man’s mind is fallen due to the sin nature, it cannot truly reflect the reality that can only be granted from God via the Bible.

    While I appreciate your comment that “…do NOT go to a psychologist, counselor, therapist, etc… who is not a believer.”, it may not be completely helpful at times if the Christian counselor is basing his belief outside the Bible. In other words, his faith is set in a box and does not inform his belief in counseling. Because we still possess the sin nature and growing in faith and maturity, it is entirely possible for this to occur. In this case, the believer’s counselling may not provide a particularly gospel-centred response.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have a close family member who is a church minister, and he is also a licensed counselor and he would have been in the same camp as you in his theology. It is hard for me to, therefore, reject a chunk of your premise on the issue of psychotherapy.

    [edited]

    • Kliska

      I’m confused by your first comment; the mind isn’t the soul, just as the brain is not the mind. We don’t turn to the Bible exclusively if we need brain surgery; the brain is also a fallen organ. In the same way, we don’t turn to the Bible exclusively if we need to repair the mind.

      Two things about your second paragraph; first, is it better then for a person to go to a non-Christian for counseling? Second, it is impossible for someone to truly be Christian and not be influenced by the Holy Spirit. If a person is calling themselves a Christian counselor, it is a good bet that they will incorporate Biblical belief into practice. However, it is true that one must first question them on their theology to make sure they are inline with scripture; so salvation by grace through faith alone, no legalism, the necessity and sufficiency of Jesus, etc…

      Also, just a note; I cannot vouch for the theology at the links you posted, so I will check them out, but cannot allow them on the blog, as I consider myself responsible on some level for what my readers see here. Be assured, I will indeed look them over.

      • Joel

        “the mind isn’t the soul, just as the brain is not the mind”. I’m not sure this is right I’m afraid – I don’t accept the notion that the mind as being part of the flesh is functioning entirely independently from the soul. Rather it is a part of the flesh that is being influenced/controlled by the soul and definitely affected by the Fall just as the rest of the flesh. Our fallen nature does control the mind – although it is true that many of the biological imbalances could affect our thinking.

      • Kliska

        Please do reread my article; the human is mind, body, and soul, all three connect and interact. They all three have an effect on one another, that is why the whole person needs treatment when there is a problem. That includes therapy when the mind is ailing, just like the body.

  4. Joel

    I’m afraid you have not considered my point carefully or are being consistent at all in your original post’s argument, if you believe the flesh (with body and mind) and soul are interrelated together, and yet you are saying that any ailing of the mind requires psychological counseling that is an entirely independent science from theology, then isn’t it true under your theology, mind and soul are working in separate compartments that problems in mind is fixed from psychology but not Christianity? Aren’t you saying that psychology or science, however you define it, is the vehicle for addressing problems with the mind? And doesn’t it mean that spirit and mind are fairly separate in your theology because the fixes are radically different and worse the Bible is not to be seen most of the time for fixes to the mind’s issues, and fixes different so interrelations between the two must be fairly limited?

    • Kliska

      When I said to reread my article, I wasn’t trying to be smart; the answers to your questions are there. For example, here is an excerpt:

      “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.

      Notice that I clearly state that the mind and soul are connected, a therapist needs to be a believer, and that there are biblical teachings that touch on the mind. The Bible is not going to heal your broken leg, but there are teachings that either will help prevent the broken leg (indirectly), or help to heal the leg (as God is a healing God is interested in our physical health as well). There are teachings that either will help prevent mental illness, or help heal mental illness.

  5. SEM

    Hello Kliska

    “…However, it is true that one must first question them on their theology to make sure they are inline with scripture; so salvation by grace through faith alone, no legalism, the necessity and sufficiency of Jesus, etc…”

    I found this to be so comforting as I refused my doctors offer of help with counselling simply because they are ‘Christian’. Obviously I don’t know every counsellor, but do know that many are linked to the Emergent brigade as well as ecumenism.

    In getting my meds right, I agreed to see a Psychiatrist who was visibly shocked when I told him I considered myself as a sinner. He wondered who had led me to believe such a dreadful thing and was equally disturbed when I admitted I was born that way. I kept it to myself how I knew this to be true.

    Having said that, I felt better that he wasn’t a professing Christian. It was all very clinical and matter of fact, and what’s more I knew exactly what to expect from him. Thankfully he got my prescription spot on and totally reassured me that I would need this med for depression in the same way that a diabetic would always need insulin. Can’t help wondering if he was a bit spooky as years later I am now also a diabetic. Ah well, old age never comes alone.

    You have made a lot of sense Kliska, even if I am still rather wary because of the views of the Bobgans and the dear, late Dave Hunt. That aside, I make a point to search out your posts when I read Rapture Ready. You make a valuable contribution that I appreciate very much. Especially since they parted company with a certain Calvinist Mod and woke up to John MacArthurs false gospel of ‘Lordship Salvation’. Praise The Lord! Can’t return as I somewhat rocked the boat when fighting my own battles against said bullying Calvinist.

    Now I take God at His word and daily consider whatsoever things are good, pure, lovely…while Trusting Him with all my heart and do not lean on my own understanding… and know that All things work together for good for those who trust in Christ Jesus and are the called according to His purposes…

    Love and appreciation
    SEM

  6. Fessha Tewolde

    I was not born again christian when i got depressed but along the way i accepted christ. I was seeing a government hospital therapist so what i did was just concenterated on the fe the mental recovery and filtered his spiritual beliefs.

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