Why I don't believe in Christian counseling

Hannah and I have discussed this point over and over again, since we've both been through Christian counseling, and it didn't help either of us. Today again I saw a link to a site which waxes lyrical about how counseling should be Biblical and whatnot, and I just got fed up again at Christian counseling, and decided to blog about it.

Firstly, let me say that I don't believe that Christian counseling is bad or wrong, nor do I believe that it doesn't help people. I think there are times when it is very valid, and people who are in certain situations can definitely benefit from it. However, that does not mean that Christian counseling is for everyone and everything, which is something that almost all Christian counselors and counseling schools seem to believe in.

Now, I'm no counselor in the formal sense of the word, I don't have any qualifications or certificates, but I've had the experience of helping out various friends over the years with their problems, and through their problems and my own, I've come to realise that Christian counseling is not the be-all and end-all (as I too previously thought).

People's problems seem to fall into two categories:

  • Sin-related
  • Psychological

Sin-related Problems

These are problems that Christian/Biblical counseling can help with. The root of these problems is sin, and since Christian/Biblical counseling deals almost exclusively with sin, it is ideal to solve these issues. These are problems like addiction, drinking, relationship problems (adultery, confusion/distortion of Biblical roles of man and wife, separation and divorce, amongst others), anger, etc.

People with these problems need to understand what the Bible says about their problems, and need accountability in order to stop sinning. Christian/Biblical counseling provides the study of the Bible and the accountability of a counselor so that a person can work towards solving their problem.

Psychological Problems

These are problems that Christian/Biblical counseling cannot help with. The root of these problems is not conscious sinning. Often, the manifestation of these problems is sin, but sin is not the cause. Christian/Biblical counseling deals with spiritual issues, not clinical, psychological problems.

For example, suffering from depression it not a sin, it is a psychological condition, and no amount of Bible study of sin will solve the problem. A person suffering from depression needs a doctor, not a pastor! Telling a person to study the verse that says, "the joy of the Lord is your strength" is not going to make them less depressed (beside the fact that the "joy of the Lord" is not an emotion!).

Psychological Counseling

I have an anger problem, but not the type that can be solved using Biblical counseling. You see, I don't intend getting angry, I don't build up the anger even - I just explode, without control. When it happens, I pretty much just watch myself doing things, but cannot stop myself. I don't want to get angry, I don't want to explode, and in those moments when I do, I really wish I could gain control of myself again and stop me. But I can't.

I've been through two different sets of counseling about my anger, both of them Christian. One of them was Biblical counseling, and the other was Christian psychological counseling by a Christian psychologist. I only ever had 3 psychological counselling sessions (I was in the process of moving to another town when I eventually got started), but I had plenty sessions of Biblical counseling.

Which one helped? Funnily enough, the psychological counseling. All 3 sessions of it helped far more than the 10 or so sessions of Biblical counseling.

Why? Because the counselors giving the Biblical counseling could only see the anger and how wrong it was, and not the cause of the anger. The psychologist on the other hand could pinpoint the cause of the anger, and help me to work on the root cause, rather than the symptoms.

What Needs to Change?

Christian/Biblical counselors need to realise that not every issue they have to deal with is a sin issue. Some issues are spiritual and/or emotional problems, but other problems are psychological and as such need to be addressed in a more medical fashion. If a counselor does not have the experience or training to work with psychological matters, they should refer the person to a psychologist, preferably a Christian one. A non-Christian psychologist can also help, but their non-Christian world view can easily create a conflict of interest.

Biblical counseling schools need to look into introducing psychology as part of their courses as a way for their students to be able to discern between sin and psychological problems, or even possibly to train up fully-fledged Christian psychologists to deal with the increasing number of psychological problems.

Christians in general need to change their view toward others with psychological problems. Being a Christian doesn't mean that you'll never have psychological problems, and having psychological problems doesn't make you a lesser Christian or that you are lacking in faith.

What About Me?

If you are like me, and you are unsure of whether or not your problem is a sin-related or a psychological one, pray about it. Talk to your counselor, if you have one, or just to your pastor, and analyse yourself. Be careful though, don't just think you have a psychological problem because you don't want to admit that you're sinning!

If you're attending counseling, and it doesn't seem to be helping, and it doesn't seem to be addressing what you think is the actual problem, maybe find a Christian psychologist and go for a session or two. They will be able to tell you if it's a psychological problem or not.

I personally only figured it out many years later, even though I had my psychological counseling years before my Biblical counseling. My counseling wasn't working, and I didn't feel like it was addressing the real problem. Once I got to thinking back to my psychological counseling, it was then that I realised I didn't have a sin-related problem.