Yes, It is Okay for a Christian to Go to a Counselor

  

  
A colleague of mine recently posted a video of a mega-church pastor who openly shares his opinion of whether or not Christians should go to counseling.

Spoiler Alert: The pastor does not think that Christians should go to counseling. Okay, he thinks that Christians can go to counseling but only under certain unclear circumstances.

The video ruffled some feathers of mine, so I’m going to try my best to articulate my response to it without letting my emotions get the best of me. Oh wait, Christians don’t have emotions.

1. Christians aren’t immune to problems, especially problems that aren’t so easily explained by spiritual responses. Everyone has problems. Just because someone becomes a Christian doesn’t mean that he or she automatically becomes a safe person to talk to, and it sure as anything else doesn’t mean that he or she is automatically a seasoned counselor. Not every problem or emotional wound can be healed by throwing jumbled-up words together and calling it prayer.

2. Licensed professional counselors spend several years of their lives preparing for their careers. It takes several years of education and experience before a licensing board will even consider reviewing a candidate for licensure. Many people think that a counselor just up and decided on the job last minute and, voila, now is a counselor. They don’t realize the extensive training it requires post-graduation.

3. It’s foolish and arrogant to talk about a field of which you have no experience. This whole video reveals the pastor’s ignorance of not only the counseling field, but of the mental health field as a whole. A counselor is not the same thing as a psychiatrist. These are two totally different jobs.

4. The mental health community hosts a range of models for therapeutic care, and many professionals in this community disagree with each other in regards to these theoretical models. One example of a disagreement is that between persons who uphold a medical model of therapy and a person-centered model of therapy. The medical model sees all forms of mental illness as being represented by a diagnosis and points to various treatment options for a given diagnosis. The person-centered model despises the idea of a diagnosis for fear that it inaccurately labels clients and thus hinders treatment.

5. A healthy, Christian community does not in any way replace the years of education and experience that licensed counselors have subjected themselves to. I understand that we all want to make the world a better place and that we all want people to be nice to each other and not talk about each other behind their backs and everyone all be perfect, wise counselors to each other, but that’s not how things are in the world this side of the new heavens and new earth. There is still much work to be done, and it is irresponsible to subject people to more hurt and pain because of your insistence that we live in some alternate reality.

6. Licensed professional counselors are required to abide by a code of ethics that protect the wellbeing of clients, including their spiritual wellbeing. Based on your video, I’m assuming that you didn’t see this part about counseling ethics. Counselors are exhorted to encourage clients to draw upon their spirituality for healing and growth. This means that an atheistic licensed counselor is required by his or her state licensing board to encourage Christian clients to draw upon their communities for support.

7. “All clients must deal with their issues alone in isolation,” said no ethical counselor ever. A wise counselor will encourage clients to look to their communities and the people in their lives for support while in counseling. Counselors don’t use confidentiality in the way that Todd says they do. Confidentiality protects clients from future harm, because while it provides a safe environment for clients to talk about anything without fear of condemnation (which most people in church don’t know how to restrain), confidentiality also has its limits. There are many instances in which counselors are required by law to break confidentiality for the sake of their clients’ wellbeing.

This is the end of the post, but if you want to read further, I’ve included my response to a friend trying to clarify the intentions of the pastor:

I appreciate your attempt to clarify, and I saw in the video what you are explaining, but if the video truly is an exhortation of the church, like you say it is, then they wouldn’t have titled it, “Is it Okay for a Christian to go to a Counselor.”

So many of the statements that Todd makes about the LPC field reflect a lack of understanding on his part of the profession, and what annoys me about his approach to the conversation is how he doesn’t admit by verbal expression that he has no training whatsoever in this field, a field that requires many years of education and experience before one can even be considered a candidate for licensure (Would he be okay with an LPC telling him how to preach when the LPC has no experience preaching?). Todd’s comments show ignorance on his part about how counseling ethics actually work, and he needs to adopt and communicate some humility in his discussion. Yes, I hear you, he may just be the most humble person in the world, but you have to admit that his remarks do not convey humility.

Licensed professional counselors don’t use confidentiality to hide behind it, but so many clients suffer from very sensitive issues that their little small groups just aren’t equipped to handle to the degree that they need handled. You wouldn’t tell someone who had been raped by a pastor to go talk to his or her small group about it. That’s dumb and irresponsible.

Also, an ethical counselor would never suggest to a client that he or she live in isolation. A lot of the work that is done in counseling is to help clients develop healthy relationships so that when counseling is done, they can rely on skills they’ve acquired in session and use them outside of counseling in community with other people.

If in the video they really intend to exhort the church, don’t use the LPC field as “Exhibit A” of how the church has failed.

While failures in the church contribute to many unfortunate circumstances in society, it is incorrect to state, as Todd stated in the video, that the LPC field is a direct result of the church not doing its job. This is an arrogant claim (and in technical terms is a . Has the car repair industry arisen because a person’s small group doesn’t know how to change the oil? Has the fast food industry exploded because someone’s small group doesn’t no how to flip hamburgers?

Yes, I agree with you in that the church needs to be exhorted in how it handles people’s issues, but I also recognize that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of a healthy small group or a healthy Christian community, and even when a person has a healthy small group, that still does not replace the years of education and experience that a licensed professional counselor has subjected himself or herself to.

5 thoughts on “Yes, It is Okay for a Christian to Go to a Counselor

  1. mdw4christ says:

    As a former pastor who lost my career and several other things due to divorce, I needed counseling to help me sift through the wreckage of my life. God has given me two great counselor who were just what I needed to help me. I recognize, as a minister, that I am not qualified to help people with certain issues and quickly refer people to Christian counsellors. Thank you for addressing this issue!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol says:

    Wonderful reflection. It is time to de-stigmatize those individuals and families that would benefit greatly from professional counseling and care. Too often Christians believe that their challenges are related to a lack of faith or righteousness, and that has to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kelley Dawson, Licensed Professional Counselor says:

    Go Ellen! I 100% agree with everything that you said. Being a counselor requires a unique set of qualities (and training!) like anything else that God has ordained people to do. We are not all designed to do the same types of work, so it bothers me as well when people assume that just because someone is a Christian, they inherently have the skills necessary to counsel others.

    It also breaks my heart when going to counseling is stigmatized by some churches and when those experiencing serious issues are made to feel guilty for not getting their needs met through the church, when some have needs that require additional assistance from trained professionals (for example, when it comes to my specialty with eating disorders). I’m glad you could speak up for those of us who are Christian LPCs, who know the value of the work we’re doing for His Kingdom!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s