What is Christian Counseling versus Secular Counseling?

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When going out into the community to let folks know about Mimosa Christian Counseling Center, the question often comes up regarding the differences between secular and Christian counseling. There are many differences, but there are several primary ones.

One of the primary differences is in the desired result. In secular counseling, the desired result is primarily related to increasing the ability of a person to function more effectively or to become more emotionally stable. In Christian counseling, the primary goal is to enable the person to heal in order that they are able to interact with God effectively, and to be able to utilize their gifting in the body of Christ.

Another primary difference is related to the empowerment of the changes within the individual. Most secular therapy sees the person as a self-empowered entity that is responsible for the changes that they need to make. In Christian therapy, the Holy Spirit works through the therapist, and within the person to facilitate the changes. The changes that the individual is able to make in this context are often much more foundational and pervasive.

Obviously, the individual has to make the decision to begin to change, but once this decision is made, he or she has the Holy Spirit that prompts him/her to know what changes are necessary, and then facilitates the process. Some of the counseling methods may be similar, but often the homework suggested in Christian counseling will relate to the person’s spiritual growth and development to promote their relationship with God and others.

Another primary difference between secular and Christian counseling is Christian counseling is Bible-based. It derives its understanding of who man is, the nature of his problems, why he has these problems and how to resolve them from the Scriptures and from psychological research that is compatible with Scripture. It recognizes that a man has a sin nature, and it is his nature that impacts his thinking, emotions and behavior.

As sin impacts these areas, problems develop within the person’s life. Christian counseling recognizes that these difficulties can only be worked through the influence of the Holy Spirit. It is the Christian counselor’s job to help facilitate this process. Christ is always in the process of redeeming, or buying back these areas to bring them into correspondence with how God desires us to feel, think and act.

The intention for these changes are not primarily to allow the person to feel better, although that is part of the result, but to bring the individual into connection with God to facilitate changes that allow the individual to function in the way in which God designed. Secular counseling generally views man as good, and merely in need to correcting thoughts and behaviors that don’t work for the person to be happy or ”actualized.”

Secular theorists provide insights on human behavior as a result of their research and practice. These insights are helpful to the Christian counselor when they are compatible with the insight provided in God’s Word. The insights discovered through the study of the principles and patterns found in nature are often useful tools and provide “pieces of the puzzle” in areas about which the Bible does not clearly and specifically speak. However the Bible retains its position of authority and is the lens through which the truth can be identified.