So you’re a follower of Jesus and you’re looking for a therapist. You want someone who can both understand the source of your healing (God) but also empower you and operate from a professional perspective. Here are three things to look for in your search:
1. A grace-based Christian therapist values scripture… but does not weaponize it. The use of scripture in counseling is meant to be helpful to the client. Unfortunately, some well-meaning counselors tend to use scripture as a way to feel helpful themselves, throwing Bible verse bandaids on deep wounds that would be better served through more expansive spiritual and psychological surgery. This leads clients to question the power of scripture because sometimes the solution is scripture AND counseling.
Scripture is a very important piece of healing as a believer. However, out of their own human desire to feel helpful and give answers, it can be tempting for helpers to repeatedly share scripture as a way to limit the pain instead of entering into the full, messy, sometimes unpredictable process of deep healing with the client. Ultimately, it’s important to seek the Holy Spirit in reflection to determine the right time for sharing scripture, the appropriate time to listen, and the right moment for psychological intervention.
2. Grace-based Christian therapists understand the difference between the source of healing and tools used in the process of healing. Secular counseling identifies the source of all healing as self-actualization. Grace-based counseling understands that we are co-creators in change, being prompted by the Holy Spirit and choosing to follow those leadings with the steps needed for psychological change. Secular counseling identifies an individual as body, soul, and spirit. Grace-based counseling does the same, but highlights the Holy Spirit’s power within us, redeeming and renewing our lives toward healing. However, both forms of counseling highlight that change is a choice, and faith-filled individuals must choose daily to unite their will with God’s will for their lives.
3. Grace-based Christian therapists seek to become aware of their tendency to engage in spiritual bypassing. This is a term taught in many counseling programs, including faith-based ones. Spiritual bypassing is a “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues or psychological wounds” (John Wellwood). We all have a tendency toward spiritual bypassing because, as humans, we have an innate aversion to discomfort. If a Christian Counselor tells you that your pain is a result of a “lack of faith” or that you just need to “pray more”, you are entering a spiritual bypassing experience.
Spiritual bypassing is, at its core, a defense mechanism, and all defense mechanisms are utilized as a way for us to keep emotional distance from pain or discomfort. The antidote to spiritual bypassing is spiritual embodiment, inviting Jesus into our pain instead of trying to explain it away without experiencing it. In some cases, it’s hard to heal when you can’t feel, and Jesus models this for us as He entered into our human experience fully to redeem us from it. We can invite Him into our pain, and struggling doesn’t make us any less of a Christian.
If you’re looking for a trained professional to help you find a therapist who meets the above recommendations, take our simple, free assessment at http://www.clearpathcounseling.org. You’ll be connected to a professional who can help you determine what your counseling needs are and who is poised to meet them.