What is the Difference Between Christian Counseling and Secular Counseling?

The fundamental difference between Christian Counseling and Secular Counseling is the authority to which the counselor is answerable. Secular Counselors are licensed by the state, and must abide by the rules the state creates. Most states promote the idea that God cannot be a part of anything endorsed by the state. Consequently, most state licensed counselors are forbidden to even mention anything of a religious nature. They agree not to pray, not to ask God for help, not to mention anything religious at all.

Christian, Pastoral, or Biblical Counselors answer to the church. This frees them to ask God for help, to pray, and offer religious solutions to those they counsel. It also creates a responsibility on the church to properly oversee the activities of these counselors.

Professional counselors will typically hold at least a Master’s degree. Many will have done the extra work to hold a PhD as well. Note that a religious counselor will typically have a degree from a religious university while secular counselors will receive their training from state certified schools.

If you seek the assistance of a Christian Counselor, it may be wise to determine that your counselor has been trained and is licensed or certified by a church or organization that will actually hold them accountable for their actions. The National Christian Counselors Association and the International Board of Christian Counselors (an outgrowth of the AACC) are two of the best known associations that provide reliable credentials for Christian Counselors. There are many other reputable organizations that ordain or certify counselors.

Secular counseling refers to those professionals who become licensed by their state to provide a variety of counseling services. Typical designations include Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).

Christian Counseling presents a variety of designations as well. You will find Licensed Pastoral Counselors (LPC), Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselors (LCPC), and Certified Christian Counselors (CCC) to name just a few.

The bottom line when seeking a counselor is to find one that is actually motivated to help you. One item that indicates a willingness of the counselor to deal with problems is testing. There are many testing tools available to properly trained counselors. These tools can help provide significant insight and explain underlying causes for all sorts of difficulties. A simple test can often save months of “talk therapy” and get right to the heart of things in many cases.

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