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Christian counseling: be careful.

Okay, so this is may be controversial for some and offensive to many, but I have to say it.  I’m extremely wary of Christian counseling.

No details, but I had a conversation yesterday with someone who is in a very dark and painful place.  She described how she’d been feeling as a result of her husband’s severe mental illness, and everything she described is on the checklist of depression symptoms.  She also talked about the counselors they’ve been to recently…so-called “Christian counselors.”

Everything she reported about what her Christian marriage counselor and her husband’s Christian psychiatrist (which I’d never heard of before) raised enormous red flags for me.  I had the strong impression that guilt and some kind of fundamentalist biblical understanding were behind every piece of advice she’d been given.  I suggested she find a therapist to see individually, one who would be on her side.  What I wanted to say, though I managed to hold my tongue, was “For Pete’s sake STOP going to these Christian counseling people.”

I will admit that I have witnessed Christian therapists who are good at what they do and who really and truly help their patients.  But this was not the first time I’ve been appalled by reports of people’s negative and potentially harmful experiences with Christian counseling.  Too often, mental health professionals who advertise themselves as Christian or faith-based are coming from a theological base that puts huge emphasis on “biblical values” at the expense of common-sense thought or up-to-date mental health practices.  I could rant for a very long time about the dangers of revering a very strict and literal interpretation of the bible, but I’ll hold my tongue again.  Suffice it to say that faith and theology are an important part of life for many people, but sound psychological and psychiatric advice has to be the top priority when you’re talking about diagnosed mental illness.

If a therapist tries to tell you that your responsibility is being a good, biblical wife (or husband) to someone who is putting your health or safety at risk, or that praying more/having stronger faith will heal you from mental illness, run as far and fast as you can to a new therapist.  ‘Nuff said.



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