How Does Faith-Based Counseling Differ from Secular Counseling?

Aug 18, 2023
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Talking about your grief, worries, self-doubt, and relational problems is an effective and time-honored way to achieve mental healing, but it only works if your counselor shares your beliefs. Here’s what sets faith-based counseling apart.

Talk therapy, counseling, psychotherapy — by any name, researchers and mental health care providers agree that discussing your concerns with a supportive and well-trained professional contributes to emotional healing. 

However, the therapeutic process becomes challenging when the patient and counselor have conflicting worldviews. When basic worldviews clash, the counseling session may create more problems than it solves.

At Open Door Wellness Center in Great Falls, Montana, our experienced specialists share your faith in God and approach mental health from a biblical perspective. Here are the differences between secular and faith-based counseling and why you should seek help from professionals whose values and beliefs align with yours.

Similarities between secular and faith-based counseling

From social workers and marriage and family therapists to psychiatrists and psychologists, all share the same goal: helping others achieve mental wellness. They even share many of the same methods and techniques, such as:

Both secular and faith-based mental health practitioners undergo years of higher education and must pass rigorous licensing exams. They both practice evidence-based methods to develop coping skills, stress and anger management, relationship building, and self-understanding. 

However, secular and faith-based mental health professionals differ significantly in reaching these goals and measuring success.

How faith-based and secular counseling differ

There are fundamental differences between faith-based and secular counseling, and they essentially boil down to opposite worldviews. 

Self vs. God

One of the primary differences between secular counseling and faith-based counseling is how you and your counselor view the human condition. 

Secular counselors believe you are completely autonomous and responsible for your own happiness and destiny. Therefore, you (and you alone) can change your feelings, emotions, and your lot in life. 

Faith-based counselors recognize the sovereignty of God as Creator and can guide you in recognizing spiritual brokenness and the need for spiritual healing. We help you lean into the power of prayer during your therapy sessions and understand the importance of your personal relationship with your loving God. Taking the focus off you and casting it onto God, the ultimate healer and redeemer, puts your life and mental issues in a different perspective and offers a more powerful resource for healing.

The Bible vs. DSM-V

Secular counselors look to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) as the authoritative text on mental health conditions and treatments. However, the DSM-V fluctuates with cultural and social trends as mental health professionals observe and adapt to the ever-changing moral landscape.

Faith-based counselors rely on the unchanging Word of God to guide their sessions and their patients’ journeys. Scripture provides a solid foundation for addressing depression, anxiety, PTSD, and marital issues, and our counselors incorporate these essential truths into your therapy. 

Happiness vs. joy

The world believes in happiness. The problem is that happiness is circumstantial and flighty. Secular counselors may address the issues of loneliness, depression, sadness, and isolation by helping you become more social, connecting you with other people, or helping you accept your singleness.

Our faith-based counselors help you understand that happiness is temporary, but joy is a deep and lasting gift from God. Knowing that you can still have genuine joy amid difficult trials and heartbreaking circumstances gives you a firm foundation that doesn’t shift underneath you when you face difficulties. Faith-based counseling helps you see the long-term solution in Scripture, while secular counseling offers short-term fixes that require constant maintenance.

The benefits of faith-based counseling

When you partner with our faith-based counselors, you enter a two-way relationship that allows us to get to know you personally and vice versa. We don’t do cookie-cutter counseling; we customize your sessions to address your unique issues and concerns and incorporate multidisciplinary approaches that complement your counseling, such as medications, holistic and functional medicine, and massage therapy

Our whole-person, faith-based approach to mental health provides:

  • Long-term solutions
  • Christ-centered guidance
  • Spiritual growth and development
  • Shared values that don’t conflict with your beliefs
  • Sound scriptural support
  • Prayer
  • Hope

While secular counseling attempts to help people overcome mental health issues, the guidance often compromises the tenets of the Christian faith, creating even more problems (including eternal ones). 

Science agrees.

Studies show that faith-based counseling for mental health issues like depression is as effective or more effective than secular approaches. 

If you’re a Christian struggling with mental health issues, align yourself with other believers who can guide you toward God and allow you to keep your faith intact as you heal.

Request an appointment at Open Door Wellness Center today.