What is a counselor? By definition, a counselor is a person who is trained to give advice, guidance in varying areas of expertise. Christian counselors may also be identified as Biblical counselors or Christian therapist. While these titles may be interchangeable, they are often based on preference, training, certification, practice, ministry or any combination of these. Christian counseling is grounded in the Bible. Christian counseling derives its beliefs, moral values, conceptualization of problems, philosophies, integrations, techniques and applications from the Bible; a biblical precedent always precedes a Christian Counselors actions. For a Christian, there can be no counseling apart from the Bible and truths are dispensed and encouraged regardless of cultural trends.
The practice of Christian counseling is governed by first, God's Word, secondly, by local established churches or Christian counseling organizations. These counselors become licensed by their local church or by a professional Christian counseling/therapy organization. Christian counselors are often ministers, pastors, and laity who have counseling training. They may choose to seek traditional education and terminal degrees. Most state laws treat Christian Counseling with the same exemptions it does for religious practices, allowing for the autonomy of this field. For example, in the State of Georgia, Georgia Code O.C.G.A 43-10a-7 allows for the practice of Christian counseling.
Physical health problems are a result of a misalignment between body and Spirit, and healing is achieved and maintained through the Spirit's authority over the body. Likewise, mental health problems are a result of misalignment between the soul and Spirit; and healing is achieved and maintained through the Spirit's authority over the soul.
Mental health disorders are typically characterized by a psychological disturbance, sometimes followed by physiological and neurological changes. When medication, which at times may be needed, is used to treat mental health distress, the medication is treating the symptoms not curing the source of the distress. The source is somewhere in the mind (or spiritually speaking the soul). Scripture instructs us to renew our mind. It is through this understanding that the cure to mental health disorders is by renewing the mind. As one renews their mind in Christ, they realign their soul (the soul houses thoughts and emotions) with the Spirit of God. Without this understanding, medication is misunderstood as the cure, reliance on medication is developed, practical skills are never learned, and the mind is never renewed.
Secular counseling is grounded in an array of teachings, some of which do not agree with each other. Some of the major contributors to the field of counseling/therapy were Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow and Rollo May. What secular counseling has done is it has sought to study and research the mind and behavior. This practice is more specifically known as psychology. The word psychology comes from the Greek words “psukhe” meaning “psyche, breath, spirit, soul” and “logia” meaning “study of” or “research,” eventually establishing psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is grounded in humanism, in that man, and his experience and needs are of prime importance. For secular counselors, counseling starts and ends with man and depends on the trends and acceptance of society.
The practice of secular counseling is governed by the authority of their local state and held accountable to secular organizations and their local state government laws. These counselors become licensed by their local state after certain requirements are met. They are also prohibited from introducing their religious beliefs into the counseling process. Doing so may jeopardize their license and violate secular ethical codes.
Some clear differences are that secular counseling supports divorce as successful marital outcome, may promote euthanasia (assisted suicide), support immoral sexual misconduct (premarital/extramarital), support abortion as acceptable solution, affirm homosexual/bisexual/transgendered practices, may condone the use of addictive substances and addictive behaviors.
An example of this difference is the federal lawsuit of Julea Ward v. Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University. Ms. Ward was expelled from her MA counseling program at EMU for refusing to counsel a gay client in a relationship. As a resolution, the university offered Ms. Ward to undergo a remediation program to change her beliefs concerning homosexuality. It is important to note Ms. Ward made an important statement describing her case, Wade said, “"I had never refused to counsel homosexuals, I had simply refused to affirm their lifestyle." This illustrates the Christian Counselors approach, we never refuse to help others, however, we do not affirm behaviors that are contrary to our faith.