News, Tools, & a Counseling Resource

Brian Craig’s new website is worthy of a link.  He has included a tab for counseling-related news and insights into marriage which helps you keep up with what’s going on in the counseling world.  Brian has a heart for working with pastors to help meet the needs of people in the Christian community.  He is also building practical tools.  For example, if you need help setting up a home budget, check out Brian’s downloadable form.  One click and you have all the necessary categories organized on an Excel spreadsheet ready for your numbers. 



2 Responses to News, Tools, & a Counseling Resource

  1. Ty Weckerly says:

    Christian Counseling: A Call for
    Separation of Church and State

    By Ty Weckerly

    The universal Christian Church and state behavioral and mental health boards across America are failing to recognize the fundamental difference that exists between the ideologies of clinical psychotherapy and Christianity, and how this difference relates to licensure restrictions for Christian counselors. The primary difference between the ideologies of psychotherapy and Christianity is that psychotherapy teaches that 1) man heals man and 2) man heals himself, while Christianity teaches that Christ ultimately heals man. Although there are other ideological differences between psychotherapy and Christianity, the source of healing is generally recognized as the most significant difference. For Christians, the source is God, and for psychotherapists, the source is man. This difference is significant within the arena of mental health because the “state” – defined in this article as the political and legislative bodies and/or boards overseeing behavioral/mental health in America – has accepted the secular systems of belief held by psychotherapy and its various humanistic orientations. As a consequence, the state has taken jurisdiction over and regulation of the field of psychotherapy, which includes specific licensure processes directed towards secular counselors. However, this article argues that the state should not impose jurisdiction and licensure restrictions over the field of Christian counseling because of the inherent ideological difference in psychotherapy and Christian counseling, and that the field of Christian counseling should instead be regulated by the Church.
    If the state has accepted the system of beliefs held by psychotherapists, and consequently taken jurisdiction over this system, is it possible and morally acceptable for the state to also agree with and take jurisdiction over the system of beliefs held by Christian counselors? I argue that it is not possible. The state cannot have it both ways. If the state agrees with a secular belief system as it pertains to counseling, it cannot at the same time agree with and support a belief system rooted in God. Consequently, I argue that Christian counseling as a practice should not be regulated by the state, but instead by the Church, and that a separation of Church and state should be recognized within both fields – psychotherapy and Christian counseling. Unfortunately, there currently is no separation. This article describes five primary factors preventing this separation from occurring. It should also be noted that this article is written by a member of the Catholic Church and provides suggestions for both Christians in general as well as the Catholic Church specifically regarding alternatives to state regulation within the field of Christian counseling.
    The five primary factors preventing a separation between psychotherapy and Christian counseling by the state and Church are the following: 1) The state, Christian counselors, and Christian counselees fail to recognize that a fundamental difference exists between the “systems of belief” maintained by Christian counseling and psychotherapy. 2) Christians and Christian counselors are largely unaware that the state only has jurisdiction over psychotherapy. The state should not have or accept jurisdiction over Christian counseling, or any other form of religious counseling for that matter. 3) The various terms and lack of clear definitions for Christian, Biblical, and Pastoral counseling prevent unity within the universal Christian Church as it pertains to Christian counseling. 4) The state is infringing upon the Church’s and Christian counselor’s ability to administer Christian counseling through its licensure restrictions. 5) The Chuch has not fully accepted its obligation to regulate the field of Christian Counseling. This article discusses these factors in more detail and provides potential solutions to the challenges mentioned above.
    Many Americans are under the notion that psychotherapy is essentially a science and that it has been validated by science. This is simply not true. Instead, psychotherapeutic orientations are rooted in a “system of beliefs”, just as Christianity is rooted in a system of beliefs. Examples of these psychotherapeutic systems of belief are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Client Centered Therapy, and Psychoanalytic Therapy. Each system provides a theory, or explanation, for how a person achieves and maintains mental health. Although science attempts to inform these theories, psychologists admit that science is not equipped to validate or invalidate the systems of belief proposed by any psychotherapeutic orientation. Similarly, science is not equipped to validate or invalidate the system of beliefs held by Christians. Still, it remains a common misconception that psychotherapy has been validated by science, whereas Christianity is based primarily in belief. The truth is that both are systems of belief and these systems are fundamentally at odds with each other.
    As mentioned, these systems are primarily at odds with each other because of their ideological differences regarding the source of man’s healing. Psychotherapy professes that man heals, and is therefore considered secular. Psychotherapy does not rely upon or acknowledge God as a healing source within the context of counseling. Rather, psychotherapy is defined by secular psychology, has its origins in secular Freudian psychoanalysis, and is currently secular in practice. Christian counseling, conversely, proclaims that God heals. Its orientation is based in the teachings of the Bible and a belief in the intervention of the Holy Spirit as a healing source. Christian counselors and clients believe that life’s problems, ranging from depression, to marital problems, to anxiety, to crises of faith, deserve at the very least spiritual attention and at the most a spiritual cure. The notion that man heals himself without God, as psychotherapy proclaims, is anti-Christian.
    The universal Christian Church, and the Catholic Church specifically, is not fully aware of and willing to challenge the influence of psychotherapists on their laypeople. It has become a common practice for Catholic priests to refer their struggling laypeople to secular, and sometimes atheistic, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists. Catholic priests often make these referrals because they lack a Christian counseling alternative. In addition, many priests will admit that they do not have the time required to meet the needs of many of those struggling within the Church with spiritual brokenness, sinful behaviors, and other problems of life. As a result, they are often forced to make a referral outside the Church.
    Catholic priests do not recognize the spiritually destructive impact their referrals to secular mental health professionals, or even state licensed professionals who do Christian counseling, may have on the collective spirit of the Church. When faced with adversity, many Catholics are sent to secular therapists, and miss out on the opportunity to recognize healing that comes from God, which then strengthens their relationship and dependence upon God. Instead, they are led to believe that their healing came from themselves as taught by their psychotherapists. As a result, they may return to this anti-Christian belief system when faced with adversity again.
    The Evangelical Church has taken a different path, which the Catholic Church should consider. The Evangelical Church is currently certifying its own Biblical counselors, and has separated itself from the certification process of the state. In doing so, they protect their ministries and provide reliable services for their counselees. In short, they are refusing to allow their counselors and Biblical counseling methods to be regulated by the secular state. Instead, they are regulating their own counseling ministries.
    Although Biblical counselors have developed greater autonomy, they are still being challenged by the state. Dr. David Edgington, a certified Biblical coun-selor in Phoenix, Arizona, was recently challenged by the state. The Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, hereafter referred to as the Board, recently ordered Dr. Edgington to “cease and desist” his Biblical counseling ministry under the charge that he was administering psychotherapy without a license in the state of Arizona. The state initially claimed Dr. Edgington was illegally practicing psychotherapy without a state license. Dr. Edgington was summoned to a meeting before the Board, which he described in his emails to me and others as a generally “hostile, inflammatory, and threatening” meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to determine if he was in fact practicing psychotherapy without a license.
    Dr. Edgington explained to the Board that he was not practicing psychotherapy, but instead was providing Biblical counseling, which is distinctly different from and in many ways opposed to psychotherapy. Dr. Edgington explained that two distinct aspects of Biblical counseling, reliance on the Word as provided in the Bible, and reliance on the Holy Spirit for the purpose of healing and sanctification, make Biblical counseling markedly different from psychotherapy. Furthermore, Dr. Edgington explained that he was protected under the Constitution, which acknowledges a separation between church and state. He explained that the teachings of the Bible are protected by the Church.
    A decision was then made by the Board, which holds enormous significance and is at the crux of this article. The Board voted by unanimous decision that Biblical counseling was not in fact psychotherapy and that the state did not have jurisdiction over Dr. Edgington’s ministry. Dr. Edgington was given permission to continue his counseling ministry. This decision is extremely relevant for Christian and Pastoral counselors. If the Board acknowledges that they do not have jurisdiction over individuals practicing Biblical counseling, then the Board must also acknowledge that they do not have jurisdiction over individuals practicing Christian and/or Pastoral counseling. In short, the Board does not have jurisdiction over any form of therapy rooted in the belief that God heals, which is consistent with Biblical, Christian, and Pastoral counseling. However, the definitions of Biblical counseling, Christian counseling, and Pastoral counseling are a source of confusion, which detracts from their common purpose and application. The following provides definitions and analysis of these terms.
    Biblical counseling is generally associated with Evangelical Christianity and was largely expanded by Jay E. Adams. Biblical counseling is also referred to as Nouthetic Counseling. Biblical counselors emphasize the teachings of the Bible and healing that occurs through the Holy Spirit. Biblical counselors have their own certifying bodies such as the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) and the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC). Consequently, Biblical counselors generally do not operate under the licensure of the state.
    Christian counselors attempt to combine the teachings of Christianity with the teachings of psychology, yet maintain that Christ ultimately heals. Similar to Biblical counselors, Christian counselors emphasize the teachings of the Bible and healing by the Holy Spirit. In contrast to Biblical counselors, Christ-ian counselors are generally licensed by the state, which I argue is a contradiction. Christian counselors licensed by the state unknowingly promote two contradicting belief systems – Christianity and psychotherapy. Some have referred to these Christian counselors as State-owned Christian counselors or Secular Christian counselors. Although these titles sound ridiculous and condescending, they demonstrate the glaring contra-diction.
    Finally, Pastoral counselors may be priests, rabbis, ministers or pastors who also attempt to combine the science of psychology with their religious beliefs. Few states acknowledge the license of Pastoral counselor, so many Pastoral counselors believe they must first acquire a traditional state license to practice psychotherapy such as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist). Again, I argue that Christian Pastoral counselors do not need to seek licensure by the state, but instead should consider licensure through the Church.
    The contradiction of a State-owned Christian counselor or a Secular Christian counselor could place these Christian counselors and the state in a significant double bind. If Christian counselors continue under the licensure of the state, they demonstrate to themselves and the Christian public that they do not recognize the impossibility of administering both psychotherapy and Christian counseling. Alternatively, they can operate outside of their state license, but may have difficulty locating Church organizations that will certify them. The state will also be in a double bind. The state can give up their jurisdiction over Christian counseling, but doing so requires them to relinquish their authority over Christian counseling. Alternatively, the state can claim they do have jurisdiction over Christian counseling, but by doing do so, the state is essentially saying that they have jurisdiction over the teachings of the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
    This article also argues that the state has perpetuated a lack of appropriate separation between psychotherapy and Christian counseling through its licensure restrictions, and has wronged Christian counselors seeking a license from the state in the process. The state has wronged these Christian counselors in several ways? First, the state has obliged Christian counselors into an implicit agreement in which potential counselors are not fully aware of the agreement made. More specifically, a licensed Christian counselor must make an implicit agreement to accept the system of belief provided by psychotherapy, which is that man heals himself without the assistance of God. This anti-Christian belief is unacceptable to most Christians. Unfortunately, many Christian counselors licensed by the state are unaware that they have made this implicit agreement once they acquire a state license to administer psychotherapy. They must make this agreement with the state because the state admits they only have jurisdiction over psychotherapy, and consequently, can only license individuals to do psychotherapy. Thus, once a Christian counselor acquires a state license, an agreement has been made.
    Second, the state requires Christian counselors and Pastoral counselors seeking a license through the state to be educated in and practice a system of beliefs that is markedly different from Christian beliefs before they are given permission to practice Christian counseling. For example, Christian counselors are required to demonstrate a proficiency in a belief system which states that God does not heal man before they can practice a belief system which says He does. This is similar to saying that someone can agree to follow their own faith after they first denounce it. The state prescribes that the state-licensed counselor must first be trained in secular belief systems, also called psychotherapeutic orientations. This training generally occurs in secular institutions by instructors maintaining secular beliefs. Once the initial education process is complete, Christian counselors must take the state’s licensure test demonstrating their knowledge of secular psycho-therapy before they can move along to the next stage. After secular training and testing, Christian counselors often continue to receive training and guidance at the intern and supervised levels by secular institutions teaching secular belief systems. After all this training and indoctrination has occurred and a license has been issued, the state will then allow Christian counselors to practice Christian counseling independently. The entire process of state licensure, which allows Christian counselors to practice independently, can take four years and sometimes as many as seven or eight years if they want to be licensed as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Christian counselors cannot and should not accept this level of secular indoctrination, and must recognize the impossibility of serving two masters.
    Finally, the state restricts the separation of Christian counseling from regulation through the state’s alliance with insurance companies. Insurance companies will only provide funding for those counselors that are licensed by the state. Consequently, Christians who need or desire to use their insurance to assist in paying for counseling will be required to see a counselor licensed by the state. In other words, insurance companies financially support a secular system of belief, which is not held by Christians. This system drastically limits the decision-making ability of individuals who desire a Christian form of counseling, but cannot afford it.
    Of course there are no easy solutions to the issues mentioned above, but further attempts to resolve these issues must be made. The following provides brief suggestions for the terms, people, and institutions involved.
    Christian counseling, Biblical counseling, and Christian Pastoral counseling
    In order to strengthen and unite Christian forms of counseling, one overarching term for Christian counseling, Biblical counseling, and Christian Pastoral counseling should be used. I believe the term Christian counseling adequately summarizes the three forms mentioned above. Christian, Biblical, and Pastoral counselors believe the Bible can and does address all problems people experience. A singular term, Christian counseling, will both better combat secular influences and strengthen the growth of Christian counseling across denominations.
    Do not license Christian counselors. Acknowledge that this is outside your jurisdiction. Inform the public that the state’s jurisdiction is limited to psychotherapy.
    Catholic Church
    The Catholic Church needs to offer a Catholic Christian counseling education and certification process for its counselors in much the same way that the Evangelical Church is doing with NANC and IABC. The Catholic Church needs to keep the certification process separate from the state.
    Catholic priests
    Recognize the potential spiritual hazards of referring your laypeople to secular counselors. Be aware that even those who claim to do “Christian counseling” may actually be performing counseling closer to psychotherapy as a result of their education, training, and licensure process. Promote Christian counseling as an official ministry under the jurisdiction of the Church.
    Christian clients
    Determine if you would prefer a Christian counselor to a secular psychotherapist. Research any counselor you are interested in seeing. Determine if the counselor is licensed through the state, or licensed through the Church. Understand that if the counselor is licensed by the state, then the counselor meets the state’s requirements for practicing psychotherapy. Next, ask your counselor where they were educated. In many cases, the counselor will be educated in state programs that teach belief systems and methods of secular psychotherapy. Also, ask if the counselor has been trained in Christian counseling, and if the counselor has any form of certification in Christian counseling. In addition, ask your state-licensed counselor where they did their counseling internship and whether or not the supervision was Christian based. Ask your counselor if he or she is Christian and promotes Christian ideals in counseling. Also, ask about his or her healing orientation is. If the counselor tells you he or she does “client centered”, “cognitive behavioral therapy”, “humanistic”, or “psychoanalytic therapy”, then the counselor plans to utilize a secular psychotherapeutic technique. In other words, their healing philosophy is rooted in a secular system of beliefs, not Christianity.
    Potential Catholic Christian counselors/clients
    Urge the Catholic Church to develop a Church-sponsored education and certification process for counseling, which would enable a base of certified Catholic Christian counselors.
    Christian counselors licensed by the state (State-owned Christian counselors/Secular Christian counselors)
    Refuse to make the implicit agreement with the state to do psychotherapy if you want to continue doing Christian counseling. Inform your state licensing boards that they do not have jurisdiction over Christian, Biblical, or Pastoral counseling. Consider becoming licensed by a church-regulated Christian counseling certification agency. Check the statement of faith of that agency first to make sure it is not in violation of your own belief system.

    In summary, the purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the state does not have authority over the field of Christian counseling and therefore should not regulate Christian counseling. Christians do not give licenses to state authorities on secular matters, and there would be a massive uproar if the Church were to license and regulate secular psychotherapists regarding their methods and practices. Even the hint of such a Church-regulated licensing board for psychotherapists would incite mass resistance from state authorities and secular counselors on grounds of the necessity for separation of church and state. Yet, this form of regulation is occurring in the opposite fashion. As mentioned, state authorities are restricting the belief systems of Christian counselors, which is a violation of their religious rights. Christian counselors need to recognize their religious freedom to counsel as proclaimed by the Gospel.
    As things stand, it is unclear where the jurisdiction of the state ends and the rights of the Christian counselor begin. This ambiguity must be clarified by making clear divisions between the counseling jurisdictions of state and church. There must be serious institutional changes that take place if there is to be a future for Christian counseling as a vibrant and effective ministry of the Church. The state must have no part in the counseling ministries of the Church. The Church and its members must explicitly state that any infringement is nothing short of religious persecution. Also, the Church must begin to institute its own educational systems and licensure processes for regulating its own counselors. The lines must be drawn, and the ignorance and indifference must be addressed. All of these important steps must be taken before Christians can enter a new era of counseling. This new era of counseling ensures that Christians are guided by the timeless truth that God is the source of all healing.

  2. leejagers says:

    I appreciate the thoughtful and lengthy comment. Personally, I don’t see healing as coming exclusively from either God OR man. I accept that ultimately God does the healing but He often uses other caring people as instruments of that healing. Healing seems to take place in the context of relationship. Sadly, I have seen some good secular therapists reflect more God-like characteristics than not-so-good Christian therapists. Point . . . “Christian” does not necessarily mean ‘good’

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