The Christian life is a life that focuses on holy Scripture and prayer. Christians rely on their faith in God to guide their daily lives. But when it comes to mental health issues, many Christians reject therapy as a path toward healing.
Even though Christian counseling has been on the rise recently, many Christians still worry about what it means to seek counseling as part of their mental and emotional wellness. They worry that seeking therapy means their faith wasn’t strong enough to get them through a troubling time. They express concern that perhaps God might be disappointed in them — or their family or religious community may see them as “less” Christian. Some people even feel that seeking counseling from a source outside the church could be seen as an outright rejection of God or the Bible. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Bible says that “the Lord is my strength and my song,” but this doesn’t mean that Christians never experience weakness or pain. And when someone is in physical pain, they most likely will visit a medical doctor, whether they are Christian or not. Someone experiencing mental or emotional pain should do this also. Nobody is perfect, and God doesn’t expect us to be. In fact, many people can reconcile their need for help by seeing their doctor or therapist as someone through whom God is working. The benefit of seeking Christian counseling specifically is that your therapist has a good understanding of your religious background and may have even explored the same initial misgivings you may have. Plus, choosing a Christian therapist means you have found someone who speaks the same spiritual language you do; they can help lead you to passages in the Bible that relate to your situation, while also exploring real-world strategies that more directly address the problem you are facing.
Many people, not just Christians, approach the idea of therapy with reluctance. They feel like they should have been strong enough to deal with whatever issue they are facing on their own. They might even feel guilty for letting down a loved one. Certainly those feelings are amplified for Christians who worry that God himself might be disappointed in them for this perceived weakness. Again, this is simply untrue. Jesus himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) God knows that we are not perfect, that we all need help now and then.
One of the biggest hurdles some Christians face when considering therapy is possible rejection or upset from within their family or their church. While it’s true that clergy can be of great help to those who are struggling, clergy are not trained the same way therapists are — and neither are therapists trained the way clergy are! Both can be wonderful resources in times of trouble. Seeking therapy is in no way meant to replace pastoral care.
If you are a Christian and you are considering therapy, please know that Christian counseling can be a wonderful resource for your mental and emotional well-being. Individual therapists’ background and spiritual training can vary, so feel free to ask about it when choosing the right therapist for you.