I want a Christian Counsellor.
I work a few days a week as a Mental Health Practitioner in our local NHS Mental Health Resource Centre. GP’s refer to us people with such concerns as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders and we then offer assessment and interventions such as counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness.
Recently one lunchtime, when I was sat around a table with a group of colleagues, one suddenly stated that she had just received a referral from someone who wanted a ‘Christian’ counsellor. ‘What a cheek’, said a different colleague, ‘my faith or lack of it is none of that clients business’ said another. Inevitably I was asked ‘why do Christian people ask for Christian counsellors?’
That’s a really good question. Let’s speculate: is it because they have specifically ‘Christian’ problems that need ‘Christian’ counsellors to address? Is it because there is a distrust amongst Christians about ‘secular’ psychiatry, psychology and counselling? Is it that Christians fear that a ‘secular’ therapist would blame the faith of the Christian for his or her problems? Finally may it be that Christians have heard their leaders say that Christians need ‘Christian’ counselling for their problems?
Well I suspect that all of the above may be in play. Yet, what odd reasons they all are. Would someone with a heart problem want a ‘Christian’ heart specialist? What about a Christian with a leg problem, would he want a ‘Christian’ leg specialist to help him? I think not. So why do Christian’s view mental health problems differently, thinking that such problems can only be treated by ‘Christian’ specialists?
I think the heart of this issue is that Christian people fail to realise that they experience mental health problems for exactly the same reasons as non-Christians do: unhelpful thinking about themselves and others, traumatic experiences and problematic relationships. Christians do not suffer mental health problems due to lack of faith, unconfessed sin or the attacks of the devil. Christians are people just like everyone else and are prone to the same problems and challenges as everyone else, and can be helped by the same treatments and strategies as everyone else. The sooner that Christian people come to see this then the more likely Christians are to find the help that they so often need. Let’s not forget the importance of the doctrine of man as man in our understanding of ourselves.