The Anatomy of a Good Christian Counsellor

by Michael Hart, MA, CCC

One study conducted in the United States showed that 66% of the population would prefer that their therapist embrace spiritual beliefs. The growing popularity of Christian Counselling in Ottawa and across Canada may indicate that the percentage is as high in Canada as well. As the demand for Christian Counselling increases, more and more therapists are promoting themselves as Christian Counsellors. Here in Ottawa it seems that there is a new therapist in the counselling directory every week advertising as a “Christian Counsellor.” Clients need to be aware that not everyone who advertises as a Christian Counsellor is qualified as such.

A counsellor who is not trained in incorporating spirituality in the therapeutic process can be ineffective in applying biblical passages and could even do more harm than good. If bible verses are applied too quickly in the counselling processes they could suppress the client’s need to express their emotions. Also, a counsellor who is not trained in the art of incorporating spirituality in the therapeutic process could end up making clients feel guilty by using scriptures inappropriately and at the wrong time.

Being a Christian doesn’t qualify a counsellor as a Christian Counsellor. There are Master’s degree programs, such as that offered at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, that are geared at training counsellors in the art of incorporating the spiritual element in counselling.  Having said that, and at the risk of seeming to contradict myself, it is important to realize that academic qualification alone, without a genuine relationship with Christ and an understanding of the Christian culture, does not make one a good Christian counsellor.

In my practice at Elim Counselling Service in Ottawa, we often see clients who come to us because they were not satisfied with the service they received from someone who advertised as a Christian Counsellor. Some clients complain that, with the passage of time, it became apparent that the counsellor did not believe in God and also didn’t truly understand the scriptures. Others complain that their previous counsellor did not understand the implications within the Christian culture of issues such as divorce or sex outside of marriage. John* (age 47) explained that he had stopped seeing his counsellor because she told him he might have some kind of sexual dysfunction because he hadn’t had sex in the seven years since his marriage broke up despite being in a few relationships. This so called Christian Counsellor failed to understand that many Christians believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong and so choose not to be sexually active until married.

To be a good Christian Counsellor a therapist should have the academic qualification in Counselling (i.e. at least a masters degree in a counselling program that gives training on how to incorporate spirituality in counselling), a personal spiritual experience, and an understanding of the Christian culture.

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About Michael Hart

Michael Hart is a highly qualified psychotherapist whose training and experience allow him to use the respected Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) designation of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. As Director of Elim Counselling Services, Michael not only offers counselling to clients, but leads Kingdom Life Workshops and hosts a counselling radio show, Life Transformations. Michael is a dynamic presenter and a gifted communicator who presents serious topics in a way that is easily understood and very entertaining. His academic writings and research have earned him two St. Peter's Awards from St. Paul University in Ottawa for excellence in the area of Christian Spirituality. Michael is mentioned on the Christian Counselling Network as a Christian Counsellor having the qualifications and training in both theology and counselling and as such is recognized as being a Christian Counsellor who not only goes by the name but is truly qualified to offer professional Christian Counselling.

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