Is Christian Counseling an Oxymoron?

Can one be a Bible-believing, evangelical Christian and receive mental health counseling? Can mental health counseling be done within a biblical framework?

For some, the answer to all these questions is “Why not?” For others, the only answer is “Absolutely not!”

What is the disconnect?

When I began my education in the Social Sciences (Sociology undergraduate, Counseling graduate) I had many professors who taught that Christianity was the definition of mental illness. One could not believe in a biblical worldview and be mentally healthy.

We were taught there were no—as the professor had phrased it— “Big-T-Truths.” There were only lots of opinions … and the opinions of Bible-believing Christians were wrong. I discovered that my university wasn’t the only one teaching this “truth.” In fact, the words in the above title to this blog post have actually been used by Mental Health counseling college professors who sought to deny their students the chance to do their internship at Christian Counseling Associates, Inc.—my place of employment.

This theory that Christianity causes mental illness has been thoroughly disproved! Moreover, research shows that having an active Christian faith significantly adds to one’s mental health.

But that is only half the problem with connecting the word Christian and Counselor. The other problem is that there are many Christians who believe that mental health therapy is antithetical to the Bible. They believe that seeking God is the answer to every challenge and once done, there is no need for anything else.

However, though yes, seeking God is the answer, I have always found that God usually takes us on a bit of a journey before His answer to us is revealed. Remember verse four of the oft quoted 23rd Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of shadow and death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Yep, we are going to take a journey. And we will need God all along the way.

And how about that healing of the blind man? Jesus could have said, “Be healed!” or “See now!” and it would have been done. Instead, He bent to the ground, gathered dirt, spit in it, and slathered the paste over the blind man’s eyes. The blind man was then told to wash his eyes in the river. Yes, sometimes God gives us a formula and tells us to get some help. And sometimes that help is in the form of a learned individual who knows the Bible and is trained in mental health therapy.

So where does a Christian Counselor come in? A Christian Counselor is like any other member of the Body of Christ—a teacher, a minister, or any other role we Christians play. We are all called to “be Christ” in whatever purpose we are given. In fact, none of us, in our singular state, can be all of who Christ is at all times. Being part of “The Body” we are called to be a section of a whole. The Christian Counselor is that part of the Body that asks all those annoy—er, I mean—probing questions. You know, questions like these …

Why are you so afraid? (Matt 8:26)

Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:36-40)

Jesus not only asked a lot of questions of his pupils, He often asked them in response to their own questions. Why did He do this? That question is especially intriguing with the knowledge that He, being God, already knew the answers to them even before He asked. In fact, before Jesus became flesh, God the Father also asked lots of questions, like … (to Adam and Eve, after they ate of the fruit) “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

God asked these questions because He knew it was better to have His creation think deeply on the subject rather than just hear the information.

That is a large part of what a counselor is trained to do—help the client to think deeply on the challenges they face in order to best conceptualize the solution.

So, no, Christian Counseling is NOT an oxymoron. Yes, you can be a Christian and seek mental health counseling. And yes, it CAN be done within a biblical framework. In fact, it is BEST done in exactly that way.

~Connie Almony