Does it matter if people know if I’m a Christian Counsellor or not?
Does it really make a difference?
Choosing a counsellor can be a difficult choice for anyone. Making that first step to find someone to open up to about the problems in life, often very vulnerable, is a huge step in itself, let alone the actual counselling sessions that may occur after that.
Many Christians looking for a counsellor often say that they are specifically looking for someone who is a Christian.
So what’s the difference? Why should it matter whether I’m a Christian or not in the counselling room?
Well, I think there could be a few aspects to consider if you’re a Christian and looking to become a counsellor. Here are 3 of my thoughts:
1) Having a shared faith can provide a sense of safety for the client, even before the first session has started.
When clients come to counselling they are looking for someone that they can feel safe to open up to. This idea of developing a safe relationship with someone often begins well before the first session even begins (Teyber and McClure, 2011).
According to Neufeld’s six stages of attachment, an early stage of developing safety and attachment with others comes from having a sense of ‘sameness’ with another.
If the Christian faith is significant to someone, then finding a counsellor with that shared sense of faith can already provide a foundation for a sense of safety within the therapeutic relationship. There is a hope that the counsellor that they are talking to will understand their Christian perspective and value in their life.
This sense of safety provides the platform from which the client can begin to open up, trust and allow the therapeutic relationship to have a therapeutic influence on their life.
2) Having the Holy Spirit in the room can be a sense of safety and covering both for the counsellor as well as the client
I sometimes feel like being a Christian counsellor is a bit like cheating.
Let me explain.
I often pray before sessions (and during, with a quick silent ‘help’!). I believe that these prayers can help me to feel like God is present in the room, and allows me to feel a lot calmer, grounded and ready to be present for counselling.
Most counsellors also seem to develop a ‘gut sense’ or ‘hunch’ for what may be going on with a client when words don’t seem to quite hit the mark.
Sometimes I feel like that sense or hunch may be the Holy Spirit gently nudging something. This doesn’t mean I tell clients I feel like God is telling me something. I use these nudges in the same way that I would tread with any hunch I am aware of in the session – tentatively, sensitively and curiously. It’s helpful to have an extra dimension to add to the hunches!
3) “We can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4b)
Being a Christian counsellor does not mean that you have it all together. In fact, if you have trained properly and learned the art of self-reflection you will discover how far from having it all together you are.
And that’s where grace comes in.
It is a wonderful thing to have received and begin to understand the grace and comfort that comes from a compassionate, non-judgemental and ever-present God.
The more that counsellors wrestle with themselves honestly both personally before God and professionally, the more that they are in a position to receive and experience grace, compassion and comfort in their own broken places.
It is from their own deeper, growing, developing and healing space that counsellors are able to be more genuinely present with clients. Becoming more present then allows the counsellor to therapeutically offer more genuine empathy and compassion.
So in summary, there are a few points that I think may provide an added therapeutic benefit from the perspective of being a Christian counsellor. A shared sense of faith may provide more therapeutic safety, being aware of the Holy Spirit in the room may be helpful, and understanding and receiving the grace and comfort of Christ may enable a more genuine therapeutic presence of comfort for clients.