A Christian psychologist is typically differentiated from a Christian counselor. Both may counsel people with troubles in their lives or with mental illness, but the Christian psychologist is usually a licensed psychologist who has completed doctoral level work in psychology, obtaining a Psy.D or PhD degree. These professionals have furthermore completed all requirements to obtain licensing to practice in their home state or country. What makes this person a “Christian” oriented therapist is that they have strong Christian beliefs which can in whole or in part inform the work that they do, which could include individual therapy, school counseling, counseling ministers, counseling members of a particular church or teaching.
The Christian psychologist is not necessarily limited to treating only Christians, and could treat anyone because of his or her training. However issues could arise if a client feels that a counselor's viewpoints are imposing or contradictory to personal beliefs, which is not the task of a psychologist. The designation of “Christian” most often helps people pick their psychologists, determining whether they want any form of faith based discussion in the context of therapy, and whether that faith should be Christian. Those people who don’t have strong religious beliefs or who practice another faith wouldn’t choose a Christian psychologist.
On the other hand, the advertisement of faith of this counselor attracts as many people as it may turn away. This gives Christian psychologists may different things to do. Some work in private offices where they might perform individual, group, or family therapy with people who share a similar faith. These counselors could also run groups to deal with anxiety, depression or loss from a Christian and psychosocial perspective. There are many churches that now ask couples to have premarital counseling, and an approved Christian psychologist that works in a private setting could perform this.
A psychologist could be employed by a church to provide counseling, either free or low-cost to church members, and may still perform many of the activities listed above. Some of these psychologists might be counselors to members of a religious order. They don’t always deem themselves Christian psychologists and could be priests, nuns, or ministers who have a psychology degree. Part of their ministry could be to help those they work and live with.
There may be jobs available for Christian psychologists as school counselors or psychologists. Christian schools may require just as much mental health support for students. Alternately schools may need learning specialists who can diagnose learning disabilities, perform educational tests, and suggest ways to manage learning disabilities at home and at school.
Christian psychologists can teach too, usually either psychology classes in Christian high schools or in Christian colleges. In colleges that are Christian in orientation, these psychologists could be most useful. They can speak to how to blend psychology and faith based counseling and help students study all needed aspects of psychology while commenting on how this applies to sharing faith with clients.
One uncomfortable aspect of this title is that it is extremely broad. There are huge differences in spiritual beliefs between various sects of Christianity. Especially in private therapy settings, the Christian psychologist may need to be a little more open about the type of Christianity because too large a rift between spiritual beliefs in client and counselor can create problems. In general, though, shared faith may be seen as advantageous in many respects.