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Christian counseling is counseling or psychotherapy grounded in the Christian faith. It can describe a variety of counseling modalities and practices, and may be offered by individuals with varying types of education and credentials. Some people choose Christian counseling over other types of counseling and mental health treatment because they are more comfortable with managing mental health issues or personal problems in a religious context.
In some cases, licensed counselors, clinical social workers, and psychologists or psychiatrists who are of the Christian faith may offer religiously oriented mental health services and thus may advertise their services as Christian counseling in order to attract clients who would be interested in the blending of spirituality with mental health treatment. While these professionals may meet professional licensing standards in their area, they may or may not have specific training in theology or spiritually oriented counseling. Some may simply integrate their religious beliefs into their professional practice, while others may seek additional training and certification from Christian schools or professional counseling associations.
Not all Christian counseling is offered by licensed mental health professionals. In many places, it is legal for ministers and others to offer counseling services provided that they do not mislead anyone into believing that they hold licensing or mental health credentials. Those who offer this sort of counseling may describe what they do as pastoral counseling or Biblical counseling, and their approach may be very different than the psychotherapy offered by psychotherapists. Their work with clients may involve a combination of prayer, reading, and application of Bible passages, as well as talking about those issues that are troubling to the client. This type of Christian counseling may be more acceptable to clients who are uncomfortable with the philosophical underpinnings of secular psychology but who still wish to seek outside help with their life struggles.
Christian counseling training can be obtained through several types of schools. Many Christian liberal arts colleges and universities offer counseling and psychology degrees, and many theological seminaries offer graduate degrees in counseling as well. In addition, many Bible colleges and institutes offer counseling training, and there are stand-alone programs that offer various types of credentialing for those who wish to offer counseling either as clergy or as laypeople. Both clergy and mental health professionals also have access to continuing education courses offering additional training in counseling practices or theology that can assist them in developing their Christian counseling practices.