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By Charles Washington

“A common view held by many in modern church leadership positions is that pastors and psychologists are professionals who serve in different realms and that those individuals who suffer from severe emotional issues should always be referred to “professionally qualified” (Licensed) therapists/counselors.” I believe, this view was true up until the mid 1980’s possibly. Up until that time, many individuals felt that a Pastors role was primarily to preach the gospel and win souls to Jesus. Counseling individuals with mental health issues, was certainly not the job of the Pastor. They felt that any mental health issues, occurring in the congregation, should be left to psychologists and psychiatrists to solve, because they were professionally qualified, licensed therapists/counselors.

However, I believe this view has changed today. Individuals with severe emotional issues, can choose to undergo counseling with a secular state licensed counselor or Christian counselor who is certified by the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA). Due to the growth in the Christian counseling field since the 80’s till today, many Christian counselors are now certified counselors. In 1981, Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno established the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA) as a non-profit corporation in order to conduct research and develop a therapeutic procedure based on Scripture, for the Christian counseling professional. This Christian organization developed a certification process, which is comprised from biblical moral standards of conduct.

Dr. Maureen E. Young, PhD. Director of the Pastoral Counseling Center, Bradenton, Florida, stated, “The primary differences between state-licensed professional counselors and Christian counselors, who are credentialed by the NCCA and under the authority of the Church (Body of Christ), are clear and well defined.

Counselors who have been licensed by the state are held to strict ethical standards that mandate an individual’s right to be free from religious influence. The state licensed professional counselor is forbidden to pray, read or refer to the Holy Scriptures, counsel against things such as homosexuality, abortion, etc. Initiating such counsel would be considered unethical by the state. In most states in the U.S., state licensed counselors “must not promote their personal religious beliefs” according to the code of ethics in each respective state. The only time a state licensed counselor can involve religious (Christian) principles, morals, activities, instruction, etc., is if the counselee initiates or requests counsel in this area. The state-licensed counselor may not have the education, experience and knowledge of Scripture that the NCCA counselor provides.

Opposite from that, Christian and Pastoral counselors are required to pray, share their faith, read the Holy Scriptures, etc. The fact that Pastoral and Christian counselors do these things creates a clear distinction. We are two distinct professions and govern ourselves accordingly. As you can readily see, the state governs secular counselors and the Church is responsible to set standards and govern those who have devoted their lives to the ministry and to Pastoral counseling.

In conclusion, if church leadership still maintains that those individuals who suffer from severe emotional issues should always be referred to “professionally qualified” (Licensed) therapists/counselors, I would tell them a new day has dawned on their previously held beliefs. They will be pleased to know that the counselor who provides the most professionally qualified, holistic, balanced and effective counseling, with the greatest results, is not the secular counselor, who down plays God but the Christian counselor who, uplifts God, as being the answer to every problem in life. The Christian counselor of today, is also a “professionally qualified” (Certified therapists/counselor)”.

The reason the Christian counselor is the most effective counselor is because he represents and uplifts, God our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, our Creator and Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, who provides supernatural power, to solve every persons situation. We understand this through the promises we read in the following scriptures:

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? …

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who able exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

For more on Christian counseling, check out Trinity’s Christian counseling degrees at the following link:

Doctor of Ministry in Christian Counseling

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