The Bible refers to a counselor or counsel 119 times and presents Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor. Counseling, especially for the Christian, is all about a hopeful journey to change. A Christian counselor approaches each counseling session from a Biblical, faith-based understanding of life. The issues a client might present run the range of career, finances, spirituality, addiction to substances, marriage, single adulthood, and severe mental health issues like anxiety and depression, to name just a few. A counselor works with a variety of problems, but she usually has at least one area she is especially passionate about and has expertise to provide help.
Counseling can be just part of one’s job description, for example as a church pastor. Or the practitioner can work in a full-time capacity. And there are dozens of places a counselor can work. Here are some examples: individual private practice, church, general hospital, mental health clinic or hospital, county school system, college, military, para-church organization, and in a group practice.
A Biblical or pastoral counselor will primarily make use of the Scriptures and prayer in their sessions, emphasizing spiritual life. On the other hand, a Christian clinical counselor will also use the Bible and spiritually oriented means, but in addition will incorporate evidence-based practices from the field of psychology and the mental health field which would not compromise the Christian faith and truth of God’s word. Examples of such approaches are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Brief Solution-Focused Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy, and Client-Centered Therapy.
Having a client is a sacred trust; it is a holy thing to have someone share the deepest parts of their life. This necessitates that the counselor offers their services from a heart of humility, compassion, honor and respect for every client, no matter what the issue is or how the client acts. The responsibility of a counselor is not to change the client, or simply give the client answers. The Christian counselor simply takes the initiative to give excellent and appropriate counsel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaves the results to God. The effective counselor must provide a comfortable and therapeutic environment, work to establish a trusting relationship with the client, listen well, be discerning, ask good questions, and provide sound advice and assignments. Although, for counseling to be transformative, the client’s responsibility is to be fully engaged in the process by attending the scheduled sessions, being willing to disclose their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and follow through with recommendations given by the counselor.
The Christian counselor will strengthen his “A-game” by practicing self-care in all areas of life, keeping good balance in his personal life, and leaving the counseling sessions at the office when he goes home.
To prepare for purely Biblical counseling, continue to maintain the daily practice of personal Bible reading and study. After all, “you cannot impart what you do not possess”. Additionally, it would be to your advantage to obtain certification in Biblical counseling or get seminary training for Biblical counseling or a related degree.
To prepare for the practice of licensed or clinical counseling, the usual route is to get an undergraduate degree and Master of Counseling degree from a college or university, do the associated practicum and internship hours, followed by taking the national exam for licensing, and completing the supervisory and clinical hours required by your state.
As you get into the counseling profession, you will most likely discover a skill set that you enjoy and applies to a particular specialty, like marital counseling or anxiety. To become more adept in that area you can get more training or certification. Your ability to offer a specialty area will make you more marketable, thus giving you more opportunities to help people who are struggling in that area.
If you are a licensed professional counselor, you will be required to complete a certain number of continuing education hours every two years to maintain your license.
The need for effective counseling, especially the kind that is faith-based and clinical, will always exist. Every sector of society is occupied by people who struggle with acute or chronic mental health issues that can manifest at home, at work, in relationships and other parts of life.
Where you end up using your counseling skills will depend mostly upon your awareness of job opportunities and submitting applications for employment. And of course, building your own practice is always an option.
Education, training, and skills in counseling can also be applied in other professions such as social work, life coaching, teaching, school counseling, sports coaching, chaplaincy, nursing, genetic counseling, forensic psychology, missions, and church staff positions.