To answer this question, let’s consider the experience of a non-Christian client and then discuss the differences for Christian clients. Receiving treatment from a Christian counselor is different for every client because each is different and faces different challenges.
I learn about a non-Christian client’s worldview or religion as one aspect of a full assessment. All my clients need effective treatment, whether or not they identify with a religion or have any spiritual beliefs. Moreover, my calling is to help my clients, whatever their beliefs. So, the first step for me is to listen and learn.
Not identifying with a religion doesn’t mean a client has no spirituality. All humans are spiritual to varying degrees, religious or not. It is an integral part of the human psyche. Therefore, my role as a therapist is to help my clients to clarify their beliefs for themselves and me. Understanding my client’s schema helps me to offer them direction and helps them clarify their values. Values are an integral part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
ACT is an action-oriented, cognitive-behavioral approach to treatment. The developers of the ACT approach, Steven Hayes et al., learned that psychic suffering typically results from experiential avoidance and fusion with our thoughts, which causes psychological rigidity. They found six methods that increase psychological flexibility: 1) acceptance, 2) defusion, 3) present moment awareness, 4) the observing self, 5) values, and 6) commitment to action.
Some 40 years later, there are now over 1,000 randomized controlled trials that demonstrate the efficacy of ACT. ACT has effectively treated Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Eating Disorders, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Chronic Pain, poor anger management, Substance Use Disorders, psychosis, and workplace stress.
As a Christian counselor, my primary goal for my Christian clients, in addition to correcting the immediate problem that brought them into treatment, is that they grow in love for God and others by faith. I practice Christian counseling by faith, and I encourage my clients to get well by faith. You have the Holy Spirit and are capable of walking in the Spirit. You will improve if you ask God and trust him for it.
Gary DeVine has provided integrative (R/S) behavioral health treatment for individual adults for about 20 years and has been a Licensed Professional Counselor for 14 years. He is licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and credentialed by multiple insurance companies and EAP’s1.
- Gary is credentialed by the following insurance companies: Aetna, Allied Benefits, Cigna, Quest Behavioral Health, United Behavioral Health (Optum or United Healthcare). He is also credentialed with the following Employee Assistant Programs: Aetna, Cigna & Optum.