Faith Based Christian Counseling; Are You Qualified?

Depending on whom you ask, you will get different answers on what actually qualifies one to become a counselor. Those persons who have taken the time made the effort, and paid the financial costs to go to college will argue that the steps they took are the correct and only steps to qualify. I cannot and will not argue for or against their point, but I will say that I respect their choice to go to college and earn their degrees. I attended college, I got my degree, but I believe that there is also another workable option.

The other option is Faith Based Christian Counseling. While the “requirements” for qualification vary depending on the “certifying” or “licensing” procedures or processes of the specific organization or institute, all agree that there must be clear standards for all counselors and therapists. The reason they agree is that they want the service treated seriously. Just because its “Faith-Based,” or “Christian” counseling or therapy, it (they postulate) should no less still have standards and qualification requirements that will lend credibility to the religious profession. Just because it is ministry of believers in God, does not meant there should be nothing that can show that it is any less effective and beneficial to the client.

If you Google the words “Faith-Based Counseling” or “Christian Counseling” or anything similar, you will get hundreds, if not thousands, of hits. From the largest organizations, like the American Association of Christian Counselors, to smaller ministries, like New Life Christian Counseling Ministry, all these organizations and ministries have their own versions of a “Code of Ethics.” The Code of Ethics of New Life (the group I happen to be the pastor, and lead counselor of) is included as an addendum at the end of this book.

The Code of Ethics for Faith-Based Counselors are for the most part similar. The Codes vary depending on points of view of the specific people who are responsible for their creation within the different organizations and ministries. Nevertheless, the intent of all these groups is to establish a healthy and safe pattern for the client in receiving the counseling services.

The downside of any “Codes of Ethics,” regulations, rules, procedures, or such of Faith-Based counseling institutions, is that there is no real way to enforce these requirements, other than just to “revoke the certified status of the counselor/therapist.” This means is that the offending person is no longer “qualified” by one group, and all he or she has to do is find another similar group and get “qualified” again. There is no national, statewide, county, or citywide method for Faith-Based counseling ministries to “police” their members, much less the members of other such groups. The scary thing is that like getting ordained as a minister, there are places on the internet where they will “certify” or “license” you for a small fee. All you have to do is take some generally simple test or fill out some glorified application, pay the fee (especially, pay the fee) and there you are, Mr. or Mrs. Counselor or Therapist.

As with the example of the internet certified counselor, most Faith-based and Christian counseling organizations or ministries do not require the counselor to meet any yearly or annual stipulations to remain “active” as being certified or licensed. In most cases, they have so many members that “policing” them to see if they have met these requirements is so involved and cumbersome, that the organizations or ministries just “take it on faith” that the counselor will comply.

Few of these groups “solve” the problem by requiring their counselors to pay yearly or annual fees to remain “qualified.” Of course, all that this proves is that the counselor is willing to part with fees from $80 to $150 per year to make the claim to being certified or state-licensed. Still, in most of these cases, the organizations and ministries have no real way of overseeing the behavior of the counselor, much less to actually imposed corrections and penalties of any real substance on violators.

State licensed counselors and therapists argue that this is the problem with Faith-Based Counseling. The state, they argue, at least is able to impose legal action against persons who violate federal, state, and local laws, as well as particular legal requirements imposed on the state-licensed counselors to seek licensing in the first place.

A second point is the training and experience of the counselor. State licensed counselors will have to take years of college, and years more of volunteer or paid work at some state recognized the place of employment where they are able to apply what they have learned in college in regards to being counselors.

Faith-Based counseling, as I have already insinuated with my prior comments above, does not have some procedure that all such counselors must follow. The various organizations and ministries have their own processes that they follow when it comes to training. For the most part, these groups do not train the counselors, they mostly just “certify” or “license” them. Few, such as New Life Christian Counseling Ministry, actually provide training before they will certify a person. It is this lack of training that really “chaps the hide” of the state-licensed counselors. They argue that there can be no comparison between the beneficial and effective service that a state-trained counselor (who has followed a program involving years of their life), can offer, as compared to a Faith Based counselor who for the most part just filled out a questionnaire. If this was true of all Faith-Based counselors, I would have to agree with the state-licensed individuals, but it is not true in all cases.

What About You?

You can be become an effective, beneficial, and healthy counselor without spending years of college time. On the other hand, you will never become that kind of counselor without the years of training, and experience that it will take to get you there. The one thing you need to be effective Christian counselor is to have a passion for counseling. You need to have or develop a heart for those who are in need. You need to spend some time with God asking Him what He wants from you in this area.

You are probably someone with whom people are always looking to share their problems. People probably see you as someone who will listen to them without judging. People probably know that you will really listen to them. You probably already have a calling on your life for counseling. The fact that you are reading this book proves your interest and concern. The question here is this: Are you in tune with God, and are you ready to pay the price?

Isaiah 61:1 2 (NASB95) says the following, “1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn.”

Therapon founder Dr. Carlin got it right when he stated, “People do what they do because they believe what they believe.” Following the Therapon model as a base, New Life Christian Counseling Ministry (NCCM) has continued to build on that truth.

A person’s motivation for wanting to counsel is as important as the counseling itself. In addition, in some cases, it may well be more important.

The Isaiah verse above helps us to place our priorities in order and to understand what our motives should be as we undertake such a wonderful, but at times draining, ministry. We need to understand God’s heart for the counseling ministry. What He wants to accomplish. Why He wants to accomplish that. In addition, most of all, how we can develop the same desire within our own heart and spirit. Using the verse as a pattern, I will explore with you the mechanics behind God’s desire for the healing of His people.

The Pattern

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me”

God chooses the counselor. In choosing the counselor, He also empowers that person by placing His Spirit upon them. God knows that without His help we would not be able to succeed in this greatly needed ministry. He knows that if we try to succeed on our own, that we will run into so much resistance that we may likely fail more often. God is aware of the many things that can come against the new, as well as the seasoned, counselor.

He lets us know that He is aware by His encouraging Word:

Galatians 6:9   Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

2nd Thessalonians 3:13   But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

The Lord wants us to know that it is by His Spirit that we do what we do, and not completely dependent on our own strength and convictions.

Zechariah 4:6   Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.

“Because the LORD has anointed me “

Mashach (maw shakh’): to rub with oil, i.e. to anoint; by implication to consecrate. Consecrate: verb  1   make or declare sacred.  2   ordain to a sacred office, typically that of bishop. Those that God chooses for His ministry of counseling, He also consecrates (sets apart; sanctifies; holds special; prepares specially for a specific purpose). The act of rubbing with oil was to prepare a leather item for permanent use. By “rubbing” the counselor with His “oil” (empowerment by the Holy Spirit), God prepares the counselor for the work ahead.

Therefore, “anointed” means that God has chosen someone for ministry, and has prepared and capacitated them for the needed work.

“To bring good news to the afflicted”

The pattern set before the counselor requires the bringing of the “good news” to the afflicted. By implication, the afflicted are those that are hurting, but mostly because they have not received the good news. Scripture tells us that we “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

What is the good news?

• That “People do the things they do because they believe the things they believe.”

• That they do not have to continue bound to that affliction.

• That there is freedom from the pain and grief they are suffering.

• And so on.

We can best understand the reason for the affliction since they need to have the “good news” (the gospel) brought to them. They suffer from corrupted, distorted, and misdirected thinking. They need to know the truth so that they may then choose the right actions.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted”

Chabash (Khaw bash’): to wrap firmly (especially a turban, compress, or saddle. A turban (hat made of cloth that is wrapped around the head); a compress (a medical item used to put pressure on a cut to stop the bleeding); and a saddle, all have one thing in common = if they need to be utilized tightly enough to be functional. The brokenhearted are those that have suffered a loss in their life (death, divorce, relationships, and many others).

Therefore, to “bind up” the brokenhearted, the counselor must be ready to offer hurting people that which will tightly hold together their “broken” hearts.

Matthew 11:28 (KJV) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Counselors “bind up” the brokenhearted by being that tool by which God tightly wraps them to Himself so that they may be healed.

“To proclaim liberty to captives“

Proclaiming is a verbal action. By implication, teaching, preaching, stating, speaking forth, telling, counseling. Liberty is freedom. Freedom from the lies and deceits of the enemy. Captives are those who believe the lies. Captive to their deceptive thoughts and beliefs. Captives need to be “told” about freedom because they may be so under self-deception that they actually believe that they are free already. Many persons suffer from a self-deception that leads them to become abusive and controlling of others, or become obsessed with addictive behavior and often easily abused substances (such as drugs and alcohol). The counselor’s job is to help these people come to a real view of their lives, and lead them in the way of freedom through the Word of God.

“And freedom to prisoners”

Prisoners are people trapped in lives of suffering due to the actions of others. Wives and children are often the victims of physically abusive men. Sometimes, either or both of their parents victimize their children. Those they should be able to trust impose sexual abuse and molestation on their children, and, the list goes on.

Counselors can help these people come to an understanding that (as hard as it may seem), they can do something about the suffering they are undergoing.

“To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD”

There are those people who have given up on life.

1. They feel there is no hope.

2. They want to give up on life.

3. They feel that the best way out is either by suffering a nervous breakdown, giving in to depression, or suicide.

“The favorable year of the Lord” signifies that there really is hope. By coming to an understanding of what God can do with their lives, many of these people can be brought back to life.”  People learn that God can use them in a successfully effective ministry of reaching out to others who hurt. People learn that God considers them of great value. People learn that God has answers for their questions, and plans for their lives, that will prove their worth to Him.

“And the day of vengeance of our God”

For those people who suffer from the unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, and hurt due to the actions of others, God wants them to know that their suffering was not in vain, or forgotten. God has every intention of dealing with the abuser, the murderer, the person who consciously choose to inflict pain and suffering on others. The counselor’s job is to help that person “cast” his/her cares upon God so that He will be the one getting the vengeance, since He can do that better that any person can.

“To comfort all who mourn.”

There are times when the suffering and pain of a person seems without end, or alleviation. It is to the people who are suffering this that God offers this comfort. It may be the mourning of a loss through death or divorce. It may be the mourning of rejection or loneliness. It may be the mourning of illness. In all these cases, God wants to comfort them. The counselor’s job is to be God’s eyes, mouth and hands in providing this much need comfort to those who mourn.

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