Finding the Right Counsellor When Faith is Important to You
By Josh Kruse, PhD
Finding a counsellor who is a good fit for working with you is very important. Research shows that the relationship between the counsellor and the client is one of the most important factors in having positive outcomes in counselling. An aspect of the relationship needing consideration is whether the counsellor respects your beliefs and is comfortable and capable in working with you in light of your faith.
Psychological counselling and faith can integrate very well and can be an instrument of great healing; however, faith and counselling are often not integrated and many people have felt disappointed, as the counselling did not meet their expectations.
There are varying perspectives on how to integrate faith with counselling. On the one end of the spectrum there is Biblical counselling in which the counsellor or pastor is explicit in discussing scripture, theological themes, relationship with God, spiritual disciplines, and prayer. On the other end of the spectrum is secular counselling in which faith is typically not discussed as it is often viewed as either harmful or in the least unhelpful in the counselling process. There are other views in between such as pastoral counselling, Christian counselling, and faith friendly counselling.
One way of looking at integrating faith and counselling is through the lens of implicit and explicit integration. Implicit integration is where the process of counselling and the person of the counsellor impact the client’s faith without directly talking about faith. For example, a client who was judged and never experienced grace growing up shares their story with the counsellor. In doing so, the counsellor demonstrates appropriate love, care, and grace instead of judgment and punishment. This can open the client up to better understand and experience the love and grace of God. It can help head level concepts of God translate into felt experiential knowledge of God. This can be quite powerful and God wasn’t explicitly discussed.
Explicit integration varies in application, yet it often incorporates aspects of Biblical counselling. Some counsellors will explore the client’s relationship with God, they’ll look at how the client’s current or past circumstances impact their view of God and/or how their worldview shapes their understanding of their circumstances. They may also pray with their clients or quote scripture. This can also be powerful.
Counsellors may lean toward implicit or explicit integration due to a variety of factors including their level of comfort, philosophy around what is helpful, or fear of crossing ethical boundaries.
Therefore, if you are seeking counselling it is important for you to be open and forthright in making your expectations clear. Let your counsellor know in the first session what you are hoping for and ask them whether they are able to provide that. If they are not, then ask them if they can make a referral to someone who can.
At Burnaby Counselling Group all our counsellors respect the faith of the clients who come in and we have counsellors who integrate more implicitly and counsellors who integrate more explicitly.
Josh Kruse, Ph.D., R.Psych #2119