One of the cornerstones of Western psychology is Sigmund Freud, an atheist. He drew a long line of followers, supporters and critics with postmodern worldviews. However, at CBU, the psychology programs “teach from a biblically rooted perspective enabling students to address mental, emotional and spiritual needs in the community,” according to the description of CBU’s master of counseling psychology program.
Dr. Jong Cheon Lee, professor of psychology, shared his knowledge concerning the difference between Christian and secular therapy.
“Modern psychology is defined as the scientific study of human behavior,” Lee said. “The psychology and psychotherapy that arose in the late nineteenth century was built on the tenets of scientific inquiry and a naturalistic worldview that precluded spiritual and biblical dimensions. Secular counseling emphasizes self-actualization and personal happiness.”
In contrast with secular techniques, Lee explained that Christian therapy revolves around a biblical worldview. Christian counseling is defined as counseling that takes place within the ideological context of the Christian worldview.
“Christian counseling requires a Christian psychology, a Christian view of human functioning and the structures that facilitate that function, a Christian view of how to converse with people in order to help and a Christian view of what is helpful and what is not,” Lee said.
He explained that in order to execute this skill, the therapist must have a thorough understanding of the Bible and its teachings regarding human nature.
“While both secular and Christian counseling share some content and seek learning and change, Christian counseling rests on a separate and distinct foundation, with a significantly different purpose,” Lee said. “Christian counseling is built upon the truth of God’s Word and operates under the illumination and direction of the Holy Spirit.”
Christian therapy prioritizes loving God and neighbors as the priority and model in healing.
Hannah Woods, graduate counseling psychology student, said psychotherapy seeks to identify emotional and behavioral issues in a client’s life and work to find the root of that problem.
Woods explained that secular therapy holds the view that the power to change and grow is in the hands of the client. The Christian alternative places this power in the hands of God.
“In Christian psychotherapy, the issues are rooted externally but also internally with an emphasis on including spiritual guidance,” Woods said. “As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, and this can aid in figuring out how to approach our issues and bring about a sense of peace that only one’s faith can provide.”
Woods shared that as a student at CBU, her program teaches her how to approach therapy from a biblical perspective. She claimed one of the main differences is the perspective it is presented from.
“The integration of scripture and a different standard of moral and ethical reasoning is what stands out,” Woods said. “I think that both approaches use the same strategies, techniques, and theories, but the integration of religion can be more outspoken with Christian therapists where it is appropriate.”
Many Christians prefer being under the care of a Christian therapist because the shared values facilitate a safer space and greater trust in their therapist.
“There are alternative forms to therapy such as counseling through a church, non-profit organizations and even from those individuals [who] define themselves as ‘elders,’” Woods said. “This form of counseling can be more beneficial due to costs, prior knowledge of the individuals providing the services, and the convenience of location.”
Jenna Westbrook, graduate counseling psychology student, explained that one of the key differences between the two therapy styles is that Christian therapy focuses on both psychological and spiritual well-being, whereas secular therapy would solely focuses on psychological health.
“One could say a Christian therapist is more holistic because they look at all aspects of a person: social, psychological, biological and spiritual,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook shared that emotional regulation techniques may differ between Christian and secular therapy.
“For example, if a client came in with anxiety, both types of therapists may utilize cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. However, the Christian therapist may also encourage the client to pray, meditate [and] reflect on scripture,” Westbrook said.