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Unread December 13th, 2005, 03:49 PM
William Reid William Reid is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 105
Talking Re: What exactly is Christian Counseling

Glory Be! A post at last! C'mon in. Have a cup of coffee. May I get you a nosh? a cruller?

If you don't know what a nosh or a cruller is, then (1) you're not Jewish and (2) you're a lot younger than I.

I hope we'll get some replies to your post, since it has a lot of relevance to ethics and standard-of-care issues. Speaking for myself, I'm not sure there's an "official" definition for "Christian counseling." While we're waiting for what should be a veritable onslaught of comments and insight, here are a few related thoughts:

I certainly would expect (albeit often vainly, I'm afraid) any professional counselor to first be competent and ethical. After that, there are lots of legitimate directions in which to go. Sounds as if you think the folks you encountered lacked sufficient competence. I don't like that whether it's Christian or something else.

I see a lot of need for counselors who share some life experience with their patients/clients. That doesn't mean that drug abusers should always see recovering addicts, and certainly not that people with bipolar disorder (or something comparable) should rely on counselors who've had a major depressive or manic episode. I do see, in both clinical work and forensic consultations, patients and potential patients of strong faith who have a lot of trouble connecting when their therapists either have none or downplay the importance of faith in the patient's life and problems. Sometimes there's little choice, for example when assigned to someone in a government agency or HMO. In most cases, I'd rather refer such a person to a believer in a different religion than to someone who doesn't have a religious connection at all (or who may have an ax to grind with religion). The traditional tolerance of Jewish therapists, including rabbis, comes to mind.

I have a lot of problem, as you apparently have also, with people who attempt to proselytize or convert others under the guise of therapy. They can do a lot of damage, especially to fairly ill patients. At the least, the patient/client doesn't get what he/she came for (and is probably paying for). That could reach the level of fraud or malpractice, and if given under the auspices of a professional license could be outside the professional practice rules for that state. Saying something like "the people who come to me know I'm a (Christian) counselor" doesn't exempt a therapist from the legal and ethical duty to be competent, not misrepresent what he/she's doing, and practice within the standard of care.

That begs a question about pastoral counselors, priests who advise parishioners, etc. I don't know the legal and ethical expectation when such a person isn't separately licensed as a mental health professional. I do believe that a clergyperson with a professional license would be required to meet the relevant standard of care in all counseling settings, and would not be able to switch back and forth between the professional and the religious at will during a session (but maybe not: I'm neither a lawyer nor a cleric). In Texas, at least, pastoral counselors are held to the same patient/client abuse laws as any other counselor.
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