Christian counseling should be, above everything else, Christian. That seems so obvious, but it is often not the case.
Dr. Siang-Yang Tan, professor of psychology at the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary recently wrote, "Whatever form or shape Christian counseling, and the integration of Christian faith and psychotherapy, may take in the future, it needs to be Christ-centered, biblically-based, and Spirit filled to the glory of God for the healing of many hurting people."
Today, there are over 400 different counseling theories. Tan has given a preview of the 10 major theories in Christian Counseling Today. His conclusion as a Christian counselor points to 13 principles of effective counseling from a "biblical, integrated perspective."
In summary he emphasizes that Christian counselors must depend on the Holy Spirit and know that the Bible is the basic and comprehensive guide for counseling. The goal in counseling is to help a person grow in Christ and enable them to fulfill the Great Commission. This requires a counselor to maintain a strong prayer life. A client's attitude for help is important, but the attitude must be coupled with the spiritual qualities of the counselor.
Effective counseling focuses on creating the kind of thinking that produces good change. Dr. Tan believes counseling should be flexible but that the techniques and strategies should be consistent with Scripture.
In today's world, cross-cultural understanding is required. A caring community for the counselee is significant in their growing process. Knowing our limitations as a counselor is important. It is essential that a good Christian counselor have a referral base from which he can connect clients that he or she may not be able to help effectively.
With over 400 different counseling theories out there, Christian counselors will, no doubt, study many approaches that may contradict each other. While we can learn from this pool of diversity, we must stay rooted in God's Word, guided by God's Spirit, and seeking God's glory in every counseling opportunity we face.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He serves as the pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.
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