The reasons for seeking Christian marriage counseling are similar to the reasons for seeking any type of marriage counseling, yet “Christian” means something more.
For those struggling with relationship issues and searching for help, and wanting that help within the context of Christian values and teachings, this type of counseling often provides the type of guidance that leads to proper healing.
Most couples seek marriage counseling for the following reasons:
- Financial stress and disagreements
- Conflicts with in-laws
- Boredom in the relationship
- Stress from busy schedules
- Parenting challenges
In all of these cases, the work of a marriage counselor or therapist is to help couples work through these issues, usually employing some form of behavioral therapeutic approach. The Christian counselor takes this therapeutic approach one step further, incorporating Christian thought and philosophy into the therapy sessions.
Therefore, one other issue drives many couples to specifically seek out Christian counseling is loss of Christian values and/or God in the marriage
Who is a Christian Counselor?
Not all individuals who call themselves Christian counselors or therapists are actually Christian counselors. Licensed counselors can call themselves Christians, stating that they draw on their background in Christian values to treat individuals, but they may not have taken the additional coursework that colleges and universities require to professionally practice as Christian Counselors or Christian Marriage Counselors.
For Those Committed to Faith
Sometimes finding a marriage counselor that both partners agree on is difficult, but if they belong to a certain Christian denomination, and share common beliefs, the Christian marriage counselor provides a more comfortable option, and many who wouldn’t normally consider counseling accept the help of someone from their faith – especially those who are devout and committed to living a Christian lifestyle.
However, the Christian counseling that a couple receives depends largely on the particular denomination of both the counselor and the couple. According to the magazine Christianity Today, there are over 38,000 different Christian denominations worldwide.
Because most Christian counselors partner with one of those Christian denominations, that particular faith and its tenets also play a significant role in the counseling. For example, the counseling a couple receives from a Catholic Christian counselor will most likely differ from what a couple receives from a Protestant counselor, such as a Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopalian counselor.
However, the overall goal of all Christian counseling is to follow the beliefs and practices as set forth in the Bible. In some Christian counseling sessions, the Bible might be read or referenced, and prayer might also be a part of the counseling. And in almost all Christian counseling sessions, the counselor or therapist explains how to integrate Christian truths and values, as practiced by that counselor and his or her supporting denomination, into the marital relationship.
Where do Christian Marriage Counselors Work?
Similar to other licensed counselors and therapists, many Christian marriage counselors work in private practice. Others work for individual churches, and still others work for a jurisdiction of churches or a number of churches within one denomination.
How to Become a Christian Marriage Counselor
Christian marriage counselors are licensed mental health counselors, licensed counseling professionals, and marriage and family therapists who have completed additional coursework in the Christian religion and Christian counseling. Some colleges and universities offer a master’s degree in Christian Counseling – these programs typically combine the requirements for a specific counseling degree and the additional coursework focused on Christian counseling.
If you already have a degree in theology, ministry, divinity or a related field, graduate-level programs in Christian counseling prepare you to apply for licensure. Some schools also offer Christian counselor certificates.
If you are interested in combining faith and religion with a marriage counseling career, request information from schools offering degrees in Christian counseling or explore schools offering a variety of counseling degree programs.
The Difference Between Pastoral and Christian Counseling
If a couple is struggling with marital issues and wants to seek counseling from a professional affiliated with their religion, they often have a choice between a “Christian” counselor and a “pastoral” counselor. Confusion can result between these two professions since providers can offer many of the same therapeutic practices and interventions.
Pastoral counselors differ, however, in the amount of religious education they achieve. And while Christian counselors don’t necessarily need an endorsement by their denomination to conduct counseling or therapy, pastoral counselors must be endorsed by their respective church bodies before becoming certified pastoral counselors.
"As a result of this extensive study, pastoral counselors are among the most educated of mental health professionals," notes Roy Woodruff, Ph.D., on the website for the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC). "Pastoral counselors also possess a depth of training that is significantly more intense than that of many other mental health professionals of the core disciplines," said Woodruff, also a past president of AAPC.
Besides a master’s or PhD in counseling or another mental health field including licensing, those in pastoral counseling are required to have a three-year professional degree from a seminary.