A podcast for new atheists, lifetime atheists, ex-evangelicals, truth-seekers, and free-thinkers
Biblical counseling or Christian counseling exists to divert attention away from traditional, effective psychotherapeutic methods. Period.
Christian counseling both perpetuates and creates new problems in the minds and lives of the client. It does this by failing to identify root causes and do ethical work toward solving their problems, and turning to things like a lack of faith, unforgiveness or demonic influence as explanations for why people suffer from mental illness.
Christian counseling is often scripted. Many Christian counselors are so ill-equipped to deal with people's problems, they often defer to video or print-based counseling solutions that put people's “counseling” on auto-pilot and never bring the client to a place where meaningful trust and understanding exist between them and the counselor.
Much of modern Christian counseling follows these kinds of programs and formulas and they simply won't work well under any circumstance. You cannot present counseling in a static form that fails to account for individual people and their mental health issues.
Yes, there are standard therapy frameworks in secular settings too, but most competent secular counselors and therapists understand that they're just that: frameworks upon which you structure a course of therapy for the individual or specific couple. They're not going to base their course of therapy on a self-published book or video course.
Case in point: our “marriage counseling” was 95% watching videos and the pastor was not even in the room. We then had to take a test to verify that we were listening and we were deemed “counseled.”
Not all Christian counseling looks like this, but far too much of it does. That said, even the mental health service equivalent of a driver's ed classroom course is probably less toxic than when they freeform it because when that happens, the damage can be even greater and often is.
Many Christian counselors have no education in a related discipline when they enter into Christian counseling PhD programs.
Much of Christian counseling denies the individuality of people in other more toxic ways. We've done enough content so far on how this applies to women, but it can be far worse for LGBTQ people and those who don't identify as a traditional gender. There are extreme therapy models designed to help these people become “normal” in terms of what the average evangelical considers “savable.” A practicing homosexual can't be a Christian of course, but if we can work the gay out of him, he can be saved!
None of this is surprising coming from a religion that abhors the notion of individuality or independent and free thought.
They decry psychology as anything from ineffective to harmful without providing any valid reason why. “God's way is better than man's” is ALL THEY'VE GOT.
HYPERLINK "https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200505/god-my-shrink"https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200505/god-my-shrink “With God As My Shrink”by Pamela Paul
“Faith-based counselors vary in amount of religious training and psychological expertise. They differ in how much religion they incorporate into their practices and in the populations they serve. Some aim to holistically integrate mind, body and spirit for people of all faiths. Others seek to apply Scripture rather than social science to the resolution of human problems. But all of them, and especially the burgeoning evangelicals, reflect a growing divide in America. According to Harold Koenig, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, "They're turning away from mainstream cultural institutions to create their own therapeutic solutions to the stresses of modern living."
The problems with the way christian counseling is administered are many. Here are just a few broad areas and explanations:
Their handling of alternative lifestyles – They think they can “cure” people of being gay, lesbian or transgender. They strip the person of their own identity on an even more damaging level than expecting people to die to themselves. More on that concept later...
Their handling of personality disorders – The average evangelical church is already a haven for mental illness. When you start blaming every person's defects of character on demons (which is what they do because they have nothing else) it makes it exponentially harder to get that person to take responsibility for their own actions and start doing real work toward getting well.
There is no evidence for the effectiveness of exorcism, but there is plenty of evidence for success with actual tested and observably effective clinical therapies. DBT and other actual psychology-based therapies help people understand themselves and their emotions better and get them more under control. They help people recognize and face the problems that exist, and WORK on developing a heightened degree of mental and emotional clarity. You can't remove every mental illness (if you even can with any). People suffering from mental illness can, however, learn to live with it when presented with the right counsel, medications, and therapies.
Their handling of marital abuse – It's always the victim's fault. That is, if the victim is female. Love him, pray for him, and pray for the strength to endure it. Until he kills you.
Their handling of marital infidelity – Instant and unconditional forgiveness is the only viable option no mater who committed the indiscretion. There is more balance between the sexes with this one when it comes to the concept of forgiveness (whoever cheated needs to be forgiven outright and without condition), but women are typically still blamed WHENEVER an affair happens, regardless of who did the actual cheating.
Their tendency to favor men over women in all domestic issues – the vast majority of christian counselors are men who never bother to learn to see any perspective but the man's in any situation. This is the key reason why most mediation in relationship issues favors the man. The counselor doesn't understand the intricacies of the relationship so they simply decide the man is right and the woman is wrong and counsel otherwise kind, caring men to adopt a more forceful, “manly” (read: misogynistic) persona to bring balance to the force at home.
Their tendency to prescribe prayer, deprogramming, and exorcism as a solution to everything – They truly have nothing else. They KNOW they can't help so they defer to more passive dismissals like “pray about it” to more aggressive smoke screens and theatrics involving deliverance from demonic oppression... because, as we all know, nothing cures being a bratty kid like a little painful physical restraint and screaming in their face about having demons until they disappear into themselves as a means of stopping the abuse.
Their insistence that their advice comes directly from their god – real therapists take responsibility for the treatment they provide. When bad things happen or when good things fail to happen, christian counselors scapegoat the client first and tell them that they are resisting what God wants to do for them. You're still sick because you don't have enough faith or you don't believe in the ability of the counselor to help you. It couldn't possibly be that the idiot calling himself a counselor probably has nowhere near the education or experience (or ability to think in any remotely clinical way) to undertake that person's emotional care.
Their propensity for decrying sound psychotherapeutic methods – Actually becoming well is the WORST thing that can happen to a client of a christian counselor. Sound, secular therapy that makes someone able to think more clearly is like pulling the curtain back on the wizard.
When that happens, several things could result. In a best case scenario, that person sees how full of shit their religion is. They leave the church, continue their therapy, and keep getting well. That almost never happens. What happens much more often is that person is never able to salvage their own identity because too much damage has been done. These people often cling to the “safety” of their religion for the rest of their lives and allow themselves to remain in bondage to shit doctrine and shit counseling because, at that point, it's just plain easier for their brains to think that way.
We've talked about the death of the self life before. That's a voluntary thing (well... sort of – it's actually the application of lots of heavy indoctrination disguised as an exercise of will). This is the cold-blooded MURDER of a person's SELF (a much different thing than a misty spiritual notion) at the hands of an imbecile whose idea of “counseling” is not edifying a person's identity, but rather forcing conformity in every area of life and thought, often from an early age.
And the earlier it starts, the more completely the counselor can extinguish that person's sense of self. This, in my opinion is WORSE in many ways than out and out murder. It's an especially sinister form of wildly aggressive gaslighting. The counselor kills the person on the inside by making them believe that their perception of reality is bonkers and forcing them to live with the damage. Dementors? You tell me what the difference is aside from the obvious fictional magic of the Dementor's Kiss.
They do all of this while taking the client's money, convincing them they're still sick and making them believe that ONLY continuous faith-based counseling can give them back their sense of self. They vilify the client to the person's friends and family in the name of deliverance and intervention, utterly destroy the individual from the inside out. They then blissfully go on with their own deluded existence, never showing any semblance of conscience or remorse because their own kool aid-soaked brains keep telling them that they're doing real good in the world. The power they have over people feels pretty good too, especially when it comes to dominating children or keeping women in their place.
They destroy lives giving advice that's just a step below that of the average tarot parlor fortune teller and spend their entire “professional” lives destroying people from the inside out between leading worship circles and attending Promise Keepers rallies.
“True Christians Can't 'have depression'” - Dr. Jeremy Pierre (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) “Can a true Christian have depression?” HYPERLINK "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N15EFoteNwE"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N15EFoteNwE
Dr. Jeremy Pierre: HYPERLINK "https://www.sbts.edu/academics/faculty/jeremy-p-pierre/"https://www.sbts.edu/academics/faculty/jeremy-p-pierre/
What is Depression: HYPERLINK "https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression"https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
Being told you don't have a mental illness can, and often does exacerbate the symptoms of the illness and make it exponentially more difficult for someone to learn how to manage them.
Dr. Pierre thinks that depression is situational. In the video, he makes a statement that joy and depression don't fight with each-other, then goes on to refer to joy as a more strong and authoritative “addition to depression.” Aren't those terms – strong and authoritative – indicative of conflict? What other circumstance would rely on might and authority?
Depression is a result of humankind's fallen condition
The Christian is taught that they are born broken with the mark of original sin, therefore depression is the natural state of being and the experience of god's joy is a way out.
“Our present sufferings...” Romans 8 - “A permanent world is coming that is greater than your problems (paraphrase).”
“God has a greater world and a greater life that he has promised you”
Translation: “You'll feel better when you're dead.” That's a GREAT thing to tell someone who's depressed... There is no roadmap to a solution IN THE PRESENT. You'll have to wait to die to see a permanent solution to your problems. What a great way to instill hope!
Attacking People's Sexuality:
Some of them get it right! HYPERLINK "https://www.davideclarkephd.com/post/bad-christian-counseling-advice-for-an-affair"https://www.davideclarkephd.com/post/bad-christian-counseling-advice-for-an-affair
“Recovery is not contingent on forgiveness” - Shannon Q
Forgiveness is not a requirement for recovery
Forgiveness is NOT mandatory
Forgiveness is not always healthy
Christian counseling usually approaches forgiveness as a REQUIREMENT in the “healing process”
Forgiveness should be used as a tool in therapy only when it benefits the victim – Shannon Q
Forgiving the unrepentant isn't even biblical
Unforgiveness can be a defense mechanism against trauma bonding and remaining under the control of an abuser
Demonic Influence (“Deliverance Counseling”)
ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
Most harmful to children – neuropathways develop and become permanent as adults; hinders normal brain development, disrupts a person's neurochemistry, can do permanent damage
“Stop taking your meds”
Christian counselors often recommend or even ORDER their clients to cease taking prescription medications. There is no thought given to the issues those medications address. There is no monitoring. There is no plan for how to deal with the consequences of literally throwing away medications and stopping cold turkey. MANY antidepressants and anti-psychotics REQUIRE tapering off slowly. The consequences of someone just going off their meds are then blamed on demons in an alarming number of instances.
Gay Conversion Therapy
The way you are is inherently evil and wrong
You can't “fix” gay
You aren't “broken” if you're gay
The goal of Christian counseling, whether conscious or not, is to keep sick people sick and convince them that they NEED to stay plugged in to their faith, their church, and their counseling schedules if they ever want to feel better and live the abundant life that God wants them to have. Christian counselors have no interest in making sick people well. That's NOT why they do this.
Their motivation is to uphold the tenets of their faith, force conformity to toxic doctrine and dogma, and in far too many cases, stroke their own egos, and line their pockets with money made off of the perpetual misery of others. Successful christian counseling breaks the individual with shame, guilt, debasement, and fear while convincing the person that he or she is somehow getting “fixed.” Meanwhile, their problems – those things in their lives that either are broken or make them feel broken – are never appropriately or seriously addressed.
If Christian counselors did care at all about the individual, they wouldn't keep pounding square pegs into round holes. They would get appropriate degrees starting at the undergraduate level, not using a degree in engineering as the basis for a masters or doctorate in any kind of mental health field before attempting to “counsel” anyone about anything. Those who don't or can't get an appropriate education would ideally not delve into this area of “ministry” in the first place OR they would admit their limitations and refer their clients to counselors and therapists who have real expertise and experience in dealing with specific mental health issues.
And by “real expertise and experience” I mean those who have a degree and a practice in their specialized area of therapy. I mean legitimate, professional counselors who provide personalized, effective mental health services FOR A LIVING and that's all they do. You know, as opposed to doing counseling work when they're not busy writing sermons, photobombing youth group bake sales, and keynoting sectional men's prayer breakfasts.
What Christian counselors do instead is provide awful advice, blame most problems on demonic influence, and do and say whatever they need to keep the individual under their control. They display a total and brazen lack of concern for the wellness of the client either by will or by delusion, and they are often ENCOURAGED to view their “practice” as a business. For most, it's a side gig at best and one they have no business tapping into.
If you are being treated by a Christian counselor right now, I want you to be honest with yourself. Are your problems getting solved? Can you honestly say that you are happier, more confident, and not living with the same trauma you were when you began counseling? Is someone helping you solve your problems or are they telling you to pray and making excuses when things don't get better? Or are they telling you that it's your fault you're in pain? Or are they trying to convince you that you're possessed by demons? Or are they sending you back to be smacked around – verbally, emotionally, or physically – by an abusive partner?
Let me make several things very clear to you:
1. Mental illness is a real thing. It happens in your brain and has many, many, many possible causes, either biological or psychological. It has zero causes that are spiritual.
2. There is no mental illness that can be cured or effectively managed through prayer.
3. Your illness is not your fault. It's either been in your head since day one or got forcibly shoved in there as a result of negative circumstance. And No, I do not mean to encapsulate your experience in those very simple terms. What you're going through is much bigger and needs to be addressed competently.
4. You are NOT possessed, oppressed, bewitched, bothered, or bewildered by demons. Because demons aren't real. You know what's real? Brain chemical imbalances, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. These are the “demons” they're talking about.
And here's a bonus one for parents: If your child is being “treated” by a Christian counselor, biblical counselor, or... and shame on you if this is the one... Deliverance counselor, you need to take them out now. I understand that you love your child and that you believe this person is doing right by them, but what is happening to them is child abuse, pure and simple, and you need to stop facilitating it.
For those who have been damaged by Christian counselors and know it, let me tell you this: the very fact that you know and understand the damage that's been done is proof positive that it can be reversed or at least brought under control to the point where you can live with it. It's OK to be angry. It's ok to be angry with want the counselor or counselors who wronged you meet their comeuppance.
Please do try to remember, though, that all these people drink from the same toxic pool. This is all they know. You now know better, so get some real help if you haven't already.
Try to figure out how to forgive or at least acknowledge in a purely intellectual way what they did to you to the extent that some real therapy will be able to get the job done. You can start by looking at them with just a small degree of pity. You've learned how to think better. They're trapped in that cesspool of thought and are likely to never find their way out. This I personally find to be very, very sad. The fact that they keep passing on those toxins to people they are supposed to be protecting I find rage-inducing so don't worry. Keep an ounce of that righteous anger around to balance the scales. Keep a few pounds if needs be.
And just quickly as we close things out, I'll once again mention the secular therapy project and their website: HYPERLINK "http://seulartherapy.org/"http://seulartherapy.org. This resource is the best one out there for finding competent mental healthcare. At a close second is HYPERLINK "http://PsychologyToday.com/"http://PsychologyToday.com. Either one can help you find good mental health services but for those coming out of evangelical religion, I recommend starting with the secular therapy project.
Finally, insist that anyone with whom you entrust your emotional help both deserves it and is equipped to handle the responsibility of it. If at any time you feel like they aren't, listen to yourself and look for someone else. There are things that shouldn't be happening as part of your therapy and I think we've listed many of them well tonight. From here, it's time to just be honest with yourself and see Christian counseling for the toxic solution that it is, find help that actually helps you and doesn't keep you trapped inside your own head or in a bad relationship, and move in a direction that leads to you, your health, your well-being, and overall happiness being in a healthy, productive place where you are finally getting yourself unbound.