What is the Difference Between Christian Counseling and Speaking to Your Pastor?
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When it comes to expressing your emotions, it may be difficult to determine who to turn to. Typically this would be a spouse if you have one. However, what if the emotions stem from your marriage? If the issues are materializing because of your marriage it can be even more difficult to figure out who to talk to.
Many people in this situation turn to their family, friends, or pastors. The main problem with talking about your marriage to your side of the family and your friends is that they will have a tendency to be biased towards your side of things. It can actually exacerbate the situation. Talking to your pastor on the other hand provides you with a little more unbiased discussion.
However, even though your pastor will potentially provide an unbiased medium of discussion, he or she may not be the best option. When discussing marital issues, it is best to seek Christian counseling. If you are a little confused about the difference, that’s okay. Is there really a difference between talking with your pastor or talking with a Christian counselor?
3 Differences Between Christian Counseling and Speaking to Your Pastor
One of the main differences between Christian counseling and speaking with your pastor is that Christian counselors are usually licensed. Your pastor has been through rigorous teachings and development to get where he or she is today. They have studied the Bible and countless other things. However, they may not have studied relationship counseling; at least not to the point that a Christian counselor has.
So while your pastor could be a great resource for you in terms of expressing your emotions, he or she may not be equipped professionally to walk you and your spouse through your issues. Many Christian counselors have degrees or certifications in psychology as well.
A Christian counselor will also have a gameplan in place to help you and your spouse work out your marital issues. Instead of simply talking, you will be addressing issues and working through them in a safe environment.
Experience with These Specific Issues
Talking with your pastor can only get you so far. It is a great first step if you feel that you are having marital issues. Your pastor may even have great insight to share with you. However, if your marriage feels like it is collapsing around you, it is a good idea to bring your problems to an expert.
Christian counselors are trained specifically to deal with marital issues. They use a combination of faith-based healing and psychology practices to help you and your spouse fix the underlying problems in your marriage.
While every marriage is different, the chances are that a Christian counselor has seen problems similar to yours. Be it money, communication, infidelity, or something else; Christian marriage counselors have experience helping couples through it. A pastor can be an open ear and active listener, but he or she may not have had experience working with a couple to fix an issue.
Counseling Usually Occurs Together
Another difference between speaking with your pastor and Christian counseling is that speaking with your pastor can occur alone. While some couples may seek help from their pastor together, often times the remediation starts with one side. Unfortunately, this one-sided discussion could result in bias. Biases can really harm the recovering process of a marriage.
Christian counseling, on the other hand, will typically occur together. Both parties are involved in the process because it involves open communication. The counselor acts as an unbiased guide, as the couple works together to fix issues. The fact that this communication occurs together is a huge factor in the success of marriage counseling. It is virtually impossible to fix a marriage if only one party is communicating issues to a pastor or a professional. Both spouses have to be open and willing to work on repairing the issues that plague their marriage and a professional Christian counselor is their to provide guidance, support, and a safe environment free from judgement.
In summary, speaking with your pastor is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to marital issues. However, there are some major differences between Christian counseling and speaking with your pastor. These differences come in the form of licensing, specific experience, all parties involved, and an unbiased viewpoint.
This was a guest post written by an anonymous guest poster…
Keep in mind, many seminaries now offer majors and minors in Christian counseling to those who are going on to become pastors. My husband is a pastor who also majored in Biblical counseling. And most pastors that I know ask that both spouses be at the session to keep bias from occurring. However, not even counselors can “require” both spouses to show up and be committed. It can still be beneficial to seek out a pastor or counselor, even IF your spouse isn’t willing to go. You can always start to work on your own personal/spiritual walk (who doesn’t need that), and your growth may spark a desire to change in your spouse.
Oh thank you thank you thank you for this. Pastors, while meaning well, can actually make marital problems a lot worse. Pastors rarely have the training or experience necessary to bring a couple through actual relational difficulties, and are much better suited to spiritually and morally support the couple in conjunction with the counselor. Great post!
Kathryn, thanks for your information on the difference between meeting with a christian counselor and a pastor. It seems like licensing would be one of the most important differences. I would think that a licensed therapist is trained to interact with people while a pastor might not be. I think that it would be great for someone who is seeking professional help to be able to see a licensed counselor who is also of the same faith.
That is such a great point and exactly what I personally do! So glad this was helpful and thanks for commenting.
Thanks for replying! And thanks for the great article!