Christ-centered vs Secular Counseling
There are many differences between Christ-centered and Secular Counseling. These differences are very important because what man accepts and believes as truth about himself, others and God, and how to effectively live life, will determine the direction his life will take (Romans 12:2). Much of secular psychology is built upon the theory that introspection and self-examination will somehow allow the client to change and get well. But introspection can become a means of avoiding rather than assuming responsibility. While Christ-centered therapists would certainly agree that introspection can be helpful in identifying problem areas from the past, it is important to note that introspection alone does not cause people to get well. Christ-centered counseling, then, involves an uncovering of what has been deeply hidden for the purpose of promoting dependence rather than independence - for true change is built on God's provision and power which is appropriated by dependence upon Him (John 15:1-10). Our lives will truly change only when we become disenchanted with our lives as they are now and as we become convinced that we are powerless to make it work our way, independent of God.
The following, then, are a few of the most important differences between Christ-centered and Secular Counseling:
1. Secular Counseling or Humanism sees man as innately good and capable of solving his own problems. This is the world's message to us - "we innately have what it takes to be fulfilled, happy individuals. We are able to determine what is best for ourselves." Scripture, however, sees man as sinful and fallen - separated from God. It is for this reason that Christ was sent into this world - to redeem us from sin, making is possible for us to become new creatures in Christ.
2. One does not have to look very far into the world of secular humanism to discover that there are few, if any, absolutes. The mantra is, "if it feels good, do it." This mentality leaves the person on their own to determine what is best for them, without any standard. It creates independence and a life based on the world's standards for happiness and success rather than living life based upon God's standards. The majority of this person's problems are brought about by their own efforts to be their own resource for living. Author Gary Collins states that, "Christian therapists must come to terms with certain questions - 1. Do we really believe that the Bible is the correct resource in which to find answers to questions concerning life? 2. Do we see the Bible as a textbook for counseling? 3. Does scripture contain answers to the problems we face today? A counseling model may be called Christ-centered only if it never violates what the Bible teaches about ethical standards and doctrinal issues. The Bible is the ultimate yardstick for measuring truth and must be seen as such by anyone involved in a Christian counseling ministry."
3. Secular psychology tells us that man's purpose is to be independent, developing sufficiency in self and realizing our full potential. Scripture, however, tells us that we are here on this earth to glorify God and to develop sufficiency in Him alone. God's primary objective in the creation and functioning of the universe is to bring glory to Himself. God made man in His image and was proud of what He had created (Genesis 1:31). His goal is to have fellowship and intimacy with His creation. Chuck Solomon states, "Biblical counseling must seek to lead the believer to the end of his own strength - regardless of how productive or nonproductive such 'strength' may have proven to be - and into the certainty of Christ's strength through him! The Holy Spirit, often through the School of Adversity, works against the believer's dependency upon the flesh. Ultimately man's flesh becomes unproductive by supernatural design, at which time many seek counseling. The counselor who uses techniques generated by lost men to help such a believer cut his losses may be interrupting God's purpose of bringing that Christian to the end of his personal resources. The more 'skilled' and 'effective' the counselor, the more he thwarts God's purpose, causing Him to begin the breaking process all over again."
4. Again, the therapeutic goal of secular counseling is always dependence on self. The problem with this is that most people entering counseling know that this hasn't worked for them - they just continue to fail at being their own master. So the therapist coming from this perspective simply sets the client up for more disappointment and failure. Psychiatrist Paul Meier, M.D. states, "I would have no problem using the services of an unsaved, skilled, orthopedic surgeon to set my fractured hip. When I submit myself to his knife, I'm more interested in his surgical skill than in his theology. But submitting myself to a counselor who uses therapy developed by the minds of lost mentors is dramatically different. Christian counselors must counsel the soul with truth generated by the Spirit of God; counseling which is not Christian counsels the soul with techniques generated by the spirit of this world. Attaching scripture to such counsel does not make it Christian in that the goals of these two therapies are diametrically opposed. Christian therapy should lead the individual to abandon all hope in personal strength unto total reliance upon Christ's strength, while secular therapy seeks to lead the soul to greater autonomy. Notice that I refer to counseling the soul. The word "soul" and the word "psychology" come from the same root word, meaning personality. World system counseling uses techniques developed by unregenerate minds to "treat" man's soul. The Christian who takes his soul to such a therapist for service is like a man who takes his car to the florist to be overhauled. This is not God's plan for ministering to the soul, especially for the Christian soul."
5. Much of what is presented by the client to the therapist in counseling can be linked to one's worth and identity. The world's system for evaluating worth is based on our performance and the acceptance of others. Many hours will be spent in the secular counseling room without getting to the core issues surrounding this problem. Scripture tells us that what we believe about ourselves and others will determine the direction our life will take, "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Author David Seamands in his work, Healing Grace, compares the servant to a child . "The servant is accepted and approved of on the basis of what he does, the child of God on the basis of who he is. The servant starts the day anxious and worried, wondering if his work will please his master. The child rests in the secure love of his family. The servant is accepted because of his workmanship, the son or daughter because of a relationship. The servant is accepted because of his productivity and performance. The child belongs because of his position as a person. At the end of the day, the servant has peace of mind only if he is sure he has proven his worth by his work. The next morning, his anxiety begins again. The child, however, can be secure all day and know that tomorrow will not change his or her status. When the servant fails, his whole position is at stake. When the child fails, he or she is not afraid of being turned away. His basic confidence is in belonging and being loved. His performance does not change the stability of his position." Scripture says that a child of God is completely and totally acceptable, regardless of our performance (II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:1), that we are each someone very special to the Father (Genesis 1:27; Exodus 19:5), that we are deeply loved (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 8:32), and that since we are always loved by God, we do not need to be overly concerned about our performance or the approval or disapproval of others (John 15:9,10; Romans 8).