Serious practitioners of faith that believe in the healing power of God may find it difficult to see the value in therapy. They may be skeptical of the counselors, have a stigma in their community regarding mental illness and therapy, or even be told they can’t see a therapist at all! Religion and therapy are not mutually exclusive. Many people participate in both and find that therapy can even bolster their faith in God! Understanding the religious hesitations involving therapy could help you take the first step into a mental wellness journey that can draw you closer to God and embolden your faith.
Some People See Seeking Therapy as Spiritual Weakness
Some fear that turning to a therapist for help is a sign of looking for a replacement for God to solve your problems; weakness in the faith. As Wendy Patrick, ordained minister and President of the New York Christian Legal Society puts it “Among people of faith, this perceived stigma can be enhanced by the perception that seeking help from man instead of God is a sign of spiritual weakness.”
Therapy is Seen as a Belief System
Something commonly said among believers regarding therapy is “I don’t believe in it.” This implies therapy to be a belief system that would cause a conflict of faith. This attitude is often linked to the stigma that mental illness isn’t real at all, which may discourage those who struggle with it from seeking proper help. Remember, however, that religion and therapy are not mutually exclusive.
Fear of Community Judgement
Perhaps one of the most intimidating obstacles to Christians seeking mental wellness is fear of the community. Small or close-knit communities where everyone knows everyone’s business can be a daunting factor in seeking therapy. The community may shun or spread rumors about the person, and their life could take a turn for the worse. The Christian seeking therapy may feel like they could no longer be part of the community or bring shame to their family.
There’s Been Conflict Between Faith and Therapy
Therapy and 19th Century Liberalism developed around the same point in time. Since therapy aligned more with this movement, it was opposed by many religious communities in ways that are still reflected today!
And let’s not forget Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychology. He frequently criticized religion and made statements that offended people of faith, such as stating God was a projection of the ideal father figure.
My Counselor Could be too Liberal/Secular
People who are deep in their faith typically hold a conservative worldview. They fear that they may get a therapist that is too liberal and will shame them or try to change their worldview. No matter what religion you follow or the worldview you hold, no therapist will seek to damage or interfere with your faith. Therapists are not supposed to tell any client what to believe!
How Can Someone See a Therapist Without Compromising Their Faith?
Like faith, mental health is your own business unless you share it with others. There are plenty of ways to seek mental health assistance without anyone knowing, such as online therapy! However, to overcome the common stigmas faced with faith and therapy, some new ways of thinking need to be adopted.
Talking to a Therapist Does Not Make You Spiritually Weak
Therapy and faith are not mutually exclusive and can work together to help someone overcome trials and tribulations.“For me, it is no different than faith and medical health,” said author Darren Pierre. “ “Yes, prayer is a strong tool for change, but to activate that prayer and faith, attention from a medical professional is necessary.” There is great strength and courage in asking for help.
Therapy is a Supplement to Religion-Not a Replacement
In moments of tragedy, people need as much support as possible in order to heal. Therapy and faith combined can be a powerful tool in learning how to manage emotions or cope with trauma.
God Works Through Everyone
Yes, that includes therapists. When you seek counseling, you’re taking the initiative to receive God’s healing and become the best you can be. God also works through you! Perhaps God has planted the seed in you to seek counseling so that you can receive his healing.
Scripture and Therapy Mix Well Together
There are many passages in The Bible that address grief, shame, anger, forgiveness, and many other things we may need help with. Your therapist could help you understand them and apply them to your life in the best way possible.
Religious Leaders Could Refer You
The extent to which your religious community engages with mental wellness will depend on this, but if they do you could ask your pastor or other leaders to point you in the right direction! This is very common, particularly among married couples.
Some Therapists Specialize in Religious Clients
Many therapists are themselves religious, and sometimes exclusively help religious clients using faith-based therapy. Faith-based therapy is a method where you and your counselor will explore mental health issues within your faith and scriptures.
There’s Online Therapy Too!
This is a perfect tool for those who live in small or close-knit communities, and don’t want others to see them going to an in-person counseling session. Talkspace is an online option that stores no identifying information and even offers sessions over text message!
Therapy Can Boost Your Faith
God created your body and mind. Therapy is a tool you can use to strengthen both! God works through you. Seeking therapy so that you can know yourself better will allow you to grow closer to Him.