Christian Counseling

How is Christian Therapy different than Secular Therapy

Christian counseling sessionby Thomas Curryer (

Christian therapy, also known as faith-based therapy or spiritual therapy, is a type of therapy that integrates psychological principles with Christian beliefs and values. It is based on the belief that mental health and spiritual health are interconnected, and one cannot be fully healthy without the other. Christian therapists incorporate biblical teachings and principles into their therapeutic techniques to help individuals overcome mental health challenges and grow in their relationship with God.

The Role of Faith in Christian Therapy

Christian therapy is unique in that it places a strong emphasis on the role of faith in the healing process. The therapist and client work together to identify and address underlying spiritual issues that may be contributing to the individual’s mental health concerns. This may include exploring past trauma, unhealthy belief systems, or areas in one’s faith that need growth and healing.

By incorporating faith into therapy, Christian therapists believe that individuals can find a deeper understanding of themselves, their relationship with God, and their purpose in life. This can provide a sense of hope, purpose, and peace that can aid in the healing process. Faith can act as a powerful motivator and a source of comfort, helping clients to overcome obstacles and challenges they face.

Techniques Used in Christian Therapy

Christian therapy utilizes a combination of traditional therapeutic techniques and spiritual practices. Some of the techniques used may include EMDR, DBT, CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy, family systems therapy, couples therapy and solution-focused therapy. However, these techniques are modified to include spiritual aspects such as prayer, scripture reading, and meditation. Christian therapists also often incorporate spiritual disciplines such as journaling, gratitude, and forgiveness into the therapeutic process.

In addition to these practices, Christian therapists may use narrative therapy to help individuals rewrite their life stories in the context of their faith. They may also employ pastoral counseling, which can involve church leaders and community support as part of the therapeutic journey. The goal is to create a therapy experience that resonates with the individual’s faith and life experiences.

Integration of Theology and Psychology

Christian therapists are trained to integrate theology and psychology in a way that respects both the scientific understanding of the human psyche and the spiritual dimensions of people’s experiences. They understand the importance of theological concepts such as sin, redemption, and grace, and how these can be relevant in the therapeutic setting.

The integration of theology and psychology can be particularly helpful when addressing issues like guilt, forgiveness, and existential questions. Christian therapists strive to provide a space where clients can explore their psychological concerns within the context of their religious beliefs, leading to holistic healing and personal growth.

The Community Aspect of Christian Therapy

Christian therapy often extends beyond the individual to include the broader church community. Therapists may encourage clients to engage with support groups, church activities, and other communal practices that can reinforce the healing process. There is a strong emphasis on the idea that healing and growth occur within a community context.

The support of a faith-based community can provide additional resources, such as prayer groups or service opportunities, that can enhance the therapeutic experience. This sense of belonging and shared purpose can be invaluable for individuals who are seeking not just individual healing, but also a sense of connection with others.

What is Secular Therapy?

Therapy session with client and therapistby Pro Church Media (

Secular therapy, also known as non-faith-based therapy, is a type of therapy that focuses solely on the psychological aspects of mental health. It is based on the belief that mental health is a product of biological, psychological, and social factors, rather than spiritual factors. Secular therapy does not incorporate religious beliefs or practices into its approach and instead focuses on evidence-based techniques to address mental health concerns.

The Role of Science in Secular Therapy

Secular therapy is rooted in logic, scientific research and evidence-based practices and ignores most aspects of the spiritual self. Therapists use techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and humanistic therapy to help individuals understand and manage their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The therapist and client work together to develop coping skills, identify negative thought patterns, and explore past experiences that may be contributing to the individual’s mental health concerns.

Secular therapists prioritize empirical data and often use assessments and measurements to track progress. Scientific findings often ignore the inherent bias of the therapist, thereby, failing to account for the impact of the interpersonal relationship between the client the the therapist. A scientific approach would imply an objective approach, which Fig Tree Therapy believes is impossible. Our worldview and bias’ ultimately impact how we perceive something.

They may rely on manuals and standardized protocols to ensure that therapy is delivered in a consistent, research-supported manner. This scientific approach is often appealing to those who are looking for a therapy that is grounded in widely accepted psychological theories and practices. We believe in science and hope to incorporate the findings in our approaches.

Techniques Used in Secular Therapy

As mentioned, secular therapy utilizes evidence-based techniques that have been purportedly scientifically proven to be effective. These techniques may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, or psychodynamic therapy, which explores past experiences and how they may be affecting the individual in the present. The techniques used will vary depending on the individual’s needs and the therapist’s approach.

Other techniques commonly used in secular therapy include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which helps clients develop mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is also used, encouraging clients to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting against them, and to commit to actions that align with their values. Fig Tree Therapy uses similar techniques, but only after scrutinizing them under the Christian Worldview.

Emphasis on Self-Reliance and Personal Growth

In secular therapy, there is a focus on self-reliance and personal growth. Therapists help clients to develop their inner resources and to rely on their strengths and capabilities. The goal is to empower clients to become their own agents of change, rather than looking to external sources for guidance or validation. At Fig Tree Therapy, we understand that self, in and of itself, is incapable of lasting change. By recognizing the limits of self and surrendering to Jesus, Christian therapists begin to see the pilgrimidge of the Christian.

This emphasis on self-reliance does not mean that clients are completely isolated in their journey; therapists still provide support and structure, but the aim is to ultimately foster independence and self-efficacy. Clients are encouraged to set personal goals and to work actively towards achieving them, with the therapist serving as a facilitator of change. This approach does not value community in the growth of an individual. We are taught repeatedly in history that humans thrive in relationships and long to be known by others. Many mental health issues since COVID have been because of loneliness.

What Are the Main Differences Between Christian Therapy and Secular Therapy?

Christian therapy, rooted in the belief in the healing power of faith and spirituality, emphasizes incorporating religious teachings, prayer, and scripture into the therapeutic process. The therapist in Christian therapy may also view mental health issues through a spiritual lens, believing that healing can be achieved through a closer connection to God. In contrast, secular therapy tends to focus more on logic and scientific practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy, and may not incorporate aspects of faith into the treatment. The emphasis in secular therapy is often on data and scientific reasoning to guide the therapeutic process.

Additionally, Christian therapy places a strong emphasis on the idea that individuals are inherently valuable and deserving of love and compassion, as they are seen as creations of God. This perspective can influence the way therapy is conducted, with therapists in Christian therapy working to instill a sense of worthiness and self-compassion in their clients as well as a complete dependence on Jesus. In secular therapy, the emphasis may be more on self-empowerment and personal growth, focusing on individual agency and the development of coping strategies to address mental health challenges.

The ultimate goal of therapy in Christian therapy is often spiritual growth and a deeper connection to one’s faith, as individuals work to align their thoughts and behaviors with Jesus’ teachings. This goal is seen as integral to achieving mental health and emotional well-being. In secular therapy, the goal may be more focused on symptom reduction, improving coping skills, and fostering a greater sense of self-awareness. The emphasis is on helping individuals function better in their daily lives and develop healthier relationships, rather than on spiritual development.

Approach to Faith

The most significant difference between Christian therapy and secular therapy is their approach to faith. As mentioned, Christian therapy incorporates faith into the therapeutic process, while secular therapy does not. This means that Christian therapy may be a better fit for individuals who have a strong religious background and want to incorporate their faith into their healing journey.

Christian therapy views the integration of faith as essential to the healing process, believing that spiritual wellness is as important as psychological wellness. The therapist may pray with the client, reference scripture, and discuss religious beliefs as part of therapy. The client’s faith is seen as a resource and a source of strength during challenging times.

Techniques Used

Another difference between the two types of therapy is the techniques used. Christian therapy utilizes a combination of traditional therapeutic techniques and spiritual practices, while secular therapy focuses solely on scientific techniques. This means that individuals who are not religious may feel more comfortable with secular therapy, as it does not incorporate any religious practices.

Christian therapy might include practices such as forgiveness exercises that are informed by biblical principles, whereas secular therapy would approach forgiveness as a psychological process without religious connotations. The choice of techniques can greatly influence the therapeutic experience and outcomes for the client.

Christian therapy allows the Holy Spirit to lead the process, recognizing the shortcomings of the therapist and his inability to be fully objective.  This approach does not shy away from telling the truth, as it aligns with God’s word.  A Christian therapist does not counsel in a way that contradicts with the Word of God. 

Both approaches may use methods such as EMDR, DBT, and CBT.  

Ultimate Goal of Therapy

The ultimate goal of therapy also differs between Christian therapy and secular therapy. Christian therapy aims to help individuals improve their mental health while also growing in their relationship with God. On the other hand, secular therapy focuses solely on helping individuals manage their mental health concerns. This means that individuals who want to address both their mental and spiritual well-being may benefit more from Christian therapy.

In Christian therapy, the ultimate goal often includes not only symptom relief but also spiritual fulfillment and a closer connection to God. In contrast, secular therapy tends to emphasize psychological resilience, personal development, and improved functioning in various aspects of life, such as work and relationships, without incorporating spiritual dimensions.

Who Can Benefit from Christian Therapy and Secular Therapy?

Both Christian therapy and secular therapy offer unique approaches to helping individuals address their mental health concerns. Christian therapy incorporates principles of faith and spirituality into the therapeutic process, offering clients a framework for healing that is grounded in their religious beliefs. On the other hand, secular therapy focuses primarily on logical practices and psychological theories to help clients understand and manage their mental health issues. While both forms of therapy can be effective, it is important for individuals to consider their own beliefs and values when choosing which approach may be more suitable for their needs. Ultimately, the best type of therapy is the one that aligns with an individual’s personal beliefs and provides them with the support and tools they need to overcome their mental health challenges.

Who Can Benefit from Christian Therapy?

Christian therapy may be a good fit for individuals who:

  • Have a strong Christian background or want to incorporate their faith into their healing journey
  • Want to address their symptoms from a body, soul, spirit approach
  • Are seeking a therapy experience that aligns with their religious values and beliefs
  • Have a relationship with Jesus
  • Understand the importance of confession and repentance
  • Prefer truth over comfort

People who are already involved in a church community or who hold Christian beliefs may find that Christian therapy resonates more with their worldview. The incorporation of prayer, scripture, and spiritual guidance can be comforting and reinforcing for individuals who value these practices.

Who Can Benefit from Secular Therapy?

Secular therapy may be a good fit for individuals who:

  • Are not religious or do not want to incorporate faith into their therapy
  • Prefer only a scientific approach to therapy
  • Want to focus solely on managing their mental health concerns
  • Value a therapy approach that is inclusive
  • Discount the power of spiritual practices in mental health 

Individuals who are either non-religious or who prefer not to mix religion with mental health treatment may find secular therapy more appropriate. Secular therapy can provide a neutral ground where the focus is on psychological well-being.

Considering Personal Preferences and Needs

When choosing between Christian and secular therapy, individuals should consider their personal beliefs, the role they want religion to play in their therapy, and the type of therapeutic experience they are seeking. Someone who is struggling with questions of faith or who wants to explore their spirituality in depth might prefer Christian therapy, while someone who wants to keep their therapy strictly clinical might opt for secular therapy.

It’s also important for individuals to consider the specific issues they are facing and whether they believe a faith-based or secular approach would be more beneficial in addressing those concerns. Personal comfort with the therapist and the therapeutic process is crucial for successful outcomes.

How to Choose the Right Therapy for You

Choosing the right type of therapy is a personal decision, and it is essential to find a therapist and approach that works for you. Some factors to consider when choosing between Christian therapy and secular therapy include your beliefs, your comfort level with incorporating faith into therapy, and your goals for therapy.

Fig Tree Therapy is a Christian practice that publicly proclaims ascribing to the Christian worldview.  While we meet our clients where they are, we are not blind to the fact that our beliefs do impact our counseling. We have many clients from all different faiths and beliefs who are seeking counseling for other reasons. 

Assessing Your Beliefs and Values

Before deciding on a therapy type, it’s important to assess your own beliefs and values. Consider what role religion plays in your life and how important it is for you to have it included in your therapy sessions. Reflect on whether you are looking for guidance that aligns with your faith or if you would prefer a more secular approach to your mental health.  We encourage you to be an active part of your treatment, advocating for yourself if you ever feel uncomfortable with any approach we employ.  

Identifying Your Comfort Level

Evaluate your comfort level with discussing religious topics and using faith-based practices. If you are not comfortable with the incorporation of religious elements into therapy, secular therapy might be more suitable. On the other hand, if faith is a cornerstone of your life, Christian therapy could provide the support you’re looking for.

Clarifying Your Goals for Therapy

Think about what you want to achieve through therapy. If your goals are to improve your mental health while also strengthening your faith, Christian therapy might be the right choice. If your goals are more focused on managing specific psychological issues without religious influence, then secular therapy may be the better.