As a Psychologist and a Christian, the question of how counselling and Christianity can be integrated often comes up. The concept and practice of counselling has been viewed and received in different ways by the church and its members.

Why does the church need counsellors?

Many Christians may wonder why the church needs counsellors. Isn’t it enough to have good preaching, leadership and discipleship? Isn’t Christ sufficient to meet all human needs? Couldn’t the efforts of dedicated church leaders, as well as the inspired knowledge and instruction in God’s Word eliminate the need for counsellors? After all, God sent us the Holy Spirit as our counsellor (John 14:26), and in his interactions with others Jesus modeled personal helping and encouragement.

In following this, many techniques of psychotherapy are compatible with Christianity because they are not unique discoveries of psychology but reflect the common sense and thoughtful reflection every Christian should practice as a matter of course in their interactions. Listening, talking, confessing, accepting, thinking and understanding are neither purely psychological nor exclusively Christian in the process of understanding and helping others. However, Counsellors have the time and special training to provide these appropriately and confidentially.

Counselling has a strong scientific basis, which is important in proving its effectiveness as a treatment for many mental health issues and literally thousands of scientific research studies have examined the demonstrated effectiveness of counselling.

Counselling and Weak Faith

Some Christians have also viewed counselling as being for those who have weak faith and mental health issues as being indicative of poor spiritual health. This way of thinking can have a damaging impact on those who require professional intervention. In fact, mental health issues are medical conditions like any other and can be brought on by common human experiences.

For the Christian Psychologist, Counsellor or Psychotherpist, there is a willingness to learn and integrate what God has allowed them to discover through Psychology and other fields of knowledge, and a desire to determine how both scriptural truths and scientific data can better enable us to understand and help people. As part of their in-depth training, counsellors learn special helping skills and gain knowledge about the nature of common emotional problems like depression or anxiety, the impact of biology on behavior, handling faltering relationships or dealing with interpersonal conflict.

So how does counselling fit into our Christian lives? Christian Psychologists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists are concerned with understanding and improving human functioning in a holistic way, including emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. It can be too easy sometimes to compartmentalise our Christian faith as just one segment of our lives, however Christ has declared that He is Lord of all (Col 1:15-20) and charges believers to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). The counsellor then becomes a guide for the client in the process of taking captive every thought, exploring and identifying the problem or cause of their psychopathology.

Counsellors Strengthen the Church

Counsellors also strengthen the church by freeing pastors and other church leaders for the overall work of the ministry as no one person is called or equipped to do everything. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 teach that members of the church have different spiritual gifts and responsibilities. Counsellors use their gifts to help people, honour Christ, and strengthen Christians in their churches. Counsellors also help pastors, missionaries, and other church leaders deal with difficulties in their own lives as they too may be struggling with marriage or family issues, insecurities, irrational thinking or emotional disturbance. They too need a person who can be objective, available, and trained to deal with the unique problems that may be draining energy, vitality, and effectiveness from God’s chosen servants. God could heal all our diseases and instantaneously wipe away all depression, anxiety, inner turmoil and interpersonal conflicts, but instead he works through compassionate human beings with the gifts of encouragement, discernment, and counselling.

Claire Marsh is a trained Psychologist and Manager of the Greater Sydney Conference Adventist Counselling Services, which provides professional and confidential help for a wide variety of issues. ACS also offers customised marriage preparation and enrichment courses for engaged couples or long-term couples who wish to strengthen and improve their relationships. It operates on an income-based sliding scale.

Claire can be contacted at the centre on (02) 8876 5238 or via email on clairemarsh {at}