Christian marriage counseling and secular therapy have several similarities. Both types of counseling attempt to help couples solve their issues with the guidance of a third party. Sometimes, Christian couples may find that secular therapy affirms values and goals that may not be in line with their Christian faith. This may include views on complex issues such as homosexuality, divorce, or abortion. In conventional therapy, these issues are dealt with in ways that represent the popular views of the mental health community at large. In Christian marriage counseling, by contrast, these issues and many others are dealt with from a Christian perspective.
Christian Marriage Counseling and Secular Therapy Offer a Lot of Variety
Whether you are searching for Christian marriage counseling or conventional therapy, it is important to keep in mind that therapists offer a range of approaches. Christians often have different views on the issues listed above as well as on other aspects of spirituality and mental health. Thus, when choosing a psychologist or a pastor to provide you with marriage counseling, you may want to look for one whose beliefs are similar to yours. One of the main advantages of any type of counseling is that you get to choose your counselor. Whether you want Christian marriage counseling or conventional therapy, you should talk with the counselor about your specific beliefs as a Christian and how they may affect your sessions.
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The Issue of Divorce
Many people who offer secular counseling are more willing to suggest divorce than professionals who specialize in Christian marriage counseling. At secular counseling, the therapist and the couple may determine that divorce is the healthiest option. During marriage counseling for Christians, however, the couple looks at what Jesus said about divorce. In the Sermon on the Mount, he preached that divorce was unacceptable except in cases of adultery. Thus, most Christian marriage counseling focuses on ways to keep a couple together, and that can be a benefit. Unfortunately, this view of divorce in Christian marriage counseling may not work for all couples, and in some cases, it may even prevent a couple from being able to work on some of their issues. If a couple is not willing to walk away from an unhealthy relationship, they may not be willing to do the hard work that it takes to change that relationship in marriage therapy.
Biblical Christian Marriage Counseling
By turning to the Bible in marriage therapy, couples can find divinely inspired answers to their issues. Marriage counseling that is rooted in the Bible may look at Genesis to determine God’s design for marriage or at Ephesians or Proverbs to talk about the wife’s role in a marriage. Verses such as James 4:1-2 can be used to inspire a couple to look beyond what they need in a marriage and instead explore what they can give to their marriage. Other parts of the Bible can be used in biblically based marriage counseling to foster ideals of forgiveness, conflict resolution, and anger control. The inspiration offered by the Bible is one of the most important things to consider when looking at the pros and cons of Christian marriage counseling.
Psychiatric Issues and Behavioral Disorders in Marriage Counseling
Many people who undergo therapy realize that they or their partners have behavioral or psychiatric disorders. In Biblical times, psychiatric disorders were sometimes talked about in terms of diabolical possession. Instead of offering counseling to a person, Jesus may have simply cast their demons into a herd of pigs. In contemporary Christian marriage counseling, this idea is still present in some ways. Christian counselors may talk about behavior in terms of sins such as pride, greed, or lust. This can be useful for some couples, but others may not find it as helpful. People who have serious psychiatric or behavioral disorders may need specific science-based help with these issues. In particular, these patients may need the help of a trained psychologist or psychiatrist. A pastor or religious counselor may not have the skills these people need to control their symptoms.
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Moving Away from Blame
Sadly, a lot of secular counseling in marriage therapy focuses on blame. Couples may talk with their counselors about events that happened last week, last month, or even several years ago. This is counterproductive, and it doesn’t focus on finding solutions that will actually work. Christian counseling, on the other hand, may focus more on removing blame from a relationship. Couples can seek forgiveness for past actions from both God and themselves. They can take refuge in Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek, and through Christian marriage counseling, they can figure out how to implement this ideal into their lives.
Learn more on how to avoid divorce in our Marriage Counseling Guide.