4 Steps on How To Become a Christian Counselor

Are you a Christian who wants to help other believers who are experiencing distress in their lives?  You may have heard of Christian counseling before and want to know how to become a Christian counselor.  In this post, I will outline four steps you need to take to become a Christian counselor.

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  1. Personal Christian Faith

This might seem obvious, but to be a Christian counselor, you must first be a Christian!  How can you incorporate faith into your sessions if you don’t have faith yourself?  There are no set standards of particular denominations you need to be to be a Christian counselor.  However, here are some basics I would suggest you have with your Christian faith before becoming a counselor.  For reference, below is my statement of faith.

Statement of Faith

  • A Saving Faith rooted in Christ
    There are some theological differences that, while essential, are optional to agree on. The gospel, however, absolutely needs to be decided upon. “I’m a Christian” today could carry many meanings. Being very explicit and intentional about what you mean by the gospel is paramount. Here is the line about the gospel in my statement of faith,

“The Gospel and Salvation:

We believe that the gospel is the good news of what God has done for us in His Son Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience for us and died a penal substitutionary death for our sins. We believe salvation is a gift that comes only by God’s grace, and that all who trust in Jesus Christ alone are justified, and are eternally secure, unable to lose their salvation. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:8-20)”

I’m not saying your definition of the gospel needs to be word for word with that statement, but the spirit of it needs to be there. If you have a saving faith in Christ and have questions, please get in touch with me!

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  • Have a Church Family

Again, this seems simple, but I can assure you not every Christian counselor is consistently attending church.  This absolutely should not be.  There may be times that you are in between churches due to various circumstances.  However, this needs to be a concise amount of time.  As Christians, we must be regularly meeting together with other believers. While a Christian counselor is not an official church role, if you incorporate faith into your practice, you must be actively a part of your local church.

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  • Healthy Spiritual Disciplines

A Christian counselor should incorporate consistent spiritual discipline into their life.  What do I mean by this?  You must do basic spiritual tasks such as scripture reading and praying consistently.  This isn’t to suggest you need to be overly legalistic, and if you miss a day of reading the bible, you can’t see clients that day.  No, but it does mean a Christian counselor must be spiritually healthy to help others more effectively. 

  • Christian Ethics

This is a big one.  There may be disagreements on the specifics of Christian ethics, but let me briefly discuss a few important ones.  

  • Relationships

 Are you single yet living with your significant other?  Are you married but being unfaithful to your spouse?  Are you communicating lovingly with your children? I realize we make mistakes, but overall, you need loving biblical relationships.

  • Sexuality

Uh oh.  This is the controversial one, yet a pretty simple one.  I’ll let the American Association of Christian Counselors  do the talking for me on this topic. 

Application to Premarital and Extramarital Sexual Behavior: Christian counselors do not condone or advocate for the pursuit of or active involvement in premarital and extra-marital sexual behavior by clients, acknowledging that sex is part of God’s good creation and a gift when confined to one man and one woman within the boundaries of marriage. Counselors may agree to and support the client’s desire to work through issues related to sexual behavior, identity, and attractions but will encourage sexual celibacy or biblically-prescribed sexual behavior while such issues are being addressed. 

Application to Homosexual, Bisexual, and Transgendered Behavior: Christian counselors do not condone or advocate for the pursuit of or active involvement in homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered behaviors and lifestyles. Counselors may agree to and support the desire to work through issues of homosexual and transgendered identity and attractions, but will not describe or reduce human identity and nature to sexual orientation or reference, and will encourage sexual celibacy or biblically-prescribed sexual behavior while such issues are being addressed. Counselors acknowledge the client’s fundamental right to self-determination and further understand that deeply held religious values and beliefs may conflict with same-sex attraction and/or behavior, resulting in anxiety, depression, stress, and inner turmoil. 

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2. Education

For this post, I will assume the Christian Counselor wishes to be licensed.  This means either being a LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), or LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor).  

If you wish to be a biblical counselor, there are several programs, including The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and the Association of Biblical Counselors.

To become a licensed counselor, you need to receive a master’s degree in counseling different programs depending on which License you want (LPC, LMFT, LCSW, or LADC).  Regardless of which license you go for, they all essentially have the same job opportunities.  The most significant difference is the type of training you receive.  Here is a link to another article to explain some of the differences between the different licenses.

To be accepted into a graduate program for your counseling degree, you first need to have a bachelor’s degree. There is no determined type of bachelor’s degree you must have.  Most would probably consider getting a psychology degree in undergrad, but this is not required.  

Your master’s education can be at a secular or Christian private school.  More than likely, your education will not be as heavy on theology as it is on psychology.  Make sure to keep that in mind, especially if you attend a secular school.  There may be ideas shared in classes that you disagree with, such as gender affirmation care.  Be prepared to study and have your beliefs scrutinized. 

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3. Become Licensed

After graduating, you will become a pre-licensed therapist.  Depending on which license you work towards, you will have specific requirements to become a fully licensed therapist.  Regardless of your license, you must receive a set amount of supervised hours.  During these hours, you work as a counselor but must meet with a supervisor weekly to review your cases and progress as a therapist.  You also must pass your state ethics exam and a national counselor’s exam.  

The amount of time this takes depends on which license you are receiving and how many hours you work.  If you take it slow, obtaining your license might take longer than others.  Ask your supervisor and state board what requirements you need to receive your license. 

4. Integrate your Faith into Your Practice. 

This is the big one for Christian Counselors.  It would be best to decide how to integrate faith into your practice.  In my practice, I am very upfront about my faith.  I have included a statement of faith, which I use in my informed consent.  I do not require my clients to agree with the statement of faith. However, I need them to read it and tell me if they have any issues.  If they have problems with it, I ask whether they are still okay receiving services with me despite our differences. If the answer is yes, then great!  We will work together despite there being differing beliefs.  If the answer is no, then I will help refer them elsewhere. 

Doing this serves the client well to know what they are signing up for.  We should not use therapy to sneak in and enforce our beliefs on clients.  We are ethically and morally obligated to be upfront with the perspective of being a Christian counselor.  I have worked jobs as a counselor that were not explicitly Christian-based.  While my faith still guided my practice, I was not as overt about my beliefs.  This was because my faith was not lined out in my informed consent. 

 When you receive a client’s consent about incorporating your faith into your practice, that opens you up to a different environment in the therapy room. For instance, in my practice, I often implement prayer to begin or end the session.  I will reference scripture and, at times, even read a passage of scripture relevant to the topic.  I am upfront about the importance of attending church and being spiritually disciplined should the client’s Christian faith be vital to them. 

It is also essential that your own spiritual life is healthy as a Christian counselor.  You need to ensure you are active in a local church and not neglecting your spiritual health. I find it hard, if not impossible, to be a fruitful Christian counselor should your life not be healthy.  Don’t neglect your own physical, mental, or spiritual health!

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Are you a Christian who’s a counselor and wants to start your private practice?  It can feel overwhelming to get yourself started.  I have begun my consultation service to help other Christian Counselors get started.  I can help you build your website or make one for you. (I made 100% of this website on my own.)  I can help you create online directory listings in places such as Psychology Today.  I can also help you narrow down your niches to help make your practice stand out.  If you’re ready to start with me, sign up for a free 15-minute consultation or leave your information below. If you sign up for my newsletter, I’ll even include a download of my 4 Quick Tips to Starting Your Private Practice.