Why is faith-based counseling increasingly popular among Americans seeking mental-health services? Maybe because many people value an approach that heals the soul as well as the mind:
Religious people often complain that secular therapists see their faith as a problem or a symptom, rather than as a conviction to be respected and incorporated into the therapeutic dialogue, a concern that is especially pronounced among the elderly and twentysomethings. According to a nationwide survey by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), 83 percent of Americans believe their spiritual faith and religious beliefs are closely tied to their state of mental and emotional health. Three-fourths say it’s important for them to see a professional counselor who integrates their values and beliefs into the counseling process. More people said they would prefer to see a religious counselor (29 percent) than a psychiatrist (27), psychologist (17) or family doctor (13).
Women are more likely to favor religious counseling than men, and African-Americans strongly embrace faith-based counseling. The AAPC survey found that African-Americans, devout evangelicals, people without a college degree, the elderly and people age 18 to 29 are most likely to fear that a professional counselor won’t take their religious beliefs into serious consideration when treating them.
“People come to Christian counselors for two reasons,” says Randolph Sanders, executive director of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, an association of Christians in mental health and behavioral sciences. “One is faith perspective; they want a therapist who resonates with their worldview. The second is moral ethics; they want a counselor who understands what guides their decisions.”