Distinctives of Christian Therapy

by Dr. Kenneth O. Peterman

While many different types of counseling today represent themselves as Christian, some are much less than Christian and others are downright frauds. How can we know the difference? What makes Christian therapy obviously Christian and definitely genuine is its approach to the Word of God. The therapist or counselor who puts the Word of God at the center of his or her practice is genuinely Christian. It’s not enough to come from a religious or a general Christian perspective — the Word of God must be the basis and emphasis of truly Christian counseling.

In order to evaluate a true Christian or biblical therapy, there are several distinctives to consider:

True Christian therapy views a drug or alcohol abuser as a person, not as a label such as addict or drunkard.

This is not just a play on words. The genuine Christian counselor does not define his client in terms of his addiction. When a person is labeled an addict or a drunk, he begins to define himself as such and greatly hinders his struggle for freedom. A true Christian counselor stays away from labels and sees his client as a person who obviously needs help.

True Christian therapy views recovery as an accomplished fact for the believer.

Biblical therapy sees the Christian individual not working toward recovery but from victory which has already taken place in Christ. Second Peter 1:3, 4 says, “According to his divine power hath he given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness . . . by which are given unto us exceedingly great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature . . .” In Christ each believer receives a new nature – a divine nature – that combats the old sinful nature and guarantees victory. Born-again believers are working from a victorious position in Christ and not from the failure position of the addictive old nature.

True Christian therapy views a born-again person as capable of dealing with his or her addiction through the implementation of biblical principles.

When a person receives the divine nature by new birth, he or she is encouraged to grow in the Lord (2 Peter 3:18) through knowing the Word of God and through implementing all the precious promises given in God’s word. This divine nature forms the basis for a totally new lifestyle. This new lifestyle provides new motivations, new desires, new wants and new needs with the goal and purpose of changing character. In other words, true Christian counseling does not merely reform a man’s conduct but transforms his character with permanent results.

True Christian therapy deals with why an individual is addicted, not merely with his addiction.

True Christian therapy deals with the root of a man’s problem and not merely with symptoms. Biblical counseling deals with — sin! Treating addiction as sin is vitally important to recovery because it is the only way to provide lasting hope. Treating addiction as a disease is hopeless because there is no cure to this condition and there is a permanent loss of control. Organizations (like AA) view addiction as a disease which can never be cured. The motto of these organizations is “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” This is a dismal and dark conclusion that true Christian counseling cannot and will not accept. My ebook What is Alcoholism? explains why alcoholism is a sin and not a disease.

Use these four guidelines to evaluate Christian counselors and therapists.

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