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What is Christian Counseling?
Pastoral counseling or Christian counseling is also known as Christian psychology and is an area of study offered to clergy to prepare them to deal with issues that may arise among members of a given congregation.
The counseling is non clinical, but rather is provided as additional support within a church environment. Individuals who pursue this education are typically pastors or youth ministers, and work with a portion or the whole of the congregation as needed in order to work through social and emotional issues.
How to Become a Christian Counselor
To become a Christian counselor, you must proceed through various discrete steps. The process is critical to understand as variations can exist from state to state. The steps to become a Christian psychologist or Christian counselor include:
Step 1 – Research Bible Colleges
The first order of business for soon-to-be Christian counselors is to find applicable schools. Locating accredited bible colleges will require you to analyze which schools fit your goals and academic orientation. To help kickstart this process, our team recommends reading our college admissions guide and resource guide to getting into your top college.
Efficiently find accredited bible colleges and degrees in counseling by using the resources on this page or by using our proprietary matching portal or online degree matching tools. Each provide students with key data such as cost, degree programs, admission requirements, financial aid trends, and student services.
Step 2 – Apply to College
After collecting admissions information from your top colleges, you will need to apply to schools with Christian counseling degree programs. Your college application must be complete and uniquely describe you as an individual. Make sure to discuss your extracurricular activities, work experiences, and passion to help others to stand out from other qualified applicants.
Step 3 – Attend School
After deciding on your top college, you attend the school’s orientation and register for classes in the Christian counseling or Christian psychology track. Bachelor degree programs in Christian counseling are typically 4-year programs while master’s degrees are an additional 2-3 years and PhD programs are yet another 4-6 years of matriculation after meeting all lower level requirements.
Step 4 – Graduate, Exams, Certification, & Work
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university with a degree in Christian counseling or Christian psychology, you will need to likely obtain around two years of supervised clinical work experience as dictated by your state of residence. After meeting the required hours of work experience for your state, you will be eligible to sit for any state-based examination. Once you have successfully passed your state examination, you can apply for licensure to work directly with clients and patients.
Top Degrees in Christian Counseling
There are a number of degree options in the Christian counseling and Christian psychologist domain for you to consider. The program best for you will depend on your career aspirations and job prospects unique to you. An overview of the degree and certificate programs in Christian counseling are listed below:
Certificate in Christian Counseling
The bulk of certificate programs in Christian counseling are designed to add areas of specialization to your toolbox. As an example, if you already have a qualifying degree in mental health counseling and would like to work in a school setting helping students, you may need to obtain a certificate in school counseling prior to applying for jobs. Certificates allow professional counselors to upskill or prepare for vocational changes through educational means.
Christian Counseling Bachelor’s Degrees
Online bachelor degrees in Christian counseling are 4-year programs and can be found in a school’s course catalog as a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) depending on the emphasis of the program and curriculum. Courses in the bachelor degree program will typically include classes with a Christian perspective in: general psychology, developmental psychology, behavior modification, multicultural counseling, abnormal psychology, and Christian psychology.
Christian Counseling Master’s Degrees
An online master’s degree in Christian counseling is a one to two-year program conferred as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) depending on the program contents and curricular emphasis of the program.
Classes at the master’s degree level help students delve deeper into the research, science, and psychological aspects of Christian counselors. Onside or online master’s degree-level classes may include upper level courses in: research methods and statistics in psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and an approved thesis project.
Students will need to prepare to meeting licensure requirements during matriculation or after degree completion prior to practicing in the field.
PhD in Christian Counseling
The doctorate degree Christian counseling is conferred as a Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) depending on the college’s curricular design. In either case, the PhD and EdD degrees are known as a terminal degrees as no degrees exist beyond the doctorate level.
Students will take a variety of upper-level classes within an area of specialty that may include classes such as: treatment of addictive behaviors, abnormal psychology, statistics and research, family development, marriage counseling, trauma counseling, pastoral counseling, growth and development, crisis counseling, and a board-approved dissertation.
Doctorate level programs will take four to six-years to complete with the planning, research, writing, and dissertation defense consuming a substantive portion of the program.
Requirements for Christian Counselors
Individuals seeking this career path will typically complete seminary and pursue a master's level education to further their education. As part of the education requirements for counselors, individuals will work under the supervision of qualified professionals in order to obtain the necessary number of practical hours to complete a given program. Individuals will learn to provide various forms of counseling and assistance as part of their work and study, eventually earning credentials and obtaining the licensure necessary to work as a professional.
A curriculum may include:
- Principles of Counseling Psychology
- Counseling Methods
- Marriage Counseling
- Clinical Psychology
- Family Therapy
Popular Christian Counseling Careers
There are a number of areas of specialization when considering a career in Christian counseling or Christian psychology. The list below represents a cross-section of different areas of emphasis and types of counseling a Christian counselor may employ. The top areas of specialization for a Christian counselor include:
- Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation counselors helps clients with a mental, emotional, and physical disabilities to help them achieve their personal and professional goals on a path towards independence.
- Mental Health: Christian counselors working in the mental health sector employ a variety of techniques and mechanisms to help others cope with a variety of clinical and pathological issues.
- Substance Abuse: The substance abuse counselor work to help patients grapple with drug, alcohol, gambling, food, or sex addictions. Through counseling, patients can establish healthy patterns of behavior and help to avoid relapse.
- Marriage & Family: Christian family and marriage counselors engage with families and couples for a variety of reasons to ensure harmony, effective communication, or parenting advice consistent with the Christian faith.
- Career and Guidance: A Christian career counselor or Christian guidance counselor will help students cope with the demands of school, self-esteem issues, bullying, disabilities, social anxiety, academic issues, and conflict at home.
- Debt: A Christian counselor focused on finances work to improve or modify behavior and attitudes towards money. Time will frequently be spend discussing debt and the emotional effects of debt.
- Child Development: A Christian counselor or Christian psychologist focused on the healthy development of children can be another popular specialty. Professionals work to understand personal and environmental variables to best support children and their overall development.
- Music & Art Therapy: Both music therapy and art therapy can be employed as an area of specialization within Christian counseling. Professionals can leverage the multitude of benefits associated with art and/or music to enhance overall well-being, reduce stress, and allow clients to freely express themselves through art.
- Grief Counseling: A grief counselor trained in the Christian faith will help individuals and families cope with grief and loss of many types. Grief counselors are a calming presence, great listeners, and chart a path towards effectively coping with grief.
Employment in Christian Counseling
Individuals studying in the field will generally work out of local churches, organizations or ministries as part of the services provided by that location. Individuals may serve as youth ministers, pastors, ministers, or provide other religious leadership as part of their duties, or work solely to provide counseling.
Individuals will have to obtain licensing from their given state, which generally requires work hours, testing and the payment of fees. Additionally, renewal of such licenses may be required on a regular basis.
Christian Counselor Salary & Career Outlook
Individuals in this field earn on average about $51,000 annually. The salary typically includes services provided by the individual, and may increase depending on other roles the individual may take within an organization or location. Such salaries generally reflect local cost of living, and as a result may increase for individuals working in more expensive or populous areas.
Christian Counseling Resources
Individuals interested in this field may also consider careers in urban ministry, women's ministry, theology, or youth ministry. The American Association of Christian Counseling (AACC) and the Association of Biblical Counseling (ABC) are national organizations that may be beneficial to research further. Associations help provide education, insights, tools, and resources for professional counselors across the country.