Christian counselors use different facets of the Christian faith including biblical doctrine to provide treatment to individuals dealing with a variety of ailments and struggles. Individuals within the field may provide counsel on a broad level or they may choose to specialize in one particular area. Specializations include mental health, addiction, marriage, and family. Those who are interested in pursuing a career in Christian counseling should prepare by earning at minimum a bachelor's degree but they can also pursue graduate training, which may provide more employment options after graduation. Professionals in this industry can work in a number of different settings including churches, mental health centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and hospitals.
Bachelor's Degree in Christian Counseling
Individuals who are interested in becoming a Christian counselor will need to seek at minimum a bachelor's degree. This level of program can be completed in four years and can be pursued at universities, vocational schools, and seminaries. Typically comprising 120-credit hours, required course work includes statistical concepts, general psychology, theories of personality, addictive treatment, marriage and family counseling, group techniques of counseling, biblical psychology, and diversity issues in counseling. Through such courses, participants will learn the basics of treating patients through faith-based practice and how to apply biblical teachings appropriately to each patient's needs.
Applicants will need to have either a high school diploma or GED in order to be considered for enrollment. Those who have previously earned college credit will also be required to submit their college transcripts. Upon graduation, individuals may pursue a variety of careers including addiction counseling, family counseling, mental health counseling. Upon completion of a bachelor's program individuals may also be prepared to start graduate studies. The average cost of education for a bachelor's degree program is $51,600.
Master's Degree in Christian Counseling
Although graduate study is not an industry requirement, earning a master's degree in Christian counseling is an increasingly common pursuit among those interested in the field. Graduate degree will set individuals apart from their peers, as it is preferred among many employers. Some states may even require that professionals hold a master's degree prior to earning a license.
A typical master's degree program in Christian counseling will consist of 60 required credit hours and can be completed over the course of two years. The curriculum includes classes such as introduction to graduate studies, human growth and development, biblical foundation for counselors, research and evaluation, crisis and trauma counseling, and eating disorders. Students may also be required to participate in an internship program to gain practical experience before entering the professional realm of counseling. With the advanced skills gained through a graduate program, individuals may be eligible to begin practicing as counselors in a number of different settings including hospitals, addiction centers, and private offices.
There are several different admission requirements that interested individuals should remain aware of prior to applying for any program. The applicant must have a bachelor's degree in counseling or a similar field from an accredited institution and must submit all of their college transcripts. Two letters of recommendation depicting the applicant's prior achievements along with a professional resume will also be required. In some cases, applicants will be required to sit for an admissions interview and pass a background check. Students can expect to pay between $16,950 and $19,350 in annual tuition for this level of program.
Doctoral Degrees in Christian Counseling
Individuals who seek a PhD in Christian counseling are often interested in the areas of research, teaching, or private practice. In order to earn a doctoral degree, students will typically have to complete five to seven years of study or 50 to 120 credit hours of coursework. Key coursework includes old testament survey, new testament survey, ecclesiology and methods in biblical counseling, creation therapy, applied theology and typical problems, mastering pastoral counseling, and theological hermeneutics in the care of people. Each student will also participate in the completion and defense of a dissertation. In some cases students will be required to learn another language during their studies.
Applicants who are interested in pursuing this level of program will need to have a master's degree in a similar discipline with a minimum of a 3.5 GPA. Individuals will also be asked to submit a professional resume outlining all relevant field experience. Due to the competitive nature of this level of program, entrance exams and interviews are also common during the admissions process. The total cost of education ranges from $29,810 to $52,941.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the predominant accrediting agency for Christian counseling programs. It is in the student's best interest both educationally and professionally to attend an accredited program. Accreditation helps to ensure that quality education is being given to all participants involved. Such quality is ensured through programmatic reviews conducted by the organization. Although the licensing process may be different in each state, most will require that the individual have an accredited education in their background. Accreditation is also a preference among most employers, thus this factor should be highly considered prior to making a commitment to any Christian counseling program.
Professional Certification for Christian Counselors
Upon graduation individuals will need to seek licensing in order to start practicing within the field. There are two different routes through which individuals can become licensed. These two options include state licensing and Christian certification.
- State Licensing: The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is an organization that grants licenses at the state level. In order to qualify to sit for any state exam given by the NBCC, the individual must have a master's degree along with a sufficient amount of work experience. It is important to note that Christian counselors who choose to take the state licensure route may have to omit faith and biblical guidance from their counseling sessions as they are subject to state law, which may prohibit such practices. These laws of course may vary by state so it is important to do ample research prior to becoming licensed.
- Christian Certification: Individuals who wish to practice with no restraints when it comes to including biblical doctrine in their counseling sessions can seek Christian certification. The International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals (IACCP) offers certification at four different levels depending on the individual's highest level of completed education. Once professionals have passed the certification exam, they will be able to practice and provide counsel to their clients by implementing their Christian beliefs.
Specialties within Christian Counseling
The field of Christian counseling offers many different areas in which professionals can specialize in based on their interests and strengths.
- Mental Health: Christian counselors who specialize in mental health work with patients of all ages who have mental disorders that may hinder their everyday lives. They are able to provide teaching mechanisms to help them cope with situations in which they may not otherwise know how to navigate.
- Drug and Alcohol: Professionals specializing in this area meet with patients who are battling addictions. Such addictions include alcohol, drugs, and even gambling. They teach them new behavioral patterns so they no longer feel the need to rely on such substances. They also work with patients who have already overcome the addictions but are working towards avoiding relapse.
- Marriage: Marriage counselors meet with couples that may be struggling within their marriage in order to help them reach common ground with one another. They will also meet with couples to provide pre marital counseling in order to prepare them for the realities of marriage.
- Accreditation. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Accessed December 1, 2016. http://www.cacrep.org
- Certification. The National Board for Certified Counselors. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://www.nbcc.org
- Christian Certification. The International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://www.vision.edu/iaccp/
- Job Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed December 7, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
- Master of Science in Christian Counseling. Grand Canyon University. Accessed November 29, 2016. https://www.gcu.edu/degree-programs/master-science-christian-counseling
- Admissions. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.sbts.edu/doctoral/doctor-of-philosophy/#admissions.
- B.A. or B.S. Counseling. Grace College and Seminary. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.grace.edu/files/uploads/webfm/academics/undergraduate/school-behavioral-science/Counseling-BA-BS.pdf.
- Course Catalog. Colorado Christian University. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://catalog.ccu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=22&poid=4810.
- Master of Science in Christian Counseling. Grand Canyon University. Accessed November 29, 2016. https://www.gcu.edu/degree-programs/master-science-christian-counseling.
- Master's Degree in Counseling (M.A.). Colorado Christian University. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.ccu.edu/ccu/mac/.
- Overview. Grace College and Seminary. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.grace.edu/academics/undergraduate-majors/school-behavioral-sciences/counseling.
- PhD Christian Counseling. Above & Beyond Counseling Academy. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://academy.aandbcounseling.com/phd-christian-counseling/.
- PhD Christian Counseling. Northwestern Theological Seminary. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.northwesternseminary.com/phd_christian_counseling.htm.
- PhD in Biblical Counseling. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Accessed November 30, 2016. http://www.sbts.edu/doctoral/doctor-of-philosophy/concentrations/biblical-counseling/.
- Psychology/Counseling Online Bachelor of Science. Crown College. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.crown.edu/online-degree-programs/psychologycounseling-bs/.
- Tuition and Fees. Colorado Christian University. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.ccu.edu/ccu/mac/tuition/.
- Understanding certification. The National Board for Certified Counselors. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://www.nbcc.org/Certification/CertificationorLicensure.