How Do I Become a Christian Counselor?
Learn how you as a Christian counselor can work as a licensed counseling professional who incorporates their faith and values. Read on to learn about certification and licensing requirements, education programs available and the estimated annual salary.
What Do Christian Counselors Do?
Christian counselors use their faith principles to help people address their problems through psychological guidance. As a mental health counselor, these professionals diagnose and treat mental illnesses as well as teach coping mechanisms to help individuals adapt to major life changes. Much of this is done though structured interviews and conversations. In some cases, counselors may not be able to treat a client, and they then refer a client to a clinician who is better suited for the job. The following chart gives an overview of what you may expect out of your career as a Christian counselor.
|Degree Required||Master's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Psychology, Christian counseling|
|Training Required||Training and experience hours for certification, Christian background and best practices|
|Licensure Required||State counseling certification, National board certification, Christian-specific certification|
|Projected Job Outlook (2018-2028)||22% (for all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$44,630 (for all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Christian Counselor Programs
Many Christian colleges and theological schools offer Christian counseling programs that can lean to a bachelor's or a master's degree. These programs blend psychology and counseling theories with Christian morals. You'll learn how Bible passages can be used to council familial issues, depression, stress, regret and addiction.
You can also choose to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC), and many universities offer degree programs in counseling. In most types of counseling programs, you will look at case studies, which will help you to learn counseling techniques, conflict management and assessment. Master's and doctoral programs, such as those that lead to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), include a clinical practicum and the opportunity to gain some real-life experience with patients.
If you have a degree in counseling and want to learn more about counseling to the Christian faith, you may consider a certificate program in Christian counseling. Certificate programs study the basics of family counseling, rehabilitation counseling and the use of scripture in counseling.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a LPC must hold at least a master's degree. Beyond this, requirements vary by state and counseling area. For example, all 50 states require marriage and family therapists to have state credentials, but licensing requirements for other types of counselors may not be mandatory. Some work environments, like working in a church, do not require a counseling license. You'll likely need to complete clinical experience and sit for a state-approved exam to earn a license.
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) provides national counseling certification, which is voluntary, but can help you to prove your counseling skills. The National Counselor Examination (NCE) can complement or sometimes replace state credentialing. To sit for the exam, you must have completed a master's program in counseling and 3,000 hours of clinical time. The NBCC also offers specific certification in mental health and addictions counseling, but you must first pass the NCE to earn these certifications.
The National Certification program is offered through the Association for Addiction Professionals. Through this program, you can earn certification as a Master Addiction Counselor, Nicotine Dependence Specialist or a Certified Addiction Counselor. Earning these certifications requires meeting clinical experience and degree requirements.
How Much Could I Earn?
The BLS does not offer salary information specifically for Christian counselors, but salary statistics for marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors and the clergy are available. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary figures for all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in 2018 at $44,630. Counselors with marriage and family therapy certification on earned higher salaries, at $50,090. Members of the clergy earned a median of $48,990 that same year.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Related to counselors, social workers help clients overcome everyday life problems using different coping techniques. Clinical social workers can also diagnose and treat mental and emotional illness, though clinical work typically requires a master's degree and state licensure. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help clients with substance abuse problems and behavioral disorders recover from addictions and modify their behavior. Many of these professionals hold a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is needed in some cases.