Christian counselors work just like any other counselors but their practice is aimed at pointing the clients towards spiritual solutions. Thus, their clients are basically people looking for faith-based answers to their problems, which is its key distinguishing factor from other counseling careers.
So, what does it take to become a Christian counselor? Consider the following:
Be Strong in Your Christian Faith
It will not be practical to point people to something that you don’t believe in. Christian counselors ought to be people who are strongly rooted in their faith and understand why they hold on to that belief. That is the key foundation, in addition to having a strong desire to help people find spiritual solutions to their problems.
Familiarize Yourself with Licensing and Certification Requirements
Before you sign up for a course, first identify the licensing and certification requirements for faith-based counselors in your state. The education, license and certification you get will of course be dependent on where you want to work. As a Christian counselor, you can work
- Under an existing ministry in your church
- Get a job in institutions that have Christian counseling positions such as schools and non-profit organizations.
- Go into private practice
The laws vary by state. Be sure to check the requirements in your state and also the guidelines given by the institutions you would love to work under.
Get the Right Education
A Christian psychology degree can equip you with some of knowledge and skills you need to be a successful counselor. An education is also essential for meeting the licensing and certification requirements. For some licensing, you will be required to have both a bachelors and master’s degree. This is why it is recommended to familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements even before you choose a college. Your degree needs to be aligned with the licensing requirements in your state. In some states, certain positions may not require a license. An example is those positions established under church ministries. However, in such cases, education is still essential for the skills and knowledge needed for one to be effective in their job. And also, the church needs to comply with all legal requirements.
When applying for a degree, make sure you are getting one from an institution that is reputable and accredited to offer the course you intend to pursue. If you are not keen, you may end up with a course that is not recognized by the licensing bodies. Hence, make sure you do your homework well. If you know of a Christian counselor, ask them for recommendations. Finally, if going to college fulltime is not an option for you, consider online education but make sure it is from a reputable source. With an online course, you can complete your degree at your own pace.
Gain Some Experience
Before you get your license and certificates, you need some experience. Consider internships and working under a licensed counselor. The experience also helps in sharpening your skills and it gives you an opportunity to apply what you learned in college while getting guidance from someone.
Work on Your Soft Skills
As a Christian counselor, you will be dealing with people who are going through tough times. Some of the clients who will come to you for spiritual advice will not even be Christians. You need to be equipped to work with different people, interact with them in a good way and pass information in the right way. Some of the soft skills that you should work on as a Christian counselor include:
- Good listening skills: You need to be a good listener so that you don’t miss or misinterpret what your clients tell you during the counseling session. You have to pay attention to the tone the client is using to communicate, their body language and put pieces together to truly understand what they are going through.
- Flexibility: As stated above, you will be dealing with lots of people who have different issues, beliefs, and personalities. This is why flexibility is super important in your career.
- Social skills: Can you communicate well, even with those who don’t want to talk a lot or aren’t friendly at all?
- Critical thinking: For every case, critical thinking is essential for making the right diagnosis and coming up with a solution.
Other skills that can be essential include emotional intelligence, compassion, empathy, and self-awareness. For skills and knowledge, the goal is to keep learning even after you start your job. Being on the lookout for new studies, taking more courses, and interacting with other professionals are some of the steps you can take to keep learning.