[Editors’ Note: The following article is republished from “Calvary Chapel Cost Mesa & Psychoheresy” (October 2014). This current article includes an Update.]
In our book PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity we say that one of the many ways that pastors and churches are guilty of psychoheresy is by referring individuals, couples, and families in need of personal and relational help to psychotherapists, including psychologists and marriage and family therapists.
We explain in our book that such referrals mean that those pastors and churches do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for such problems of living. We name a number of churches and pastors that are guilty of psychoheresy with the main reason being referring congregants to psychotherapy. One person we now add to the list is Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, which has spawned 1,650 churches worldwide. During his lifetime Smith was the founding senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM).
Though deceased, Smith is still a very well-known and influential pastor, even beyond the 1,650 Calvary Chapel churches. Two years ago, while he was still living, we decided to ask whether or not he and his church referred out to psychotherapists. We called the church and spoke with two individuals, including Smith’s personal secretary, and found that the answer was “yes.” The one person and one clinic to which they referred at that time were Dr. Charles H. Browning, a California state-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), and his Browning Therapy Group.
We recently called the Browning Therapy Group and were told that the “Christian Counseling” is done by the MFTs, for which they charge $130 to $175 per 45 to 50-minute session. It is doubtful that any insurance company would cover “Christian Counseling,” so it would be up to the Christians who come to the Browning Therapy Group to pay $130 to $175 for each 45 to 50-minute session out of their own pockets, unless the billing by the therapy group does not indicate that such persons are receiving “Christian Counseling” rather than the secular therapy required under the MFT license. The Browning Therapy Group states under “Insurance Benefits” that “Services may be covered in full or in part by your health insurance or employee benefit plan.” Browning says:
Whenever a client elects to use their insurance benefits to cover all or a portion of their counseling sessions, the therapist is OBLIGATED to report and release many of the details of the client’s identity and personal issues to the insurance company. This includes: the diagnosis, what may be causing the issues, how well the client is functioning, any impact on work performance, and specific details about treatment, including the use of medication, if any. Most insurance forms require this kind of information, especially when cases are reviewed by the insuring company or agency….
With the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act, it is even more likely that client information could be open to and accessed by multiple agencies. In our opinion, the risk to client confidentiality is now even more serious when information is released to insurance carriers….
Browning adds, “Once we release personal or clinical information to outside insurance companies and governmental agencies, it’s out of our control.”In contrast, unlicensed pastors and lay counselors are only in rare cases, such as child abuse, required to report or release such information.
Browning is listed in the Psychology Today Directory for which he pays $29.95 per month. We subscribed to Psychology Today for years until their promotion of liberal anti-biblical propaganda caused us to cease subscribing. Their recent article titled “Atheism to Defeat Religion by 2038,” added to all the other anti-biblical offerings, was no surprise to us as former subscribers. Browning apparently has no problem with referrals from the Psychology Today Directory being added to his CCCM referrals. Unlike many churches, Calvary Chapels do not have formal membership. However, we did ask at CCCM and were told that Browning regularly attends the second service each Sunday. As we have said before, this is a major way that psychotherapists generate clients through churches.
Brian Brodersen, Chuck Smith’s son-in-law, became senior pastor after Smith’s death. We recently called Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and spoke with the secretary to the pastors who are under Brodersen. We asked her if CCCM still recommends the Browning Therapy Group and were told, “Yes.” However, the secretary added that CCCM also recommends Turning Point Counseling (TPC), which has a number of office locations. The secretary gave us the TPC website address and phone number. We called TPC and found that their fees run from $100 (interns) to $130 (licensed counselors) and up to $175 (psychologists) for each 45-to-50-minute session. The TPC website lists over twenty therapy office locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties with most all of them in churches!
We called a day later and spoke with Brodersen’s secretary. She also confirmed that CCCM continues to recommend the Browning Therapy Group. We mentioned that the secretary to the other pastors recommends both the Browning Therapy Group and Turning Point Counseling. Brodersen’s secretary said that the other pastors’ secretary usually gives out such information and that we would be better off speaking with her. At no time during our conversation with Brodersen’s secretary did she object to the other secretary referring individuals to both therapy clinics.
Psychologically trained and licensed counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists are chained to their training and licenses, both of which determine much of their practice. Not only do Christians who are psychologists dip into the same cisterns of psychological theories and therapies; they are also bound by law to practice in a similar manner. What does this mean? This means that licensed psychologists who are Christians must follow the codes of their state license.
As mentioned earlier, Browning is licensed in California as an MFT. Also, Turning Point Counseling has licensed therapists and psychologists. We have long recommended that Christians should not become licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists and MFTs. One reason is a “Non-Discrimination” clause from the “Code of Ethics for Marriage and Family Therapists”: “Marriage and family therapists do not condone or engage in discrimination or refuse professional service to anyone on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, gender expression, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic, or marital status.” All of the national associations, such as the ones for psychologists and MFTs, have equivalent requirements, which must be followed or risk losing one’s license. These requirements for licensed counselors pose serious contradictions to the teachings of Scripture regarding sinful activities and relationships.
Since every state has its own licensing requirements for clinical psychologists and marriage and family therapists, as well as other therapists, such as psychiatric social workers, we contacted our two state licensing offices here in California. We asked the following questions regarding a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person coming in for counseling: Could the psychologist or MFT refuse service to such a person? Could the psychologist or MFT attempt to talk the person out of his/her behavior or orientation? If the LGBT person desires to live more peacefully as an LGBT person, would the psychologist or MFT be obligated to assist with this objective? Of course, the answers to these questions apply equally well to a Christian who is a licensed psychologist or MFT, such as at Turning Point Counseling and the Browning Therapy Group.
In each case the answer from our California State offices was that, if an LGBT person filed a complaint because of the refusal to serve him/her, or an attempt to talk the person out of his/her sexual orientation, or failure to assist, an investigation would surely follow. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that at minimum there would be a reprimand and a demand for the licensed psychologist or MFT who is a Christian to follow the “Non-Discrimination” section of the “Code of Ethics” or else lose his/her license!
Other requirements for Christians who are licensed psychologists and MFTs have to do with abortion and same-gender marriage. Christians who are psychologists or MFTs would be prohibited from proselytizing, persuading, or dissuading in matters of faith and practice. This would apply to abortion, same-gender marriage, and other belief systems, such as Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Buddhism, Hinduism, occultism, and even Satanism. Therefore, Christians who are licensed counselors, such as Browning and those at Turning Point Counseling, are by license and profession to operate within the bounds of using their psychological training, techniques, theories, and methodologies within the framework of a professional code of ethics, absent their Christian beliefs, no matter how contrary their counselees’ beliefs and practices are to the Bible!
As we have mentioned elsewhere, these anti-discrimination rules also apply to university psychology and counseling programs, which are subject to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. There have been at least two cases of students being dismissed from counseling programs, one because of referring a LGBT individual to another counselor and the other because she expressed her biblical beliefs about sexuality and refused the university’s “remedial training,” which she contended would be against her beliefs.
A ruling now prohibits licensed counselors from helping LGBT teenagers conform to a “straight” sexuality. One news article reported, “A federal appeals court sided with California on Thursday and upheld the first law in the nation banning a psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay youth straight.
Interestingly, the law says that “therapists and counselors who practice the therapy would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.” However, the article noted that “the activities of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs are not covered by the law.” In other words, by law, a pastor and fellow believer are able to help other believers build their faith according to Scripture in contrast to any state-licensed counselor. For Biblical reasons alone,churches should not refer out or have licensed psychological counselors on their staffs.
“Christian Psychologists” in Your Church?
In spite of research to the contrary, in spite of reliance on secular psychological opinions, in spite of the dangers of psychological theories and therapies undermining Scripture, and in spite of the fact that such counseling is governed and restricted by their training and licensure, psychologically trained professional counselors abound in the church, either as members of the staff or as receivers of referrals. Since most people mistakenly think that psychological counseling is good and helpful, these counselors get referrals from pastors and others in the congregation, especially as they develop relationships in churches Thus, with misplaced confidence in psychology, people are easily enticed into the arms of a psychological counselor, either as a source of referral or as a client.
How sad it is to learn that Smith, who throughout his life would preach verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book of the Bible, would miss the clear Scriptural truth regarding its sufficiency for those issues of life that he referred out to a psychotherapy clinic! And how doubly sad that Brodersen is carrying on in the same ungodly tradition of referring congregants out to psychotherapy!
We conclude that while Pastor Chuck Smith during his lifetime emphasized the sufficiency of Scripture in his teaching and preaching, he nonetheless fell prey to the idea that secularly trained MFT Browning and his Therapy Group had something essential to add to what God has already provided in His Word throughout the centuries. If not, why would Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, under his leadership, have been sending believers under his care to those trained in and controlled by fleshly derived systems?
We were not able to confirm by our phone calls to CCCM who started recommending the Turning Point Counseling group in addition to the Browning Therapy Group. However, the practice of referral exists under Brodersen’s leadership, and he must bear the responsibility for allowing ungodly systems to infect believers under his spiritual influence!
Brian Broderson continues to be the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM). As mentioned above, he is the son-in-law of Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapels. Wikipedia reports that CCCM is “the thirty-ninth largest church in America” with 9500 weekly “attendees.” Calvary Chapels do not have formal membership for those who attend; each person decides if they are a member, so the question of membership would never come up for those who call.
We called the main phone number at CCCM and asked, “Do you have a list of professional counselors you recommend?” We were told that CCCM recommends “Journeys Counseling Ministry” and were given the following URL: https://journeyscounseling.com/. Their website states:
We help you find hope and return to joy.
If you or a family member are struggling with relationships, marriage, divorce, grief, trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction, parenting, or other challenges that deplete your joy, hope is found here.
Journeys Counseling Ministry (JCM) provides professional psychotherapy, coaching, and spiritual direction from a Christian worldview. Our work is interdenominational, serving clients from many different backgrounds, including those who have little or no religious affiliation.
JCM lists six different locations, five in Southern California and one in Dalla, Texas. We counted and found that there were over 50 State-licensed psychotherapists who do “in-office or telehealth therapy.” They report that their therapy sessions are “50 minutes long” and the costs are $60 a session for therapists in training, $80-$100 per session for Therapist Associates, and $150-$250 per session for Licensed Therapists. In answer to the question “Do you take insurance,” they state: “We do not accept any form of medical insurance; however, you may have options for reimbursing your expenses through your insurance provider or employee benefit plan.” For “What forms of payment do you accept?” the answer is: “We accept cash, check, or credit card payments.”
Two years ago we did an article titled “Licensed Christian Psychotherapists.” We reprint part of that article here.
Licensed Christian Psychotherapists
Two years ago we did an article titled “Licensed Christian Psychotherapists.” We reprint part of that article here.
Although this article is about the Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist licenses in California, the information that we reveal in this article regarding licensure is likely to be equally true for all the other states. Each state licenses its own psychotherapists, but the requirements are similar state by state, and many states have reciprocal agreements. California and Connecticut were the first States to offer a license for a psychotherapist. California issued its first Clinical Psychologist license in 1958. Five years later, in 1963, California issued its first Marriage and Family Therapist license. Before that time, no church in America referred their congregants out to licensed psychotherapists, because there was no one to send them to. The only source they had was the same source used for almost 2000 years up to the psychological licensing era: The BIBLE!
Over the years we have heard about Christians who are practicing State licensed psychotherapists claiming to be doing “Christian counseling” or counseling by the Bible. Some of these State-licensed psychotherapists approach pastors with their claims, advertise themselves as Christian counselors, and/or indicate likewise on their websites.
Although we knew the answers to the following two questions, we wanted it in writing from the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Our first question was: “Can psychotherapy-licensed Christians or those of any other faith, e.g., Jewish, Buddhist, etc., inject their faith system into their client sessions.” Their answer references the California “Business and Professional Codes” and the California Psychology Board’s “Laws and Regulations,” with the sum and substance answer being “No.” There were exceptions for those who could counsel according to their religious persuasion because of being “duly ordained members of the recognized clergy or duly ordained religious practitioners.
We then wrote, “This second question has to do with what these Christians can say in their ads. Can they state, infer, or imply that they provide Christian counseling?” The answer again refers to codes and the Psychology Board’s “Laws and Regulations.” Once more, the answer boiled down to “No,” just as we expected.
The reason many Christians who are licensed by the state to perform psychotherapy violate the two professional areas restricted by the State is because they would not be cited unless a client complaint were to be received by the State of California. In other words, a psychotherapist’s license violation will be investigated if one or more clients issue a formal complaint to the State. As far as we know, this has never happened.
Other questions arise as to “Christian” psychologists. Is there such a person as a Christian psychologist? Only if this is simply a professing Christian who practices psychology, just as one could be referred to as a Christian plumber as being a plumber who happens to be a Christian. A primary problem with this designation is that many Christians believe that Christians who are licensed psychotherapists do Christian counseling, when their license only authorizes them to therapize according to their training in psychological theories and therapies. In promoting themselves as licensed psychotherapists who do Christian counseling, they are being deceptive at the very least, unless they set aside their license and counsel for free or unless they give up their license and become ordained ministers.
Actually, there is no such recognized theory or therapy that is “Christian psychology.” The Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) is an organization of psychologists who are professing Christians. The following was admitted at one of their meetings:
We are often asked if we are “Christian psychologists” and find it difficult to answer since we don’t know what the question implies. We are Christians who are psychologists but at the present time there is no acceptable Christian psychology that is markedly different from non-Christian psychology. It is difficult to imply that we function in a manner that is fundamentally distinct from our non-Christian colleagues . . . as yet there is not an acceptable theory, mode of research or treatment methodology that is distinctly Christian.
Christian psychology depends on psychology itself. Because psychology is such a broad field, we want to make it clear that when we use the word psychology, we are referring to psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies.
In order to find out if there is such a uniform practice as Christian psychotherapy, we asked ourselves and then others, “What types of psychotherapeutic approaches most influence the Christian psychotherapist?” No one we contacted was able to answer that question. Therefore, we devised a simple, easy-to-answer survey form comprised of a list of ten major psychotherapies. The survey was administered to members of CAPS. Each respondent was asked to rank one or more of these psychotherapeutic approaches that influenced his/her professional practice. Additional space was provided for participants to add other psychotherapies before ranking.
The results of the survey indicate that Christian psychotherapists or counselors are eclectic in that they are influenced by and use a variety of psychological approaches rather than just one or two. In other words, there is not just one Christian psychotherapeutic way. A great variety of approaches influence clinical practice. This survey demonstrated that, while some psychotherapies are more influential than others in the practice of Christian counseling, in general the Christian psychotherapist is both independent and eclectic in his/her approach to counseling. In addition, each Christian psychotherapist’s combination of counseling approaches differs from that of other Christian therapists.
There are licensed psychiatrists and psychotherapists who are Christians who regularly share the Gospel with a patient (psychiatrist) or client (psychotherapist) and even pray with them. They will say, “Only when it is appropriate.” However, under the circumstances, it is never appropriate! It is both unethical and illegal. It is unethical because of the limitations of their license and illegal unless the psychiatrists or psychotherapists are not advertising their license, the patient/client has not come to them based upon that license, and no money has been charged.
Trust in Psychology Endemic in the Church
Based on our surveys over the years and on feedback from our subscribers, we predict that it is likely that most Evangelical churches refer their people out for help with those issues of life for which the Bible provides answers, remedies, and understanding. Years back we checked the seven largest churches in America and found all seven referred congregants out to psychotherapists in their communities. We have nine churches locally that would fit the term “Evangelical” and eight of them refer out.
Fifty years ago, almost no churches in America referred congregants out to psychotherapists, but now there are few that do not. Please check out your church; find out if they ever do. We suggest you ask the following question: Have you ever referred individuals or couples who are experiencing problems of living to a psychotherapist? If the answer is “no,” ask: Would you be opposed to referring individuals or couples to a psychotherapist? However, we suggest that you not question or criticize at that time, but merely ask the question or questions
Please let us know the answer you receive at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity, Revised & Expanded. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2012.
 Phone call to Calvary Chapel Association, July 25, 2014.
 Phone call to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, February 1, 2013.
 Statement prepared by Dr. Charles Browning, ibid.
 Phone calls to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, July 17, 18, 2014.
 Phone call to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, July 21, 2014.
 Parts of this article are taken from “Psychoheresy in Your Church?” PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 22, No. 1, https://pamweb.org/psychoheresy-and-christian-organizations/psychoheresy-in-your-church/.
 Maggie Hyde (RNS), “Christian Counselors Claim Discrimination Over Religious Beliefs on Gays,” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011, www.huffingtonpost.com; “Jennifer Keeton, Anti-Gay Counseling Student Who Refused Remedial Training, Lawsuit Dismissed,”1 Huffington Post, June 27, 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com.
 Paul Elias, “Court Upholds First Ban on Gay Aversion Therapy,” Santa Barbara News-Press, August 30, 2013, pp. A1, A13.
Ibid., p. A13.
 P. Sutherland and P. Poelstra, “Aspects of Integration,” paper presented at the meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Santa Barbara, CA, June 1976