Because this article is about licensed psychotherapists, we first repeat what we have said in the past: One of us earned a doctorate and qualified for the California Clinical Psychologist License, but decided not to apply for it. We had come to the same conclusion as Dr. Lawrence LeShan, when president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, who said some years after us: “Psychotherapy may be known in the future as the greatest hoax of the twentieth century.”1 It may eventually be recognized as one of the greatest heresies of modern-day Christianity.
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 and 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.2
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.
There are two things to know about psychiatry. First, ask psychiatrists how many of their patients are on psychotropic medications and they will say, “All of them.”
Second, ask them if they do psychotherapy, and they will likely say, “No.”
If one desires to have psychotherapy, one will usually be forced to go to a licensed psychotherapist and not a psychiatrist. To begin with, psychiatrists are generally not well trained in psychotherapy. Also, psychiatrists, as medical doctors, are trained and licensed to dispense psychotropic medications. That is what they are most comfortable doing. Search for the article “Psychiatry Doesn’t Do Psychotherapy Anymore” on the internet.3 The reasons psychiatrists don’t do psychotherapy anymore is explained in the New York Times article titled “”Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy.”4 As the expression goes, “Follow the money.” Doing drug therapy is a 15-minute appointment; whereas talk therapy is a 45 to 50-minute session. A psychiatrist today is typically only a “paid friend” for drug therapy.
There are about 500 different psychotherapies with thousands of techniques. Every one of them has its own standard of right and wrong, none of which agrees fully with Scripture, many of which contradict the Bible. For instance, many psychotherapies promote self-love as a high goal, whereas self-love is not encouraged in Scripture and even detailed as a sign of the last days before the return of the Lord and the end of civilization as we know it (2 Tim. 3:1-5). All of the theories and therapies of psychology have their own ideas of what is right and wrong. There is no universal standard among them, but many that fluctuate with the tide of human opinion. Therefore, not one of these many psychotherapies deals with the essential doctrines of human depravity and sin (hamartiology)! Not one uses the doctrine of sin and its destructive prevalence to assist a client deal with the trials, tribulations, and troubles of life.
Because of this glaring omission, in order to use any of these psychotherapies, Christian clients must compromise the biblical doctrines of sin and salvation and thereby sink into syncretism. In doing so, they end up with an unholy mixture. They end up reading the Bible through lenses colored with psychotherapeutic notions that have been presented as factual. One example is how many Christians have turned the two commandments to love God and others into three commandments to include a commandment to love self. Self-love is then wiggled into Scripture and takes a prominent place when it is argued that one cannot love God and others until one first loves oneself.
Thus, when one moves from the church to the psychotherapist’s office, one moves from the possibility of a godly biblical approach to a secular and sometimes evil approach, e.g., Freud’s ideas of infantile sexuality. When pastors and churches refer believers out to psychotherapy, they are loudly declaring that they do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for the issues of life. They are proclaiming syncretism!
As we have often said: Christians should not be practitioners (psychotherapists) or participants (clients) in psychotherapy. We call such ungodly actions psychoheresy. These psychological theories and therapies have infiltrated Christian schools, Bible colleges, seminaries, universities, denominations, and mission agencies. Also, the psychological format of counseling has been adopted by all the leaders of the biblical counseling movement that we have examined.
Licensed Christian Psychotherapists
1 Lawrence LeShan, Association for Humanistic Psychology, October 1984, p. 4.
2 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
3 John M. Grohol, “Psychiatry Doesn’t Do Psychotherapy Anymore,” psychcentral.com.
4 Gardiner Harris, “Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy,” New York Times, March 5, 2011, newyorktimes.com.