Christian marriage counseling is a distinct resource for couples who desire to work towards building a healthy relationship in an environment where their biblical values will serve as an integral part of the treatment process. It fuses a Scriptural approach to marriage with empirically based methods aimed at helping couples improve their communication, rebuild trust, and strengthen their overall emotional connection. Let's briefly explore the elements and benefits of Christian marriage counseling.
1. A Sense of Safety
Marriage counseling can be intimidating, especially when a couple is unsure of what to expect from the process. This is an important reason why Christian counseling is a central resource to spouses. It provides them with a sense of safety and confidence in knowing their counselor has a similar faith background, and will encourage them towards a deeper engagement of that faith as they address essential aspects of their marriage. Furthermore, they can have a sense of freedom in openly discussing both the joys and difficulties of their walk with God as a couple, which serves to help create a rich dialogue that may not be present in a non-christian setting.
2. The intersection of faith and daily life
I would describe Christian marriage counseling as a transformative experience based on how it engages couples in the necessary journey of exploring their hearts. It requires them to:
Identify how their Christian faith intersects with how they treat each other on a daily basis, and evaluate how the conflicts, infidelities, abuses, and breaches of trust in their marriage have been driven by deeper perceptions and attitudes they have held over time.
The result is an approach that goes beyond a superficial or primary focus on communication skill building and helps a couple to apply their faith in this exploration of their perceptions and attitudes towards each other.
3. Helping EstablisH long term change
It doesn't take long as a counselor to realize that teaching a couple new communication skills simply doesn't cut it when trying to help them establish positive changes that will last over time. Establishing that type of change requires that spouses have hearts that 1) desire to change, 2) remain open and sensitive to the longings and needs of their significant other, and 3) are willing to make needed repairs based on breaches of trust or past hurts in their relationship.
There is nothing easy about any of these three elements, however a Christian based therapist can join with and support clients as they seek to achieve of those objectives through briefly praying with them in session, asking how their Christianity applies to these areas, and encouraging them to consider applying central principles from Scripture (e.g., such as The Fruit of the Spirit identified by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23).
I will often ask married couples I work with questions such as the following when they are about to criticize each other or argue in a session:
- Where do you see the love, patience and kindness identified in Galatians 5:22 in your conversation?
- How can you love your neighbor as yourself in this discussion?
There is zero judgment coming from me when I ask these question, because I know that I'm just as accountable to the Lord and my spouse in making sure I'm living out those principles in my own life. And yet, these questions are important tools in helping guide couples into more positive points of engagement with each other. This is just one example of how couples can be engaged in the Christian counseling process.
Out of all the things that can be experienced in a Christian counseling setting, I believe that hope is one of the most important. I say this knowing that when we are willing to avail ourselves of the love and grace of God provided to us through Christ, that our hearts and minds can be renewed and empowered through his Spirit to do all that is necessary to live according to righteousness. The result is the ability of a couple to join with each other and the Lord, as an active participant in their endeavor to live according to his will and his Spirit within their marriage. This joining becomes part of them having hope for change, not only individually, but as a unit seeking to see the Lord honored in their relationship.
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Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling