Do you need to see a pastor or a therapist? It depends on what you want to accomplish. Don't confuse the two, and you'll be happier with your decision. #therapist #pastor #mentalhealawareness #mentalwholeness #mentalhealth #anxiety #depression #bipolar #health #counselor #stopthestigma #selfcarehacks #inspirememonday

Do you need to see a pastor or a therapist? It depends on what you want to accomplish. Don’t confuse the two, and you’ll be happier with your decision.

Which Should You See if You Have a Problem? A Pastor or a Therapist?

Although no one ever said, “You shouldn’t go see a therapist,” I didn’t know a single person growing up who had seen a therapist, psychiatrist, or even psychologist. If people had marital problems, they went to see their pastor. No one talked about depression, anxiety, or rapid mood swings. If anyone even hinted at having a problem, the hearers would give them a condescending pat and promise to pray for them.

I remember our next-door neighbor (a pastor’s wife) announcing she had returned to school to get her counseling degree. Pedro fell ill with cancer that same year, and she offered to talk to our girls as our family went through the emotional turmoil a cancer diagnosis can produce. I smiled and thanked her, thinking little of her offer. After all, what could a counselor do about cancer?

It turns out, an awful lot. It took another five years for me to realize I should have not only taken her up on her offer but actively pursued counseling for each family member during Pedro’s traumatic journey.

Therapists help people solve problems and give them tools to start solving problems on their own. If they think a client needs more help, a good therapist will refer a client to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists can pinpoint mental health disorders that may only respond to a combination of medication and therapy.

A good pastor will refer members of his flock to professionals, too. Sadly, though, not all pastors understand the scope and consequences of mental health problems. Pastors might view mental health issues as spiritual weakness. The devil probably rubs his hands in glee when that lie gets preached from the pulpit.

Show Notes

Today’s podcast will help you understand who you need to see, a pastor or a therapist, and explain the importance of making the right choice.

Psychology Today offers a free tool to help you find a therapist. You can search using location, gender, issue, and even faith (if that’s important to you).

Self-Help books I’ve found useful.

Do you need to see a pastor or a therapist? It depends on what you want to accomplish. Don't confuse the two, and you'll be happier with your decision. #therapist #pastor #mentalhealawareness #mentalwholeness #mentalhealth #anxiety #depression #bipolar #health #counselor #stopthestigma #selfcarehacks #inspirememonday
Who you gonna call? A pastor or a therapist? #selfcare #mentalhealth Click To Tweet

Come Back Next Week

Next week’s podcast will give you suggestions for what to do when someone discloses a mental health problem to you.

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  1. Well said Anita, sadly too many non Clinical professionals (not only Pastors) take on those who truly need professional Clinical Counseling & do far more harm then good to already hurting people.

    Sadly, as a Clinical Therapist I saw this far too many times.

  2. Anita, this is another great post. I remember when I was younger, my mother always went to our pastor for all sorts of life counseling including when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I think that was probably the first time that actual counseling came onto our radar. My father’s oncologist suggested it and that is where it all began. I have found extraordinary benefit in counseling for myself and my family for many sorts of things from my child losing a friend in a house fire at the age of 7 to my own bipolar treatments. I applaud you for always writing on such important topics! This part made me chuckle…”Pastors might view mental health issues as spiritual weakness. The devil probably rubs his hands in glee when that lie gets preached from the pulpit.” I have always had a major issue with that perspective! Thank you for debunking it with humor!


  3. Well said, Anita, and so needed. I retired after nearly 25 years as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who had practiced within Christian private practice and found too many were misinformed about what good things can be found within those who practice this profession. It is very true that too many pastors and sometimes “spiritual directors” are involved in far more complex and difficult situations than they realize or should be trying to muddle through despite their good intentions. Few are aware of the liability and risks they are taking. Thanks for raising this conversation and topic!
    Pam Ecrement recently posted…The Gift of CuriosityMy Profile

  4. This post reminds me of a conversation I had with a Christian man who happened to be a therapist. He also plants churches and advises pastors. His advice to pastors when it comes to counseling is to send the individual or family to therapy if they have been seen more than three times because much of what people need is beyond the scope of pastoral counseling.

    In another conversation with a pastor, he says his church has a group of therapists on retainer for members of their church and the church pays for the first four sessions to encourage them to get the help they need. I gave him a high five because I don’t know any church committed to mental health in that way.

    Because of the poor counsel, I have received from churches and my vast knowledge on the benefits of therapy, I no longer bother with pastoral counseling.
    Yvonne Chase recently posted…Bombing You With Love Is How They Trap YouMy Profile

  5. An important post, Anita, especially for those who may be told they just need to pray more and be more faithful to God, and then God will heal them. Yes, God heals, but He brings tools into our human experience such as professional counsellors to help us.

  6. Hi Anita,

    I think people need both pastoral care and therapy at some point in their lives. I certainly have.

    At this moment, I’m waiting for a call from my mother-in-law. We suspect a cancer diagnosis. It’s strange how God works sometimes.


  7. Once I read a book by one therapist that was very ethereal and New Age-y. Then I read another by someone who was immensely practical. The latter appeals to me much more, and I thought that if I ever needed one, I’d like to find that kind. But I have wondered how you can find out personality or style or perspective from a prospective counselor–I guess recommendations or reviews or finding some of their writing.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…Does He Still Love Me?My Profile

  8. I am glad that more people are recognizing that sometimes a person really does need a therapist. I think people are realizing that mental illness is really a thing. I’m glad you are tackling this subject and offering help in these areas, Anita! Blessings to you!
    Oh, I tried to comment on the one before me but you can’t comment unless you’re a member of the website, so I guess I’ll go to the one before that.

  9. Anita, this is such a helpful post. Yes, there are times when a pastor is the best fit for a person. And, there are times when a different professional can be very effective. Our family has benefited from seeing counselors from time to time.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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