What defines a Christian counselor? When should you integrate faith in your sessions? Why is it important to ensure that you listen to the needs of your client when it comes to faith in therapy?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks to William Hemphill about calling yourself a Christian counselor.
Meet William Hephill II
William Hemphill, II, is a counselor, pastor, and speaker. As a husband who has been married for over 23 years and a father who adopted three children, he understands the rewards and challenges of maintaining a strong marriage and blending a family.
In his practice, he works with individuals who value their faith, couples who want to strengthen or rebuild their relationships, and with adoptive families in building loving connections. He is the author of the book Praying With Your Spouse: A Secret To Building Intimacy In Your Marriage.
Listen to his podcast here. Email William at firstname.lastname@example.org
In This Podcast
- How William got into the counseling world
- Calling himself a Christian counselor
- What defines a Christian counselor
- Forming first relationships with pastors
- Faith and Family Matters
- Giving people a choice
How William got into the counseling world
When William was in seminary training, a professor told him that every pastor should have a therapist, so in the midst of his training, he took that to heart and went to see a therapist, who he actually still sees today. This therapist is a faith-based counselor and William always thought that it might be cool to integrate those two aspects. He did some work with people in hospitals and hospices but only for one or two sessions and knew that he wanted to do more in-depth work. In 2013, when his mother passed away, William decided to get his mental health counseling degree and from there knew that he wanted to operate in private practice.
Calling himself a Christian counselor
We need to let people know we’re out there and so we have to be at a place where people are searching, that they can find us in order to get the help. And so, a lot of that has to do with the decision so that people could find me, so I’d be able to work with them.
William operates more as a pastoral counselor or chaplain mainly because of his experiences and being able to work with people in their faith and help them navigate through different issues. Identifying as a Christian counselor was partly a business decision as more people look for Christian counseling than pastoral counseling.
What defines a Christian counselor
I might have some personal prayer before a session, and just ask God to guide me in the session so I can be an instrument of grace to make a difference.
A Christian counselor is someone who has some authenticity and understanding of your faith as a Christian. Personally, William doesn’t think that is necessary to talk about your faith in every session because it is the client’s session. It is the client’s job to bring the information and it is the counselor’s job to hold the container. If a faith story or biblical passage can help a client to do the work that is needed then it can be a very powerful tool. As long as you have an understanding of the Christian faith and can ethically integrate that into your work, then you can call yourself a Christian counselor.
Forming first relationships with pastors
- Reach out via email or call to let them know that you’re a counselor in the area.
- Have coffee with them and see how you might be able to help them in ministry.
- Offer something like a marriage workshop or something on dealing with grief – this can make a big difference in the congregation, especially in a small to a medium church where the pastor is serving a ton of roles.
Faith and Family Matters
I believe a lot of the work that we do as counselors is helping people to live out their faith more authentically, and be more authentic as to who God made each of us.
William’s podcast is about faith, family, society, and mental health. Lately, William has put a lot of emphasis on issues dealing with Coronavirus and race in society as it has affected so many people. He has some interviews where he and his wife have talked about their relationships and also have some solo episodes and interviews on issues of faith, family, adoption, etc. William’s goal is to make families whole and that is the emphasis of his ministry.
Giving people a choice
There’s nothing wrong with having a bias. Everybody has a bias. Our job is not to enforce that on someone but make the room a safe place for people to process their work. And if faith allows them to process their work and become better individuals, then we share our faith stories and what God has given us as gifts to do that.
One of the worst things that you can do as a therapist is to try and force your beliefs on someone. Jesus did not force himself on anyone, he shared the gospel but didn’t force people to believe in it, he gave them the choice. Therapists are there to be gentle with people and where they’re at, not to force anything down anyone’s throat.
Books by William Hemphill
- Dr. Judy Seeger on How to Profit & Keep Patient Retention In Your Holistic Business Using Videos (Even If You’re Camera Shy) | FP 42
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- Consult With Whitney
Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
Thanks For Listening!
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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
If you’re a working mom trying to figure out how to make all of it fit in – fitness, family, friends, work, I want to encourage you to check out the Bomb Mom podcast with Melissa Vogel. She gives you great tips on how to keep your fitness up while also managing all the things you manage in your life as a working mom. So check that out on any podcast player that you listen to or go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host, Whitney Owens, recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner and private practice consultant. In each week, through a personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow, and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective. I’m going to show you how to have an awesome, faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.
Today’s episode I interview William Hemphill. He’s got an awesome practice up in Atlanta, Georgia. I love it, because we’re both in the state of Georgia, and so we can bond on that. But also, William has done the mastermind group with me recently, and so it’s been really an honor to be with him and watch him grow as a clinician, watch his practice grow. William though, is also a pastor so he brings a really great light with the pastoral view, into the pastoral and clinical side of managing a practice, but also in the way that he sees clients. And today he answers a really important question for us: can I call myself a Christian counselor? This is one of the biggest questions that I get as a consultant, is what exactly is a Christian counselor? What qualifications do I need to call myself a Christian counselor? And kind of how do I market that and how to move forward with that? So this episode is going to answer all those questions and more. So enjoy listening to this episode, number 43, can I call myself a Christian counselor with William Hemphill.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. Today on the episode I have William Hemphill II. He’s a counselor, pastor, and speaker. As a husband who’s been married for over 23 years and a father who adopted three children, he understands the rewards and challenges of maintaining a strong marriage and blending a family. In his practice, he works with individuals who value their faith, couples who want to strengthen or rebuild their relationships, and with adoptive families and building loving connections. He’s the author of the book Praying with your Spouse: A Secret to Building Intimacy in Your Marriage. His blogs and videos about relationships can be found on his website WilliamHemphill.com, and on Facebook at William Hemphill II Pastoral counselor, Faith and Family Empowerment. He is also the founder of a Facebook group building spiritually strong marriages and the host of the Faith and Family Matters podcast. William, thanks for taking the time to be on the show today. [WILLIAM]:
Thank you for having me here today, Whitney. [WHITNEY]:
Awesome, awesome. Well, why don’t you start with sharing with people a little bit how you got into the counseling world? It sounds like you also were in the pastoral world. I’m sure those two go hand in hand, if you want to kind of share, how did God kind of bring you into that? [WILLIAM]:
Well, for me, a lot of it started in seminary, when I was in seminary training to be a pastor. I remember one of my professors saying that every pastor should have a therapist in order to deal with the issues of the pastoring. And so in the midst of seminary, I actually took that to heart and that was the first time I had ever gone to see a therapist. And the therapist I had, and actually still have, was a faith based counselor and I always thought that might be pretty cool to integrate those two aspects together. As I went along and finished seminary, I actually received some training in chaplaincy, and worked with people with grief sickness and different things like that in hospitals, and hospices. And I enjoyed that work but a lot of times I was only able to get to people for maybe one or two sessions, or how long they’re in the hospital, or how long someone is in hospice, or different things like that. And I knew I wanted to do some more in depth work and so I actually, when my mother did pass away in 2013, that’s when I decided to go ahead and get my mental health counseling degree. And from there, I knew I wanted to operate in private practice. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, thanks. I love what you just said. I even like wrote it down on my note here. Every pastor needs to be in therapy. I totally agree. Like, and counselors, like, our stuff just comes out. And so, I’m gonna guess, do you feel like being in therapy really helped you become a better pastor? [WILLIAM]:
I think so. I think between therapy and also the training I received, because one, I think it made me more aware of my own stuff, and how my own stuff might influence and hurt people if I’m not careful. Two, it also helped me, I believe, with I’d say creating boundaries. I know one of the things that some pastors have gotten in trouble with sometimes is violating boundaries, having sexual boundaries with clergy, I mean with parishioners, or different things like that. And so, understanding what goes on in you that may tempt you to violate boundaries, and setting up structures in place to keep you safe, is important. And I believe my background actually helped me out with learning a lot about that. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. That’s good. All right. So then you went to get your master’s in counseling, is that the degree you got? [WILLIAM]:
Oh, yes. So I have a MDIV and a master’s in counseling. [WHITNEY]:
Okay, great. And so what was that like after you graduated? I’m guessing – where’s that line? I’m a pastor. I’m a counselor. So how did you find your identity through that as a therapist? [WILLIAM]:
Well, actually, I kind of did both. So when I was in school, I was still pastoring the church that I’m pastoring now, and what happened was with me, I had gone back to do some hospice work for a little while, but I decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore. And so I went, and I found a place to do an internship for counseling. Now part of the boundary for me keeping the two separate was the distance. Where I did my practice was over in Norcross, which is kind of North Atlanta, and then where my church was is in Covington, which is kind of east of the city. So there’s a good bit of difference between one and the other, so the two populations don’t even cross. And so some of the distance helped me navigate that a little bit. [WHITNEY]:
So what do you call yourself as far as do you call yourself a pastoral counselor, a Christian counselor, a counselor? And like, how did you delineate what you would call yourself currently? [WILLIAM]:
Well, here’s how I ended up choosing Christian counselor, and I think about this from a business perspective. I would say, I operate more as a pastoral counselor or as a chaplain, primarily because of my experiences in chaplains and being able to work with people in their faith and helping them navigate through some different issues. I’d say that really kind of informs my identity, but how I ended up choosing the [unclear] identified as a Christian counselor, part of that was a business decision since that in doing work with different marketers and stuff, I found that more people look for Christian counseling than necessarily for pastoral counseling. And why I feel that’s important is because we need to let people know we’re out there. And so we have to be at a place where people are searching that they can find us in order to get the help. And so a lot of that has to do with a decision so that people could find me, and so I’d be able to work with them. [WHITNEY]:
I love this. And that’s the whole reason this whole Faith in Practice became something is I’m thinking, gosh, there’s all these great faith based counselors. We need to know how to run our businesses and people find us because they’re looking. [WILLIAM]:
I would definitely agree with you. People are looking. And I’ll just say this, one of the things – I’m not gonna call it a con, I understand the business but I think about even between the ministry degree – the MDIV – and the counseling business, most people go into that because we care about people, and we want to help people. But part of that training, I think, comes sometimes that it tells us about helping people and maybe for lack of a better term saying being altruistic, not necessarily thinking about what you may need in it. And so we don’t always get the business aspects that may apply to the ministry and the business aspects that may apply to therapy. And so a lot of times I know I had to get that, but I know a lot of colleagues I know that had to get that outside of being in school. [WHITNEY]:
Most definitely. And we don’t pick those, like you’re saying, we pick it because we care about people, not for the money necessarily. And then we get into it and realize, oh, gosh, I need to feed my family. I need money. So trying to be able to make all that work. [WILLIAM]:
Definitely, definitely I agree with you. And it’s one of those things that you learn to navigate as you go along. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, yeah. And so when you work with your clients, I’m interested in hearing, how do you integrate your faith into the work that you do with clients? Because I’m guessing the clients that come to you, would you say they’re all Christians if you’re advertising as a Christian counselor, or do you have people that are not faith based come in? [WILLIAM]:
I have a blend. I have some who are faith based, I have some who aren’t faith based and it’s not important to them. And I’m trying to think, I may have had one or two that might be even of a different faith to me. Here’s how I normally do it. So usually when I have my assessment, I do in my assessment ask about their faith background, and how important it is to them, and so I operate usually on the basis of that. If someone’s saying, faith is not important to me, then we don’t integrate it. If someone is saying, faith is very important to me, then I integrate a lot of it in the practice. And so that could be anywhere from just sitting with someone, getting to know their story, to having some instances where I’ve had clients actually ask me to pray for them in session. So I’ve actually done that in a couple instances. And so a lot of it has to go with dealing with what does the client need? And how can faith work in helping the client deal with anxiety, with their marriage, with depression, with stress, so on and so forth? [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, you’re bringing up some really good points, so I’m gonna dive into some of these here because these are some questions that I get a lot from people as to what a Christian counselor is, what we should and shouldn’t do. And obviously, it’s not a list of should ‘n shouldn’ts. But I want to ask you a few more questions on this. So prayer in sessions – obviously, you said you pray with some of your clients, I mean, do you pray with all your clients? Or how do you make the decision on which ones you’re going to pray with and which ones you’re not, in session? [WILLIAM]:
I do not pray with… as a matter of fact, I don’t pray with most of my clients. And I think every case except one, it has been a request by the client. Because I had one session where there was a client who asked me and I think I’d been doing premarital counseling with them, three or four sessions, and one of them asked, and said, how come you haven’t prayed with us? And so we talked about that in session and how I normally operate. And after I talked to them about how I operate, they said, well, will you be willing to pray for us? And I said, sure. And so a lot of it’s respecting the client’s wishes in that. I think it’s also powerful in the sense… because a lot of times, when I’m working with clients, a lot of times part of the work that clients have to do is being able to express or voice what they need or want. And so even doing it, for instance, with the client I just talked about, part of that allowed them to express, hey, I want this and need this, which is actually therapeutic for them, because they can use something they’ve learned in the room – like that expressing a need for prayer with me – to take that outside into their relationship and learn how to express their needs outside. [WHITNEY]:
Preach it, love it. I totally agree with you on all that. So also, like in grad school, at least for me, and I’d love to hear what you think about this, I went to grad school, actually, also from Atlanta, or I lived in Atlanta for a time. I went to Richmont, and it was a faith based program and we obviously did clinical work, but I loved… because we were able to talk about how does faith influence the client in the kind of work we do? And one of the things we discussed a lot was that hierarchy. And we know this in all ethics, like the counselor has that advantage to authority over the client just simply based on the type of relationship we have with them. And so when we talk about our faith and prayer, it’s easy for the client to be overwhelmed by us bringing it to them and kind of, if you’re praying with every client, every session, they can start to feel like they have to pray or that you’re forcing it on them. And so I was curious what you kind of think about that, do you think about that dynamic with prayer coming into sessions, if a counselor is kind of initiating it? [WILLIAM]:
I generally wouldn’t initiate it and this is just me, because you talked about the power dynamic in there. And I know people come to us because they have Christian counselor and expecting different things, maybe because they see Christian counselor, but always being wary of the power dynamic, which is one of the things we have a responsibility of, and using the power dynamic to help the client empower themselves. And so that’s why I like that example that I talked about so much earlier, is because the client really became empowered to ask for what they want. The other thing is, I imagine let’s say if we decided we were going to open our session with every prayer, unless you gave some informed consent or something like that with a client beforehand, you could easily be imposing yourself on the rights or the will of a client, unknowingly, and that’s the last thing we want to do. And so that’s why I’m so careful with navigating that. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, and I think it’s so easy to cross that line, very unconsciously most of the time, between being manipulative and not being manipulative. Like, we pray for something that we want to see happen, when that might not necessarily be what the client is working towards. [WILLIAM]:
Yes, this is true. It’s funny, as you say that I’ll give you a good example. I was working with a couple not too long ago, and we’re working through situations, and they finally stopped. And I received a call where this particular person said, well, we’re getting divorced, but I thank you for your work. Here’s the thing about it. Your desire as a counselor, and I’ll say my desire sometimes when working with married couples is, I would like to see you stay together. But if you learned enough about yourself and your relationship, for instance, to say, this is not what I want, this is not what I need, this is not what’s going to make me healthy, and then you make that decision to do that so the both of you can be healthier – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, so on and so forth – then that turns out to be a good decision. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, yeah. So in the same respect of prayer, I get a lot from Christian counselors who seem to indicate that we need to talk about our faith in every session, or that you can’t call yourself a Christian counselor unless you’re talking about the Bible or biblical stories with your clients. I have a couple of things here, like, what do you think defines someone as a Christian counselor? [WILLIAM]:
I really think, first of all, I’d say as a Christian counselor, you’re someone who has some authenticity and understanding of your faith as a Christian. I think the term Christian counselor might describe a little bit more of a modality of the fact that you’re open to bring in faith in sessions with a client. Now, me personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about your faith in every session, because it’s really the clients’ session. I think if someone said supervision to me one time, he said, it’s the client’s job to bring the information; it’s our job to hold the container. The container for safety, the container for therapeutic work. If a faith story, or a biblical passage, or something like that helps the client to do their work that’s needed, then I think it’s a very powerful tool. And so there might be some sessions where you have a lot of stories or dwell on the face story – I like to call them narratives – to help or empower clients to work with something; there might be other sessions where it doesn’t need to come in at all. [WHITNEY]:
So I’m hearing you can be a counselor and call yourself a Christian counselor, so long as you have an understanding of the Christian faith, and can ethically integrate that into the work that you’re doing with clients. Is that kinda what…? [WILLIAM]:
Yeah, I think that’s kind of the best way to look at it and do it. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Boy, and when I was in grad school, I learned that so much. When I went to graduate school, I thought, I’m going to be a therapist, I’m going to change everybody’s life, I’m going to make everyone know about Jesus, and had my own agenda. And even going into sessions, you know, faith based or other sessions, we have an agenda sometimes, okay, I’m gonna help this client do these objectives, X, Y, and Z. And then realizing that I was putting so much… I love what you said about it’s their session, like, when we have all these objectives and when we want to say something faith based and all this, it’s like, we have our own session really, which is taking away from the client’s experience. [WILLIAM]:
Definitely, I would agree with you, with that. And it’s so funny because we’re trained to do, you know, find your objectives, your care plan, so on and so forth and do these things. And so I always like to say this. I have an agenda that I set in mind. But as soon as the client comes in the room it is subject to change. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, yeah. And I think about just the space that we offer for the Holy Spirit to be a part of our sessions, and sometimes we get in the way of the work He wants to do. And so having that openness of, alright, this is their session, their time, and the Spirit’s gonna lead us into the ways that we need to go. I had a supervisor when I was in school just taught me tons about that, of me stepping aside because I was way too involved in the sessions. [WILLIAM]:
Yeah. And that’s the power I think of the Spirit of God in that the Spirit of God does lead us in the way we should go. I would say in my instance, I learned about it a lot in chaplaincy because in chaplaincy, I like to say you get in traumatic situations, like, I have stories of walking into a hospital seeing 40-50 people in the emergency room and someone has been shot. What do you do with that? In my case, I said, I had to pray quick because I said, Lord, I have no idea what to do with that. And so then you have to trust God in the midst and navigate with that. And so I’ve taken a lot of that, even in sessions. I said I don’t know what someone needs at this point in time. And so I might have some personal prayer before a session, and just asking God to guide me in the session so I can be an instrument of grace to make a difference. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Well, I’m going to change this a little. I want to talk about you as a pastor. So, as Christian counselors, we’re always kind of wondering what’s the best way to create a relationship with pastors – it’s a little easier if it’s our own church, or maybe we know someone who knows the pastor, but maybe there’s a church we want to create a relationship for referrals that we’ve never come into contact before. Just curious if you had any recommendations for counselors on how to form first relationships with pastors. [WILLIAM]:
I would say if you’re trying to do that, maybe just reach out via email, or call, just let someone… you know, some networking things we do, let them know that you’re a counselor in the area, maybe you’d like to come to coffee or something sometimes and see how you might be able to help them in ministry. Because a lot of times, especially your small to medium-sized churches, you have a pastor who’s serving a ton of roles. And so maybe if you could come in and build a relationship and offer some help, maybe a marriage workshop, or something dealing with grief, or something like that from your own perspective, that helps the ministry and the congregation, it makes a big difference. I know one of the things that… I’ve done this a little bit but I know my mentor actually did this a lot, was one of the things as he built relationships, he talked about pastors that, if you’re seeing someone more than two or three sessions, please refer them out. Because you have so many duties that you don’t have the time to do that. You know, pastors are preparing sermons, running administrative meetings, visiting the sick, trying to lead evangelism programs, doing all sorts of different things. And so the pastor doesn’t have the dedicated time to focus on counseling someone for multiple sessions. And so I believe that’s one of the ways we can complement the ministry of a church is by doing some of those things. [WHITNEY]:
That is the exact same advice that I give. If you’re a pastor and you’re doing more than two sessions, refer out. And even as therapists, we have got to be in relationship with pastors. When they refer someone, as long as the client can sign that ROI. I have gotten so much good clinical information from a pastor. I mean, the pastor not only knows the client, but a lot of times they know the family. They know that dynamic and they can offer so much extra support in the work that we’re doing with clients. [WILLIAM]:
Definitely. It’s really like the church is part of the community of support for the client. And so understanding that and understanding the community of support, in many ways, our work makes a difference in helping that person integrate with that community better many times. [WHITNEY]:
Definitely. I would love for you to share also about kind of your podcast and the work you’re doing with families and specifically, I know you have adopted children – I know that’s a real passion of yours. If you want to spend some time kinda talking about that. [WILLIAM]:
Okay, well, definitely. So the podcast I have is the Faith and Family Matters podcast. It is located on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and I Heart Radio. The podcast is about faith, family, society and mental health, and we talk on different things with that. That comes from my training as both a minister and as a counselor. Lately, I’ve done a lot of emphasis focused on either issues dealing with the coronavirus, or dealing with race in society because that’s affected so many people. I’ve seen it a lot in my office, trying to walk with people through that. And so it’s a resource that allows people to hear different things. I also have a couple interviews where my wife and I talked about our relationship during COVID and different things like that, and we hope to have a blend of solo episodes and interviews with people, different subject matters on issues of faith, family, adoption, and so forth.
I like to say my goal is I like to make families whole. And so that’s the emphasis of… I’ll call it my ministry, whether it’s in pastoring, whether it’s mental health counseling, whether it’s the podcast, so on and so forth, it’s making families whole. I believe, as you said earlier, I’m also an adopted father of three wonderful children. One of the reasons I like talking about that, is I believe it’s a special skill set it takes to pair children from the foster care system, because you’re dealing with children, many times, who have broken connections with caregivers. And so there’s a lot of mistrust, anger, grief, so on and so forth. And so as parents, we have to learn how to navigate those things, while dealing with our own issues in such a way that we can build a strong, connected family. It’s not an easy thing to do; it takes some work. And one of the things I want to do more and more is to help people be able to have the tools to do those things.[WHITNEY]:
It’s beautiful work that you’re doing. Like there’s such a need for that specific niche in lots of different places. And as I’m kind of hearing you I’m thinking about what an example that is of the gospel, and that we are adopted children in a sense, and that you’re like living that as a father in the way that God adopts us as children. And I just think that’s so beautiful, and needs to always be at the forefront as we live out the gospel. [WILLIAM]:
I think that is one of the most powerful things that you have said, Whitney, is that we are called to live out the gospel. I think I had another mentor say something one time, ‘Share the gospel indeed. And if necessary, use words’. So in other words, live out the gospel however God shows you how to live it, so that we can make a difference in the lives of others. And then naturally, people want to know more about your faith and know more about Christ because of how we live. And so I believe a lot of the work even that we do as counselors is helping people to live out their faith more authentically, and be more authentic as to who God made each of us. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, I was talking about in grad school, how I had all these ideas of what Christian counseling was going to be and getting myself on the way. I had a class where someone said this and it just… I honestly don’t really remember what people say all that well in a class, but this really stuck with me. He said, Jesus did not force himself on anyone. He was a gentleman and he was kind. He shared the gospel, but he didn’t force people to believe the gospel; he gave them a choice. And that as therapists, we’re not there to force anything down anyone’s throat. That we’re to be gentle with them, and where they’re at, just the way that Christ is, and that’s living the gospel. And well, just really blew me away and really changed the way I think of therapy. [WILLIAM]:
Yeah. I would say, probably the worst thing we can do as a therapist is to try to force our beliefs on someone. I will say that’s almost like an ethical violation. That’s not something that we’re there to do. And I’d say that even as a chaplain, that was something that I wasn’t there to do. It’s not my job when someone is sick to go in there and say, okay, you need to accept Jesus now. Now, if we have a faith discussion and you want to know about my faith, then I can authentically do it. Here’s how I almost look at it. I’m thinking about this example real quick, where I had to do a presentation at my daughter’s school for career day. And so I talked about my various careers over the years as an engineer, what I did, and at that time as a chaplain, what I did, and one of the kids asked about communion and Jesus’ blood. Now, in school, you’re not necessarily supposed to do that normally. But the teacher looked at me and she said, he asked the question, and so I began to talk about what communion meant in that. I use this as examples because you were given the permission to give that story. I wasn’t going to give that story at all, but because I was asked by a couple of students in the room about that, what is communion? What does it mean, and all that? And I was like, okay, here’s what it means. [WHITNEY]:
And that goes back to this idea of when we pray and we’re open to the Holy Spirit, doors start opening up for the work He wants to do. And I guess that was the day that they needed to hear that. [WILLIAM]:
Yeah, I would agree with you. And it wasn’t even my intention to share that; I was just being authentically who I was, and even respecting the rules of that particular institution. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah. Well, William, this has been a wonderful conversation. I’ve really enjoyed talking about the integration of faith because it’s such an important topic for us to do and to do it well. And to, I guess, I challenge myself and those listening that it can be really easy to forget the importance of that, and that we need to be noticing how are… we always need to be paying attention to are we pushing our faith on our clients, even unconsciously, because as therapists, we’re always going to have a bias. And as faith-based people, we love our faith. We love Jesus and what he’s done for us. So unconsciously, of course, we express that to people. And so always being aware of that. So this has been a really good time to kind of do a check in on that. [WILLIAM]:
Well, thank you so much for having me be able to do that. And I do like that last point that you said, we’re always aware we have our biases. There’s nothing wrong with having a bias. Everybody has a bias. Our job is not to enforce that on someone, but make the room a safe place for people to process their work. And if faith allows them to process their work and become better individuals, then we share our faith stories and what God has given us as gifts to do that. [WHITNEY]:
Yeah, that’s great. So William, I always ask people at the end of the podcast, what do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know? [WILLIAM]:
I think we… well, two things. One, we’ve already talked a lot about that, being aware of your own bias. Don’t look to evangelize in the room. But at the same time, don’t be ashamed of your story and if your story comes into the midst of the therapy, that’s part of it. If it brings healing to people, then that’s what we’re about doing. So I would say the faith narratives, the personal stories we have, those different things, they’re tools that we use to help bring about healing. Number two, I would say, don’t be afraid to identify who you are. If you’re a Christian counselor, you are a Christian counselor; there are clients who are looking for you. Don’t be ashamed. One of the things, and the reason why I share that is because I went to a secular institution for my education and there was a bias against religion there. So one of the things I had to keep in focus and keep in mind was how important that was in my life and in the lives of people that I would be serving, and sometimes advocating that for people. So don’t be ashamed of who you are. And also understand that we keep the room a safe container for our clients to be able to do the work they need to do. [WHITNEY]:
That’s wonderful. Well, William, thank you so much for coming on today and speaking to these topics, and I’m looking forward to when this episode airs. [WILLIAM]:
You are very welcome. Have a wonderful day. [WHITNEY]:
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