If you are doing a little digging and you want to know what approaches and therapies are out there, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT) most certainly will come up. At New Vision Counseling in Edmond and Oklahoma City locations, you will find the counselors and therapists often utilizing a form or fashion of CBT. CBT is an approach to counseling with statistics to back its value and impact. But should a Christian consider this approach? In this article I will explain some of the limitations this approach has for the Christian client. I will also highlight the ways CBT does fit in a Biblical framework. Consider these various aspects and make the best choice for yourself.
When viewing CBT through the eyes of a Christian, it has some limitations. One of the limitations of CBT is that it does not address spiritual aspects, as it primarily focuses on the “thoughts, feelings and emotions” of an individual. It may call various aspects of spirituality as wrong thinking and part of unhealthy internal self-talk. Because CBT does not pick up on spiritual aspects of the thought process, CBT then can exclude the core beliefs of the Christian faith. A core belief is a person’s building block in the way they see life around them. Traditional CBT may not affirm the unique beliefs a Christian holds and therefore could be detrimental to the client.
A second limitation of CBT is the perspective that says a person is responsible for their thoughts. Traditional CBT does not include the Christian truth that involves John 10:10 describing the “enemy of our souls” by saying the “thief comes to steal, kill and destroy”. In my experience, both personally and professionally, the “enemy” implants negative thoughts and feelings that affect self-talk and self-perception. It is crucial for a person to understand that the origin of these thoughts is not from themselves to spare unneeded shame or condemnation, and ultimately this makes it easier for the person to distinguish right thinking.
Although there are some limitations to CBT in the Christian faith, there are some elements that agree in scripture.
- Take every thought captive.
In 2 Cor 10:5, Paul teaches us that we are to take every thought captive and make it submissive to Christ. The word “captive” is very strong language and refers to a military submission in its meaning. There is a charge to very strongly submit our thoughts unto the only true Word, that is, Jesus. In challenging our self-talk, we get to speak truth against lies. We get to question what thoughts are truthful, and what thoughts are lies about who we are, how we see the world around us, and how we think about situations.
- Renew your mind daily.
- In Romans 12:2 we learn that we are “transformed by renewing our minds”. CBT describes how you can have a new perspective on the way you think, feel and behave by changing how you see situations. This can be done at any point in time, even reflecting upon past experiences. It is a quick tool to use by asking “Do I really believe this or not?” Renewing the mind is a major attribute of CBT.
- Meditate on these things…
- Phil 4:8 teaches that we are to think on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”. This fits along with CBT as it pushes people to think positively and with a gratitude perspective. CBT says the more you think on positive things, the more it will change your “thoughts, feelings and emotions” for the better, and this component is seen in Phil 4:8.
- What Would Jesus Do? Jesus’ approach had elements of CBT when he said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worry of its own,”(Matt 6:34). This indicates the importance of living in the present, being aware of the moment you’re in and not of the future or past. This confronts anxiety (being weighed down by the future) and depression (being weighed down by the past).
Caleb McKean, LPC
Caleb focuses on the gospel of Jesus with the strength of the Holy Spirit to help you identify your purpose through scripture, and find tools that will guide you even when you are done with Counseling.