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How Important is Religious Affiliation When Looking For a Therapist?

If you are looking for a therapist how important should their religious affiliation, if any, be to you? Is it vital that your counselor have experience with your faith so that she can understand where you are coming from? Is it wrong to switch counselors just because of a difference in religion?

These are all questions people ask themselves when they start looking for a therapist, whether one is an atheist looking for a like-minded individual in Seattle, Washington or a Methodist looking for a Christian Counseling center in Beaverton, Oregon, the issue can be quite important.

Most therapists will do a first meeting for free or a reduced fee where they go over how they approach therapy and which psychological theories they subscribe too. If a client feels that he is going to need to discuss his religion a lot, this is a good time to bring it up. A client can see if the therapist follows along when they use terminology from their religious background. It is okay to prefer a therapist that will understand what is being discussed while going over a Communion service without having to explain what each step means and symbolizes.

It is also expected that a therapist will respect his client’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) without trying to change them. A therapist that tells someone their entire religion is wrong is probably not behaving very ethically. Even questioning a specific aspect of the religion should be brought up by the client and then dealt with as opposed to the therapist stating that they do not like their client’s religion’s view on women.

The quandary lies when a therapist is respectable of a client’s beliefs, can speak intelligently about them, and yet does not seem to share them. The client should weight the benefits of the advice they have been given so far against the potential benefit of having a different therapist. Ideally, the relationship established would allow the client to discuss his concerns with the therapist and decide from there what to do. Therapists genuinely want to help their clients, and if the decision is made it will be better to switch to a therapist of the same religious persuasion, then a good therapist will probably make a recommendation and send the copies of the client’s records to the new therapist. However, it is also likely that the established trust will make the need to switch unnecessary.

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