Many forms of counseling—clinical and pastoral—have proven to be effective in changing individuals’ lives for the better; however, some believers seeking professional counseling may feel apprehensive about integrating secular psychology into their treatment. Discerning whether secular approaches are appropriate for your mental and spiritual health is wise, and if you are interested in seeing a counselor who is both clinical and biblical, then it is important for you to know many secular psychological theories and treatments used in clinical counseling align with Scripture.

One of the most effective, widely-used approaches in clinical counseling today is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and its principles are both clinical and biblical. CBT’s primary premise is psychological problems are influenced by faulty or irrational thoughts, beliefs, and learned or unhelpful behaviors, and its primary intervention is to teach clients how to identify and dispute negative thoughts, none of which contradicts, but rather supports, Scripture. First, the Bible teaches us what not to think about (what CBT calls “irrational thoughts”) and what to think about. In the Book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul urges believers not to be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:4) but instead to think about “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” (Philippians 4:7–8).

The Bible not only teaches believers what to think and not to think about but also how to challenge (what CBT calls “to dispute”) our thoughts. In the same verse that Paul says not to be anxious, he informs us to challenge anxious thoughts by praying, giving thanks, and humbly presenting our requests to God in every situation. Paul also urges us to “…take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and “…be transformed by the renewal of your mind” by testing our thoughts so that we may discern what is good, acceptable, perfect (Romans 12:2).

CBT’s techniques of identifying and disputing negative thoughts have been proven to be effective because it begins to develop new neural pathways in our brain, and this biological design is not by happenstance; we can give glory to God for creating our brains to be resilient against the world’s influence. As Paul commands us, I hope you will put these truths into practice—whether with the help of a clinical counselor or in your own time—so that the peace of God may guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4).

Written by Brooke Thrasher