A few years ago, I published a study examining the different attitudes religiously committed Catholics and Protestants had toward counseling. In particular, I was curious, considering the number of Catholics who go to generically “Christian” counselors, if Catholics were being well-served by Protestant counselors. The study revealed some interesting results. In a survey of over a 1000 respondents drawn from every diocese in the US, it was shown that, given the choice, religiously committed Catholics would prefer to go to a Catholic counselor than a Protestant one. Likewise, the study showed that Protestants and Catholic want different things from their counselors.
For religiously committed Protestants, the most important counselor competency was “Scriptural Knowledge.” While both religiously committed Catholics and Protestants wanted therapists who were aware of Christian approaches to treating problems related to marriage, parenting, depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse. Catholics strongly preferred therapists who were also expert at secular treatments to the same. In other words, religiously committed Catholics, much more than religiously committed Protestants, would prefer to go to a therapist who was both a well-formed professional and knew how to integrate Christian approaches into that professional framework. Religiously committed Protestants prefered therapists who eschewed secular approaches to treating problems and concentrated on Biblical and Christian treatments only.
Additionally, Catholics wanted a therapist who had knowlege of moral theology, issues related to Christian views of marriage, annulment, and divorce, issues related to larger families and stay-at-home moms, and natural family planning.
In the end, the study showed that compare to religiously committed Protestants, religiously committed Catholics valued 11 different competencies from their counselors than Protestants did. The breakdown is below. The upshot is that Catholics really do expect–and deserve–something very different from their counselors.
Counselor Competencies Valued More Highly By Protestants
Competency % Prot % Cath
1. Scriptural Knowledge 75.4 60.6
Counselor Competencies Valued More Highly By Catholics
Competency % Prot % Cath
1. Natural Family Planning 14.9 62.7
2. Christian moral teaching** 83.6 90.3
3. Issues related to families
w/Stay-at-home mothers 44.6 60.5
4. Christian Views on divorce,
annulment, and remarriage 62.6 74.2
5. Issues with large families 23.2 50.9
6. Developments in general
counseling theory/practice. 34.9 49.7
7. General school probs. 41.0 61.2
8. Gen Approaches
to parenting 44.1 56.9
9. Gen. Approaches to
Drg & Alc. Treatment 34.8 47.4
10. Gen. Approaches to
Treating Depression 52.8 64.2
11. Gen Approaches to
Treating Anxiety &Stress. 50.2 64.0