A self-described atheist psychiatrist has recently argued that being a nonbeliever does not hinder her ability to counsel Christian patients.
Jean Kim, a psychiatrist with the US Department of State, recently penned a perspective piece for The Washington Post regarding the subject of counseling believing patients.
"My religious friend once asked me point-blank, 'if you don't believe in God, how can you see someone who does as anything but delusional? As a mental health professional, how do you counsel such a person?'," wrote Kim.
Kim went on to argue that she could do so by taking "a humanistic approach to all patients, regardless of their background or creed."
"It's important to respect an individual's particular language and style of relating to their universe, in order to make a therapeutic connection," wrote Kim.
"Given the pain and suffering of humanity, I understand why people are religious, even if I don't find answers in it for myself. If others do, it is still my job to encourage that healing process in any form. And if others don't, I am strongly there for them as well."
Dr. Paul Appelbaum, professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, & Law at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, told The Christian Post that a religious difference should not matter.
"A competent psychiatrist should be able to treat patients with empathy and skill regardless of their religious background, and should keep his or her own religious beliefs out of the treatment room," said Appelbaum.
"Some patients will feel more comfortable with a psychiatrist who they know is part of their faith community, just like some patients seek a psychiatrist of a similar sexual orientation or ethnic background, and that's fine."
Appelbaum then told CP that there should be caution expressed in this preference since a patient might be trying to use said similarity to avoid certain critical examinations.
"But the psychiatrist needs to be alert to the possibility that by seeking out a psychiatrist with similar experiences or beliefs the patient isn't trying to put aspects of his/her behavior beyond examination," said Appelbaum.
"A patient's use of religious or other commonality with the psychiatrist as a defense mechanism has to be challenged if therapy is to be successful."
In the United States, there are several Christian groups that offer professional psychiatric treatment options.
On the website gotquestions.org, the query about whether or not Christians should pursue mental health has been examined.
"For Christians, it is best to seek a professional who professes to be a believer, can express knowledge of Scripture, and exhibits godly character," reads a gotquestions.org comment.
"Any counsel we receive must be filtered through Scripture so that, as with everything in the world, we can discern what is true and what is false."
The Colorado Springs, Colorado-based organization Focus on the Family also expresses a preference for believing counselors.
"Just because a person refers to herself as a Christian therapist does not necessarily mean she is Christian in beliefs and practices," cautioned FOTF.
"Focus on the Family offers a free referral service to over 2,000 licensed therapists who are screened and evaluated for their beliefs, expertise and ethical practices."