Recognising we all have times when we benefit from extra support, therapist Monique Thomas believes we should not dismiss considering professional help

One in four adults experience mental ill-health in the UK and women are up to three times more likely to suffer. The most common diagnosis? Mixed anxiety and depression, and sadly our children are mirroring the stats. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental-health challenges globally, but it also sparked more conversations about our collective wellbeing, helping to increase awareness about mental health and reduce stigmas about accessing support. One of the most prominent ways of doing this is through talking therapies, which are available through referral from your GP and various charities, although these often have long waiting lists. If you can afford to go private, depending on the type of therapy and experience of your practitioner you can expect to pay anything upwards from £40 an hour. But how do you decide on what therapist to work with? And should you even be doing so as a Christian? 

Counselling and therapy explained

The terms counselling and therapy are often used interchangeably, but in some instances they may reflect a difference in the type of service you can expect and the depth of training a practitioner has undergone. The terms will be used interchangeably in this article too, where the aim is to help you to feel more confident about what you’re looking for and what to expect from the process.

Counselling and therapy have roots in ancient civilisations, where religious leaders, healers and philosophers offered guidance and support to individuals experiencing distress or seeking personal growth. However, since the late 19th century therapy has transitioned through three distinct phases in the West that represent significant shifts in theoretical frameworks, therapeutic techniques and conceptualisations of human nature and psychological wellbeing. From

a focus on unconscious drives and conflicts (psychoanalysis), to observable behaviours and environmental influences (behaviourism), to the subjective experiences and potential for growth inherent in each individual (humanism), each one of these phases continues to inform practitioners today.     

One in four adults experience mental ill-health in the UK and women are up to three times more likely to suffer

Therapeutic modalities such as mindfulness-based therapies, narrative therapy, compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) have gained popularity in recent years, reflecting a growing recognition of the importance of cultural competence and holistic approaches to healing.

The historic image of lying on a couch and having therapy done to you is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about modern talk therapies, which have evolved to be far more relational and collaborative. Modern therapy often integrates elements from each of the three phases, drawing on diverse theoretical perspectives and therapeutic techniques to address the complex and multifaceted nature of human experience and psychological wellbeing. 

While many therapists will work integratively, drawing from a range of therapeutic styles, here are some brief summaries of specific approaches. They are all used to treat a range of issues and each have their own strengths and weaknesses:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) This is a goal-oriented therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to emotional distress. It is directive and emphasises practical strategies alongside homework to develop coping skills and promote positive change. 

Humanistic therapy This includes approaches such as person-centred therapy, transactional analysis (TA) and Gestalt therapy, and emphasises self-exploration, personal growth and the client’s innate capacity for self-actualisation. It focuses on the here-and-now experience and the therapeutic relationship as catalysts for change.

Family therapy Addresses relational dynamics and communication patterns within families or couples. It aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts and strengthen relationships by involving all members of the family system in the therapeutic process.

Mindfulness-based therapies Mindfulness is about cultivating the ability to be present and engaged in the moment. While some Christians express concern due to its prominent links with Buddhism, like prayer, mindfulness as a practice is not tied to one particular religion. For example, the Bible encourages us to be aware of the Lord’s presence, to be attentive to him and disciplined in our thought life. Learning how to be mindful can support us in this endeavour. Mindfulness-based approaches, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), integrate mindfulness practices with cognitive and behavioural techniques to promote awareness, acceptance and psychological flexibility.

Psychodynamic therapy This therapy explores unconscious processes and childhood experiences to gain insight into current emotional and relational patterns. It focuses on understanding how past experiences influence present behaviour and aims to foster self-awareness and emotional healing. 

Sex therapy This therapy addresses sexual issues and concerns through discussing and exploring various aspects of sexuality, including sexual functioning, desire, arousal, intimacy and communication. Sex therapists are trained professionals who help individuals and couples navigate challenges such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low libido, sexual trauma, mismatched sexual desires and relationship conflicts related to sex. 


Seeking therapy as a Christian

While the term ‘counselling’ itself may not be explicitly mentioned in the Bible, the concept of offering guidance, support and wisdom to others is certainly evident. For example, King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom and ability to provide counsel to his people wrote: “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, ESVUK). 

The Holy Spirit is regarded as the counsellor, comforter and guide for believers. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and empower them (John 14:26) and in Romans, Paul writes about the role of the Holy Spirit in providing guidance and support to believers: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Seeking counselling or therapy from trained professionals does not diminish a Christian’s faith or reliance on the Holy Spirit. Rather, doing so can be complementary to our spiritual journey, enabling us to recognise the value of both spiritual and psychological resources in addressing complex issues and promoting holistic wellbeing. 

Seeking counselling or therapy from trained professionals does not diminish a Christian’s faith or reliance on the Holy Spirit

Like all individuals, Christians will face various challenges and struggles in life, including issues related to mental health such as grief, depression, anxiety and trauma. While prayer, scripture and spiritual practices can be valuable sources of comfort and guidance, they may not always eliminate the need for professional counselling or therapy. 

Individuals experiencing symptoms of mental-health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD or eating disorders can benefit from therapy to manage symptoms, improve coping strategies and enhance overall wellbeing. Major life changes such as starting university, getting married, becoming a parent, changing careers or experiencing loss or divorce can be stressful and may warrant support and guidance from a therapist to navigate these transitions effectively. 

Couples or families experiencing conflicts, communication breakdowns, trust issues or other relationship challenges may find therapy helps to improve communication, rebuild trust and strengthen relational bonds. Individuals who have experienced traumatic events, such as abuse or accidents, can be supported to process their experiences, manage trauma symptoms, and work towards healing and recovery. 

Therapy can also be a safe place to explore values and goals, fostering self-awareness, personal insight and growth. People experiencing high levels of stress, burnout or overwhelm in their personal or professional lives may find benefit in learning how to develop healthy coping strategies, set boundaries and manage stress more effectively. Those struggling with addiction can be supported to address underlying triggers, develop coping skills and establish a path towards recovery and sobriety.

Finding the right therapist for you

Not all therapists are skilled and experienced in treating the full range of mental-health issues, so it’s really important to check qualifications and experience when deciding who to work with. Before going to a counsellor, it’s helpful to reflect on what you hope to achieve through counselling. Understanding your expectations can help you communicate effectively with them. Research potential counsellors or therapists to find someone who specialises in the areas you want to address and whose approach aligns with your preferences and values. Consider factors such as their theoretical orientation and any specific demographic or cultural considerations that are important to you. 

It’s essential to feel comfortable and safe with your therapist. Trust your instincts and pay attention to how you feel during your initial interactions with them. Consider practical aspects such as fees, availability, location and preferred mode of communication (in-person, online, phone, etc). 

The historic image of lying on a couch and having therapy done to you is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about modern talk therapies

Some Christians may prefer to work with therapists who share their faith and values, as they may feel more understood and supported in integrating their spirituality into the therapeutic process. This is a personal decision based on your individual needs, preferences and comfort level, and is not essential in order to access therapy successfully. Some Christian therapists may integrate faith into therapy more explicitly, incorporating biblical principles, prayer and spiritual guidance while others may take a more secular approach, still underpinned by their Christian values. Ultimately, professional counsellors and therapists are trained to work non-judgementally and should be respectful of your beliefs. If you are feeling misunderstood because of your faith, that might be an indication that you are not well matched.

The Association of Christians in Counselling and Related Practices (ACC) is one of the largest and most well-established Christian counselling organisations in the UK ( It offers accreditation, training and resources for Christian counsellors and psychotherapists, as well as a search facility for those looking for a Christian therapist. The ACC promotes an integrative approach to counselling that incorporates Christian faith and values into therapeutic practice. 

There are several mainstream professional bodies and organisations that oversee and regulate counselling and therapy services too. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the largest professional body in the UK for counsellors and psychotherapists and it sets the standards for training, ethical practice and professional conduct for its members. Their website has a directory where you can search for accredited therapists by location and specialisation ( The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), like the BACP, sets standards for training, practice and ethics for its members and provides a directory of accredited therapists ( Other professional bodies and registers include the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the National Counselling Society (NCS). When searching for a therapist in the UK, it’s advisable to look for practitioners who are registered with one of these reputable professional bodies. 

If you do decide to undertake therapy, be prepared to be open and honest about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. Counselling is a collaborative process, and your therapist relies on your input to understand your concerns and tailor interventions accordingly. Recognise that counselling is a process that may require time, effort and commitment so be willing to attend sessions regularly, to engage actively in the therapeutic process, and practise any skills or strategies discussed in between sessions.


Definitions of professionals

When searching for a professional to support your mental health and/or wellbeing you may come across various types of therapists, as well as mentors right through to spiritual directors. Here is a quick guide to the roles of each.

Counsellor/therapist A trained professional who provides support, guidance and treatment to address emotional, psychological or behavioural issues. They utilise therapeutic techniques and interventions to help clients explore feelings, cope with challenges and work towards personal growth and wellbeing.

Life coach Someone who helps individuals identify their goals, develop action plans and overcome obstacles to achieve personal or professional success. Life coaches typically focus on empowering clients, fostering self-awareness, and providing accountability and encouragement to help clients reach their full potential.

Mentor An experienced and knowledgeable individual who provides guidance, support and advice to someone less experienced or knowledgeable in a particular area. Mentors share their expertise, insights and wisdom to help mentees navigate challenges, develop skills and achieve their goals.

Psychologist A licensed mental-health professional who specialises in the study of human behaviour and mental processes. Psychologists assess, diagnose and treat a wide range of psychological disorders and concerns using evidence-based interventions, psychotherapy techniques and psychological assessments.

Psychiatrist A medical doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses and emotional disorders. Psychiatrists are trained to assess both the biological and psychological aspects of mental health and may prescribe medications, provide psychotherapy and coordinate care with other healthcare providers.

Spiritual director A trained guide who assists individuals in exploring their spirituality, deepening their relationship with God and discerning the presence and movement of the sacred in their lives. They provide a supportive and non-judgmental space for individuals to reflect on their spiritual journey, practices and experiences.

If you want to talk to someone now

Premier Lifeline is a national, confidential helpline offering a listening ear, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective. If you would like someone to talk with and pray for you, call Premier Lifeline on 0300 111 0101, 9am–5pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

Samaritans is a free service that enables you to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, and is available hours a day: 116 123 or

Papyrus is support for people feeling suicidal, and is available 10am–10pm weekdays, 2pm–10pm weekends, 2pm–5pm bank holidays): 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209 697 or email

Shout is for when you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. Text SHOUT to 85258 from anywhere in the UK, anytime, about any type of crisis.

Monique Thomas is on Instagram: @itsmoniquethomas