Secular Therapist Project Helps Its 2000th Client!

Here’s some good news: The Secular Therapist Project has helped its 2000th client!

It is easy to find Christian counselors around the country, but many secular therapists cannot openly advertise as secular for fear of losing clients or other negative social and professional consequences. A lay person cannot always tell who does and does not use evidence-based therapy methods and cannot always be open about their need for secular therapy when they need help. This makes the process of finding a therapist challenging, frightening and potentially harmful.

“While we are extremely happy with our stunning growth thus far, we need more therapists,” says project director Dr. Darrel Ray. “The number of people seeking help is much larger than we can meet with our current therapists and many of these individuals have special needs beyond the training of those in our current registry. Ideally, we will eventually have a secular therapist in every community. Our goal is to register 200 therapists by the end of 2013 to meet this growing need.”

If you’re looking for help or would like to register as a secular therapist, go to their site to learn more.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Richard Wade

    I have the honor to be on the assessment team of the Secular Therapist Project, evaluating the therapists who wish to be on our referral list. We do our best to assure that the they are professionally qualified, that they have a secular orientation and will not introduce any religious or supernatural elements into the therapy, and that they use evidence-based therapeutic methods.

    We currently have 138 therapists, but we need many, many more, because there is a large and growing need. This is not just for people who are going through the difficulties of recently leaving their religion. It’s also for people who have been non-religious for a long time, and who can use the assistance of a qualified therapist for life problems. In some parts of the U.S. it can be difficult to find someone who will not run religious numbers on their clients. If you know of any qualified psychotherapist who is secular, please refer them to

  • readiness

    I’ve thought about this. I’m currently an MFT intern in California. But currently work with a fairly religious population and am nervous about the backlash. I’m just starting out so it feels so scary to throw that out there…

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    A good therapist should not mix religion with therapy at all unless the client specifically asks for that. I’ve been very fortunate that all the mental health professionals I’ve gone to have been *professional*. I have no idea which ones were Christian, probably the majority, but it never came up. However, if Christians can advertise as a “Christian counselor”, we secular folks ought to have the same option.

  • Greta Christina

    The project is anonymous for therapists as well as clients. 100% prIvacy can’t be guaranteed, obviously, but they go to great lengths to protect the privacy of both therapists and clients.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi readiness,
    Everyone’s confidentiality has to be protected, including yours.
    You don’t have to throw it out there and risk a backlash from your religious clients. It’s between you and your client, and probably your supervising counselor. Your identity is concealed until you are ready to reveal it to a client who has contacted you through our database. Up until then you use a username or pseudonym on our list, and this is understood by the prospective clients. Once you and they find a match for the geographical area, their needs, and your particular skills, you arrange the sessions with the necessary information about your name and office address, etc.

    We accept MFT interns. You might need to let your supervising counselor know where you are getting referrals to clients. That would depend on the particular arrangements you have with him/her and whatever clinic or office you and your supervising counselor are using. If you think he or she is going to have an objection to your being affiliated with the Secular Therapist Project, or a problem with you being an atheist, then leave this alone for now and shop around for a better supervisor. You really want to have an open and free relationship with your supervising counselor.

    Be sure that you are familiar with and apply the most credible evidence-based methods of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and mention them in your application. Therapists who practice woo-based mumbo jumbo will probably not make the list.

    I look forward to your participation if it’s workable for you.

  • ZenDruid

    What does the demand look like in Sacramento?

  • Richard Wade

    Interesting question. I know we have secular therapists in the Sacramento area on our list, but I don’t have information about how much client demand there is for them.

    Sacramento and the entire Central Valley of California tend to be a strongly religious and socially conservative area. In one way that might reduce the number of non-religious clients, but it would also make secular therapists an important resource for the beleaguered non-religious people living there who need someone to talk to without any nonsense about getting right with God.

  • ZenDruid

    My therapist fits the bill, just sayin’.

    Sacramento is a bit like Austin TX in that regard, an oasis, as it were. From the county-by-county percentages last November, all significantly metropolitan counties voted Obama.

  • Richard Wade

    I fully agree, and as a student, an intern, and a licensed practitioner in southern California, I never encountered a fellow therapist who mixed religion with therapy unless they clearly advertised themselves as pastoral or specifically religious counselors. But that was southern California, and perhaps I was somehow sheltered. Sadly, in some areas and regions of the U.S., mental healthcare providers seem to think it’s perfectly proper to infuse their psychotherapy with their personal religious hocus pocus, and they take it so much for granted that they don’t mention any of that in their advertising.

    This is why I advise prospective clients who have to make cold calls looking for an appropriate counselor in their area to ask the counselor point blank about their religious views during the first phone conversation. But being that frank and assertive is not always so easy to do for a person who is struggling with emotional issues.

  • Richard Wade

    That’s good to hear. Refer your therapist to the Project.

  • curtcameron

    My wife is a therapist here in Texas, and while she’s not an atheist like me (she says she thinks there’s some vague “higher power”), she definitely does not bring religion into her work with clients. Her work is based on CBT, which as far as I know is the best-supported methodology from the data.

    So is she the kind that the project is looking for? Or are they looking for people who are explicitly atheists? “Secular” to me means independent of religion.

  • allein

    Is there a way to see if there are providers in a particular geographic area without actually putting in a request?

  • Guest

    More incentive for me to get off my lazy ass and finish my classes.

  • Mitch

    Fantastic project. Sadly, I was unaware of it until today. Congratulations on the huge success!

    It’s also good incentive for me to get off my lazy ass and look at grad programs.

  • readiness

    This is so awesome. Thank you for taking the time to respond to me! I am still working at an agency for low-income kids but I hope to start of private practice internship in the next few months. I’ll definitely apply then!

  • Ibis3

    I believe she would qualify. They just want people committed to evidence-based therapeutic methods and who don’t bring spirituality or religion into their work.

  • Richard Wade

    Ibis3 is correct. If your wife can assure us that she will not bring her religious ideas into the therapeutic process, if her professional qualifications such as education and license are all in order, and if her methodology is as the one you describe, she will most likely be accepted.

  • Richard Wade

    It doesn’t really have to be a request. You can find if there are any listed providers in your area giving very little information about yourself. On the Project’s homepage, click on “Find a Therapist.” The required fields are:
    *Anonymous Username
    *Anonymous Password
    *Your E-mail address
    *Your Zip Code
    *Your Previous Religious Affiliation (if any)
    *Description of the problems you are experiencing. (This can be as detailed or as minimal as you wish. If you’re just seeing if there are any listed therapists in your area, just write “personal problems” or something like that. If you want to find a close match for a therapist who has skill with a particular problem, you can include whatever details you want. The information is kept anonymous and confidential.)

    You can also add or edit this information later using your username and password.

    You will receive information by email about any listed therapists in your area based on your Zip Code. There will be no further contact unless you initiate more.