The Therapist Project in Psychology Today.

Psychology Today has released an interview with Dr. Darrel Ray over the Therapist Project.  Darrel does a great job at first identifying the problem.

Certainly, the best schools train therapists to avoid imposing their beliefs on the client, but right now there are hundreds of religious schools graduating thousands of Christian counselors, licensable in most states. Graduates from Liberty University, Regent or Oral Roberts University are taught to incorporate religion into their counseling. Regent Universityand others have Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs in clinical psychology. How is it possible to get solid clinical training from a university that insists on teaching Pat Robertson’s theology to all students? This is the guy who thinks God sends hurricanes to punish cities for tolerating gays.

Graduates of religious schools look like any other Ph.D. or MSW to the lay person, yet they are an integral part of the evangelical right’s attempt to usurp the field of counseling in the service of their religious agenda. Graduates of these universities are highly unlikely to keep their religious views out of the therapeutic relationship. Do you think a gay or lesbian person will receive effective treatment from a Regent’s University Ph.D.? Could an atheist get evidence-based treatment from a graduate of Liberty University? It is possible, but why would you risk your time, money, and emotional health on someone who probably prays and reads the Bible more than they read professional journals?

Darrel also points out the bravery of therapists who join this cause.

Imagine that you are a secular psychologist or social worker in Oklahoma City. Most clients that come to you are religious and many of your referral sources are ministers or churches. If you openly advertised that you are secular, half your clients would leave and many of your referral sources would dry up. One therapist that I know in a major southern city gets 75% of her referrals from local ministers and churches. She used to be a strong Christian. She taught Sunday school for sixteen years, but is now an atheist. She wants to wean her practice away from religious sources, so she registered with us. She needs to keep under the radar or she would lose most of her current patients.

Another therapist gets many referrals from the courts. The majority of judges in his county are very religious. In his state, judges are elected, so they often cater to the wishes of the religious community. If the community learned that a judge was referring people to a secular therapist, the judge could lose the next election. As a result, the therapist has to keep a low profile and cannot reveal that he is an atheist to the judges or to the community.

This is an enormous undertaking that is already having a huge impact on mental health within the secular community.  Greta Christina found her therapist through the Therapy Project.  Even if you’re not a sufferer of mental illness, Darrel points out how you can help.

If you are a secular therapist, please register with us and tell your colleagues. If you are a patient of a therapist who seems to use secular and evidence-based methods, ask them to register. Finally, if you are looking for a therapist, look in our database first. Registering as a client is simple and confidential. Within minutes, you will know if there are any therapists close to you. If there are none close to you, many of our therapists will do distance counseling by phone or Skype.

You can also help by donating to the project. We run this on a shoestring budget and would welcome your donations. Just go to and hit the donate button. You can then say that you want your donation to go to the Secular Therapy project. Secular Therapy is an outreach program of Recovering from Religion, which I founded in 2009.

I could not be more supportive of the Therapist Project.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • smrnda

    This is interesting, since I live in a pretty secular region and I find that “Christian Counselors” largely broadcast themselves as such (and boast their clown-college credentials as opposed to real, meaningful qualifications) so I am definitely underestimating the danger of walking into a counselor with a religious worldview that, even if not imposed on the client, will definitely inform the counselor’s views on the client and their situation. Is a counselor who believes that homosexuality is caused by demonic possession going to be able to treat a lesbian client? I doubt it.

    The counseling profession gets a lot of flak from the religious, at least from religious people I talk to, with their complaint being that mental health professionals don’t act as self-appointed moral scolds, criticizing clients for masturbating, premarital sex or homosexual thoughts. To me, this is just their refusal to understand that the counsel isn’t your priest.

    On one hand, if the religious right wants to set up an alternative universe of “Christian Counselors” it would at least help with the problem of Christians who feel that it’s an imposition on them to put the needs of the client first, above their need to show disdain for the ‘lifestyle choices’ of clients, except it would create this alternative world of people with no real professional credentials who are probably going to be attempting ot treat real problems.