The Secular Therapist Project Reaches a Milestone: 100 Therapists


Mental disorders, emotional problems, and relationship problems are experienced by theists and atheists alike. I have received many letters to the “Ask Richard” column from atheists who have sought counseling for such difficulties, but the counselors they went to started telling them to “get right with God,” or similar religious nonsense. They had not advertised themselves as “pastoral” or “religious” counselors, but gave the impression that they are simply mainstream psychology-based therapists. Then once the sessions had started, they began to inject their religious beliefs into the therapeutic relationship, implying or overtly stating that the root of the client’s problem was his/her lack of belief in a god.

To a nonreligious client who has had painful experiences at the hands of religious people, or who has lost relationships due to bigotry against atheists, this is a very harmful betrayal of the trust they give to their counselor. Many never try to find another therapist, and so they don’t get the assistance that might help them resolve their conflicts faster and more thoroughly. If depression or addiction is one of their challenges, this could be downright dangerous.

The way I was educated and trained, a therapist behaving this way is seriously breaching his/her professional ethics. Sadly, some seem to think that their religion is outside of their professional commitment to being meticulously respectful with vulnerable people who place their trust in them.

Another problem is that many therapists are nonreligious but are reluctant to advertise specifically as such because they could lose business even from clients who are not specifically looking for religious counseling. They can also be ostracized by their colleagues or their friends. They need a discreet and reliable way to find secular clients as much as the clients need a discreet and reliable way to find secular counselors.

So last March I was very excited to be asked by Dr. Darrel Ray to join the therapist evaluation team of his fledgling Secular Therapist Project, an outgrowth of Recovering from Religion. It is an online database and referral service for mental health professionals who use evidence-based methodologies, not New Age mumbo jumbo, and who are thoroughly secular in their practice. It helps clients find therapists in their area who are suitable for their needs.

Written By: Richard Wade
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  1. The only way to avoid the possibility of the injection of god-talk or god-thinking by a counsellor/psychotherapist is simply to ask before the first meeting: “Do you believe in a god/gods? Do you believe in spirits/ghosts/the paranormal/astrology/homoeopathy/divining/fortune-telling/that Elvis is still alive/life after death/that the end of the world is nigh?
    I am a psychotherapist and I can assure you that many psychotherapists I have come across may not necessarily believe in a god but they do give credence to another load of crap (see above). Beware, all ye who enter the therapist’s consulting room!

  2. Holy polished turds on a communion plate, I never even imagined the existence of this problem. It’s good to see the alternative is working and growing well.

  3. Owners who are fearful of losing business by “coming out” need to reevaluate their position from time to time. I am a small business owner and I was initially cautious about making my atheism/secularism known locally. I live in a smallish community so the fear of having my livelihood fail because of a religious boycott of some sort was very real.

    It was an unfounded fear. Perhaps I’ve lost some people (hard to say) but business owners who do not take a fresh look at their circumstances periodically (there may be compelling reasons to remain quiet under circumstances I don’t face) aren’t doing anyone any favors. I do know that I’ve met people of no faith who now make it a point of discussion when meeting me; this is something that, no doubt, would have remained unsaid before.

    Come out! There is strength in numbers. As we all know, there is a difference between disagreement and being disagreeable. This is our time to be not afraid!


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