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With my future in mind and as a psychology major thinking about graduate programs, I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or tips for me.  I know I don't want to do research, teach, or work in a hospital. That leaves counseling. First of all, I'm not exactly sure if I'm even cut out for counseling, as I can be rather shy in person. I also don't know whether I'm really a good listener or not. I guess I'm just an average listener. 

 

But say, I was cut out for counseling. I would really like to become a counselor who (of course is secular) but who would particularly like to offer services to people leaving religion. After all, my own transition would have been healthier if I had had someone like a counselor to regularly speak with who would keep information confidential. And, I am passionate about helping people deal with a tough ugly trauma. This is not a graduate study program since it's very specific. But how would I be able to partially specialize in this type of service? Would it mean taking a hefty amount of religious studies on the side or would it just mean getting a normal counseling degree? Also, I have a few open elective hours left. Would it be smart to take some religion classes (other than Christianity, which I know all too much about)? 

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With my future in mind and as a psychology major thinking about graduate programs, I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or tips for me.  I know I don't want to do research, teach, or work in a hospital. That leaves counseling. First of all, I'm not exactly sure if I'm even cut out for counseling, as I can be rather shy in person. I also don't know whether I'm really a good listener or not. I guess I'm just an average listener. 

 

But say, I was cut out for counseling. I would really like to become a counselor who (of course is secular) but who would particularly like to offer services to people leaving religion. After all, my own transition would have been healthier if I had had someone like a counselor to regularly speak with who would keep information confidential. And, I am passionate about helping people deal with a tough ugly trauma. This is not a graduate study program since it's very specific. But how would I be able to partially specialize in this type of service? Would it mean taking a hefty amount of religious studies on the side or would it just mean getting a normal counseling degree? Also, I have a few open elective hours left. Would it be smart to take some religion classes (other than Christianity, which I know all too much about)? 

 

:Probably need some degree first like a marriage and family therapy degree/license... then use your own experience as a Christian on top of that....do some reading from the vocal atheists of our day.....and maybe even ask a few practicing psychologists if there are some specialized classes to take? Pick up some Psychology magazines too.  :-)

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What you are considering sounds very good and if you decide to pursue it, I wish you the best in your endeavors.

 

I don't think you necessarily need to take religion courses to help those who are leaving it. To me the issue that a counselor could help in are the emotional upheaval often caused by deconversion. What would be far more helpful to a counselor's patients is for the counselor to be aware of the phases of deconversion.

 

There really does seem to be a pattern of phases that most of those who deconvert go through. The problem for many people is that they feel all alone, like they are the only person in the world who has left the religion. When they start feeling this anger towards the religion and perhaps towards religious leaders, they do not know that that feeling is common among others going through deconversion. Having a counselor who knows such things and can explain them to those who are deconverting could be so much help.

 

There are other issues that a counselor can help with. For example, there are often difficult issues between the deconverted and his or her family and friends. Counseling on how to cope with these tough issues could be a tremendous help.

 

There is one resource you have that could be of great help to you in preparing to counsel those leaving religion behind and that is the great wealth of "case studies" that are on this site. They are the very words, cries of anguish, along with expressions of joy and newfound freedom, of real people from around the world who had no place to go other than this oasis to express themselves and seek some measure of solace.

 

If you enter this field you will be one of the few pioneers of a much needed area of counseling.

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Hey there, WaitingInfinity. I'm a therapist and can tell you that while taking an extra course in religion or something might be somewhat helpful, the more important thing will be for you to simply listen to the client and understand their experience of religion. After all, there are so many different flavors of religion, and people's personal backgrounds are so varied, that no two stories will be exactly alike. While it is good to know a little about the general trends, it is more important not to make assumptions and let the client tell their story.

 

If you want to specialize in that, I would say that at the very least you should make an effort to keep up with the latest research on the topic. This isn't too difficult as this is sort of a niche topic of research. But I would suggest that in your graduate studies that you make an effort to understand the basics of how research is conducted and its limitations, so you can sort out bad research from good. You will start to get a feel for which journals have higher standards than others, too. 

 

Other than that, all you would need to do is advertise yourself as a therapist who specializes in helping people cope with leaving religion. There's no certification or anything for something that specific. You could also list yourself on the Secular Therapist Project and see if that drums up any clients for you. I have had a few people ask about my services through that site, but so far no takers. 

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I don't think it really matters whether or not you take any religious type courses. The primary thing you need to focus on is your ability to listen and to be able to find out what your client thinks.

 

Good counselors are able to set aside their own personal beliefs and experiences and allow themselves the capacity to be able to understand the clients issues and their points of view on those issues and then find a way to help the client get to where they need to be. Sure, it is necessary to understand the particulars of certain things, but truthfully, your agenda should simply be whatever the client needs.

 

Explore a variety of counseling schools of thought. My professors made it clear that each one has strengths and weaknesses, and they often said "All have run the race and have won the prize". People respond to different counseling techniques in different ways. Be open and find one that works for you, but be open to other options. I have stated it before, but I will say it again: Its all about the client. Your agenda has no bearing what they need or want.

 

Good luck in your endeavor. I enjoy counseling. I believe you can too.

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I took Philosophy of Religion already and am going to be taking a sociology class on Religion and Culture this semester. I was also thinking about a comparative religions class sometime in the future just to expand my knowledge on other religions.

 

I am grateful for your guidance in this manner. From what all of you have said so far, I've got some ideas of what to take. I think I'll look into finding some grief counseling courses to take (since the stages of grief are similar to the stages of deconversion), some on family interactions, and some on coping strategies. And of course lots of courses on listening.

 

I have seen that this area is much needed from my own deconversion and the many that I have read about on here. I have noticed people asking why secular therapists are hard to find. It's a need that has to be filled somewhere. It's really amazing how hard it is to find a non-Christian counselor! I guess I live in the Bible Belt and all, so it may be different in other areas.

 

Growing up, psychologists were the godless. Even my dad told me when I entered the field as a major that there are a lot of things to "mess you up" in psychology and there are a lot of "kooks" in the field. I suppose maybe the Christians could favor counseling services over other parts of psychology, which might explain the bias, but I'm surprised that secular counselors are a commodity these days. I guess it's a good place for me to go.

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Waiting, have you tried googling "psychologist specializing in religious deconversion" and seeing if you could get into contact with any who are already in the field?  They'd probably have advice we can't offer and information we are not privy to.

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