Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

for Christians with Depression

Michelle Pearce, PhD

A Practical Tool-Based Primer

Does religion belong in psychotherapy?

For anyone in the helping profession, whether as mental health professionals or religious leaders, this question is bound to arise. Many mental health professionals feel uncomfortable discussing religion, while many religious leaders feel uncomfortable referring their congregants to professionals who have no knowledge of their faith, nor intent to engage with it.

And yet Michelle Pearce, PhD, assistant professor and clinical psychologist at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland, argues that if religion is important to a client, then religion will be a part of psychotherapy, whether it is discussed or not. Clients cannot check their values at the door any more than the professionals who treat them.

To Pearce, the question isn’t really “does religion belong?” but rather “how can mental health professionals help their religious clients engage with and use their faith as a healing resource in psychotherapy?”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Christians with Depression is the answer to that question, as the book’s purpose is to educate mental health professionals and pastoral counselors about religion’s role in therapy, as well as equip them to discuss religious issues and use evidence-based, religiously-integrated tools with Christian clients experiencing depression.

In this book, readers will find the following resources in an easy-to-use format: 

  • An overview of the scientific benefits of integrating clients’ religious  beliefs and practices in psychotherapy
  • An organizing therapeutic approach for doing Christian Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Seven tools, specific to Christian CBT, to treat depression
  • Suggested dialogue for therapists to introduce concepts and tools
  • Skill-building activity worksheets for clients
  • Clinical examples of Christian CBT and the seven tools in action

Practitioners will learn the helpful (and sometimes not so helpful) role a person’s Christian faith can play in psychotherapy, and will be equipped to discuss religious issues and use religiously-integrated tools in their work. At the same time, clergy will learn how Christianity can be integrated into an evidence-based secular mental health treatment for depression, which is sure to increase their comfort level for making referrals to mental health practitioners who provide this form of treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Christians with Depression is a practical guide for mental health professionals and pastoral counselors who want to learn how to use Christian-specific CBT tools to treat depression in their Christian clients.

Foreword / ix
Preface / xiii
Acknowledgments / xv
Part One: Overview of Christian Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Chapter 1: Why Integrate Religion into Therapy? / 3
Chapter 2: Assessment / 19
Chapter 3: Introducing the CCBT Treatment Model to Your Client / 33
Part Two: Seven Practical CCBT Treatment Tools
Chapter 4: Renewing Your Mind: Planting Truth / 45
Chapter 5: Changing Your Mind: Metanoia / 61
Chapter 6: Finding God and the Blessing in Suffering: Redemptive Reframing / 81
Chapter 7: Reaching Out and Connecting / 99
Chapter 8: Letting Go and Letting God: Acceptance and Forgiveness / 115
Chapter 9: Saying Thanks: Gratitude / 135
Chapter 10: Giving Back: Service / 151
Chapter 11: Conclusion and Relapse Prevention / 169
Appendix A: For Clergy / 177
Appendix B: CBT and Christian CBT Resources / 181
Appendix C: Reproducible Resources / 187
Notes / 199
References / 207
About the Author / 219
Index / 221

“An invaluable, user-friendly resource for secular and religious therapist alike who want to know how to work with Christian clients. Carefully developed and tested, this primer integrates the best of CBT, empirical studies of spirituality, and just plain good clinical sense.”

Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD, author of Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy

“All mental health professionals and trainees interested in integrating Christian principles, spirituality, and worldview into their professional psychotherapy practices would greatly benefit from this well written, well researched, and engaging book.”

Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP, director of the Spirituality & Health Institute, Santa Clara University and author of Spiritual Practices in Psychotherapy

“Dr. Pearce’s book is an excellent resource that both religious and non-religious mental health practitioners will find very useful when working with Christian clients. I highly recommend it for anyone in clinical practice.”

Amy Wachholtz, PhD, MDiv, MS, assistant professor of psychology, University of Colorado Denver

“An important contribution! Clear guidance for practitioners in how to integrate religion into evidence-based treatment when working with Christian clients.”

David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP, director, Spirituality & Mental Health Program, McLean Hospital


“Each chapter provides an easy-to-understand approach on implementing CBT-based tools… . It is amazing to have access to a book that not only implements faith-based principles, but also uses CBT tools modified for the Christian client”

Tamara Hill, MS, LPC

American Association of Christian Counselors–July, 2017

“For Christian therapists, the question of how psychotherapy and religion can be used in tandem may often arise. There is great debate regarding whether religion belongs in psychotherapy at all, but the solution may not be as difficult to reach as people think. Dr. Michelle Pearce brings a practical, theological, and well-researched approach to the table in this new guide. CBT and Christianity are not incompatible and, in fact, can work together in a beneficial and effective way. This is an excellent guide to a Christian CBT approach.”

Association of Professional Chaplains–Vol. 18, No. 8

“Dr. Pearce offers a resource for all chaplains who wish to increase their skill development and to move toward evidence-based spiritual care of depressed persons.”

Roy F. Olson D. Min BCC