Finding a Secular Therapist

If you cannot find a therapist on the site, here are some guidelines (written by Dr. Darrel W. Ray that you can use to help you find one outside of our database. Please look in our database first, as all of our therapists have been prescreened. Feel free to tell them that this advice comes from a Ph.D. level, secular therapist. Tell them something to this effect:

"I am here to deal with issues that include religious abuse or trauma. I expect that religion, faith, prayer, spirituality or the supernatural will have no place in our therapy sessions and that you will use only evidence-based methods to include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or other proven methods for dealing with the issues I need help with. If this is not your approach to therapy, I need to know now so I can find a therapist that does practice evidence-based psychotherapy."

This may sound harsh, but any well-trained therapist will smile, nod and say that is exactly what I provide. If they hesitate in their response, be wary. Remember, keep a copy for yourself. Also, if you cannot find a therapist near you, you can look for a therapist that will do distance counseling. Go to, register and search for “distance counseling."

Guidelines for finding a secular therapist

  1. They are trained in and use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or Mindfullness or Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
  2. You ask them point blank if they are religious or spiritual and how their beliefs inform their therapy. Run away if they think the supernatural has any place in the therapy.
  3. You tell them point blank that you are an atheist or secular and expect non-spiritual, non-religious and non-New Age ideas will be involved in your sessions. This would mean no psychoanalytic techniques, Jungian psychology, past life regression, Logo therapy, or other nonsense like that.
  4. Tell them you expect them to use evidence-based methods only.
  5. If sex or sexuality are issues you might be working on, ask the therapist what they think of the idea of sex or porn addiction. If they seem to think they are valid concepts, then run like hell. A well trained therapist knows that there is no DSM V diagnosis and no scientific evidence for these concepts. Refer to Dr. Ray's talk for more information.
  6. Finally, if you are poly ask them right up front if they have ever worked with poly clients and if they are poly friendly.

They should be willing to answer these concerns very easily if they are secular. If they waffle on it, be aware. You might also ask where they did their graduate and undergraduate work. If it is Baylor, or BYU or Regents University, Liberty University, or some other deeply religious school, there is a good chance they are too religious to really practice evidence-based therapy.

I would ask these questions by email in advance, or at the first interview. Be sure you are comfortable with their answers. If not, it is no shame to say, "I don't think your approach will work for me." Then find another.

You might also look for someone in our database that does distance counseling. Oftentimes, that works as well, for many conditions and problems.

Additional Guidelines and Information

Here is some more information from Dr. Caleb Lack, past Director of the Secular Therapy Project, that might also be helpful.

  1. What is evidence-based practice?
    Dr. Lack uses scientifically proven treatment and assessment methods, based on 50 years of evidence from basic and applied research, which shows that these methods work. Having been extensively trained in both the science and practice of psychology, Dr. Lack is familiar with the most reliable methods to treat a wide range of mental, behavioral, emotional, and physical problems. Via his teaching and supplementary training, he strives to keep up to date on the latest developments in the field so that clients are provided with the most effective services possible. To learn more about evidence-based practice and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, the specific type of therapy used by Dr. Lack, please visit the following websites:

    1. - What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
    2. - How to Choose a Behavior Therapist
    3. - Cognitive-Behavior Therapy
    4. - Evidence-based Practice in Psychology
    5. - Defining Evidence-based Behavioral Practice

  2. How should I choose a therapist?
    1. The best advice that I can give anyone when choosing a mental health professional is to see someone who practices evidence-based psychology. Stated simply, evidence-based psychology (EBP) is a guiding principle that means a therapist, whether that person is a psychologist, counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist, is guided in the treatment and assessment methods they use by the current best practices as defined by scientific evidence. Unfortunately, many therapists have not been trained in these methods, and instead rely on intuition, what they think has worked well, or what they were trained in - regardless of the evidence or lack thereof for it's effectiveness. Asking a potential therapist what their primary therapeutic orientation is, and how they know the type of therapy they do works, are a great way to find out if a therapist uses EBP.

    2. My second piece of advice is that you need to be sure that your therapist does not attempt to push their own personal values system onto you. While this is both an unethical and inappropriate thing to do, from my own experience with clients I can tell you that a large number of them report this happening. While this does not mean that you need to find a therapist with your exact religious, political, ethnic, and cultural background, it does mean that your therapist needs to respect what your beliefs and values are and recognize that their job as a therapist is not to convert you. If you find yourself in a situation where this is occuring, I would recommend giving the therapist a warning that you are becoming offended by their actions. If they continued to push their own agenda at the expense of your mental health, a report to the state licensing board would be appropriate.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Self-Help

CBT Self-help Books

These have all received ABCT's "Seal of Merit," as they are based on empirically supported treatments:

  1. e-couch - an online CBT-based treatment for depression, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety
  2. Mood Gym - an online CBT-based depression treatment

Recommended Therapist Locators

  1. Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapy's "Find a Therapist"
  2. Academy of Cognitive Therapy's Certified Therapists
  3. International OCD Foundation's Treatment Providers