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How Can You Create an Ethical Faith-Based Practice? An Interview with Whitney Owens, LPC

Curt and Katie interview Whitney Owens, LPC of Wise Practice, about faith-based practice. We look at what therapists can get wrong when considering incorporating faith into therapy. We also talk about what to do (and NOT do) when creating a faith-based therapy practice, specifically talking about ethics, using faith as a tool when requested, and the harm caused when therapists have a religious agenda in session.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

An Interview with Whitney Owens, LPC of Wise Practice

Whitney Owens is a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and faith-based private practice consultant. She is located in Savannah, Georgia, where she manages a private pay group practice with 15 clinicians. Along with running her practice, she consults practice owners around the country on how to start and grow a successful faith-based practice. She hosts summits, a weekly podcast, and a membership community for faith-based practice owners called Wise Practice. She has spoken at numerous events such as both the Georgia and Maryland annual professional counselors conferences as well as trainings for Florida’s Counseling Association. In October of 2023 she will be hosting her own summit in Savannah for faith-based practice owners.

In this podcast episode, we talk about faith-based therapy practices

Faith is a big part of many people’s lives. It is important for therapists to understand how to use faith as a resource in therapy. Further, there are Christian, faith-based therapists who can identify how best to remain within their ethics as a therapist when incorporating faith into therapy.

What can therapists get wrong when creating a faith-based therapy practice?

“If clients come in… and they have a certain level of faith integration that they want, if the therapist takes it beyond that [that level], that’s not ethical.” – Whitney Owens, LPC, Wise Practice 

  • Therapists become unethical when they try to convert clients to Christianity in therapy
  • When therapists mismatch how much clients want to include faith and belief
  • Therapists are not supposed to have an agenda for how their clients grow and change
  • Conversion Therapy (e.g., Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Anti-trans therapy) are illegal and wrong, regardless of your beliefs or faith
  • Telling clients what to do about “moral” issues
  • Refusing to work with people based on “morals”

What can therapists do to create an ethical faith-based practice?

“You can’t read [the Bible] and then tell the client what you think it says, when you might not be teaching them appropriately. And so, [ethical faith-based practice] is letting the clients dictate where the treatment goes, letting them live the lives that they want to live, letting them read the Bible and share with you what it means to them. Instead of you saying this is what a passage means, and this is what it should be to you.” – Whitney Owens, LPC, Wise Practice

  • Using faith as a tool in therapy
  • Letting clients dictate how faith is incorporated in therapy
  • Providing clients space to interpret the bible or create the lives that they want to create
  • Addressing our own bias
  • Helping clients to make their own decisions
  • Getting supervision and even joining secular consultation groups
  • Doing the work to overcome bias and increase inclusion and affirmative practices

What are the benefits of incorporating faith into therapy and therapy practices?

“Our practices are an extension of us in the world, you know. And so, if you are a faith-based practice owner, you’re extending that arm of yourself into the world. And let’s hope that it’s in a good way where you’re helping your community.” – Whitney Owens, LPC, Wise Practice

  • When therapists and clients share faith and beliefs, there can be an alignment of lived experience
  • Therapists can extend their faith into the work to be more aligned (as long as they remain ethical in how they incorporate it into practice)
  • Making business decisions that are both faith-based and ethical

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Whitney Owens on Instagram

Whitney Owens’ website

Wise Practice Summit

Wise Practice Podcast

Waters Edge Counseling

Facebook group for faith-based practice owners


Our Linktree:


Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Am I Honoring My Personal Values OR Am I Discriminating? An exploration of ethics for modern therapists

What Therapists Need to Know About Abortion and Termination for Medical Reasons: An Interview with Jane Armstrong, LCSW

The Practicalities of Mental Health and Gender Affirming Care for Trans Youth: An Interview with Jordan Held, LCSW

What Goes in Your Notes? Interstate therapy practice and documentation for clients considering abortion or gender affirming care

Has Therapy Become the New Religion?


Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

… 0:00
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:00
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide, where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:15
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the ModernTherapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about the practices that we do, the profession in general and the ways that we show up as therapists, the ways that we brand ourselves. And we are diving into a topic that we actually haven’t really directly talked about before. And that’s around faith based counseling and faith based practices. And we are joined by Whitney Owens, LPC, faith based practice consultant, you’ve got a faith based practice podcast and all kinds of wonderful things. And this is actually where we’ve partnered up this week. We are also on her podcast this week, as well. So get the whole picture, listen to both. And in the meantime, thank you for joining us.

Whitney Owens 1:06
Oh, it’s my honor. Thank you so much.

Katie Vernoy 1:08
We’re so glad to have you here. It’s always fun to have friends of the show. I’m so excited. I’m actually going to be speaking at your conference in October. We’ll talk about that later. But the first question we ask all of our guests: who are you? And what are you putting out to the world?

Whitney Owens 1:23
Yes. So I am Whitney Owens. I’m down here in Savannah, Georgia, if you enjoy my southern accent there. And yes, I run a group practice, it has a faith based background, and what am I putting out in the world? I absolutely love helping faith based practice owners figure out how to start, grow and scale their private practice in a way that’s ethical, and adheres to their values as a Christian Practice Center.

Curt Widhalm 1:50
One of the questions that has evolved in our podcasts over time is what do therapists usually get wrong when thinking about starting a faith based practice? Now, we ask this not to shame anybody. But if there’s mistakes that have been made by other people, how can we help other people prevent making those same mistakes?

Whitney Owens 2:09
Yes. So, I think the very first thing is when you are figuring out your branding, your name, what your practice is about, the ways that you do therapy, right. And so what does it mean to have a faith based practice? People all the time are asking me that question. And it can mean so many different things to so many different people. But I think what’s most important is that it’s about the clinical work that you’re doing. And then you integrate faith upon request of a client, not because you think that you’re supposed to. And so one of the big problems I see is therapists who are making their practice all about faith, and they’ve like lost the clinical part of what they do. Like, they don’t need to be calling themselves a faith based counselor. Like there’s a lot of other things, they could be calling themselves like pastoral or coach, like a Christian coach or something like that. So I think if you’re gonna call yourself a counselor, or you know, a clinical therapist, like you need to be abiding by those clinical issues and an integrating faith at client request.

Katie Vernoy 3:04
Many folks that are not in this world, in the faith based practice world have the assumption that all especially Christian counselors are doing what you just talked about. They’re kind of indoctrinating their clients with the Christian faith, or…

Curt Widhalm 3:21
There’s something hidden in the informed consent that converts them over to Christianity or something like that.

Katie Vernoy 3:27
And so there’s, there’s this element of Wait, that’s not what it is? It’s not just talking about Bible passages and teaching people about the Christian faith. That’s not what faith based counseling is. And I’ve heard you say, use faith as a resource or what you just said, which is use it by request of the client when it’s appropriate. What does that mean?

Whitney Owens 3:55
Oh, goodness. Okay. So the first thing I want to comment on is Katie, sadly enough, there are some people out there doing the first part, right. They are having a hidden agenda in what they do with clients. Like that’s, unfortunately, that’s out there. But what I love about the work I get to do is I want to change the way we think of faith based practices, right. That it is about putting that client first, it’s about integrating faith at the level of appropriateness, right? Because some clients, they might come in and say, Yeah, I’m a Christian, and I want to talk about God, but I don’t really do a lot in my daily life about that. And I’m not really wanting to do a lot about it, you know, and so then a therapist might start shooting things at him, you know, you need to read your Bible more, you need to do these practices. And it’s like, well, that’s not what the clients wanting. So that’s not what we need to be doing. But I think the best way that we can see this is clients coming in you appropriately assess if they have a faith background, whatever faith it is that we educate ourselves on that faith background and integrate it appropriately. And when I tell talk about faith as a resource, there are so many things about faith, regardless if you are a Christian counselor or not, that you can really use like prayer, meditation, forgiveness, kindness, I mean, all these values, that as therapists, we need to be utilizing those. So even if you’re not a faith based counselor, and you’ve got clients coming in, that have a faith based background, and they’re wanting that, you can totally use those skills, and let them use those to help them like help with depression, help with anxiety, being in church and community that helps them, you know, have have friends like this is good for them.

Curt Widhalm 5:34
And I see this in, you know, the EMDR work is where I see this come up a lot. I’m not a faith based counselor by any stretch of the imagination. But when we talk about clients and having resources, like what is it that helps you return to kind of your optimal zone of operating throughout the week, and people bring in their Well, I pray, I have my faith, I have these kinds of things. That’s what I’m hearing out of this is it’s just kind of like, Alright, cool. You’ve got some things that work for you. You’re volunteering this, how does that play into your week that this ends up being kind of what I’m hearing as? Yeah, this, this is what faith based counseling is meant to be whether you intend to do it or not.

Whitney Owens 6:17
Yeah, and even if you’re not a faith based practice, and if you’re not incorporating those, when clients are saying their faith base, you’re missing a whole bunch of tools that you can be using to help them. I don’t have my numbers like right in front of me, but I’m pretty positive, the last time I looked at was like over 50% of people in our nation would say that they pray on a somewhat regular basis. Like we should be using that for clients edification in coming into therapy, because prayer is going to bring them comfort, it’s going to bring them wisdom, it’s going to release their stress, all good things.

Katie Vernoy 6:49
Beyond using the faith and faith practices as a tool. It also seems like there’s a cultural element that we’re missing, if we don’t, if we don’t understand the client and where they’re coming from, and what what their belief systems are, what their rituals are, how they are in community. To me, it feels like it’s it’s a big miss, if we’re not looking at those things at all.

Whitney Owens 7:12
Yeah, I totally agree. And it’s going to be different based on where you practice too. I mean, in the south, going to church is like, the number one question you ask people, it’s like, where did you go to high school? Where do you go to church? You know, it’s like, it’s a community thing. Other areas, it’s not so much. But I think thinking about where you choose to practice is important and thinking about how you’re integrating faith and faith practices.

Curt Widhalm 7:35
Out here in Los Angeles, the handful of people that I’ve run into who have faith based practices, I will admit, we’re not in the most friendly of ways. And that’s when we were sitting on the CAMFT board of directors. And…

Whitney Owens 7:49
Oh, yes.

Curt Widhalm 7:50
…sitting on a board of directors, we get people with very big feelings about things who come and talk to us. But I am wondering, just kind of, that’s not representative of everybody in in the faith based space, so and a lot of the practices around me are pretty secular. So can you walk me through maybe just kind of how people decide to choose this as their practice and you know, kind of how they might end up putting themselves out there as opposed to kind of the more kind of just straight to therapy kinds of practices that Katie and I tend to talk about a lot more.

Whitney Owens 8:27
Yeah, well, first of all, I’m sorry that you were treated poorly. And people had big things to say. That’s terrible.

Curt Widhalm 8:35
We can separate Yeah, that was.

Whitney Owens 8:39
Yeah, I just I just hate like the someone calling themselves a Christian and don’t represent it well, right. And then people get this idea of what it is, and then we’ve missed out on so much. So anyway, but I think most people go into it really, because they think of it as a calling. You know, they grew up in a Christian setting, faith is important part of their life. And I can attest that this is me, you know, and, and God was always a part of my life and grew up in church as a big support. And so I couldn’t see myself doing therapy without that component. Like it’s a part of who I am. What has been amazing, and hopefully this will help speak to this is my own personal growth, my own spiritual growth has allowed me to change the way that I view faith, the way I view counseling. When I was in graduate school, somebody in our class said this, and it really spoke to me. He said, Jesus was not there pushing his faith on people. He was inviting people into relationship and people either chose it or they didn’t. And I’m embarrassed to say before he said this, I was thinking, I’m going to be a therapist, and I’m going to change them one person at a time to come to know God, right? What an arrogant way to think. In my mind, I was like, I’m being so good. I’m saving the world by being a therapist. And he said this to me, and I was like, wow, like this is not about me. This is this is about loving other people right where they are. And if they choose to follow God, great. And if they choose not to follow God, I’m gonna love and accept them anyway and help them meet their goals, you know, and have a better life. So that kind of like really speaks to how I chose my path and kind of how God continues to evolve me through this work that I do with clients.

… 10:19
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Katie Vernoy 10:19
It’s interesting, because I think there’s kind of the misconceptions we talked about with all Christian therapists are trying to convert clients one at a time to Christianity. But, but there have been, I think, these unethical, illegal practices that some, especially Christian therapists have put themselves in into place with with conversion therapy, therapies that are, are pretty harmful to folks if you know if they’re practicing in this way. And and it is that idea, it’s it’s it’s conversion around LGBTQ plus versus conversion around Christianity, but, but what are your thoughts on that? Because I know that you’re a leader in this space, I’d really love kind of what your thoughts are on these types of Christian therapy practices.

Whitney Owens 11:07
Yeah. Well, I’m also a rule follower, and I love ethics. I know y’all appreciate that. So we know conversion therapy is wrong, like, wrong. I mean, research shows how awful it can impact clients. So that’s an easy one for me, like conversion therapy is never something we should be doing with our clients or even trying to do even if it’s a backdoor way of doing it. Don’t do it. It’s not good.

Katie Vernoy 11:29

Whitney Owens 11:30
Now, I also think it’s about that that under part of it is agenda. Like, what is your, do you have an underlying agenda behind the words that you say and the things that you do with your clients? And so I think all of us have to question that as clinicians, but I especially think faith based clinicians need to be asking themselves that. You know, why are they saying the things they’re saying? Are they trying to put their faith or their agenda on that client? And, you know, we kind of talked about this in the other episode, we were recording, but I think it’s so important to mention that, that as a faith based therapist, you’re not just going to other faith based counselors for assistance, for help, but that you’re also talking to people with a secular practice, because they’re gonna see things that you’re not seeing. And I think all of us put our agendas on our clients without realizing it. We’re all, we’re all doing it. And so having other people in our lives to speak to that, to offer supervision to that is so key.

Curt Widhalm 12:21
I think with a lot of the just conversations in general about the ways that faith interacts with a lot of different systems. You know, you follow any news headline now and you’re seeing, you know, the discussions around faith and schools, faith in therapy, we’re talking about here faith and politics, and a lot of this kind of stuff. And I think that there’s really easy, egregious examples to see in other parts of the world around this. But what I really appreciate about you and the work that you’re doing is you’re really helping to clarify like, alright, we’re therapists. First, it’s just kind of this really, you know, other important piece of who people are as in their faith that shows up in that kind of therapy. How else outside of the really egregious things are you seeing people kind of struggle with going outside that therapeutic bounds, that might not be as obvious as the big ones like conversion therapy and this kind of stuff?

Whitney Owens 13:22
Yeah, I do think that if clients come in, and we kind of mentioned this, and they have a certain level of faith integration that they want, if the therapist takes it, beyond that, that’s not ethical. You know, I also think therapists might have small ideas of what they think the Bible says. And they actually don’t know what the Bible says, and they haven’t been taught correctly. And so then they take a verse or a passage and say, Well, this is what it says, for your situation. Well, that might not actually be the case and you might not be reading it in right. Another idea is that idea of divorce, like, somebody might read the Bible, or let’s actually let’s talk about LGBTQ because I think this is a great example. Someone reads the Bible, and they think, God, you know, doesn’t like that. Right. So then they don’t want to work with clients that adhere to those values, or in homosexual relationships, because they read the Bible that way. And then another therapist might read the Bible in a different way and say, Okay, well, I think the concepts of God and what God is doing in the world is to love everyone, wherever they’re at, we’re always accepting, right? And so you can’t, you can’t read it, and then tell the client what you think it says, when you might not be teaching them appropriately. And so it’s letting the clients dictate where the treatment goes, letting them live the lives that they want to live, letting them read the Bible and share with you what it means to them. You know, instead of you saying this is what a passage means, and this is what it should be to you. I hope that makes sense.

Katie Vernoy 14:44
It does. I feel like there’s that element of bias that we all have and the way that we understand the world and the way that we read the world, if we put that too much into the room without awareness, that can become harmful to the client because we’re imposing our own beliefs on the client, and we’re telling them to do things based on our own beliefs versus theirs or or their own decision making process. To me, I think whether it’s, you know, conversion therapy, or LGBTQ plus, folks, if it’s divorce, I think there’s, there’s some things there that might be a little bit easier to get your head around. I’m thinking about abortion. And for folks that are in that process, people who are currently pregnant, not sure they want to keep the baby, those kinds of things like, what do you do in those situations? If you have a very strong belief system around what someone should do?

Whitney Owens 15:38
Yeah. And so it’s about helping the client find what they want to do, right? I mean, obviously, you want to take them through your some positives and negatives to be thinking about, here’s your situation, you know, but you’re really a guide to them, you’re not the one telling them what to do based on what you would do in your own life, or what you think the Bible says. Because that’s putting your agenda on your client. It’s really for the client to come in and find their own answer, and to feel good with the answer that they’re choosing, and you just love and accept them through that situation.

Katie Vernoy 16:09
I hear you. And I think it’s even as a guide, I think there’s a lot of bias that can come into play. And I think there’s going to be therapists that have very big emotions, if their belief is that if this person has an abortion, they’re they’re committing murder.

Whitney Owens 16:23
Yeah. So they probably shouldn’t be putting that on their clients. Right. And I guess another thing, I mean, you know?

Katie Vernoy 16:29
Simply yes. Yes, I agree.

Whitney Owens 16:31
Yeah. And, and we were talking before about kind of ethical decision making models. And so being able to go to somebody else saying, Hey, here’s the situation. But I guess if a therapist gets to a point that they feel like their values are really interfering, like they just cannot not make that a part of it their own personal thoughts. Like, if the therapist is very against abortion, you know, maybe they shouldn’t be working with that client. I mean, I think they should be getting their own supervision and figuring that out themselves, you know, and learning how do I help this client, but if they really can’t be unbiased, maybe they shouldn’t work with that client. But that, that would be very concerning to me that they would be a therapist.

Katie Vernoy 17:09
So therapists should be able to get past those things. De facto. Like, whatever the issue, you should be able to meet your clients where you are. And as a as a Christian therapist, or a faith based therapist, that’s even more paramount. Because if you’re going to be there working with these clients, you can’t, you’re saying that you can’t put this on them?

Whitney Owens 17:31
Yeah, because you’re actually doing harm.

Curt Widhalm 17:33
Do no harm. And I think that that’s the way that I hear a lot in the community, the therapist community that you know, this is, and there’s that assumption that faith based therapists have this agenda. And unfortunately, it is the the most vociferous ones out there who tend to give everybody a bad name, no matter what community that you’re in. But I tend to hear, especially about faith based counselors, kind of the well, what that must be how everybody is in this kind of work. And that’s, I don’t know, like you’re in this community a lot more deeply than I am. Tell me that it’s not everybody. I mean, your your proof that it’s not.

Whitney Owens 18:25
It’s not me.

Curt Widhalm 18:27
But I mean, it’s, you know, I think that at least in a lot of the consultation groups, or things that I hear about that, the it almost is just kind of like there’s assumptions about both sides, that just makes it to where it ends up being kind of these insulated, you know, consultation groups or insulated discussion groups about, you know, secular versus faith based. Those of us who aren’t in those faith based, you know, discussions, I guess the question that I’m asking is, like, is there a kind of a, hey, we need to bring this, you know, back towards the, you know, we’re all therapists here discussion, is that more prevalent? Because I don’t see it in the groups that I follow.

Whitney Owens 19:09
Hmm. Yes. So this is like, why I wanted to go into this work, because we need to have these conversations more, right. Like, we all need to be getting along and learning from one another, instead of isolating ourselves in this little Christian bubble of what therapy has to be. And that’s where dangerous stuff happens. Right? And so that’s a big part of my teaching, like, I will have people reach out to me. And as we keep talking about the LGBTQ community, I wish I could come up with some other examples. But I had someone reach out to me and they’re like, I have a couple and they are wanting to have a homosexual marriage and I don’t know what to do as a therapist. And that like blew my mind. They were like, I’m a Christian. I can’t work with them. I’m like, Yes, you can. Like let’s talk about this. Let’s, let’s have this conversation. So I think more and more having these conversations is going to help, you know, in really challenging people. Christians challenge Christians, but even people who would not be a Christian, challenging Christians to rethink the way that they’re doing this. But I am here to say that not all of us think like that. And then on a side note, there’s so much emotion that comes into faith. When we start having these faith conversations, people get charged, because of religious trauma they’ve experienced, even you were just sharing the story about some disgruntled people like misrepresenting faith, like, and so then you have these negative experiences. So as soon as you hear that word, Christian, it’s like, Oh, back away, you know. And that’s so disheartening. And I even personally have been judged so much for calling myself even a faith based, and I specifically say faith based, private practice consultant, because if I use that word, Christian, I’m going to get a whole bunch of things put on me immediately, which I don’t want those things on me, because they’re probably not who I really am. But I had another situation recently, I spoke at a conference I spoke at Meet You in Kentucky. I talked about the Enneagram. And it said in my bio: faith based consultant, and somebody came up to me afterwards and said, I almost didn’t come to your presentation, because it said faith based consultant, and I thought you had an agenda on how you wanted to change me. He said, and that’s not what I experienced from you. I was like, yes. But yeah, I mean, I think I so yeah, and we had such a good conversation. afterwards, too.

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Katie Vernoy 21:24
So, we’ve been talking about kind of the misconceptions or the the harms, but I want to get to the other side, because there are benefits for folks who are people of faith who want to meet with faith based therapists who are having these practices, these ethical, you know, faith based practices, that they’re, it’s actually therapy with faith as a resource versus a mission to convert folks in their offices. And so, to me, I’d love to hear from you what you see as the benefits for for the therapist, but also for the client seeking services from a faith based professional.

Whitney Owens 21:59
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s an alignment there, an understanding there that the client can experience from their therapist. I think of it similar to substance abuse, you know, a therapist who had a substance abuse issue that they’ve worked through and sees a client with the same, you know, maybe alcoholism as well, there’s an alignment and ability there to talk about it, that wouldn’t be there if the therapist hadn’t had that background. And so think of it in a similar way, when we talk about a faith based background. I mean, I also believe that when you incorporate things you’re passionate about, as a therapist, if it’s faith, if it’s anything else, maybe marriage work, or whatever it is that you’re passionate about, you’re gonna do better work as a therapist, because you’re more invested in it. It’s part of who you are. I mean, our practices are an extension of us in the world, you know. And so if you are a faith based practice owner, you’re extending that arm of yourself into the world. And let’s hope that it’s in a good way where you’re helping your community and you’re doing kindness and those kinds of things.

Curt Widhalm 22:56
My question, I’m just going to, how did you get to be so awesome out the get go on this, right? I’m interested in your story of like, how did you come to some of these conclusions and feel the confidence to come out and speak so publicly in this way? Because this is a really refreshing version of this, that I’m hearing from you. So why are you so awesome?

Whitney Owens 23:22
Man, you just made my day. Okay, I now I’m gonna give you the religious answer, but it’s true. I mean, I feel like God has made me this way. I mean, my faith, I feel like, I’ve been open to being changed by people and by the world around me. And doing my own work. Like, I go to therapy, you know, I need my opinions changed. I mean, when I went to graduate school, I allowed that time to make me think differently, you know, especially specifically talking about the LGBTQ community. I really struggled for a while, I’m just going to be honest. Like, I was just raised in a way that that was not okay. And so then when I started meeting people that were gay and saw how great they were, I was like, oh, like, I felt this conflict within me. And I was like, I have got to do my work on this. And I did my research, I read books, I questioned people, and I read the Bible. And now I have a whole different way that I think in an accepting way, you know, in an affirming way, that I wasn’t at before. And so I guess it was, it would be that I’ve that I’ve done the work. And I’m passionate about the change that’s happened in my life, like I have a lot more freedom in my faith then I had before. I felt like my faith was in a box before. And so I really want to, like give that out to the world. But then I also like, have this amazing way of making faith a part of my business, and I love my group practice. And so I want to see other faith based therapists, like not live in that bubble, do clinical work, and also love their lives, you know, and get to do good faith based stuff.

Curt Widhalm 24:56
I know your background or as you’re describing it, I’m sure you work with mostly Christian based therapists? No, you don’t.

Whitney Owens 25:03
Oh, as a consultant? Yes. Actually, my practice, no one would know that we’re a faith based practice, unless you were a faith based person. It’s very interesting. Like I have, it’s called Waters Edge Counseling. So the idea of that is when we’re at the water, we experience rejuvenation, we jump in, we have life, we take risks. Now, if someone saw that on my website, they don’t think twice about it. But if you’re a Christian, and you see that on the website, you’re like, oh, baptism, oh, the Bible talks about water. It’s been amazing how it draws in Christians. But it’s, we have we do a lot of work with people that are not faith based. I would probably say about 30 to 40% of our clients adhere to a faith based background, a lot of them do not, which is what I wanted. I wanted to be able to meet the needs of all different types of people that come into the practice. We do have one page on our website about Christian Services, you know, but along with a bunch of other pages. The scallop shell is our logo, which most people would think, Oh, scallop, shell water’s edge, that makes sense. And we are in Savannah. But if you do some more research, you understand the scallop shell, it’s from the Camino de Santiago, which is the Way of St. James and his body was washed ashore with a bunch of scallop shells. It’s a really cool story. And the shell represents a journey, you know, and for me, it’s the faith based journey. So I have these like faith components in my practice, but you only know that if you question it or if you’re a faith based yourself, and you’re like, oh, yeah, I know what the scallop shell is.

Curt Widhalm 26:28
In your consultation work with therapists who come from other beliefs, America’s you know, heavily Christian based, but I’m wondering, you know, kind of how you help other practitioners who come from non Christian based practices and building their practices in ways that are congruent with them. And what is that process like?

Whitney Owens 26:48
Yeah, so I’m glad you asked that question. I used to do that a lot more. And I think as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that the faith based community is my passion. And so I’ve really niched into that. And that’s gone really well. I mean, but for me, faith based, I do mean Christians specifically for what I work with, even the faith based can mean a lot. I mean, we could talk about Judaism, Buddhists, you know, all the different faiths. But I see people on a range, just like clients are in a range. So I see I work with some that would be like, faith is not a part of my business, but it’s a part of my personal life, and I want to work with you. And then I have some that are like, faith is everything in my business, and I want to work with you. So it runs the gamut. You don’t have to have a strictly faith based practice. But I kind of enjoy working with well, I really do enjoy working with someone that would say faith is a part of their life.

Katie Vernoy 27:37
Because in your consulting work, you you work primarily with Christian faith based therapists and and you’re you have this vision of a practice, that’s very ethical, that that aligns with your life, allows your faith to be kind of whatever level you want it to be in your practice, it seems like there’s probably some structure or ideas around how you can actually have an ethical and successful faith based practice that goes beyond kind of typical practice building. And so can you talk a little bit about what that looks like?

Whitney Owens 28:11
Yeah, faith is a part of all my decisions that I’m make in my own business. But I also make business decisions that are ethical and logical, like bring those parts in, you know, money. Money is a big one for all of us. But when you look at the Christian therapist community, there’s this feeling like you’ve got to give it away for free or a sliding scale, or this is your calling, your ministry. And so a big part of it is knowing that it’s okay to make money, it’s okay to make profit, it’s okay to care for your family. And so that’s another way that I kind of bring that in, when I am in the hiring process. And this is a big one that comes up for challenges for Christian therapists is when they start a group practice and how do you hire in a way that’s ethical and appropriate, especially W-2s, because you can’t hire based on faith. But when I do hire is based on the ability to do the work that clients are coming in asking for, right? Clients, if a client were to come in and say I need any sort of treatment, I mean, they’re not going to see a therapist that has inability to bring eating disorders to the conversation. We need to be able to do that, you know, and have some training in that. And so when I’m hiring it’s, it’s not you have to be Christian to work here. Because that’s not what it is. But are you able to bring in faith as a resource to clients on request, you know. So those are some of the ways that faith is a part of my business decisions. And prayer is a really big part as well, like when I’m, oh, goodness, so many things I can think of like trying to get a new office space or hire a new person or having a hard conversation with someone in the practice. Like I bring those in prayer and scripture, talking to other Christian counselors that I’m close to, business owners and working together to be able to make the best decisions.

Curt Widhalm 28:18
Are there any other misconceptions that people have about faith based practices that we haven’t covered yet?

Whitney Owens 29:58
I don’t think so. I mean, I just kind of said the other one we didn’t talk a ton was the financial piece. You know, I think the misconception in the community is that faith based counselor shouldn’t rate shouldn’t be as high as they are. And that’s just simply not true. It should be based on their experience, you know, training, all those kinds of things. I think we did cover a lot of them, though. And the biggest one, just being that that agenda piece is that you’re gonna put your faith on your clients, which is not the case. And also not the case when I’m working with practice owners, like respecting them where they’re coming from. And then the Enneagram is just a whole nother topic. I mean, I love the Enneagram. I think it’s fantastic. It’s changed my life. But boy, I get those emails. That’s a heathen practice that I know. And I’m like, really well, it’s helped me in my life. So well. I found God in it.

Katie Vernoy 30:49
One of the things before we start wrapping up is you’ve got your group practice, you’ve got your faith based consulting, and you’ve started putting on events and Curt and I know a thing or two about putting on events and how challenging that is. And you are taking a bold step, and you have a big conference that you’ve actually invited me to speak at. But there’s there’s also been other retreats and different things. Talk a little bit about what you set up there. And what those types of events look like, specifically the one in in October.

Whitney Owens 31:22
Yes, so the one in October is the Wise Practice Summit. And all the stuff I do is called Wise Practice, the Wise Practice podcast, membership, community, stuff like that. That summit, is for people who would say they’re a faith based background. Doesn’t mean you have to have a faith based practice. Because we’re actually also going to have a lot of fun, it’s not going to be uptight Christians getting together. The last time I did an event, I was like, Hey, y’all have fun, you don’t have to come to all the events if you don’t want to, in fact, if you want to bring a beer in, bring a beer in, it’s okay, you know, like let’s have a… Because that’s another thing. Like, I think Christians should be having a lot more, we should all be having a lot more fun. But Christians definitely need to have a lot more fun. Yeah. And so along with that event, there is NBCC approval, which I was super stoked about. So you can earn up to 13.5 CEUs through the NBCC. It’s two full days of workshops, and they’re all based on practice building and being a good leader. All of them will have some kind of integration with faith, but that’ll be just a part of it. Like it’s mostly a business conference with a faith based twist is kind of how I think of it. We’re gonna have a big opening night with dinner and drinks. We’re also gonna have a John Wesley walking tour in Savannah, which I think is kind of fun, because I’m Methodist. But yeah, it’s gonna be a really good time, right on the Savannah River.

Katie Vernoy 32:34
Very cool.

Curt Widhalm 32:36
Where can people find out more about you and all the things that you’re doing and your events and plug your stuff?

Whitney Owens 32:45
Yeah, yeah. Okay. So go to I like to kind of think of it as a funnel, you know, in working with me. And so I do have a membership community. And we meet once a week to talk about running a faith based practice and I do some teachings in there, you get put in a small group. So that’s an easy entry level into the Wise Practice community. And then we have the summit coming up. I also do like a retreat or two a year, the most recent one was in Asheville, it was fantastic. So those are some of the things and then the podcast as well. So and then I do individual consulting.

Curt Widhalm 33:17
And we will include links to that in our show notes over at And follow us on our social media, join our Facebook group, the Modern Therapist Group. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Whitney Owens.

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