“Christian” and “Counseling”

How do these fit together?

christian counseling

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I recently completed an interview for several of my graduate students about my perspectives on the integration of faith and counseling. I think my answer to one of the questions is something some of my readers might appreciate.

Question: How do you distinguish between secular counseling, Christian counseling, pastoral counseling, and biblical counseling?

Secular Counseling

For me there’s no such thing as secular counseling. I’m not capable of doing it because God is always in my perspective, even if I don’t share that with the client, and oftentimes I won’t, depending on where the client is coming from. I don’t feel any need to make this part of therapy if it doesn’t speak to the client.

Christian Counseling

The most important word in “Christian counseling” is “counseling,” not Christian. In other words, if a therapist is good, sensitive, caring, and intuitive, they can do enormously healing work (which I believe is the work of God). This is true whether or not the therapist acknowledges God in this work. So being a good counselor comes first. If that’s taken care of, the work can be incredible.

The “Christian” thing is a distant second.

Any client should seek a good therapist before seeking a Christian therapist. If they can find a therapist who is both good and Christian, that’s fine.

In my view God is in the act of healing all of creation at this very moment and every human being as part of that creation. Healing is on the way, in process, a given, something that will happen naturally, in God’s ordained order, if we learn how to get out of our own way and let it happen (which all good therapy helps us do, Christian or not).

Healing was a huge factor in the ministry of Jesus, who healed, but usually did not heal and preach at the same time. Healing was his ministry in those moments. He didn’t angle. He didn’t “integrate.” He just acted, in God, from a place of faith, confident that healing was inevitable from that place. I do my work from that place.

Biblical Counseling

When I think of “Biblical counseling” I think of the “nouthetic” counseling movement. NC insists that the Bible contains everything human beings need to know about psychology and uses it as their sole source book. I see this as fundamentalist, deeply flawed, and therefore dangerous.

Pastoral Counseling

I see pastoral counseling kind of like spiritual direction. I help people discern where God is moving/working in their lives, and how they may be getting in the way. I help them work through personal issues that may be affecting their spiritual life or vice versa. Anyone who has read the work of the Desert Fathers and Mothers knows they came up with many psychological insights out of their spiritual communities that were confirmed by studies in the 20th century.

The best spirituality is often psychological and the best psychology is often spiritual.

What Is Your Destiny?

... and how finding "TRUTH" came to be mine

What is Your Destiny?

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What Is Destiny?

People have always lauded me for my transparency and authenticity. It probably seems like searching intensely for ultimate truth is my destiny. But I feel like I just realized at any early age that I’m terrible at hiding my emotions, and terrible at acting like something I know is true isn’t true. I cannot hide the truth.

When I was a kid, any time I would feel terrible and attempt to disguise it I’d end up being chastised by someone for being a jerk, or a close friend would see right through me and call me out.

I think eventually I just gave up, decided I wasn’t even going to try. This was no more a courageous decision about being authentic any more than shaving my head was a courageous decision about being bald. In that case, the writing was on the wall. I had already started losing my hair. So I took action that got me to the destination of being bald as a way to skip the painful process of going bald. The same was true with being honest. I couldn’t hide my feelings and opinions, so I just quit trying.

At some point pretty early on, people started applauding me for being honest and transparent and authentic. Of course most of us will take any affirmation we can get, and it was pretty obvious that this was my avenue for being unique and getting noticed. Pair this with a growing chip on my shoulder and an affinity for words, and this “honest” thing must have seemed like a pretty good gig.

Please don’t be mad. If I’m going to be that honest person, I probably need to be honest about being honest, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Could it be that what seems from one perspective to be “destiny” is, from another perspective, just giving in to reality?

I wonder if anybody is the way they are, good or bad, without it being due — in some way — to the discovery that being a certain way was always how they were best able to be accepted on some level by someone.

Maybe that’s what “destiny” really is: finding those ways we are accepted and affirmed, and embracing them. Could that be?

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The One Thing You Need To Do To Succeed

Get to Work

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I’ll bet there’s something in your life you deeply want to do but you’re afraid you can’t.

Or afraid you’ll fail.

Or you don’t know where you’ll find the time.

Or you’re afraid people will laugh at you. And they may.

Or you’re afraid you’re just dreaming and being stupid.

Or you’re afraid you’ll do it and nothing will come of it. That’s a possibility.

And so day after day, year after year, you keep suppressing whatever that thing is you are called to, the thing that really lights your fire, the thing you would do if there were absolutely no obstacles, nothing standing in your way, and if you had utter and complete confidence in yourself.

Only no one has ever done anything worthwhile under those conditions.

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7 Ways to Fight the Stigma of Mental Illness

Hint: Ya Gotta Get Loud

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[This topic was requested by one of my regular readers, that is, one of the people who receive this blog via email.]

I have been stunned by the ignorance I have encountered since the 2011 suicide attempt of my daughter. Some people said she just did it to get attention. Many more people called her selfish and said she lacked willpower. And of course some thought if she had just prayed more, or harder, she would have been healed.

Ignorance.

That’s mostly where the stigma of mental illness comes from.

I take medication for anxiety and people have said, “I’m surprised as a pastor you would turn to medication,” as if my failure to find relief in prayer was a personal affront to them, like I did it just to trouble their theology.

Ignorance.

Here are seven things you can do to fight the stigma of mental illness.

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“The Sky Is Not Falling!”

...even if the world is getting worse

image ©Disney Corporation, 2005

If the line that we see the world not as it is but as we are is true (and I’m convinced it is), there are a lot of dark, fearful, negative, cynical people in the world who look around them and see only despair, only things to fear, only the sky falling down around them.

I find myself affected by this. It’s hard work running around crying “the sky is not falling” to a world that is curiously convinced that it is, that there is no hope, that we have reason to despair in this generation, that America and the world are going to hell in a hand basket. The dreariness and hopelessness are penetrating. They get under your skin and drag you into this gloomy world, where everything is wrong, everything is a cause for outrage, everything cries out, “Don’t be naive — it’s awful and it’s only going to get worse.”

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