Kevin* was ready to push "send" on his cell phone when he suddenly slammed the cover down. "I can do this myself! I don't need any shrink to help me."
Life had been fairly stable for Kevin. His parents did the best they could to provide him with the necessities of life. He went to church and even attended a Christian school until he got his master's degree. Although he wasn't in any crisis, per se, the uneasiness and troubled thoughts gnawed at his heart.
This young bachelor had experienced several great relationships with some pretty neat ladies, but nothing ever matured. These serial experiences seemed to just set him up for disappointment and failure.
Kevin had spoken with his pastor. He sensed that his connection with God was clear, but he couldn’t seem to enjoy that abundant life that John 10:10 offered. Sometimes he felt that God might not be all He claimed to be. Could God really be trusted?
He felt OK physically, but made an appointment with his physician for a complete physical. His doctor was impressed with his healthy lifestyle – he exercised almost every day, ate a fairly balanced diet, drank adequate water, and seemed to have a handle on the natural health principles. His examination results were good and the tests were negative. Yet, his energy level and endurance seemed compromised.
"Kevin," his physician suggested, "Have you ever considered talking to a counselor, a psychotherapist who is educated in helping people to clarify thinking, identify emotional hurts, and heal that gnawing in your heart? With all your physical and spiritual life checked out, perhaps it’s time to consider this. Time with a good therapist is time well spent."
The search began. How would he know who to choose? He asked his doctor for references and also checked out the Yellow Pages, the Internet, and with the family life leader at church. As to be expected, he always phrased the question, "I have a friend who needs a psychotherapist. Do you know any good one?"
He did his research well, and learned about the differences between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a psychotherapist. He narrowed his search down to choosing a Christian therapist, thanking God for answering his constant prayers for guidance.
But when he found out the cost, he can canceled the appointment. "I'm not going to pay that amount to someone I don't even know. In fact, I feel rather in control. After all, I have God, so why do I need a counselor?" he rationalized.
Then when he exploded over a minor incident while eating in a restaurant, embarrassing himself and his date, he decided that it was time to make that appointment.
Although hesitant and scared, he stuck with his commitment. He felt pretty sure about his choice. But he lived in a fairly small town and was concerned about any details of his life reaching the ears of his friends. He felt discouragement, loss of enthusiasm, and joy; when the pleasure intended for us from the foundation of the earth is out of reach; and when getting out of bed in the morning is all the energy we have, then the pus of the enemy's infection has accumulated and overpowered the purpose God intended for us. It's time to claim the months and years the enemy has stolen and rejoice in the restoration the Lord has planned for each of us. Sometimes professional Christian counseling provides just the therapy needed to live successfully.
It's a humbling decision to reach—to realize that we cannot make a difference in our own life without the help of another person. Choose someone qualified to help you with this journey and it will make a difference for a lifetime.
A counselor who is a Christian has integrated sound biblical principles with sound psychological truths. All truth originates from our Lord; sound psychology has taken these truths and put them into tangible forms for helping us reach the goal of healthiness.
In my few years as a Christian counselor, I have discovered some precious realities:
- God is God. I am not. He heals. I provide the atmosphere and channel by which He can create an opportunity to grow.
- Most people want a satisfying life—they just need the tools and the accepting environment to learn and experience how God relates to them so they learn how to relate to others.
- Changing the way we think, feel, and act takes time, patience, and encouragement—most people have a hard time accomplishing this victory alone.
- Prayer is the powerhouse that begins working before a client ever enters the room, and the attitude of prayer is a constant flavor throughout the room during therapy. Prayer is the work of both counselor and client. To reach goals there must be a lot of effort also.
- Many Christians do not realize the wealth of biblical help when it comes to emotional health. The Bible is full of promises stating that heaven is full of gifts for people full of needs.
- God is Sovereign. He longs to be gracious to His created loved ones. He can choose to heal directly, or He can minister His grace through people to help others. A counselor helping a client in the therapeutic counseling process is a powerful demonstration of God's purpose for experiencing His relational principles on earth. It reflects healthy ministry among God’s folks.
- There is no "one and only way" to help a person. There are many theories that work well. If one therapist doesn't "fit" and it's not because of the client's stubbornness and resistance to change, discuss it and come to an understanding. Discussion and sensible disagreements in a healthy environment are great ways to learn to express feelings, and grow. Referring clients can benefit both counselor and client. Honesty is the best policy.
- Often, clients want the counselor to "fix" someone else. That is an impossible request! You can only change yourself. However, if the client's perspective changes, there will be a difference in the relationship with a difficult person.
- Often finding a Christian psychotherapist is challenging. Ask God, your friends, or call churches in your area for references. Check the Internet. Many times a counseling center is not labeled "Christian," but there are Christian, ethical, professional, dedicated therapists who live by a high code of ethics. They can be excellent therapists.
- Counseling children is far more beneficial when the parents are actively involved.
- Psychotherapy helps the mind to discern the truth. Most of us have grown up with lies in every area of our life. It’s time to sort out the truth in order to be set free.
- It takes a humble spirit to learn new ways and a mature person to put forth the effort to make a difference in one's life.
Can the benefits of counseling and the relationships that develop be used by the enemy to be destructive and not of God? Sure. But does that make counseling bad or ineffective? Surely not.
If you live where no Christian resources are available, don't let that stop you from acquiring the help you need. God works through anything and anyone He wants when it comes to helping His kids. If He can make a donkey talk, He can certainly use any person to help the highest of His creation!
Reprinted with permission from the September 2006 issue of the Atlantic Union Gleaner.