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Sat May 16, 2009

Can you tell me a little about what you do to help people both psychologcially and spiritually?

I'm a licensed psychologist, so I do everything a regular psychologist does. I focus a lot on people's emotions, helping them to express feelings that they may have but are in denial about, or that they have avoided because they are too painful. A lot of times, this helps people get "unstuck" and they are able to get closure on things from the past and move forward. I also encourage people to recognize the choices that they are making, to understand that they are responsible for those choices, and to evaluate whether they should be making changes.

From a spiritual point of view, I am basically providing an environment where people can feel free to explore the religious/spiritual aspects of their problems if they wish. A lot of times, if people are depressed, there is a deep-rooted anger at God that they have. If they're anxious, there is a lack of trust in God or a fear of God. So in order to really uproot the problem and resolve the depression/anxiety, they may need to address those issues. Also, I try to help them find ways that their faith can help them find a way out of the current struggle. For example, if someone is depressed because someone close to them has died, then I might help them articulate their own beliefs about what happens after death. I find that very often people have a certain set of religious beliefs but they don't use those beliefs to help them with the psychological problems.

Finally, I will often use imagery with people, which is probably the most "Christian" type of intervention that I do. A lot of times someone will have a memory of a painful event that they don't have closure on and still bothers them. So I will help them to picture the event, to feel the feelings associated with it, and then to imagine Jesus entering into the picture. This is often a very powerful way for people to experience a new ending to an old story - to be able to get over certain blocks and to now have a new image to think of when the bad stuff comes to mind.

posted at: 07:43 | path: /students | link

Do you think that Christian counseling is more helpful than, say, non-Christian counseling?

I think it depends on the individual. I try to have a very balanced view of the Christian aspect of the work. If someone comes to me depressed, I want them to leave not depressed. So, I want to get to the bottom of the issue. Sometimes this involves religious and spiritual issues and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes people just need to vent, sometimes they just need to cry, sometimes they need help with concrete problem-solving, sometimes they need medication. Those are all valid ways of helping that I consider, and if I can help someone effectively without the Christian piece, then I will. I'm just saying that sometimes the issues, particularly for someone who identifies as Christian, often involve their religious beliefs, so that sphere should be considered as well.

I certainly have had many experiences where I believe incorporating the Christian aspect into the work was a key ingredient in them getting better. And very often when I use the imagery technique I described, I find that people are able to access emotions that I would have a very hard time getting to in other ways, or it would take me much longer to do it. So I definitely feel that for some people it is very helpful and more helpful than a traditional secular approach.

posted at: 07:43 | path: /students | link

Do you use Scripture in helping people, or do you use other methods, or both?

Yes, I will refer to Scripture if the individual wants that. It is important to get a sense in the first couple of sessions what the person is looking for from me. Some people are aversed to referring to Scripture, and some people are aversed to not doing it. I am always careful to tell people, however, that I am a psychologist and not a priest or minister. So in that sense my beliefs or my interpretations of Scripture are no more valid than theirs, and I am not trying to push my beliefs on them. I more try to give their own beliefs back to them and maybe help them apply them to areas that they haven't.

posted at: 07:41 | path: /students | link

How have you changed as a counselor since you first started?

Well, to be honest, even though my faith was a major factor in my becoming a psychologist, I didn't really set out to be a Christian psychologist per se. But as I was working in secular positions, I began seeing a lot of people who wanted to talk about God and, for example, where God was when they were suffering. So I began asking myself, "Is it ok for me to be talking about this with them?" As I went on, I began getting more and more frustrated, feeling that if we could have an open discussion about these issues it would really help them, and in some cases that they would not really change if we didn't. So I felt kind of like a doctor who knew of a certain pill that that was just what the patient needed but was unable to prescribe it. So I got to the point where I felt that I needed to be in a situation where both the client and myself could be free to address these issues if needed. This is a main reason why I identify explicitly as a Christian psychologist. This way people have some sense of my value system and where I'm coming from up front and, while I still follow all the rules that psychologists follow, I am freer to incorporate the Christian aspect into treatment if the client wants.

posted at: 07:41 | path: /students | link