- Mental Health
WHO'S A CHRISTIAN THERAPIST?
GOD'S RELATIONSHIP TO US AS A PEOPLE IS VERY PERSONAL AND TENDER, BUT OUR SALVATION IS OUR WILLINGNESS TO RUN THE RACE WITH THE REST OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS
AM I A CHRISTIAN THERAPIST?
Not so much anymore, but when I first went into practice as a licensed Marriage Family Therapist in 1982, folks were always asking me if I am a Christian Therapist. At first, I thought if I told people I was, it might bring in more business! Yes, I am a money changer! But why else would I say I was a Christian therapist?
Well, I AM a Christian and I practice Christianity. Sounds like a good reason to identify myself as a Christian Therapist. By the way, for me, therapy is a healing journey, and I see myself as a “healer” in the humblest and best sense of that word. And Jesus was a healer, but he wasn't a Christian nor the first Christian. He was a very faithful Jew.
I also don’t see myself as a counselor or someone who dishes out advice or who fixes folks’ problems with a bag of tricks (snake oil). Although I guess I do have plenty of my own brand of snake oil! Gotta be honest here!
And I also notice that professionals of any kind, who have bags of fix-it tricks, tend not to practice their own fix-it tricks. I also find these same professionals, along with my so-called solution-focused colleagues, unable to just sit with another person’s pain without their own dump truck load of secret pain getting triggered. It makes them so anxious that they are literally driven to come up with quick and fast solutions. Hey, I want away from your pain as fast as I can move away, and I am sure you want out of your pain quickly as well. So here we go. Start with X and proceed to Z. Yes skip A to W.
A so-called Christian counselor or therapist is going to pull out the Bible for a half dozen quick fixes using both new and old Testament verses and stories. I am afraid if I did that, my anger and my codependency would get the best of me, and there’d be a lot of folks out there, related to my clients, getting stoned and not on marijuana!
I bet some of you are dying to ask me if Jesus is my personal savior. My answer is NO. I believe Jesus is one of the three persons in God, (Wow, isn’t that awesome, a relational God), and my relationship with God is of the essence of how I live. But I do not believe that salvation is a personal matter. To claim hold to Jesus as MY personal savior is a little or a lot too narcissistic or ego-involved for me.
I think salvation comes from my living responsibly within the community (the ecclesia, the gathering), and I don’t mean “works,” and to imagine for a second that salvation is a personal matter is missing the Christian boat completely. The Beatitudes is a call to the community of people to live life in a compassionate fashion. It is not a personal call. In fact, there is absolutely nothing personal about Christianity nor is their anything personal about life itself. We are here together in case you hadn’t noticed. And it’s crowded!
Now, it may sound contradictory to you, but I do believe that God is personal! And I encourage my clients to weave their spirituality, their soul work, their relationship with God into their healing work. I even recommend two wonderful prayer books to folks. Best prayer books around in my opinion, and they are listed below in the Amazon section. Daily Prayers For Busy People and More Daily Prayers For Busy People.
Now back to the Holy Book. The Bible doesn’t have answers. It is what it is. It is a collection of inspired stories telling us the journey of the evolution of man’s relationship to God. It is not a tool box or a prescription for life. Is it valuable for spiritual reading and meditating and learning about God and enhancing your relationship with God? Absolutely. I love the Psalms, the Song of Songs, Sirach, Jeremiah, and The four Gospels.
Now to what prompted this blog. Finally. When I have clients who have worked previously with a Christian therapist, I painstakingly undo well-intentioned, well meaning but destructive guidance.
“My last therapist told me that my depression is a temptation from Satan, and if I give into my depression, I am turning away from God.”
Gently I tell them, “No, your depression has nothing to do with Satan or Satan tempting you. Depression is a sign, a big huge flashing sign, that you have losses to grieve. God created grieving so when we do lose, we can heal. Jesus grieved as did his mother as did his disciples on numerous occasions.
“My last counselor told me I am justified ending the marriage because my spouse had an affair.”
Gently, I tell them. “No, your spouse having an affair is not justification for ending the marriage. You can end the marriage if you choose to do so, but before you do, honestly ask yourself, “In what way have I, yes, me, in what way have I been UNfaithful to the relationship?” Yes, never being at home or having an affair with alcohol, drugs, work, television, volunteerism is just as sinful as your spouse having sex with another person.” It is. And it is equally destructive. Go ahead, blow up your computer!
There is lots and lots of good stuff in the Bible. For example, the Old Testament. Most of the important Dudes in the OT were the worst of the worst. There wasn’t anything holy about them at all. They were drunks, adulterers, murderers, thieves, liars, cruel, self centered egomaniacs, and cheats. Basically "evil" people! And God loved them and blessed them all the same, and that’s the point of the Old Testament. God loves us just because.
I do try to live a lifestyle that follows the beatitudes, which you can find in the Chinese Scriptures as well, and I love the two great commandments. Especially the second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When I see someone who is fifty years old and looks one hundred fifty, I do not want them loving me the way they have loved themselves. You know what I mean? When I was at my heaviest, I sure didn’t want to love others the way I was loving myself–with food.
But if you can take on living the beatitudes and the two great commandments, you got it made in the shade. There’s nothing personal about the beatitudes or the two great commandments. They very much involve the community, and they both call you to be a responsible participant in the community and to be accountable for the way you participate.
So am I a Christian Therapist? No. If I identify as a Christian therapist, I will only give Christian therapists a bad name! Do I support folks weaving and integrating their spirituality and their religion into their healing process. ABSOLUTELY. Am I a good therapist? Let’s just say, good enough, because I sit in the room with you with your pain, and I also humbly hold my own short comings and my own weaknesses, my own sins, my own transgressions. I am no better or no worse than you no matter what awful or what wonderful things you have done to bring you to my office. And it is always an honor and a privilege that first off you ask me to be a part, but then to get to be a part of your healing.
THANK YOU FOR READING. PLEASE take the poll. And Please feel free to leave a comment. And if you are a Christian Therapist and do not practice as I described, please defend yourself. Enlighten me. And I will ask for forgiveness.
You can also participate in the discussion on my office Facebook page.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO BOTH A CHRISTIAN THERAPIST AND NON CHRISTIAN THERAPIST?
DAILY OFFICE POSTINGS
- Vernon Rl Bradley, MFT
This is a link to my Facebook for my private practice. I post something every day from this page and usually write a blog on my office website that is relevant to the posting.
- IT'S ABOUT HEALING
This site describes services provided by Vernon R. Bradley, Marriage Family Therapist. It includes a blog which addresses social issues related to our society's psychological and spiritual health.