Monday, March 15, 2010

Trutheran Counseling and Traditional Therapy

I'm finishing up reading Colson's book "The Faith" with my small group, an excellent book that all Christians should read. One section sparked a flurry of brainwave activity:
"Therapy can only help you deal with a problem; transformation fixes the problem."
As a therapist, of course, I wanted to defend my profession with reasons such as "therapy does actually help people become more effective at living life." But the more I thought about it, the more I truly understood what Colson was saying here. Sure, I can help people live lives with less anxiety, depression, and better relationships. But what I do does not really fix the problem - I help develop workarounds (so to speak) for the problem.

For instance, when a client comes in with anxiety issues, we might look at the different ways they cope with life such as what they say to themselves (e.g., "Why did I have to do that stupid thing?"). We might also look at events that initiated some of those adaptive coping mechanisms, such as a childhood trauma.

People have had incredible success with therapy. Many people genuinely have experienced significant changes in the reduction of overall (or perhaps specific) stress and anxiety in their lives. Others have gone on to begin reaching their potential that was previously obstructed by their "mental health disorders" (it's just a fancy way of describing depression, addictions, anger issues, etc.). The reality, however, is that none of what we do together actually fixes the problem. I can't do what Jesus did and remove the part of life (sin) that causes damage internally and interpersonally; nor can I give anyone persuasive enough reasons to suffer through that wreckage joyfully.

The difference, then, between therapy and "Trutheran Counseling" is significant: the latter would focus on fixing the problem at its root which, according to God, is our proclivity to sin. The counseling/therapy aspect of this would be to then help people adjust their lives according to the solution to the problem which, according to God, is found in His Son, Jesus Christ. Of course, this is easier said than done and still ultimately requires the client's permission (both initially and ongoing) and cooperation.

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