Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How theology, psychology, and biology come together in changing lives ...

Because I think group counseling has a very limited purpose and effectiveness, I haven't developed many counseling groups, opting instead to work with people individually, or as couples, families, or teams. But that night I found myself leading a group that had been very effective. We were all comfortable in our chairs, circled around with full cups of coffee in hand, when the lady looked at me and asked a question within a statement:

"I think everyone should see a counselor, don't you?"

I looked at her and answered, "No."

The smile faded quickly from her face.

I could have told her about Hans Isnik who conducted a study that found if you have emotional problems, the probability that you will be well in one year if you go to see a psychoanalyst is 44 percent; a psychotherapist, 53 percent; a psychiatrist, 61 percent; and no one at all, 73 percent!

I don't know the veracity of Isnik's study, but I did go on to explain to the group that many people don't need to see a counselor, ever.

Well, the professional kind, that is.

All of us need someone.

Every one of us need God.

And we all need intimate relationships in which we can share the issues and experiences of our lives. At times, we need those relationships to help us bear our burdens, and at other times we're helping others bear theirs.

But before you think I'm dismissing the importance of professional counseling (something I've been doing for nearly three decades while also serving as a pastor), let me state clearly there are times that some people struggle with mental and emotional issues of a clinical nature and level who need to see a professional counselor for help. There are other times when relationships and life issues are so complex and convoluted that family, friends, and pastors are getting nowhere with their counsel and a professional is needed.

At the Scott Free Clinic, we take a holistic approach to serving people, bringing theology, psychology, and biology to bear in helping people change their lives. That could be stated differently, in that our theology informs our psychology, and biology is also taken into account.

Let me explain further.

On several occasions I've seen pastors draw circles trying to explain that we are emotional beings (circle), physical beings (circle), social beings (circle), spiritual beings (circle), and so on. I think that illustration is incorrect. I draw a large circle and explain that we are spiritual beings, and then I draw smaller circles inside the large circle as I note that as spiritual beings we also happen to have a body, and are also emotional, mental, social, and so on. We are first beings created by God, and we cannot begin to understand ourselves or others separate and apart from our created relationship with God. Without a sound theology informing any counsel offered to others, we miss the very core of who they are.

Then there is psychology, which isn't anything to be afraid of when viewed properly. Here's how I view it. I believe science is a gift from God. Whether it's medicine, biology, botany, zoology, or any other branch of science, it's a gift from God in helping us to understand the world and creatures He has designed. But science is only beneficial to us when it remains yielded to the One who gave it to us! Sound science doesn't contradict, conflict, or compete with scripture, it actually upholds and compliments it. Psychology is simply the study of human behavior, and the better we can understand how God has designed us to function, the better we can help each other live up to the design He has for us.

Finally, sometimes we have to address biology in the need to be able to change our lives. There have been many times when I've been able to help someone understand the root issues of their problems and how they could change their lives, but they were so physically de-conditioned that they didn't have the energy to get off the couch and do something toward the change they desperately needed. That's why I studied and pursued becoming a certified Personal Trainer and certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, so that I could consult with clients to help them make some of the physical changes they needed as part of a bigger picture in changing their lives.

Sometimes God brings amazing change to our lives simply by trusting Him, seeking Him in prayer, and obeying Him. Those are always necessary steps to being the whole person God wants us to be. But sometimes, even though we are trusting God and pouring our hearts out to Him, change doesn't come miraculously, instantly, or easily. Sometimes it's a complex process that we need help with.

If you don't need to see a counselor, don't see one! Walk with God, and invest deeply in your family and friendships who will share life with you. But never hesitate to get help when you need it. And that doesn't mean when all else fails or something is so critical it's out of control. If you're facing something in life that you're not overcoming and prayer isn't changing, then don't hesitate to connect with a competent, skilled Christian counselor.

One other thing: I want to encourage you that no matter how drastic your situation may appear, there is hope for help, change, and wholeness for you. I've seen lives that have been ruined in the most heinous of ways become whole, healthy, and joyful. Nothing is impossible with God!

Scotty

For more information about the Scott Free Clinic, please visit our website at ScottFreeClinic.org

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