COUNCIL OF COUNSELORS: Dysfunctional Family Rules / Negative People / Parenting & Pornography / Pastors Suicide / Cross-Cultural Moments

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

The 5 Don’ts of Dysfunctional Family Communication by Eric Scalise, Ph.D.

Every family has its own unique set of rules. They are typically established by parents and set the tone for communication, decision-making, and conflict resolution, as well as defining the parameters for how relationships are supposed to function within the home environment. Here are five such rules I have seen over the course of working with hundreds of families—rules that often create chaos, hurt, and confusion—though you will never see them attached to the refrigerator with a magnet. Their impact often leaves family members, especially children, too afraid to try anything, too hurt to love anybody and too angry to obey.

5 Signs That You’re Giving Negative People Too Much Power by Amy Morin

Have you ever been so exasperated by someone’s rude behavior that you lay awake in the middle of the night thinking about that person? Have you ever found yourself complaining about the same co-worker every day? Here are five signs you’re giving negative people too much power in your life.

I just caught my kid looking at pornography by John Hussung

It’s a day that you prayed wouldn’t come. You discover that the search history on your computer or phone shows that it has. Your child has been searching for internet pornography. Sadly, this is somewhat of a right of passage for many parents today, and Christians are not immune.

Why Pastors Are Committing Suicide by Sarah E

Pastors aren’t immune to the rising suicide rates. More than half of pastors have counseled people who were later diagnosed with a mental illness (59 percent), and about a quarter say they’ve experienced some type of mental illness themselves (23 percent). According to LifeWay, 12 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Weird, Rude, or Different?! Awkward Cross-Cultural Moments by David Livermore

I recently polled my social network for examples of behaviors they had encountered cross-culturally that seemed “rude”. My feed lit up with responses. Here is a small sampling:

Tweets of the Week

What I’m Reading

awe_trippAwe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp. Humans are hardwired for awe.Our hearts are always captured by something—that’s how God made us. But sin threatens to distract us from the glory of our Creator. All too often, we stand in awe of everything but God.

Uncovering the lies we believe about all the earthly things that promise us peace, life, and contentment, Paul Tripp redirects our gaze to God’s awe-inducing glory—showing how such a vision has the potential to impact our every thought, word, and deed.

Thanks for the Mention

  • Covenant Eyes for posting “7 Marks of an Enduring Accountability Relationships”

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

There is much work to be done with his swing, but I love his heart and slide. The dog is definitely a first round pick as a boy’s best friend.

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Six)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Exploring a Satisfying Sober Life”
RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 6 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Titus 2:11-14 (ESV), “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” – You should be able to put your addictive behaviors in this category.
  • “To live self-controlled” – Your goal is not to live a “super hero life” but a “self-controlled life.” It is possible.
  • “Waiting” – Waiting means being self-controlled, is not easy, and it is always a work-in-progress.
  • “Gave himself” – The sacrifice you’re making is more than matched by Christ; he is for you and with you in this battle.
  • “Zealous” –God wants you to pour the passion you poured into addiction into something good and satisfying.

Teaching Notes

“The overwhelming majority of addicts testify to the power of friendship as the single most important factor in their recoveries from addiction (p. 185).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“One’s ability to cope with stress – in particular, with anger, frustration, boredom, anxiety, and depression – has been identified as a critical deficit area in many theories or models of addiction (p. 13).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Paradoxically, urges often strengthen when the individual concentrates so strongly on resistance to a present cue. Refusing to engage in the behavior helps break the conditioned connection with the cue, but it is not necessarily the most efficient way to do so (p. 178)… Individuals who have not found alternative activities that can provide some measure of relief, pleasure, or satisfaction are at significant risk for returning to the addictive behavior (p. 179).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Meditation forces us to reflect on the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives, and it therefore represents a very real threat to any addiction since it threatens to reveal the insufficiencies of those stories (p. 176)… Thus Christian worship graciously displaces us from being the center of our story and instead incorporates us into the story of God (p. 178).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Addiction is not something we can simply take care of by applying the proper remedy, for it is in the very nature of addiction to feed on our attempts to master it… Understanding will not deliver us from addiction, but it will, I hope, help us appreciate grace (p. 4).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“We too are in danger of using Scripture as a practical ‘how to’ manual, relying on useful principles rather than focusing on the crux of the gospel message (p. 142).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

“The life of recovery requires the development of new habits, but an addicted person may engage in the external acts necessary to the development of such habits without also undertaking the ‘internal’ work necessary to the development of such habits (p. 78).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Meditation forces us to reflect on the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives, and it therefore represents a very real threat to any addiction since it threatens to reveal the insufficiencies of those stories (p. 176)… Thus Christian worship graciously displaces us from being the center of our story and instead incorporates us into the story of God (p. 178).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Freedom and security have always been uneasy together; the things that secure us tend to bind us down, and those that free us often feel like risks (p. 32).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“Recovering addicts should keep in mind that addiction is not just a way of interacting with a specific object or event; it’s a way of interacting with one’s self and the world (p. 63).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality

COUNCIL OF COUNSELORS: Sexting / God & Mental Health / Wife & Porn / Father’s Influence / Anger

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

3 Things Parents Can do to Help Keep Your Kids from Sexting by Jessica Harris

Did you know, sexting is the 6th largest major health concern among children.  According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, it ranks right below child abuse and of more concern that teen pregnancy and school violence.

The “God Factor” in Mental Health by Tim Clinton

The faith factor matters! God is “going rogue” in counseling research and practice. Clients demand it, professionals are seeing it, and research substantiates it.

“Pastor, My Husband Is Addicted to Pornography” by Vicki Tiede

Since these women often feel betrayed and as a result are often emotionally wounded and fragile, you don’t want to add to their pain by making missteps in providing care. Below, I share four key mistakes to avoid in order to better understand how to walk with the women in your flock on the path of healing.

  • For a full counseling process for the husband and wife, consider the complementing False Love and True Betrayal studies.

A Father’s Influence Makes for Better Grades by Springer Select @PsyPost

The warmth of a father’s love has a special influence on young people, and makes them feel optimistic and determined to strive for greater things. It also boosts the math grades of teenage girls and the language ability of boys, says Dr. Marie-Anne Suizzo of the University of Texas.

Anger Is Learned by Flip Michaels

Early this morning I finished reading the most recent book from David Powlison on the subject of anger. I’ve been tackling a small section with each of my devotions and ab-so-lute-ly loved the journey.

  • If you want to grow more godly in how you express anger, consider the Overcoming Anger seminar that features many of David Powlison’s writings. 

Tweet of the Week

What I’m Reading

ourlivesfirstIn Our Lives First: Meditations  for Counselors by Diane Langberg is a collection of six week’s worth of readings about the work of counseling and its impact on the counselor’s life and soul. Based on her 40 years of counseling experience, the author shows how the true work of counselors is tending first to their own souls in relationship to Jesus Christ, since they cannot lead clients where they themselves have not gone first. Change, growth, and spiritual health must be a reality in their lives first, in order to effectively facilitate change, growth, and health in others. Dr. Langberg’s essays are interspersed with quotes from her favorite authors, most of them Puritan pastors and theologians, for 40 days’ worth of readings.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

thanksgiving

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Five)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“The Courage of Honesty in the Pursuit of Sobriety”
CONFESS TO THOSE AFFECTED for harm done and seek to make amends.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 5 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: I John 1:6-10 (ESV), “If we say, we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “If we say” – Part of your confession needs to acknowledge that verses six and eight were true of you.
  • “Walk in darkness” – It is important not to see your addiction as “the good life,” but as destructive.
  • “Walk in the light” – True confession is a lifestyle and not an event; not something we can just “get it over with.”
  • “Deceive ourselves” – Begin to see how you deceived yourself as the first step in being dishonest with others.
  • “Make [God] a liar” – When we refuse to acknowledge the wrongness of our addiction we call God a liar.

Teaching Notes

“A rule of thumb: when in doubt, it is wiser to err on the side of speaking more openly (p. 33).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“An environment that supports the change can be a wonderful asset to the individuals struggling to maintain a change of an addictive behavior. Understanding employers, reinforcing and supportive spouses, inspiring sponsors, caring family, and accepting peers help the person leave the past behind and create a new and alternative life pattern. These reinforcing effects support and consolidate the change. Unfortunately, the damage done during the time of engaging in the addictive behavior and a prior pattern of relapsing and recycling may have compromised the supportive environment available to most Maintainers (p. 199).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Our secrets have isolated us from each other long enough! They have prevented intimacy in all our relationships (p. 137)… In five words, here’s the secret to making successful amends: Do not expect anything back! You are making amends, not for a reward, but for freedom (p. 162).” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide

“Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of the sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light… It is a hard struggle until sin is openly admitted. But God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron (Psalm 107:16). Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned (p. 112).” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

“Solitary drinking or use becomes the tragically ironic pinnacle of major addiction (p. 120).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“If the temptation hooks our desires, we go public (p. 240).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

Are You Listening? Guest Post by Diane Langberg

ourlivesfirstThis post is an excerpt from In Our Lives First: Meditations fro Counselors by Diane Langberg. It is an excellent devotional for anyone who is counseling or other forms of ministry. This post is shared with permission in hopes that more people will benefit from Dr. Langberg’s writing.

She survived the tragedy of September 11th. It was quite a story and she told it well. She talked about running down halls and sidewalks, watching people trampled. She remembered the young and wealthy dropping their expensive briefcases and computers as they fled. What was gain they counted loss.

She said that while she was fleeing for her life she felt afraid and anxious (of course). She tried very hard to remember some Bible verses. She wanted to comfort and reassure herself with them. Nothing came to mind, for her brain was not working as well as it usually did. She said this, “I could only remember His name, but it was enough.”

I do not think I will ever forget that. Briefcases and computers, the stuff of busy lives, dropped and forgotten. Only He remained. And He was enough. How easy it is to lose that lesson in the midst of our busy lives. Money, work, schedules, deadlines, reputations, such things seem so crucial. But when life is threatened, they cannot save. Nor can they comfort. I pray the lesson will be burned in my soul so that I will live out of a heart that knows He is enough.

It seemed like a lot to learn from one woman’s story. She, however, had not finished teaching. Have you ever noticed that the important lessons are often taught by those who have no knowledge that they are teaching? Our clients, for example. I went up to her after she finished her story to thank her for taking the time to tell it to us. She seemed surprised that I would thank her. She made a startling statement: “I am so grateful you came. I could not believe that you wanted to come just to listen. So many counselors only want to talk. They don’t want to listen because they don’t want the truth to get in the way of their counseling.”

Words are the stuff of the trade. Words are how we do therapy. We need to know how to use them well. Words need to be under our command. It is easy, however, for those things we set out to master, to master us.

Money is like that. We set out to earn money, to own lots of it. What happens? Often those who “own” the most money are owned by that money, aren’t they? Do you suppose words can do the same thing? I am afraid so. We teach and cease to be students. We listen and learn about various disorders and having mastered the information we then cease to listen to our clients and simply wax eloquent about what we have learned. When that happens, we have become those who “do not want the truth to get in the way of our counseling.” We cease to enter each new life with the humility that says “I do not know you.” Teach me what it is like to be you. I want the truth of your particular life to impact me and shape the way I respond to you. When we no longer do these things, we cease to be like Christ.

God in Christ did let the truth of our world and our lives get in the way of His response to us. The truth of our world shaped His response to us. He entered into our experience with humility. He became flesh and learned what it is like to be us. He listened by becoming like us. He allowed who we are to impact Him and shape His response to us to the point of death. The truth determined His response. May we as counselors learn to listen to others as our God has listened to us, with humbly entering into and being impacted by the truth of our lives. It cost Him. It will cost us as well.

For further thought:

Ask the Lord to show you where you are prone to stop listening and learning.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” Isaiah 50:4

Previously published as “Only His Name.” Christian Counseling Today, 2002, vol. 10, no. 1

Council of Counselors: Hatmaker’s Friends / Mental Illness / Seasonal Affective / Sleep Overs / Adultery

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

Truth + Love by Jamie Ivey

We absolutely love Brandon and Jen Hatmaker. We love their entire family, and they’ve been our friends for many years. They’re the kinds of friends you laugh and cry with, host supper clubs with, and vacation with. We love them. We always will. There are also two other things we really love. 1) We love the holy, God-breathed Scriptures–the parts that are easy for us to accept, as well as the harder parts. 2) And, not in spite of our love for Scripture, but because of it, we love people in the LGBTQ community.  

Does Mental Illness Mean I’m Not a Christian? by Amy Simpson

Question: I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s awful. I can hardly get up and dress myself some days, it’s so hard. I am a Christian. Can you tell me if you lose your salvation for having this illness? And is schizophrenia caused by not serving God correctly or by believing lies?

  • For more on a Christian perspective on mental illness consider this resource.

Seasonal Affective Disorder—What You Need to Know by Joel Young, MD

If you find yourself falling into the doldrums at the same time every year, likely tied to this time of year when our hours of daylight dwindle, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes called seasonal depression, may be to blame. Most SAD sufferers experience symptoms during the winter months, causing researches to conclude that inadequate sunlight may play a role. You don’t have to spend the winter months feeling depressed and unmotivated. Here’s what you need to know about seasonal depression.

  • For more on the potential role of culture in season affective disorder, see this post.

Children and Sleepovers: What Parents Need to Know by Tim Challies

My family doesn’t do sleepovers. Before our children were even old enough to ask, Aileen and I talked it through and determined that we would not allow them. We would simply take sleepovers off the table altogether. A couple of years ago I wrote about this in an article titled Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers and something crazy happened. To date, nearly 8,000,000 people have read it. Every few months something happens within Facebook and it goes viral all over again. In the past week alone another 600,000 people have dropped by my site to read the article.

‘Love Warrior’: Bestselling Memoir, Mistaken Message by Winfree Brisley

In her memoir, Love Warrior, Melton lays bare the story of their broken marriage and path to reconciliation, including how she came to answer her husband’s question—and her realization of how she also needed to ask God the same question. In order to find answers, she seeks to better understand her own past struggles with various addictions. Melton’s story is brave and vulnerable, which almost instantly makes her feel safe and trustworthy. She gives words to things many women have felt or experienced yet may have been unable to form into cohesive thoughts or sentences. Many will think, Yes, that’s it! She understands! And because Melton seems so real and honest, we want what she says to be true.

  • For a recommendation on a book that accomplishes the strengths of Melton’s book with a more gospel-centered perspective see the “What I’m Reading” section below.

Tweet of the Week

Thanks for the Mention

  • Servants of Grace for linking to the “19 Possible Motive-Triggers for Pornography” article.
  • The Beacon of Lighthouse Baptist Church for linking to the post “The Noun ‘Counsel’ and the Verb ‘Counseling.’”
  • Visionary Womanhood for linking to the “Chronically Self-Centered Spouse” series.
  • Reforma 21 for translating in to Portuguese and posting “19 fatores que motivam o uso de pornografia” (“19 Possible Motive-Triggers for Pornography”).

What I’m Reading

unfaithfulUnfaithful: Hope and Healing After Infidelity by Gary and Mona Shriver – Statistics show that one in every four marriages is impacted by infidelity. So the odds are pretty good that you or someone you know has experienced the searing pain of marital infidelity. But adultery is not an automatic death sentence for your marriage. You can trust again. You can restore intimacy. You can have a relationship that you will both cherish for a lifetime.

Ten years ago, Gary and Mona Shriver experienced the devastation caused by adultery, and in the course of trying to save themselves, they wrote this book. Raw, transparently honest, the Shrivers’ story alone is an inspiration, offering hope and practical strategies for healing. Now this updated and revised edition adds other real-life stories of betrayal and forgiveness, and new information defining adultery, including the destruction of emotional affairs. Some doubt if a marriage can truly heal after the ravages of infidelity. Unfaithful proves you can. It’s not easy … but it can be done. Is it worth it? Yes. And you hold the first step—and hope—in your hand.

On the Lighter Side:

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

Note: This was tweeted in jest by Danny Franks and is shared here with the same intent.

https://twitter.com/LetMeBeFranks/status/797521934254743552

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Four)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Returning to God as Refuge from Substance as Escape”
REPENT TO GOD for how my sin replaced and misrepresented Him.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 4 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Acts 3:19-20 (ESV), “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Repent… turn back” – The core meaning of “repent” is not “feel very bad” but “make a U-turn” back to God.
  • “Blotted out” – God has no intention of shaming you with your sin. Instead, he wants to free you from false idols.
  • “Times of refreshing” – If we rightly understood repentance, our anticipation of the effect of repentance would be more enjoyable than the effect of our substance of choice.
  • “The presence of the Lord” – Repentance is what reconnects us with the source of our strength and hope.
  • May send the Christ” – Repentance unlocks the door of our life to unleash the return of the hero, Christ.         

 

“The only master who is not harsh and enslaving is Christ himself (p. 213).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

“The real reason God can deliver you is because he is the only one who is more beautiful than your addiction (p. 16).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“If we don’t surrender to Christ, we will surrender to chaos (p. 16)!” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide

“Sin can’t thrive in a humble heart (p. 128).” Kris Lungaard in The Enemy Within

“Thus the more we become accustomed to seeking spiritual satisfaction through things other than God, the more abnormal and stressful it becomes to look for God directly (p. 93).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“Repentance is how you begin to enjoy the freedom of your loving relationship with God. True repentance affects our whole person and changes our entire view of life. Repentance is to take God’s point of view on our lives instead of our own (p. 91).” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide

“It is possible to approach grace as if it were just another thing to be addicted to… Grace itself cannot be possessed; it is eternally free, and like the Spirit that gives it, it blows where it will. We can seek it and try to be open to it, but we cannot control it… Our addictions fill up the spaces within us, spaces where grace might flow (p. 17).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“When it comes to addictive behaviors, individuals often refer to that elusive characteristic called ‘will power’ as the only thing needed for change. However, the definition is often circular and unhelpful. Successful changers have it and unsuccessful ones do not (p. 157).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

 

The Noun “Counsel” and the Verb “Counseling”

verbIt is easy to confuse the noun “counsel” (i.e., the content of the advice we offer) with the verb “counseling” (i.e., the relationship through which that content is communicated). This confusion often accounts for whether people view counseling as something that is complex or simple.

The questions people ask when attending a counseling seminar often reveal an emphasis on content (noun) over relationship (verb). They want to know, “What do you say to someone who is depressed… whose spouse has been unfaithful… who is struggling to bond with their step-child, etc…?” They want to know the particular passages or truth they need to communicate in order to make change happen; or, at least, make change easier.

With this mindset, if they do not feel like they know “the answer” before the conversation begins they frequently shy away from the conversation. After all, without “the answer” what does a counselor have to offer? Let’s use an illustration in order to challenge this noun-only view of counseling.

Imagine you are at a large baseball stadium and a child approaches you crying. He has become separated from his parents. Do you know the answer to his question, “Where is my mommy and daddy?!?” No. Can you help him? Yes. Why? You care enough to walk through a wise process of identifying a solution: remaining calm, finding a police officer, and waiting while an announcement for parents is made.

This is often what goes on in counseling. The counselee comes with a situational, emotional, or relational crisis for which there is no immediate, obvious answer. So what does the counselor do? Remains calm. Asks questions until the struggle is understood. Directs the counselee to resources that are beneficial. Waits with them through the process of change.

Sometimes counseling is more answer oriented than what is described above. But, if in a given counseling situation, you are intimidated by the noun “counsel” (i.e., what to say), it is often sufficient, even advisable, to rely on the verb “counseling” (i.e., developing a quality relationship of understanding) before offering advice.

Now let’s flip the script and approach the same noun-verb distinction from the opposite angle.

Simple Counsel; Complex Counseling

How hard can counseling be? Really, “healthy” doesn’t change that much. Honestly, 90% of counseling problems could probably be remedied with this prescription.

  1. Get 50 hours of sleep per week
  2. Don’t spend money more than you earn
  3. Don’t consume more calories than you burn; which means exercise a few times per week
  4. Treat other people like you want to be treated
  5. Don’t engage in long-term, high-commitment relationships with people who won’t follow this rule
  6. When you are offended, forgive instead of harboring bitterness
  7. Take yourself less seriously without surrendering your personal dignity
  8. Don’t do things you would tell your kids not to do
  9. Invest most intently in the relationships that are most meaningful (spouse, kids, parents, close friends)
  10. Invest your time in the things that will matter a decade from now

Secular or sacred, those ten points cover the basic content of counseling. Meaning, if people would actually follow those basic principles, they would not find themselves with many life-dominating problems. Regardless of what the counseling issue may be (i.e., emotional, relational, identity, etc…) some combination of these recommendations is given in most cases.

This brings me to my first point:

Solutions are usually less complex than problems; that’s why we dismiss them.

Most people prefer a pyramid scheme to a family budget and a fad diet to a gym membership. Somehow we feel like it “honors” the mess we’ve made if the solution requires advanced math or a confusing diagram.

But here’s what we must remember:

Solutions must be simple to be sustainable.
There’s not much hope in complex change schemes.

So does that mean advanced degrees in counseling are a charade? I don’t think so. While counsel (that content of good advice) must be simple, counseling (walking with someone in the process of change) can be complex. Yes, this is the inverse of the noun-verb relationship with which this post began.

But pain is often complex – the nightmares and flashbacks of PTSD, the phone call from creditors and difficult decisions of bankruptcy, the battle with your own loss of hope and motivation during an extended bout with depression, the looming unpredictability of panic attacks, or the mixed allegiances and priorities of a blended family.

The importance of the 10 prescriptions above does not change, but the ability of a counselor to understand a counselee’s experience, win their trust, help them see the relevance of “healthy” for their particular struggle, and maintain focus when life resists the changes that are needed is the hard part.

For instance, take the example of panic attacks. The “ten points of healthy” would be immensely beneficial for anyone who has experienced high levels of anxiety. But to start a “just do this” conversation with someone who lives bracing against the next time their mind/body revolts would likely be dismissed and (rightly) viewed as simplistic, uncaring, and “missing something important.”

However, if you can help this person

  • identify the areas of their life that are creating the most stress,
  • help them see how this stress accumulates to the point of panic,
  • eliminate, if not present, other possible causes of panic (i.e., PTSD or drug reaction),
  • weigh the alleviation of stress medication may provide, and
  • identify the priorities and values that undergird any unhealthy contributing lifestyle factors,

then you are in a position to give them counsel (practical steps to change their life, which will sound a great deal like the 10 simple points above) that is much more likely to be both heard and implemented.

Their trust in you and better understanding of themselves will have gained a hearing for living a healthy life and considering how their priorities and value (those things that emanate from the heart) revealed a lifestyle that was trying to seek comfort or identity outside the person of Jesus Christ.

Final Question

Which is harder, the noun “counsel” or the verb “counseling”? That answer is “it depends.” Either can be the more complex-intimidating aspect of helping a given individual. Hopefully, after reading this post you are better equipped to do three things.

  • Identify whether the content of advice or the guidance through relationship is what is more challenging in a given counseling session.
  • Understand how the verb “counseling” (i.e., relationship of trust and understanding through which guidance is given) undergirds the noun “counsel” (i.e., the content of the advice we provide).
  • Rest in the fact that even if the content of what you need to say is unclear, you can be significantly helpful by building a quality relationship of trust and understanding.

Council of Counselors: Marriage / Psych Evals / Foster Families / Cohabitation / Gadgets

This is a weekly post (actually this is the first in a new series of posts) that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

5 Common Marriage Counseling Mistakes by Winston Smith @ CCEF

The next time you encounter a difficult couple in counseling, remember this advice: slow down, set concrete goals, get at the heart, don’t force change, and use your resources. Not only will you be better equipped for helping the man and woman who come to you for counsel, you will be less frustrated and will better understand the issues at hand.

Psychiatric vs. Psychological Evaluations: What Is the Difference? by Phil Monroe

“I think I need a psychiatric evaluation? Can you test me?” These are some of the questions I get from time to time. And they reveal an ongoing confusion about testings, assessment, evaluations, the world of psychiatry, psychology, and neurology. Interestingly, if you type in “psychiatric evaluation” into wikipedia, you actually get redirected to an entry on psychological evaluations and testing. So, let me try to differentiate a bit here:

  • For more on the concept of mental illness click here.

Please Don’t Say “All Kids Do That” to Adoptive and Foster Families by Shannon Dingle

I get the temptation to say “all kids do that.” Truly, I do. But when foster or adoptive parents like me hear that, it feels dismissive to the real grief, pain, and trauma our kids have experienced and how that history still influences their actions today. Usually when someone tells another parent “all kids do that,” the words are meant to be helpful, to soothe our nerves or encourage us in the midst of a hard parenting moment. But that’s not what your words do. Instead those words invalidate what we know to be true and minimize the extra layer of thinking that parenting kids from hard places requires.

In Love and Marriage, Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect by Scott M. Stanley, Ph.D. (Report on Longitudinal Study from University of Virginia)

While more experience is often beneficial in life, the story looks different when it comes to some types of experience before marriage. In our Before “I Do” report, we surveyed a national longitudinal sample of young adults about their love lives prior to marriage to examine factors associated with future marital quality. We found that having more sexual and cohabiting partners before marriage is associated with lower relationship quality once married. In particular, having only ever lived with or had sex with one’s spouse was associated with higher marital quality. Our findings are consistent with other studies showing that cohabiting with more partners before marriage is associated with greater likelihood of divorce and that a higher number of sexual partners before marriage is associated with lower marital quality and greater likelihood of divorce.

  • For more on the subject of cohabitation click here.

Kids and Screens: The Unknown Dangers by Brenna Hick, Ph.D.

As kids are in front of screens more and more, researchers, parents, teachers, and therapists are beginning to acknowledge the consequences of that screen time. Data has emerged indicating that children’s brains are actually altered when they are exposed to screens. Not only is this impacting development and functioning, there are implications for behavior, emotions, and attitudes.

Tweet of the Week:

Thanks for the Mention:

What I’m Reading:

The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to the Human Experience by Jeremy Pieheart_pierrerre. The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life provides a comprehensive view of how the heart works and how Christ redeems it. Pierre’s faith-centered understanding of people combines with a Word-centered methodology to give readers a practical way to help others better understand their tough experiences and who they are in light of who Jesus is. Pierre guides readers through four key activities—reading, reflecting, relating, and renewing—that will consistently position them to understand everyday human experiences in light of Scripture.

On the Lighter Side:

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

lemons

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Three)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“I Can’t Solve the Riddle that Is Me”
UNDERSTAND the origin, motive, and history of my sin.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 3 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: James 1:14-15 (ESV), “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Each person” – You must refute the lie that your circumstances are unique in a way that makes sin acceptable.
  • “Lured and enticed” – Temptation rarely feels like sin-chasing. We pursue the bait and ignore the hook.
  • “His own desires” – The why-questions will always be answered by personal desires that have become too large.
  • “Gives birth to sin” – Desire is more than a feeling; it is worship that will either conceive life or death in us.
  • “Brings forth death” – Echoes of this scary reality is what woke you up to your need for change.

Teaching Notes

“All sin is ultimately irrational….. Though people persuade themselves that they have good reasons for sinning, when examined in the cold light of truth on the last day, it will be seen in every case that sin ultimately just does not make sense (p. 493).” Millard Erickson in Christian Theology

“The voice of your addiction really is your own Mini-me. That’s your voice you’re hearing (p. 8)… That is what you did with your addiction. You practiced… Secretly, more and more of your life was becoming about your addiction (p. 24).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“Addictions exert enormous control over human persons in part because they supply this need for an ordering principle… The person in the grips of an addiction finds that she operates in a profoundly simplified moral terrain, in which every activity, every relationship, every object of value is reinterpreted and invested with meaning only as it relates to the end of the practice of the addiction (p. 150)… Addictive objects are addictive because they enable persons to regulate their lives. That is why, among the various classes of mind-altering substances, very few persons are addicted to hallucinogens, like LSD or mescaline. Hallucinogens are unpredictable in their effects such that the user can never know what type of ‘trip’ to expect (p. 152).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Addiction can be interpreted as one available modern response to the lack of any common consensus about the telos of human action (p. 104)… Addiction is in fact a kind of embodied cultural critique of modernity and the addict a kind of unwitting modern prophet (p. 123).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Dysfunctional families don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel. Safe families do talk, do trust, and do feel!… What we don’t talk out creatively, we will act out destructively. Your church needs to be a safe place (p. 28).” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide

“Behavioral psychologists have long known that intermittent gratification is a powerful means of conditioning. A habit is more strongly reinforced when the positive effects of the behavior occur intermittently than when they are constant. This is one reason gambling, fishing, hunting, and other behaviors that have intermittent and unpredictable payoffs are so addictive. It is also why attempts to moderate or cut down an addictive behavior usually fail so abysmally. In my struggle to make gratification less constant, I am actually reinforcing my attachment (p. 60).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“Like the Israelites in the Exodus, we know we do not want to go back to imprisonment, and we sense we are moving on to a better existence, but still we must mourn the loss of the life we had known… It is important to note that the spiritual growth process involves far more relinquishment than acquisition. In our culture, we are conditioned to expect growth to involve acquisition of new facts and understandings (p. 105).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“Addicts begin to trust the addictive mood change caused by their addiction to an object or event because it’s consistent and predictable… Because addiction is predictable for addicts, they believe it can be trusted (p. 12)… Addicts get intensity and intimacy mixed up (p. 18).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality