All posts in Counseling Reflection

Marriage Impacted by Pornography or Adultery? Help for Both Spouses: Video Tandem 3 of 9

When sexual sin impacts a marriage there is often a great deal of confusion exacerbated by shame. A couple is not sure what to do and is embarrassed to ask for help. The result is often either passivity (pretending everything is okay or that things will get better without help) or reactivity (taking a bold action with little sense of purpose or intent to follow through). The False Love and True Betrayal series are meant to provide couples with guidance for these difficult times.

These two, complementing seminars are each comprised of 9 steps and are meant to supplement a mentoring or counseling relationship. The presentation material is longer for the earlier steps than it is for the latter steps for two reasons. First, the early steps are the time of greatest confusion and, therefore, require more guidance. Second, once a solid foundation is laid for restoration the latter steps become more self-evident.

These materials are meant to guide a couple through the marital restoration phase — taking a marriage that is broken or in crisis and getting back to basic working order.

The Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series is meant to guide a couple through the marital enrichment phase — taking a marriage that is in basic working order and refining it to be increasingly, mutually satisfying. Often it is a misunderstanding between restoration and enrichment that derails a couples sincere efforts at marital reconciliation after the discovery of sexual sin.

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).

True Betrayal – Step Three

True Betrayal: Step 3 from Equip on Vimeo.

False Love – Step Three

False Love: Step 3 from Equip on Vimeo.

For the “Sexual Sin Journal” from click here: Sexual Sin Journal

Follow Up Resources for a Sermon on Headship and Submission

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” or “but what about” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon “God’s Laboratories: Ephesians 5:21-6:9,” preached at The Summit Church Saturday-Sunday March 18-19, 2017.

In this post, I want to provide resources that address three subjects that are often points of confusion or concern based on the teaching of Ephesians 5:21-33:

  1. Christian Marriage is More Than Gender Roles
  2. “How” Is More Important than “Who” in Marital Decision Making
  3. How to Address the Abuse of Gender Roles

love-incorruptible-series-header

Christian Marriage is More Than Gender Roles

In the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations seminar, I provide a job description for a Christian husband (PDF) and wife (PDF). When you compare these two job descriptions what should jump out at you is that 3 of the 4 sections are exactly the same, with the exception of the gender pronouns; only the fourth section is unique between husband and wife. Here is the outline for these job descriptions.

1. Character: Qualities required of every Christian which provide the foundation for a flourishing marriage. This section allows both husband and wife to examine how they are evidencing a balanced expression of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24), cautioning against both the aggressive and passive distortion of each character quality.

  • Big Idea: We all have weaknesses and shortcomings. Either we will be pro-actively honest about these with our spouse or re-actively defensive when our spouse is hurt or disappointed by them.

2. Friendship: Expectations of a Christian in all relationships. This section takes 10 “one another” commands of the New Testament and asks both husband and wife to consider their strength, their weakness, and what is most important to their spouse for each one.

  • Big Idea: Marriage should be the example, not the exception, to the marks of Christian friendship.

3. Functionality: Mutual responsibilities of a husband and wife towards one another in marriage. This would look at the paragraph that introduces Paul’s most famous writing on marriage roles – Ephesians 5:15-21 – which concludes with the description “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” These responsibilities of the job description look at the components of married life that are shared and do not contain any biblical precedent for gender preference.

  • Big Idea: Most of the functional responsibilities that make a marriage work should be delegated based upon the skills, interests, and availability of each spouse; meaning there is no biblical “his” and “hers” list of household chores.

4. Gender Specific: Unique roles of husband and wife. This section looks at the unique roles that God assigns to the husband and wife in marriage.

  • Big Idea: The more faithfully and skillfully a husband and wife are fulfilling their shared roles in sections 1-3, the better they will know one another and the more they will enjoy the unique roles of section 4.

Video segments 4-6 in the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations seminar walk through these job descriptions.

“How” Is More Important than “Who” in Marital Decision Making

Too often the debate over headship causes us to miss more functionally-important questions like: (a) How do we do a better job of cultivating consensus so that headship is needed less often? and (b) When headship is needed in the decision making of a family, how is it utilized so that trust increases, instead of decreases, in the marriage?

In the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Decision Making seminar, I provide guidelines for how to approach consensus decision making (PDF) and headship-submission decision making (PDF) in marriage.

The focus in each of these resources is to help couples identify the values and lifestyle that allow for good decision making. Too often we neglect the lifestyle practices of good decision making and allow too many important decisions to be made in crunch-time moments. Whether a couple adheres to biblical gender roles or not, allowing too many decisions to be time-pressed will result in a low level of marital satisfaction.

  • Big Idea: Obedience in the area of gender roles does not make up for obedience in the area of life management.

Video segments 4 and 5 in the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Decision Making seminar walk through these two decision making processes.

Husbands – lead your families well by initiating important conversations about how you will approach important decisions and the life systems that need to be in place in order to make big decisions well.

  • Big Idea: Leadership doesn’t mean having all the answers. It does mean initiating the important conversations.

How to Address the Abuse of Gender Roles

Every good thing God created gets affected and distorted by sin. Marriage and gender roles are no different. The Christian response to these distortions is not to abandon God’s teaching, but to seek to restore what God intended (material above) and respond wisely when those distortions are damaging to ourselves or those we love (material below).

Below is a list of resources that address different aspects of how to respond to abusive relationships.

For the various counseling options available from these materials visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

If this is an area you want to grow, I would invite you to attend one or more of the upcoming Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminars. Dates, times, location, and RSVP are provided at this link.

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.

Marriage Impact by Pornography or Adultery? Help for Both Spouses: Video Tandem 2 of 9

When sexual sin impacts a marriage there is often a great deal of confusion exacerbated by shame. A couple is not sure what to do and is embarrassed to ask for help. The result is often either passivity (pretending everything is okay or that things will get better without help) or reactivity (taking a bold action with little sense of purpose or intent to follow through). The False Love and True Betrayal series are meant to provide couples with guidance for these difficult times.

These two, complementing seminars are each comprised of 9 steps and are meant to supplement a mentoring or counseling relationship. The presentation material is longer for the earlier steps than it is for the latter steps for two reasons. First, the early steps are the time of greatest confusion and, therefore, require more guidance. Second, once a solid foundation is laid for restoration the latter steps become more self-evident.

These materials are meant to guide a couple through the marital restoration phase — taking a marriage that is broken or in crisis and getting back to basic working order.

The Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series is meant to guide a couple through the marital enrichment phase — taking a marriage that is in basic working order and refining it to be increasingly, mutually satisfying. Often it is a misunderstanding between restoration and enrichment that derails a couples sincere efforts at marital reconciliation after the discovery of sexual sin.

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).

True Betrayal – Step Two

True Betrayal: Step 2 from Equip on Vimeo.

For the “Evaluation – Condition of Marriage Before Sexual Sin” assessment click here: Evaluation – Condition of Marriage Before Sexual Sin

False Love – Step Two

False Love: Step 2 from Equip on Vimeo.

For the “How to Talk to Children When Sexual Sin Affects the Family” appendix click here: Appendix Talking to Children When Sexual Sin Affects the Family

5 Types of Mental Health Professionals: Title, Education, and Purpose

mentalhealthprofessional-300x281The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizes at least five areas of independent professional practice for the diagnosis and treatment of Mental Health issues. While NAMI’s recognition of professional Mental Health Practitioners may not be exhaustive, it is perhaps the most concise and descriptive of Mental Health services provided by different disciplines. It can be helpful for churches to be aware of the education and primary purposes of each type of mental health professional.

  1. Psychiatrist – Psychiatrists are physicians with either a doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) degree, who also has at least four additional years of specialized study and training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are licensed as physicians to practice medicine by individual states. “Board Certified” psychiatrists have passed the national examination administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists provide medical and psychiatric evaluations, treat psychiatric disorders, provide psychotherapy (in some cases) and prescribe and monitor medications. There are several subspecialty boards in psychiatry including child and adolescent, forensic, and addictions.
  2. Psychologist Psychologists have has a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D.) in clinical, counseling, or Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine. Psychologists are also licensed by individual states to practice psychology, and in many states, are licensed as Health Service Providers. They can provide psychological testing, diagnostic evaluations, treat emotional and behavioral problems and mental disorders, and provide a variety of psychotherapeutic techniques. Psychologists usually attend a four or five year graduate program with a year of internship followed by a one year postdoctoral period of supervision prior to licensure. There is also a National Board/Council of Health Service Providers in Psychology that requires psychologists to provide two years of documented supervision post-licensure in particular areas of specialty.
  3. Social Worker – Social workers have either a bachelor’s degree (B.A., B.S. or B.S.W.), a master’s degree (M.A., M.S., M.S.W. or M.S.S.W), or doctoral degree (D.S.W. or Ph.D.). In most states, social workers take an examination to be licensed to practice social work (L.C.S.W. or L.I.C.S.W.), and the type of license depends on their level of education and practice experience. Social workers provide a range of services based on their level of training and certification. Typically a bachelor’s level social worker provides case management, inpatient discharge planning services, placement services and a variety of other daily living needs services for individuals. Master’s level social workers can provide this level of services but are also able to provide assessment and treatment of psychiatric illnesses including psychotherapy.
  4. Licensed Professional Counselors – Licensed professional counselors have a master’s degree (M.A. or M.S.) in psychology, counseling or other mental health related fields (some may hold doctorates) and typically have two years of supervised post-graduate experience. They may provide services that include assessment and diagnosis of mental health conditions as well as providing individual, family or group therapy. They are licensed by individual states and may also be certified by the National Board of Certified Counselors.
  5. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) – The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is a professional association of therapists who conduct marriage and family therapy. A graduate degree plus post graduate supervision by an approved supervisor is required for licensure. LMFT’s are licensed by individual states.

Many individuals choose to seek pastoral counseling from a local church or parachurch ministries. Individuals in these ministry settings may or may not carry the credentials listed above; often they will have training from a seminary or a certification in a ministry-based counseling model. This would be the type of counseling I provide and is represented by the resources from this site. It is important for you to know the credentials your counselor does or does not carry and the implications this may have for the care you receive. Here are several FAQ’s about…

  1. How would the counseling provided by a formal pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
  2. How do I find a good match in a counselor for my needs?
  3. How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?
  4. How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
  5. What can I do to place myself in the best position to benefit from counseling?

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Mental Illness and Medication” or “Favorite Posts on the Church and Counseling” posts which address other facets of this subject.

Marriage Impact by Pornography or Adultery? Help for Both Spouses: Video Tandem 1 of 9

When sexual sin impacts a marriage there is often a great deal of confusion exacerbated by shame. A couple is not sure what to do and is embarrassed to ask for help. The result is often either passivity (pretending everything is okay or that things will get better without help) or reactivity (taking a bold action with little sense of purpose or intent to follow through). The False Love and True Betrayal series are meant to provide couples with guidance for these difficult times.

These two, complementing seminars are each comprised of 9 steps and are meant to supplement a mentoring or counseling relationship. The presentation material is longer for the earlier steps than it is for the latter steps for two reasons. First, the early steps are the time of greatest confusion and, therefore, require more guidance. Second, once a solid foundation is laid for restoration the latter steps become more self-evident.

These materials are meant to guide a couple through the marital restoration phase — taking a marriage that is broken or in crisis and getting back to basic working order.

The Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series is meant to guide a couple through the marital enrichment phase — taking a marriage that is in basic working order and refining it to be increasingly, mutually satisfying. Often it is a misunderstanding between restoration and enrichment that derails a couples sincere efforts at marital reconciliation after the discovery of sexual sin.

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).

True Betrayal – Step One

True Betrayal: Step 1 from Equip on Vimeo.

For the “How to Talk to Children When Sexual Sin Affects the Family” appendix click here: Appendix Talking to Children When Sexual Sin Affects the Family

False Love – Step One

False Love: Step 1 from Equip on Vimeo.

For the “Sexual Sin Evaluation” assessment click here: SEXUAL SIN EVALUATION

For the “Pride vs. Brokenness” appendix click here: PRIDE_DeMoss

Blog post “How to End an Extra-Marital Relationship

On Participation in Conversation and Sex

man-woman-talkingA frequent point of conflict between husbands and wives is the meaningfulness of conversation and the quality of sex. Stereotypically, the wife feels like the husband is not fully engaged in conversation and the husband does not feel like the wife is fully engaged in sex. In both cases, even if the activity (i.e., conversation or sex) is happening, someone feels disappointed.

There are many factors that could be in play. For this post we will ask one question (two ways) that is intended to generate more empathy and understanding from the spouse who is “present but not present” during conversation or sex.

  1. To the husband whose wife is disappointed in his level of engagement in conversation, “What if your wife was only as participatory in sex as you are in conversation? Would you be satisfied?”
  2. To the wife whose husband is disappointed in her level of engagement in sex, “What if your husband was only as participatory in conversation as you are in sex? Would you be satisfied?”

The skeleton of this question is, “What if your spouse was as engaged with your high-level interest as you are with their high-level interest? Would you be satisfied?” We now see that this common disappointment-turned-argument is a derivative of The Golden Rule, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).”

Don’t let that turn into a guilt-trip or a Sunday School “wa-wa” answer. Instead, realize that if Jesus said this was one of the top two rules of life – love God and love each other; Matthew 22:37-40 – (and he did), then it makes sense that its implications would show up in our common life challenges.

Let’s go back to our original points of conflict and consider the implications for both conversation and sex.

What makes for meaningful engagement in conversation?

  • Eye contact and smiling
  • Verbal feedback of appreciation and encouragement
  • Non-verbal indicators of interest
  • Words or actions that reveal you remember what the other person likes (or doesn’t like)
  • Being fully present; not distracted

What makes for meaningful engagement in sex?

  • Eye contact and smiling
  • Verbal feedback of appreciation and encouragement
  • Non-verbal indicators of interest
  • Words or actions that reveal you remember what the other person likes (or doesn’t like)
  • Being fully present; not distracted

Do you notice something? It’s the same list. You might add a few things to either list, but these “core five” areas of engagement greatly enhance both conversation and sex.

Why is that? Because both conversation and sex are about bonding and connecting; feeling close, wanted, understood, and valued.

What happens when we feel criticized in either area? We focus on performance (i.e., how many details of what you said I can remember or claiming the frequency of our sex life as adequate) instead of bonding. When we focus on performance, we can do what our spouse wants but our spouse doesn’t experience the benefits of our action – we feel cheated (not given credit) and they feel neglected (not cared for).

Hopefully this reflection has revitalized your perspective on what your spouse is requesting. Your spouse wants to feel close, wanted, understood, and valued (just like you do). The action they’re asking you to be more present-engaged in (sex or conversation) is a means to that end. Allow this to freshen your motivation to engage them like you want them to engage you.

If this is an area you want to grow, I would invite you to attend one or more of the upcoming Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminars. Dates, times, location, and RSVP are provided at this link.

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” or “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” posts which address other facets of this subject.

Video: Overcoming Codependency (Step Eight)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Codependency.” 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).

“Contentment as I Continue to Grow”
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

step 8 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Romans 5:3-5 (ESV), “More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through this Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Rejoice” – If you read the passage carefully, you’ll see we rejoice in the fruit of suffering; not the pain.
  • “Endurance… character… hope” – In these words you can likely see the journey you have been on in this study.
  • “Shame” – God is faithful not only to redeem the suffering but remove the shame associated with suffering.
  • “God’s love… poured” – You may fill empty many times on this journey, but remember God’s supply is constant.
  • “Holy Spirit” – This seal (2 Cor. 1:22) of God’s permanent covenant cannot be broken, as hard as life may have been.

Teaching Notes

“Sometimes when we put a stop to our own destructive habits, our relationships actually get worse (p. 142).” Leslie Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

“Families often have an end goal of getting someone into treatment, but it is not the end of the road. Your work is not yet done. More hopefully: it’s not the first piece of change you’ve witnessed, and it won’t be the last. Treatment is part of the process, not the destination… The most important thing we can say about supporting your loved one’s treatment can be summed up in five words: keep doing what you’re doing (p. 247).” Foote, Wilkens, Koskane and Higgs in Beyond Addiction

“Something indeed was happening in David through his troubled marriage. God was teaching David personal lessons on how to grow and to become more and more like Jesus. God was teaching David how to be more loving, even when Julie didn’t love him in return. He was teaching David how to forgive, even when Julie never apologized. He was showing David how he could overcome evil with good and how to be content in all things. These things could not be learned from a book or in the context of marital bliss, but in hardship (p. 15-16).” Leslie Vernick in How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

“Progress happens each time you attempt to change the way you respond to a difficult situation. Whether your attempt is completely, partially, or not at all successful, having made the effort weakens the negative, unproductive habit pattern that you have practiced in the past (p. 92).” Robert Meyers and Brenda Wolfe in Get Your Loved One Sober

“Mom/Dad, I’m Not Sure I Want to be a Christian Anymore…”

This post was originally published on the CareLeader resource site on January 17, 2017. not listeningWe asked pastoral counselor Brad Hambrick this question: “What counsel would you give to the parents of a teenage daughter who announces, ‘I don’t think I want to be a Christian anymore’?” We thought his response would be especially valuable to youth pastors or youth leaders who might be having this sort of conversation with a teenager.

Be Sure to Listen to Her Reasons

Here are some thoughts on how to approach a moment like that. The first thing I would encourage you to say is, “Thank you. I know this is a heavy thing to share, and it can’t be easy to come to us when you know that we’re believers and this is important to us.” Then pause and give her the opportunity to talk while you listen.

Ask about How Long She Has Wrestled with This

Second, you might acknowledge the amount of time it took her to come to the point where she was willing to share this with you. So you might say something like, “I know by the time you bring this up to us you’ve been thinking about this for a while. Do you mind sharing with us what that journey has been like, the things you’ve been wrestling with, the kinds of questions you’ve thought about?” Again, just pause and listen. The more she feels heard, the more weight anything that you say is going to have.

Ask about Influences on Her Thinking

In the midst of her comments, if she doesn’t share who some of the significant voices in her life are, you might ask about that. “Who are the people that you’ve talked to? What are the books you’ve read that have influenced you coming to the point where you’re not sure you want to be a Christian?” Again, when you’ve asked that question, pause and listen. Ask her, “Is it okay if I write down this resource so I can read it?” Honor the journey she’s been on by engaging with it and being willing to hear about it.

Ask about the Possible “Burdens” of Being a Christian

Another question that you might want to ask is, “If you weren’t a Christian, is there something that this would relieve you of? Is there some kind of burden that this would take off of you? Is there a problem that not being a Christian would resolve?” Usually, when people decide not to be a Christian, they do so more for emotional reasons than for intellectual reasons. Occasionally it’s about not being sure of creationism or something like that. But more often than not, it is some hardship that they’ve been through. For example: “My friend committed suicide and I can’t imagine how there could be a good God who would let that happen.” Or, “I have some sin that I’m struggling with, and I don’t think I would ever be able to give that up.” And at least at that point parents (and youth workers) can begin to talk about the real issue instead of debating why someone needs to be a Christian. You’re talking to where her heart is. Regardless of how that conversation lands, I would encourage you to extend the conversation.

Ask If You Can Have Some “Processing Time”

Extending the conversation might sound something like this: “You know, you’ve been thinking about this for a while. This whole deliberation is like eighteen months old for you. You just brought this to me, and so it’s eighteen minutes old for me. I would love to be able to talk more about this, and so is it all right if I give some thought to the things that you’ve shared? I think you’ve made your points well, and I’d love to pray about them and think about them so we can talk about this again.” Just phrasing it in the form of a question honors the teen’s deliberations. If you say, “We’re going to talk about this again, young lady,” then you’re invoking your authority so that she no longer has a voice. But teens do have a voice in their personal faith. And when we have conversations about that, we need to honor that voice.

Access Your Resources to Help the Parents Deal with this Issue

Once you’ve landed the plane there, and you’ve created the opportunity to come back to the conversation, there are some things that would be important in helping her parents. One of those would be to pray with the parents for their daughter. Only God can open eyes and give ears to hear. Most Christian parents would acknowledge that they need God in their parenting. However, when they come to a moment like this, what they acknowledge intellectually, they feel palpably in a way that will increase their dependence on Him.

In addition, they need to have support from others. If they’re not talking to friends who know and care for them, they will probably talk to their daughter too much about this subject because it’s on their minds. Supportive Christian friends allow them to have other conversations with their daughter that go beyond this subject area, which is really important. They need to have a broader relationship with their daughter than just this subject, because it can make the parent-child relationship feel more like an intentional project than a loving family relationship. Doing things like going to a movie or going out to dinner at her favorite restaurant will show her that the parents can still relate to her and that they will continue to be her mom and dad.

Finally, from this initial conversation you probably will glean a lot of information that you and her parents can study, which means this can be a moment of growth for everyone. And so pray, offer support, study, and grow. Remind her parents that their relationship with their daughter needs to be broader than her personal faith so that when they have the personal faith conversations, they can have more impact because they haven’t taken all the oxygen out of the room.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.

Video: Overcoming Codependency (Step Seven)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Codependency.” 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).

“Functionally Relating Within Dysfunction”
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering.

step 7 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV), “Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Cursed” – Is this how you have felt? Over-relying on people leaves us vulnerable, because the best of us are sinful.
  • “Trusts in man” – This passage is not condemning all trust, but when we rely on people to be our strength and security.
  • “Shrub in the desert” – The result is that we feel perpetually depleted and completely dependent for any “water.”
  • “Blessed” – There is an alternative. This chapter is a practical picture of trusting God in long-term broken relationships.
  • “When heat comes” – Notice the blessing of wise relating does not remove the periodic season of drought and hurt.

Teaching Notes

“Antibiotics have a helpful effect on strep throat, but they didn’t cause it. You can help, but you’re not to blame for the problem and you’re not responsible for the outcome. You’re only responsible for trying in the ways that you choose to try (p. 140).” Foote, Wilkens, Koskane and Higgs in Beyond Addiction

“What often stops us from taking responsibility or ownership in a situation is that we don’t see our choices, or perhaps more truthfully we don’t like our choices (p. 134)… We learn to live differently by living differently, not by thinking about living differently (p. 126).” Leslie Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

“The louder and angrier the borderline gets, the quieter and more composed the other person should become, thereby refusing to collaborate in aggravating the emotional atmosphere, and spotlighting the comparative outlandish intensity of the borderline’s rage (p. 129).” Jerold Kreisman and Hal Straus in I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me

“When we remember that our real enemy is Satan, we do not do good in order to get our spouse to change; we do good so that we are not overcome by evil (referencing Romans 12:21) (p. 70).” Leslie Vernick in How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

“By tolerating what you can’t change right this second, you can avoid adding suffering to what is already painful (p. 105)… Tolerating distress when it is not really an emergency (and staying calm when it is) creates time and space to consider options and act in ways that are more likely to help (p. 110).” Foote, Wilkens, Koskane and Higgs in Beyond Addiction

“Because codependent behaviors protected us, letting go of them can feel frightening at first (p. 11).” Melody Beattie in The New Codependency

“[Forgiveness] doesn’t mean I approve of the person’s actions. It just means I simply acknowledge my feelings, stop replaying the event in my mind, and give up the idea of revenge or punishment (p. 51).” Pia Mellody in Facing Codependence

“The fear of the Lord simplifies life (p. 228).” Ed Welch in When People Are Big and God Is Small

On Diagnosing Mental Disorders: Interacting with a Quote from Allen Frances, M.D.

saving normalI am in-process of reading the book Saving Normal by Allen Frances, M.D. Dr. Frances chaired the task force that produced the fourth revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) and has become critical of the current version, DSM-5.

It is too early to tell what my assessment of the book will be, but I can say it is definitely thought-provoking and well written. In this post I would like to make a few reflections on one extended quote from page 32.

The intent of Dr. Frances book is to “save the concept of normal human struggles” from being over-medicalized. He is not against psychiatric diagnoses or the use of psychiatric medication. Whether he draws the line at the right point in this tension is beyond my qualification to assess. But his aspiration seems like a good and needed balance to me in current Western culture.

The indented material below is from one continuous paragraph. I would encourage you to read all of the indented material first and then come back and read my reflections which are interspersed within.

Mental disorders should be diagnosed only when the presentation is clear-cut, severe, and clearly not going away on its own. The best way to deal with the everyday problems in living is to solve them directly or to wait them out, not to medicalize them with psychiatric diagnosis or treat them with a pill…

This seems to fit well with my attempts to define the concept of mental illness: impairment of functioning and duration of time without relenting of symptoms seem to be the best indicators for diagnoses that do not have a body fluid sample test. In response (unless there is concern for self-harm), the default first step should be to take the non-medical steps that have a probability of remedying or diminishing the life struggle.

… Prematurely resorting to medication short-circuits the traditional pathways of restorative healing – seeking support from family, friends, and the community; making needed life changes, off-loading excessive stress; pursuing hobbies and interests, exercise, rest, distraction, a change of pace…

I greatly appreciate this emphasis on “traditional pathways of restorative healing,” as Dr. Frances calls them. Honesty in authentic relationships is powerful. Exercise and good sleep hygiene have incredible effects on our emotional-cognitive health. Too often we try to obtain emotional health in lives that have unsustainable schedules. When we pursue tolerable emotions without pursuing these “traditional pathways,” we do ourselves a disservice even if medication helps us reach our goal. Our poor life stewardship will have to have more intense consequences before we consider the lifestyle that is creating the consequences.

This is not to say that “traditional pathways” will resolve all problems. I agree with Dr. Frances (as we will come to) that psychotropic medication can be a wonderful tool for health. But when we make these steps first, we are setting the medication up to succeed at what it can do by not asking it to offset what it cannot do.

… Overcoming problems on your own normalizes the situation, teaches new skills, and brings you closer to the people who were helpful. Taking a pill labels you as different and sick, even if you really aren’t…

This seems like a brief, but good, list of the benefits of facing life hardships through the “traditional pathways.” I am encouraged when I hear professionals skilled at alleviating suffering who can articulate the benefits of enduring suffering well. From a pastoral perspective it seems as if this is a value system we have lost. The less we collectively understand and value the benefits of suffering well, the more we isolate and add to the stigma of individuals who suffer long.

… Medication is essential when needed to reestablish homeostasis for those who are suffering from real psychiatric disorder. Medication interferes with homeostasis for those who are suffering from the problems of everyday life.

I am also encouraged to hear someone who is cautious about the over-medicalization of our culture be able to full-throatedly affirm the good use of medication. Medications (not just psychotropics) work by restoring balance to our body. This is good. This has an inverse implication, when we artificially restore balance to an emotional struggle that would have self-corrected, we impair the body’s ability self-correct in the future.

I look forward to reading the rest of Dr. Frances book. In the first chapter I have learned a great deal. More than learning, I’ve been given better questions to ask and categories to consider when thinking about mental health, how to define “normal,” and mental illness. I hope to continue to be stretched in this way.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Mental Illness and Medication” post which address other facets of this subject.