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Things Christians should keep in mind when engaging with Counseling

I've been to therapy, I talk with mental heath professionals a lot, and I am one myself.

I am also a Christian, a follower of Jesus. These are things I keep in mind when I engage with counseling.

1. It's all about God. It's not all about me.

There is a strong pull in counseling to be self-centered. Therapy is introspective, it's insight oriented, you talk about yourself a lot, it's processing your thoughts, feelings, desires, experiences, personality, family, relationships, and entire life. This can breed a selfishness, self-entitlement, and self-absorption. As much as you want to know yourself and have confidence in who you are, be aware of this self-focused tendency.

Pay attention to the people that are around you, give them your attention. And ultimately, pay attention to God: Who he is, what he has done, and place your life, hope, and motivation in what he promises to do.

2. Be careful not to blame others too quickly to avoid fault and consequences. I am responsible for my decisions and actions.

We have a tendency to blame others and to say, "It's not my fault." We tend to look at the way we were raised, our family of origin, traumas and significant life events as the reason we are the way we are and why we do the things we do. We also look to our biological and physiological make up as reasons for who we are and to explain our behaviors. "This is just the way I am." Be aware of this tendency to shift blame to other things and not take responsibility for your life.

3. Don't over-spiritualize things, but also don't avoid issues of faith.

Include your spiritual practices and what you believe in your counseling process.

4. Avoid the simplicity of extremes and dichotomies. Learn to hold tensions and accept uncertainty.

Instead of settling for a black or white and an either/or perspective, practice stepping into the tension of holding multiple points of view.

5. Be clear with how you are defining your problems. Understand the solution you are aiming for.

By definition, if you have a human problem, then you will seek a human solution. If you define your problem as a God problem, then God will have be part of the solution. Take the time to define your problems and goals accurately. Articulate what it means to be successful, be clear about what you are aiming for. What is the goal of counseling?

6. Let go of legalistic tendencies that can enable your comfort and your need for control. Engage with counseling to let go and receive God's grace for you.

We often fall into a "fix it" mindset and try to implement a set of do's/don'ts set of rules to live by. Instead, trust God, receive God's grace, and live out of all that he offers in Christ.

7. Practice applying theology and biblical teaching.

View counseling as applied theology. Engage with counseling to practically live out biblical truths.

8. View secular psychological therapeutic interventions as God's common grace.

Instead of viewing everything in the secular world as evil, see the world as God's common grace. God allows all humanity to live and grow. We can receive knowledge and grace from the secular world. That said, don't let therapy replace your salvation. Be able to think through therapeutic interventions and critique it if it's not biblical.

9. Don't let your counselor replace your pastor.

Go to your counselor to address your depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, addiction, emotions, desires, thoughts, family of origin and relational issues.

But you still need to go to your pastor to grow in your spiritual life and in your relationship with God.

11. Establish a biblical worldview.

As you engage with counseling, be constantly asking, "What does the bible say about this?" Where does my emotions, thoughts, desires, and life fit in the redemptive plans of God? What will really matter in 10,000 years?

12. Don't just manage sin, address the affections of your heart.

Life is filled with problems, and we cause a lot of them ourselves. We can spend a lot of time in counseling just managing our sin and its effects and trying to modify our behaviors. Instead, keep asking "why?" to get to the root of your problems. Understand the affections of your heart. Engage with counseling to allow God to change your heart to love God more.

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