Monday, March 21, 2011

Christian Counseling

Last Thursday, the Psychology and the Church seminar saw part of a Christian counseling session on a video produced by the American Psychological Association.  The counselor was Mark Mcminn from George Fox University.

In the video, Dr. Mcminn talks with a woman named "Celeste" about the issues in her life.  Celeste is a remarkably competent and caring woman who is overwhelmed by all that is on her plate -- she's a mother with three children under the age of 10, a wife who tries to "be there" for her husband, employed full time, in graduate school, heavily involved with her church and someone who people turn to when they need prayer and a listening ear.  She is overwhelmed but has managed to stay sane and "hold it together" so far.

Here are some of the things Dr. Mcminn talks with Celeste about:
  1. He asks "what's on your plate?" - and then asks her to try to sort things out verbally (so he can better understand).  This builds empathy and helps her know he cares.  It also helps him know what's going on.
  2. He asks if there has been a recent event or series of events that she can describe that gets to the heart of what's on her mind.  He then "goes with her" in listening and responding so she will say more.  In Celeste's case, Dr. Mcminn notices how alone she feels.  (In a comment made afterward, he wonders aloud if her competence is a way for her to continue to connect with people in the midst  of her loneliness.)
  3. He asks her what helps her deal with things.  She speaks of writing and prayer.  She says it is hard for her to ask for help from people so she goes direct to God.
  4. He encourages her to think about who she can just be "Celeste" with, instead of always being the "super Christian."  Dr. Mcminn sees this as a big need in her life and she agrees--she says she knows she is not "God Junior" and laughs... he encourages her in the direction of social support and peer relationships.
  5. He tries a spiritual exercise with her as a way of releasing control to God.  Sitting relaxed with eyes closed, he coaches her, and participates with her in deep breathing while using the simple prayer "Lord, have mercy," silently breathing "Lord" on the inhale and "have mercy" on the exhale.  They do this for awhile and tears begin to flow.
This is just one sample of what Christian counseling can be.  If you feel alone or overwhelmed, and if you would like a confidential and professional friend to talk things through with, this might be something to try... remember, of course, that every counselor has their own method to help people.  This is just an example.

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