Why Jesus & Counseling?

I am a Counselor: LPC-intern. This means that I have the degree, passed my exam but am now in a phase of time where I am observed and get the privilege of being molded by those already working in the field. I wanted to share my theory of counseling with you because it primarily comes from my experiences as a single mother. At a time when I was at my weakest, prior to my divorce, I accepted Christ as my Savior and He became my counselor. You read this correctly… I became a Christian and then got a divorce. Sometimes, divorce is not the worse thing that could happen to use. Difficult, yes, but God did not condemn me for it. In fact, Ge blessed me.

He led me down a path of healing and slowly formed me into something that I believe He intended for me all along. In fact, I am still transforming, growing, learning, and perpetually seeking. The Spirit empowered me to begin something beyond my own wisdom, to do what I am not capable of doing on my own. I understand now looking back at the steps I was lead through but after beginning this study I have come to an observation that directly affects my theory of counseling.

It is my belief that counseling itself is evangelical in nature. What do I mean by this? … I have come to learn that there is a direct correlation between the stages necessary to create change behaviorally and our path of becoming more like Christ. Both involve recognizing a problem, searching for a way to change, and then beginning and sticking with that change strategy. Additionally, “motivation is inexorably linked to understanding personal change” (Miller, 1999)”

The difference between the two is empowerment by the Spirit. Absent of seeking God the motivation for change becomes willpower alone, but with the inclusion of Christ, the Spirit can empower us even when we are not strong enough to do so on our own.

For those who are not Christian’s and reading this, and yes I understand it sounds completely like science fiction, when ones choses to accept Jesus as their savior God gives that person a helper. Now apart of His kingdom as a Christian, this person still lives on this earth, only now as if a foreigner in a land.  Different, set apart, and lost without a guide. The help He gives is His Spirit. The Spirit indwells our soul, giving us power and wisdom beyond our ability.

“Motivation encompasses the internal urges and desires felt by the client, external pressures and goals that influence the client, perceptions about risks and benefits of behaviors to the self and cognitive appraisals of the situation.” (Miller, 1999) The reason willpower alone is not fully effective, in my opinion, is because God is the only one who can override all facets of motivation while the client can often fall victim to things out of their control.

Here is a little table explaining the similarities between Change by Salvation, and Change by Counseling, so you can see how each part aligns:

Change

Model of Salvation Counseling Theory
Depravity  and Foreknowledge Broken
Predestination and Calling Submission
Vulnerability
Justification and Grace Empathy
Glorification – Conform to the  likeness of God Process of Self-Actualization

Depravity

Depravity is a state moral corruption and wickedness, without hope. According to the Bible we don’t become sinners because we sin, we are sinners because we were born and all fall short of the Glory of God[1]. We are not condemned because we don’t believe. We are already condemned and the only way to live eternally with God is by repenting of our sin and submitting to God. He knows how broken we are and where in our lives we need healing. It is my understanding that a counselor’s job is to come along side the patient in effort to seek out their darkness and bring it into the light. “We need to recognize that before we do warfare, that the areas we hide in darkness are the very areas of our future defeat. Often the battles we face will not cease until we discover and repent of the darkness within us (Frangipane, 2006).”

I was listening online to a podcast called Sifted for Service (Redic, 2014). In this podcast he explained that Satan is after us all, as arrogant as he is he even tempted Jesus, why wouldn’t he tempt us also. No matter whom you are, life has thrown you some curve balls. Some of those curve balls are due to the natural consequences of our actions, while others are due to a satanic force. In Luke 22: 31-32 we see such a case. Jesus tells Peter, “Satan is after you but I pray that your faith will not fail”.

Why would he not pray that Peter simply not go through the hard time or that Satan would leave him alone? This indicates that the sifting was necessary. God can never entrust His kingdom to anyone who has not broken from their darkness, but Peter did not know he had anything that needed to sift yet and was probably confused about the interaction. Jesus then says, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Peter was important to the future cause of Christ, but it was necessary for him to first go through what he was about to. He was predestined, chosen by God for a purpose and Christ new the outcome of health in his future. Therefore, the first step to healing and change is to be broken and predestined for change.

When a patient comes to me recognizing struggle, and are willing to assume responsibility, they are finally ready for counseling. If they never get to a place where they can recognize that something is wrong and take measures to change who they are in relation to their pain, their journey will be much rockier than it needs to be. Existential in nature (Wickepedia, 2014), both physically and spiritually, change typically requires a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world, and making decisions that bring one to a spiritual awakening.

Submission

In The Three Battlegrounds by Francis Frangipane, the author offers a detailed explanation of why God would allow Satan to sift Peter like wheat. Yes, Satan asked permission to toy with Peter and God gave permission to do so, but it was Peter’s sin that made it all possible. “Pride caused Satan’s fall and pride was the very same darkness manipulated by Satan to cause Peter’s fall”. (Frangipane, 2006) When a man harbors sin of any kind, darkness is inside of him. Satan has legal access to darkness because God cast him out of the light, where God is, into the “pits” or “bonds” of darkness. This eternal darkness is essentially where moral darkness exists, anything or anywhere absent of God and His will, no matter how small. Therefore anytime we enter moral darkness, hiding aspects of ourselves, we give Satan permission to sift us like he did Peter. The devil can traffic in any area of darkness, “even the darkness that still exists in a Christian’s heart” (Frangipane, 2006). Peter was ignorant about the areas of darkness within him, and this ignorance is what left him open for attack.

Here’s the clincher, in my own story I was able to overcome, even when it should not have been possible, simply by submitting to God. In fact, the first thing God laid on my heart was, “Obey me and I’ll take care if you!”, and that He did! For the first time ever I began to consciously shape my life, taking cues from the Lord, checking what I was hearing with the Bible, being intentional with what I did and where I went. I made healthy choices, recognizing the ways I had passively accepted circumstances, assumed roles, and dealing with the emotions I had been ignoring.  Therefore, the next step is to submit to God. He enables us to resist the devil residing within the dark places of ourselves and enables us to resist him and flee[2]. In my case, “fleeing” was taking my life back from what Satan had been doing with it and handing it to God. When I was saved, my life became intentional. It was this that built me up and prepared me for the trial ahead. My divorce was eminent, even though I had no idea it was coming. My divorce was my “sifting”, and like Peter I had no idea that I had anything to sift, but God did. And, while it completely sucked, yes IT SUCKED, I wouldn’t undo it. I love who I am now and I love my life!

The Unbeliever

The only problem I can see with this concept is when it applies to those who do not want to submit to God, or even recognize that He exists. When putting this theory of counseling into practice with unbelievers I do not discuss Jesus with the patient. Instead, I discuss Christ’s attributes; the character of Christ and why living this way is beneficial without discussing Him precisely. I want to be respectful of my clients but I do make it clear that I am Christian who is a counselor, not a Christian Counselor. This means that I am not going to force someone to pray, talk about the Bible, nothing they themselves so not initiate themselves. Interesting enough, the record of Acts declares the gospel message by doing this very thing. It takes the message of Christ into the world but does not discuss the cross itself, instead declaring His character (Howard, 2014).

Grace

The only cure for fear of vulnerably is empathy and grace. Unconditional positive regard is a type of therapy developed by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers (Corey, 2013). This technique involves showing complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what that person says or does. Rogers believed that it was essential for therapists to show unconditional positive regard because individuals pursuing mental health need this type of acceptance. In parallel to this, I believe that there is a supernatural connection between the grace that God give us and that which makes us whole as individuals. If our clients have an environment provided for them where they are free from judgment, we can remove guilt and fear allowing them face troubles in their lives that otherwise they would have buried deeper.

Vulnerability

The third step in health is vulnerability. Trouble in this life is unavoidable, but it is important to state that trouble and trials do not equal the kind of sifting Jesus describes to Peter but He does promise that, “In this world you will have trouble.” It is a universal truth that we will all encounter something difficult we will need to challenge. How we choose to respond to it is our only real choice. Fortunately, God can use anything for His glory and sifting uses our trouble as a catalyst to transform our hearts, refine our character and draw us closer to God.” (Adkins, 2012) The chaff and the husk of wheat were necessary; they provide protection against the harsh elements of life, but for health, we must shed our hard outer layer.

Why do we need vulnerability? Vulnerability is the birthplace of change. In order to do something different than we have before, we need to be willing to look like a fool from time to time, willing to make mistakes, humble and receptive. Without this, and especially without this before God, our desires will flounder. The later is also true, when we quash our vulnerability we also silence the part of us that allows us to change.

Is there a catch?

Yes there is! … All of our feelings, thoughts and behaviors are connected. In other words, you cannot make a change to one without affecting the others, and knowing this ahead of time, we now have a back door to change. Individuals can try to overcome struggles and obtain goals in life by changing inaccurate thinking, destructive behavior, and harmful emotional responses. With the aid of the counselor the client can collaboratively develop skills for testing and changing false beliefs identify warped thinking, relating to their world differently, and modify behaviors. Therapy consists of testing the patient’s presumptions and looking for new information that could help shift their interpretation in such a way that leads to a changed emotional or behavioral response that they can get behind, BUT nothing happens without the cooperation of the client.

Conformity to the likeness of the Son

What motivates behavior? According to humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs (Cherry, 2014). He emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person in order to achieve individual potential and according to his pyramid is the highest level of accomplishment one can obtain. (Corey, 2013) Funny thing is, I believe Christ would agree.

The first need of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are the Physiological Needs e all have. Interestingly, during the first temptation of Christ, Jesus refused Satan and disregarded these basic needs because His “need to obey[3]” God took precedence. The next temptation Christ conquered where two of Maslow’s needs: Belongingness and Safety. Everyone has a social need for connection to one another and at the same time a need for physical safety, emotional safety shelter, and security. Jesus was tempted but He did not fear harm, or desire that God prove His love. The third need is esteem, or the desire for significance. In the third temptation of Christ, Jesus was tempted to take “master over the entire world[4].” Jesus defeated this by remembering a more significant need, the “need to submit to God[5]”. Fourth on Maslow’s hierarchy is self actualization which basically means meeting your full potential (Corey, 2013). Oddly enough, Jesus new the struggles we would encounter and overcame this very thing (John 19:30).

Consider, if we are His followers, asked to deny self as a living sacrifice, crucified with Christ, it is not possible to be self-actualized. Therefore, we are to become Christ-actualized instead. Peter’s victory over the darkness within him began with the name of Jesus on his lips, consummated by the nature of Jesus in his heart, pride replaced with Christ (Frangipane, 2006). Everyone needs something to replace their darkness with and if we are simply masking an area of darkness with another, without accepting Christ’s light we are simply trading one problem for another. With that said, showing  who Christ is by discussing His character and qualities would be a step in the right direction.

Find me online at: Vanessa Jackson LPC-intern
Lake Travis Counseling Connection
Under Supervision of Jane Shope, LPC-S

References

Adkins, K. (2012, April 12). Stories of Sifted. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://storiesofsifted.com/2012/01/what-is-sifting/

Cherry, K. (2014). About.com. Retrieved April 26, 2014, from http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/hierarchyneeds.htm

Corey, G. (2013). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Brooks/Cole, a part of Cengage Learning.

Frangipane, F. (2006). The Three Battlegrounds. Ceda Rapids: Arrow Publications, Inc.

Howard, D. J. (2014, March 13). Sacrifice and Gospel. Retrieved April 26, 2014, from DTS Chapel Podcast: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DTSChapelAudio

Miller. (1999). Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville: Bookshelf.

Redic, B. (2014, April 22). DTS Podcast. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from http://www.dts.edu/media/play/senior-preaching-week-sifted-for-service-redic-brandon

Wickepedia. (2014, April 24). Retrieved from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism

[1] Romans 3:23

[2] James 4:7

[3] Matt 4:8-11

[4] Matt 4:8-9

[5] Matt 4:10

 

By: Vanessa Jackson, LPC-Intern

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