I wanted to share a quick word about counseling. Directly said, my time in counseling and/or therapy has been life saving. I’ve mentioned many times the things I’m learning and talking about in counseling. While diving into the specifics would be inappropriate, I do want to talk about the importance of this discipline in my life.
I first started attending counseling in 2009 and the experience was incredible. I learned things about myself that I simply would never have learned anywhere else. I learned this because the professional sitting on the other side of the desk was trained in how the mind and emotions work. They saw things and were trained to interact with ideas that I was never trained to touch in theological schooling. All of this makes sense. I know a doctor is trained in certain fields of medicine and treatment. I know a pastor is trained in spiritual leadership. I know a tax accountant understands more about tax law than I ever will. We know how grateful we are for those experts and how they share their training with the rest of us. We gladly pay for their services and expertise.
And yet, there seems to be such a stigma surrounding the field of counseling and therapy. You go to those professionals when you have "serious problems,” right?
I’m not aware of any other place in my life where I can go and talk about emotions with this kind of intention and have somebody who understands — on a clinical level – how those emotions interact with my psychology and where they come from and what they do to my ability to relate to other people. Starting my journey in counseling over a decade ago was like opening the door to a room in myself that I didn’t even know existed, but all kinds of things I needed were locked inside.
So I made it a regular practice of mine, about every two years, to spend the next six months in counseling. It’s just a checkup. I don’t need a crisis to “prompt” it, although I’ve yet to enter a session without having plenty to talk about and reflect on. All of these things also give me plenty to work on as a person, a husband, a dad, and a professional.
I simply cannot even imagine how destructive of a person I would be without this discipline in my life. That destruction would be internal and external, self-inflicted and projected onto others. I mean, just think about this: Can you imagine a pastor, a leader, a CEO, an influencer (or anyone!) who doesn’t regularly deal with their emotional health? What kind of stuff builds up in them? What kind of internal narratives shape their character? How does that get translated into the meetings they lead, the decisions they make, the content they create, the sermons they preach?
If we’re married or parents, what do these same variables do to those relationships? How powerful are fear, jealousy, and insecurity? Even in the positive moments and opportunities, how do we process success or power (in all of its many forms)?
Just considering those things makes me shudder. I need an expert! I need a tour guide.
And I’ve had many. My first counselor was a Ph.D. from Harvard and he blew my mind. What a wild ride of self-discovery. I had a therapist who was certified in therapeutic hypnotism. I’ve experienced EMDR therapy. I’ve had counselors who were better fits than others. But each one has been such a blessing for that season of my life. And all of them have helped me talk about, think about, and reflect upon what takes place inside of me in helpful and healthy ways. And those around me have reaped the benefits. Thank you to all of you who give your lives to this work.
And I share all of this simply to speak a word and be open about my experience in counseling. I get frustrated by the stigma and resistance to this thing that has been so beautiful in my life. Even church cultures and leaders have discouraged people from engaging in this work. Without a doubt, good theology is important. Spiritual formation is critical. But emotional health is also foundational. May God help us to become healthier people.