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Posts tagged ‘counseling’

Depression: Take Steps In The Right Direction



● Angela is frightened. Each morning she struggles to find the energy to get out of bed.  She feels so listless and down. Her kids need her, but she can’t summon the energy to even interact with them—much less prepare meals or clean the house.
● George is having a hard time thinking clearly.  He lost his job and just can’t seem to crawl out of the hole he feels like he’s fallen into. He can’t interview because he’s so down, so he sits around at home and plays on the computer.  And he just keeps spiraling downward.


● Depression differs from sadness.   When people are sad, they keep their self-respect, they feel better after crying, and they confide in others and it helps.
With depression, self-respect fades, crying does not help, and depressed persons often feel alienated because other people cannot seem to understand how they feel.
● Depression is a mood disorder and can be caused by difficult situations, unhealthy thought patterns, or can have a physiological cause.
● The most important symptoms are sadness and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
● Depression is often undiagnosed and untreated in older adults and can be viewed as a natural result of aging.
● Women are twice as likely to be depressed as men.
● One in eight individuals may require treatment for depression in their lifetime.
Despite the progress in detecting and treating depression, the majority of depressed people never get treatment.

Causes of Depression

–Inherited predisposition to depression
–Hormonal or chemical imbalance
–Feelings of failure or rejection
–Grief or loss
–Family problems—separation, divorce, abuse
–Thinking one has no control over any part of life; feelings of futility
–Negative thinking
–Isolation or loneliness
–Substance abuse
–Side effects of prescribed medications

Depression is not something you can just “snap out of.”  It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors.  Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.


“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”



The most dangerous symptom of depression is suicidal ideation.  If you think you might hurt yourself, do not hesitate to get immediate help from family members or a mental health professional.

It is OK for you to take medications if needed to get depression under control.  It doesn’t mean you are weak or don’t have enough faith.  It is possible that the depression is biochemical and that medication can straighten out the chemicals in your body and help you get over the depression.

According to the 2003 National Comorbidity Study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health:
● 35 million Americans (more than 16 percent of the population) suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives.
● In any given period, 13 to 14 million people experience the illness.


1. Take care of yourself physically.
● Research shows that thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise is very helpful in elevating mood.  If there would be no health risks, assign yourself to moderate exercise such as a brisk walk.  Do this every day and get a partner to walk with—it makes it harder to skip a day if someone is waiting for you.
● Depression is best treated by a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Get a medical checkup, and work with a doctor on a diet and exercise program.  Medication may be needed to treat a chemical imbalance.   Better eating habits (for example, less sugar and more vitamins) can also be a big help.

2. Deal with whatever situation might be behind the depression.
● For example, if you have recently suffered a significant loss, acknowledge that loss and begin to let yourself grieve.  Give yourself permission to feel, but then bring yourself back to the light.  It’s OK to feel bad, but it’s not OK to feel bad forever.
● Encourage honest thinking about what might be deep down, behind the depression.
You may need to talk to someone who is adept at drawing out buried hurts that might be fueling the depression.
● Keep a journal in which you write down thoughts that occur over the next couple of weeks regarding what is behind the depression.

3. Reconsider your thoughts.
● For example, you may be thinking, “I’m totally worthless. I have nothing to give to anyone.”  These are common lies people tell themselves.  The fact is that every person has value.
● Prepare a list of ten things you like about yourself—and three of them have to be physical characteristics.

4. Assess your social support systems and consider joining a support group.
● Who are your friends?  Are they people who help you feel better about yourself?
● What groups are you currently involved in?
● What is your church involvement?  Who at church could be of help and support?

Depressed Christians certainly should continue praying, reading the Bible, confessing sin and pursuing holiness, but unless God or a professional Christian counselor says otherwise, don’t assume the depression is caused by a spiritual problem.  That type of thinking can keep a depressed Christian from seeking professional help.


But [Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree.  And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough!  Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” —1 Kings 19:4
● Life has highs and lows, and as in a mountain range, the lows often come right after the highs.  Like Elijah, we may scale the heights of spiritual victory only to soon find ourselves in the dark valley of depression.
● While certain forms of clinical depression should be professionally treated, many depressed feelings are part of life’s ups and downs.
● Like Elijah, we should listen for God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) to
comfort us.

Then as [Elijah] lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water.  So he ate and drank, and lay down again. —1Kings 19:5, 6
● Depression drains energy, twists values, and assaults faith.
● Depression can affect anyone.
● God responded mercifully. He did not castigate or condemn Elijah for his condition—something that many depressed Christians expect from God.  Even in the depths of depression God shows loving concern and a way out.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.— Psalm 42:5

● Depressed feelings sometimes cause some people to turn away from God.
● Others like David, however, allow those disquieted, depressed feelings to make them “hope in God,” remembering His goodness.
● During such times, living by faith takes on new meaning.  Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot feel or see.

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
— Isaiah 61:3

● The Bible recognizes the heaviness of depression.  God’s love and understanding reach out to those who are depressed and discouraged.
● He promises to give consolation, beauty in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.



“Lord, I feel like I am in darkness with no way out. I pray that You will help me discern what is really going on deep in my heart. If there is a chemical problem, help the doctors to discover it and treat it. If there is deep pain or shame, help me to bring it into the light and deal with it by Your grace.”




Q&A: Ten (10) Indicators of Successful Marital Counseling Post-Abuse

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: Can you give suggestions as to what to look for regarding “success” in couples counseling? I am in a marriage that is destructive. For months I went to individual counseling, and really was on a trajectory toward separation/divorce.

Surprisingly my husband agreed to couples counseling. He almost immediately took responsibility for abusive behaviors toward me (which for 16 years he’s denied) and his angry rants ended simultaneously to beginning counseling. I am grateful for the changes, though leery–how is it so easy now that there is a “watchful eye”.

I feel that in an effort to validate my husband, too many issues are normalized—and my husband walks away believing that our troubles are part of common every day married life. I feel as if couples counseling is a threat to the work I have done as an individual to be honest about how poorly I was treated and gain the fortitude to no longer accept it.

Answer: It is very interesting how much self-control someone can have once the abuse is disclosed and he is in an accountability relationship. However, that does not mean that the underlying entitlement thinking or other problems that caused the blindness and denial to go on for 16 years have been adequately confronted, talked through, or healed.

From what you said, once you decided to leave the marriage he said he would do marital counseling. But he’s never done his own work to explore what was behind his abusive behaviors and destructive attitudes, even though he has stopped his rages. It’s like an alcoholic who stops drinking but never does the work to understand why he was drinking in the first place or the damage he or she has caused to others. Yes, the drinking is over – and that’s a good thing, but some of the same problems are still there and still unresolved.

Now that you are in marital counseling with him, the counselor is exploring things that were problems in your marriage. The counselor is trying to get your husband to express some of the things he was unhappy with. However, without first adequately addressing his abusive behaviors and attitudes and the damage that’s caused you and your marriage, things can start to get very fuzzy. It can start to feel like you are being held responsible for his unhappiness and the problems in the marriage that triggered him to abuse in the first place.

In addition, marital counselors attempt to stay neutral and not take sides, but when they do this where there is a history of abuse, without realizing it, the counselor is taking sides. By not first validating the pain your husband has caused you, and speaking about how unacceptable his behaviors were, both you and your husband are left with the impression that the marriage counselor doesn’t think what happened was all that serious or did not damage the relationship all that much.

I believe that any couple attempting to reconcile their marriage after abuse will at some point, need to have some joint marital counseling but not until they have each processed their own issues and they are also able to safely and sanely talk about what happened in the past with the abuser taking full responsibility for abusive behaviors. That does not mean that the non-abusive spouse doesn’t have problems that have contributed to the marital unhappiness, but that those problems were not a cause for abusive behavior and attitudes.

Here are Ten (10) Indicators of Successful Marital Counseling Post-Abuse.

1. The past is the past. It has been talked about, grieved, repented of, forgiven, and owned. The past is not currently happening in the present.

2. Both people in the marriage can freely bring up hot topics or difficult feelings in their marriage relationship with safety. No shaming, no retaliating, no minimizing or blaming.

3. Both people would be open, and willing to learn how to be a better spouse and build a healthier relationship. They would feel free to disagree with one another and there would be a teachable attitude on both of their parts.

4. Time outs as well as other boundaries would be honored and respected. If one or the other was having a hard time communicating effectively, they would wait until things cooled down or they could get back in to see the counselor.

5. Both partners would now take responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the relationship and other family responsibilities.

6. Power and responsibility would be shared. There would not be a double standard where the rules that applied to one person in the marriage didn’t apply to the other.

7. Trust is being rebuilt in the here and now. It is seen as precious and safeguarded.

8. If there is a slip, or a repeat of past history or other serious sin, or even a reminder of it, the person responsible would acknowledge it and take corrective action, whether that means apologize and make amends, or get back into counseling in order to stop a further downward spiral of the marital progress.

9. A person’s feelings would inform him or her, not control him or her. Self-awareness, self-reflection, self-control and self-correction would be part of their daily habits.

10. They have invited several close friends or family into their lives to help them grow and keep them accountable.

Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“Your illness is not your identity,” Pastor Rick Warren shared this week. “Your chemistry is not your character. It’s not a sin to be sick.”

Returning to the pulpit for the first time since his son Matthew’s tragic suicide in April, Warren broke away from his notes to talk frankly about his grief and the challenge of living with his son’s mental illness.

According to USA Today, “Matthew Warren, after a lifetime of struggle with depression, shot and killed himself in what Warren at the time called ‘a momentary wave of despair.’ ”

“I was in shock for at least a month after Matthew took his life,” Warren said. In a world where many Christians often feel the pressure to “put on a happy face,” Pastor Warren’s honesty is refreshing.

“For 27 years I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness,” Warren said. “It was the number one prayer of my life…And it didn’t make sense.”

As Christian counselors, we must remember the daily challenges facing family members of an individual who struggles with depression, addiction, an eating disorder, or other mental health concerns.

“How proud I was of Amy and Josh, who for 27 years loved their younger brother,” Warren said. “They talked him off the ledge time after time. They are really my heroes.”

As churches and communities we need to rally around and provide support, care and a listening ear to those who live with the daily reality of mental illness, reminding them, as Warren said, that their illness is not their identity.

“It’s not a sin to take meds. It’s not a sin to get help. You don’t need to be ashamed.” This message needs to reverberate through churches all across our nation, where misunderstandings about mental illness and false theology that “faith is enough” often results in unnecessary suffering.

In Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s MissionAmy Simpson points out, “Mental illness is the sort of thing we don’t like to talk about. Too often, we reduce people with mental illness to caricatures and ghosts, and simply pretend they don’t exist.”

“They do exist, however. Statistics suggest that one in every four people suffers from some kind of mental illness—from depression to schizophrenia and beyond.

Many of these people, and the family and friends who love them, are sitting in churches week after week, suffering in stigmatized silence.”

Simpson reminds us that people with mental illness are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love them and care for them.

What can churches do to help advocate on behalf of mental illness? Simpson offers several starting points:

  • Get help if you’re struggling. Break the silence by telling your story.
  • Get educated about the issues—read, learn and seek to truly understand.
  • Talk about mental illness and address common stigmas—in the pulpit, small groups, etc.
  • Build genuine relationships—don’t just help as a “project.”
  • Ask families living with mental illness how you can help with practical needs.
  • Accept people unconditionally—look past their diagnosis and see the real person God created and loves.
  • Start support groups for families living with mental illness.
  • Collaborate with local mental health professionals.

“There are people with mental illnesses in every church, whether this is known or not,” one church leader writes. “Jesus came to love and serve everyone. He feared no one. All churches can learn to serve the Lord better in caring for His people.”

In the midst of unspeakable grief, Pastor Warren shared, “God wants to take your greatest sorrow and turn it into your life’s greatest message.”

How does God want to use you to help those struggling with mental illness and their families?

Christian counseling is far more than a career…it’s a calling to minister and offer hope to those who need it most.


Source:   Before a Bad Goodbye by Tim Clinton

Call a truce – a cessation of hostilities.  Give it all a rest.

This is not giving up territory.  None of the issues that have brought you here have been resolved or lost.  All lines in the sand remain where they’re drawn.  You don’t have to jump into each other’s arms; just stop lobbing shells at each other.

Stop hurting each other.  There has been enough of that!

The last thing you or your spouse need right now is more negativity and hurt.  From this point on, choose to be either polite or be positive.

Specifically do and don’t do the following:

*DO Respect Your Partner: This might be very hard to do right now.  Having been hurt as you probably have, respect might be a difficult word to reclaim for your vocabulary.  But try.  You and your spouse may view things very differently.  But by learning about those differences and what motivates them, and by exercising patience and understanding, you can come together and find workable solutions to your problems.  How do you gain respect?  By behaving respectfully to one another, and by behaving in ways worthy of respect.

*DON’T Use Words To Hurt: Give up old patterns of using wild accusations, vulgarity, name calling, raised voices, and threats to make yourself heard.  These destructive behaviors accomplish nothing and leave both partners feeling angry and manipulated.  Screaming only means that somewhere along the way you’ve lost control and have failed to get your message across effectively.  If you suddenly feel like exploding, stop, realize that you still have some work to do to make your point, and quietly restate your argument.

DON’T Force Settlements: Insisting that a dispute be settled “immediately,” no matter how poor the setting might be—mealtime, bedtime, in public—can be disastrous. A postponement allows tempers to cool and gives both partners time to look over the situation more realistically and less emotionally.

DON’T Attack Your Partner’s Soft-Spot: You know your spouse’s buttons—you probably know them better than your spouse does.  Stay away from them.  Intentional wounding cuts deeply and heals slowly.  Stick to the issue.

*DON’T Shut Down: Not only does the “silent treatment” end effective communication, but it also defeats any possibility of compromise and allows misunderstandings to fester. If you need a break—take one!  But come back quickly.

*DON’T Involve Others: No matter how heated the argument, no matter how important it is that you win, don’t drag the children or other relatives, or friends, or any one else into it.  If you need an ally, call on the Lord; and if you need someone to mediate, call on an objective professional counselor or pastor.

It is scary to think about giving up negatives—the barbs, the intimidation, the yelling and screaming.  It’s not only been the only way to be heard, but it’s also been your method of defense. So, naturally you’re frightened.  The idea creates a terrible vulnerability.  In actuality, standing firm without barbed wire defending your perimeter is a much stronger position to hold.

As you can imagine, there are obstacles that can rear up that cause couples to hesitate in establishing the truce.  Most center around a fear of failure and, ultimately, a fear of being hurt again.

“Before I commit to anything, I want to see a flicker of love from my partner” is the most common statement of hesitation. You want some assurance that if you make the commitment, your partner will love you enough to not turn the commitment against you.  But there is no assurance.  Even if you could see a flicker of love, it could go out tomorrow.  The only safety is to strengthen yourself in the Love of Jesus, to realize that He is the only One whose love never flickers or fails.

By committing to make your marriage the most important thing in your life for the next few weeks and to be polite and positive with your mate, you’re risking very little.  If betrayed, you can always begin the war again.  Of course, once you feel the relief this kind of strength gives you, you may never see the need to rejoin the war.

Another obstacle concerns the cost of love; opening yourself up to being hurt again may seem too great a risk.  The fear of being hurt is normal.  Some 2,000 years ago, our Savior weighed the price His Father had placed on His love for His people.  “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  Jesus, although prepared to go to the cross and to suffer separation from His Father to save His people from their sins, for a moment poignantly asked God the Father if He might reconsider.  If you’re concerned about the cost of loving your spouse, consider the cost Jesus paid for loving you.

Another common obstacle is the statement, “Making this step is foreign to me,” or some similar words.  It may be that people who say this just don’t want to take the chance that things might only get worse.  They’ll admit that all this talk of truce and rebuilding sounds good but think, in the end, it won’t amount to much.  Then they’ll have just spent more time on the road getting to safety or the divorce court.  But God fashions life; chance never enters into it.  He’s called you to do the right thing, and loving your spouse and committing yourself to a vital and God-honoring marriage is definitely the right thing.

And finally, one other statement is said often:  “I can’t love again.”  It’s a terribly forlorn statement.  Love is so basic to us – we were born in the garden out of God’s love and to believe that love is an emotion of the past is like waking to an eternal winter.  What’s worse is those who take it a step farther and believe love is at the root of all the evil that’s befallen them, that it’s actually a blessing to live the rest of their lives loveless.  But love is not the culprit; not loving in God’s model is.

Over the next four to six weeks, do your part to make the truce work as you take the next steps allowing the Lord to heal, rebuild, and restore your marriage to the way He originally intended it to be.

What the Bible Says About Counseling

Source:  Bill Bellican

God’s Word has much to say about His Truth/Counsel, His willingness and ability to help us come into the light, and how desperately we have need for His help to be able to live a meaningful, balanced, and Godly life.

[Selected Scriptures – NIV]

  • Genesis 18:14a

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

  • Job 12:22

He (God) reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.

  • Psalm 16:7a

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me…

  • Psalm 43:3a

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.

  • Psalm 119:24

Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors

  • Psalm 119:130a

The unfolding of your words gives light.

  • Proverbs 2:6

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

  • Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

  • Proverbs 8:14, 17b

Counsel and sound judgement are mine; I have understanding and power… those who seek me find me.

  • Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

  • Proverbs 12:25

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.

  • Jeremiah 17:9-10a,12-14

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.   Who can understand it?  I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind… Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

  • Jeremiah 20:12a

O Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind…

  • Daniel 2:22

He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.

  • Micah 7:8b-9b

Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light… He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.

  • Matthew 19:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

  • Luke 13:2

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman you are set free from your infirmity.”

  • John 8:32,36

Jesus said… “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

  • John 10:10

Jesus said… “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

  • John 14:6a

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

  • John 16:13a

“But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”

  • Acts 26:17b-18

“I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

  • Romans 8:6

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

  • Romans 12:2b

…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

  • 1 Corinthians 4:5b

He will bring to light what is hidden in the darkness…

  • 2 Corinthians 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

  • 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.   On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

  • Galatians 5:1a

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

  • Galatians 5:1a

You, my brothers, were called to be free.

  • Ephesians 1:18a

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…

  • Ephesians 3:17b-21

And I pray that you… may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory… for ever and ever!

  • Ephesians 6:11-12

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

  • Philippians 4:13

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

  • Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him whom we must give account.

  • James 1:5-6a

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt…

  • 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God… who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

  • 1 John 5:6b

… the Spirit is the truth.


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