Know Thyself: Should everyone be in therapy?

I may be entirely mistaken, but I get the impression that this statement in Guardian today holds water:

As the Cambridge psychologist and priest Fraser Watts explored in a recent talk, American therapists, for example, seem to be far happier talking about their clients’ spiritual concerns than their British counterparts.

The relationship between religion / spirituality and psychiatry / psychology here in the UK is fraught and I explore this in greater detail on my blog today if you’re interested.

It’s probably best that I show my hand regarding Biblical Counselling at this juncture. I’m not particularly comfortable with it. I’ve come across Evangelical churches here in the UK sending their folk on very brief courses and then declaring themselves competent counselors.

The following transcript taken from an UK TV interview with a ‘Bible only counselor’  encapsulates my fears:

I consider that depression and many other mental illnesses are very deliberately decided by that person.

My name is Malcolm Bowden, I’m a committed evangelical Christian, and have been giving true Biblical counselling to many people with mental health problems. And from my experience, I believe that depression is a behavioural problem, rooted in pride, self-centredness, and self-pity.

True Christians, if they accept the Bible as being the Word of God, they will read in there many encouragements to live the full outgoing and loving Christian life. And a Christian, a TRUE Christian, should not ever be depressed, because he should be living his life for others, and he should have that peace of heart with God, when he knows that God has promised him a wonderful future in heaven with him.

Many depressed people turn in on themselves and feel that people are against them, the world’s not going right, they don’t appreciate how hard they’re working, they’re terribly proud of their situation, and try to be perfect in order to impress people, and people aren’t ultimately impressed, and when they suddenly deflate themselves, they fall right back into a pit of depression.

Man is basically so proud and so self-centred, he refuses to come to God in total humility. But that is ultimately what God is seeking from all of us, and we reject His requirements at our peril.

I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater however, and perhaps it really is different in the US.

This brings me to an interesting article on QIdeas within which they answer the question “Should everyone be in therapy” with a resounding ‘yes’.

The authors base the answer on the premise of ‘knowing thyself‘ and the biblical concept of ‘self-examination’:

For centuries, self-examination was crucial for spiritual transformation. But, as David Benner convincingly argues in his Care of Souls, a post-Enlightenment church became mired in intellectual debates, losing its focus on soul care and spiritual direction. It was during this time the church abdicated its transformative role, trusting psychologists with the care once entrusted to priests, pastors and spiritual directors. And for the past 100 years, while a debate has raged on about the proper relationship between secular psychology and the church, it’s clear the original motive—know thyself— stands behind it all and remains crucial for the church’s mission. For the person best able to love God and neighbor is the person who knows the motives of her heart and is freed to live self-sacrificially.

The authors argue that as knowing thyself and knowing God are intimately connected, therapy should be curam animarum—the care of souls. They lament the ‘quick fix’ behavioral solution-based processes of modern therapy, but then posit this surprising twist:

But at the same time, I’m not convinced Christian therapists do this as well as secular therapists at times. Let me explain. Many settle for what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” a quick fix approach which stands in stark contrast to the “costly grace” of searching and knowing ourselves, through exploring our stories and examining our motives. This kind of care is, indeed, much more rare. Christian counseling which is reduced to mere Bible memorization, or repentance or a behavioral regimen misses the point. It is all law, and no grace—particularly costly grace. It is all behavior with no real, deep examination of one’s self. And so we often find among secular therapists the kind of “depth psychology” which takes seriously how deep the rabbit hole of human brokenness and sin go.

The authors conclude that we should all engage in counselling and judging by the link they give; specifically, Christian Counselling.

Overall, I thought this to be a very balanced piece and worth reading in its entirety.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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