Log #11: Counselors and Counseling

More than anything I wanted someone who could understand. Someone who knew what I was feeling. I just couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way. And how I could fix it. I talked to anyone that would listen. Gathering information on anxiety. I started counseling. Lots of counseling. Some of it was helpful. Some not. I began through church where we had access to something called biblical counseling. There we found comfort and help. Our elders on more than one occasion came and anointed me with oil and prayed as we see in James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” For weeks I would meet once, sometimes twice a week with Scott, one of the counselors at our church and a dear friend. My sweet mom would come with me, being unable to drive or take myself, and sit in on the counseling sessions. I think they helped her too. Scott listened, gave encouragement and spoke truth into my life. He let us wrestle and cry. He listened. I appreciate that this service is a ministry and is offered free of charge.

Unfortunately not every counselor is well qualified. I had a couple that were very helpful, but on occasion I felt more like I was being counseled “by the book”. And I, like most people, was not your typical client. I’m not sure there is a typical client. I believe although good training is essential if you aren’t really listening, to both the person and the Holy Spirit, you can miss the mark. Proverbs 1:5 – “A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Proverbs 15:22 – “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.” And so I had a multitude of counselors and I listened well. Although God was silent and felt distant, I never put my trust in something else. He was our hope. Like Peter, I would come back to the simple truth; “who else has the words of eternal life?” (John 6:68)

From the beginning John came with me. Drove me all around the county to meet with counselors that had been recommended. My first self evaluation was, have I some secret sin, something that I could dig into and confess and solve this? This is a good question and one we should ask. Sometimes distress, anxiety and depression are the result of some bad decisions, actions or behavior in our life. Places where we have locked out God. We call this sin in the Christian world. Not that I was sinless, of course, but in the end that wasn’t it. Of course on a regular basis I had my own shortcomings. And I had a short time when I was sure that I needed to confess any possible sins. A cleansing of sorts. I John 1:9 Tells us “confess your sins, and he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs understand the benefit of taking inventory of our shortcomings. This can be a good thing, but at some point it started to become neurotic. Just stop! So I did. Not everyone necessarily really wants or needs to know your deepest darkest thoughts and struggles. I’m not saying that one should NOT bring any dark places into the light. Absolutely. But it’s also prudent and wise to consider to whom and when and how much one needs to divulge. I certainly don’t want to discourage accountability or some of the steps needed to bring you to a healthy place. But I had exhausted this.

I had counselors that wanted to take me back to my childhood. This was repeated with several different “first” appointments. Not that I disagree with some backstory but it was time consuming and expensive as we kind of hopped around looking for the right connection. We also tried EMDR. This stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. EMDR changes maladaptive neural networks by connecting the traumatic memory with new information. The distressing thoughts and emotions are blended with new positive thoughts and emotions; embodied awareness allows frozen sensations in the body to resolve through healing movements. During EMDR therapy sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements. It has been proven 80% effective for PTSD,(Post traumatic stress Disorder). EMDR is thought to be effective because recalling distressing events is often less emotionally upsetting when your attention is diverted. This is all good in theory but after a few sessions the counselor admitted that I was just too anxious to even sit still and participate. Another good idea checked off the list.

A good counselor also knows when and how to recognize “words for the wind”. Things said out of fear or pain. Not so much from our soul as from our sore. At one point in my counseling at our church I said specifically, “I hate God for what he did to Job”. Yep that came right out of my mouth. A bit harsh on my part, perhaps. For those not fluent in the biblical story of Job here’s a brief synopsis. Job (pronounced Jobe, FYI) was a blameless and upright man always careful to avoid doing evil. One day the adversary (we usually think of Satan at this point) appears before God in heaven and God boasts about Job’s goodness but the adversary says Job is only good because God has blessed him. He challenges God that, if he will allow him to punish the man, Job will curse him. And shockingly, God allows it. In the course of one day Job loses first his livestock, his servants and then his 10 children. Everything. Right there you have to at least begin to understand my point of view. And albeit my words were harsh, they certainly were grounded in some pretty legit reasons. This story has always evoked strong emotion from me. Job continues to suffer and even his own wife, the one surviving family member, adds, “why don’t you curse God and die?” He refuses. Job does however begin to have questions as God allows even more suffering. Hard, harsh questions for his Creator. And dare I say, God lets him. Job says rash and presumptuous things about God in order to justify himself. Who can blame him? God was treating him as an enemy, not a friend or a child—so Job thinks. And this is where I have to agree. At this point God, like the questioning attorney responds with some powerful remarks “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” You weren’t there, Job, and you don’t know how I did it. God lays it on thick and leaves no doubt to who God is, and who Job ( or any of us) is and isn’t. Job says, “surely I spoke things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Probably one of the most beautiful verses in the bible, one that starts to give understanding to Job’s suffering is this. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”  I would get there too.  He finishes by confessing, “therefore I …repent in dust and ashes.” The whole book is phenomenal and has become one of my favorite but my words at the time were truly words for the wind. A good counselor needs to recognize this. Ones that will be blown away of themselves on the wind. I had read somewhere, “One need not clip the leaves in autumn. It is a wasted effort. They will soon blow off of themselves.” Amen.

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