Saturday, July 12, 2014

One Big Obstacle to Counseling Success

It was another really hard session – tempers were up and hope was down. Nan and I had tried for months to get this couple on track. They were both devout Christians and really good willed people. It seemed like every positive move was sabotaged by another destructive one. Although we had our suspicions, we couldn’t definitively pinpoint the problem person in the relationship. Was one spouse just too passive or was the other too aggressive? Did we have a well concealed addict and a co-dependent unwilling to speak up?

As it turned out, it was neither. We had an undiagnosed disorder that was unpredictable. You might think figuring this out would be a big victory, but it wasn’t at first. Now we had the task of convincing both spouses that it needed treatment beyond talk – to us and God. It required medication for any real change to take place. But there was resistance. Why? It was a twofold problem. The couple came from a religious tradition that believed that taking medication meant that one lacked faith in God’s power to heal. And the second reason was that to seek a medical solution meant having to humble oneself and admit that they were the problem or at least a large part of it and not their spouse.

What finally happened?  As I said earlier, these people were good willed people who were truly committed to following Christ. Humility paved the way to surrender, and we were able to get them to make an appointment with a psychiatrist, who accurately treated the disorder. After that we were able to make real progress in counseling. Grace reigned as they dealt with issues of resentments and the subsequent forgiveness. Yes, both people did have a part in the problem, but the disorder prevented them from making progress. Instead they got stuck in an endless cycle of blame and defend. The medication changed the entire atmosphere of the counseling sessions. They got unstuck.

What ultimately is needed in these situations? 

  • Humility – a willingness to investigate the possibility that you might need additional medical help. Sometimes it is not a belief that holds a person back, but just plain stubbornness (sin). We have actually identified the problem, understand that the most effective solution would be medication, but the person wants other people to accommodate their dysfunctional behaviors rather than have to take a step that feels distasteful to them.
  • Kindness – anger will never move a couple or individual forward. 
  • Courage – it is difficult to move beyond our fears and closely held beliefs. 
  • Embracing Grief – It may require embracing the loss that comes with surrender. What loss? The feeling of loss of control or power, the loss of my belief that I am right and you are wrong or something else similar 

2 Cautions 

Medication alone is not sufficient to deal with the problem -- it takes a combination of medication and counseling to deal effectively with the issue. The second caution is never go off the medication without a doctor's approval. There is a tendency to start feeling much better after a while and then believe that everything is great. You are feeling better because you are taking the medication. Listen to the doctor's instructions carefully and follow his/her advice.

I really love this talk from Pastor Tommy Nelson on his fight with depression. He embodies the things I have been talking about.

 Click the link and enjoy! 
Proverbs 15:22 (ESV) Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

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