Counseling with Truth
Secular counseling is most often based on what's called Cognitive Behavioral Theory and Therapy (CBT). It's considered the "gold standard" of treatment for most mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. One of the initial founders of this theory was Albert Ellis, who in 1955, came to the conclusion that our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are connected in such a way, that to change one of them, is to change all of them. If it isn't obvious, counseling focuses primarily on thinking, two people sit together and talk, sharing their thoughts. The counselor is attempting to influence and hopefully change the thinking of the client, with the ultimate goal of improving the negative emotional and behavioral patterns being presented.
When I first began to study scripture (mind you I was already a psychologist at this time), I was continually amazed at the depth of wisdom it contained, particularly when it seemed to predate what I'd been taught and what was presented as being relatively new information, like the CBT theory of 1955. One day in my reading, I came across 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says,
"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."
So first of all, let's give credit where credit is due. God was the One to came up with the idea that our thinking gets us into trouble and that it must be dealt with swiftly. Let's really consider what this verse is saying. Those "arguments" and "pretensions" are our very own thoughts and according to scripture, they are set against God and His truth. Then we are given a command, to "take captive" each and every thought that disagrees with God's word and bring those thoughts into agreement with truth.
CBT teaches that people who suffer from a variety of mental maladies have what are called "irrational thoughts." So the goal is to identify and change irrational thoughts to more rational thoughts and Voila!-- you impact a change in emotions, and subsequent behavioral choices. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, I began to question, "Who should decide what's rational?" We live in a post-modern culture, where truth is relative. Meaning, what's true for one person, isn't necessarily true for another person. If you identify as a red-lipped batfish (look it up and tell me God isn't creative), then the culture says, "Be the best batfish you can be, no one can tell you that you're not!" If you attempt to challenge this "truth," you will more than likely be labeled intolerant. It would be similar to preferring that 1 + 1 = 3, and if that somehow improves your sense of self-esteem, then who am I to disagree and cause you emotional distress?
If someone told you that 1 + 1 = 3, you might be inclined to think a number of things about them, but overall you could say definitively that they were not being truthful. God does not refer to our thinking in terms rational versus irrational, rather He uses the words truth versus lies.
"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" Romans 1:25
Scripture also tells us that since we ALL suffer from a heart that is deceptive, that we would be unwise to trust in ourselves.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5
In the case of a client coming into my office in emotional distress, they are typically presenting with thoughts that are not based in truth and so are not in a position to decipher what's "rational" or they wouldn't be in my office seeking outside help. So then, should I be the one to determine what's "rational?" I mean I am the "professional" with all the fancy degrees hanging on the wall, right? By no means! I can only rely on God's word to inform me of what is true and what is not. This does not necessarily mean that my graduate education was worthless (although admittedly much of it was), but rather that it must be filtered through the truths contained in God's word in order for it to have any value.
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness" 1 Corinthians 3:19
"Choose My instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it." Proverbs 8:10-11
Although I do use some of my training as a psychologist in working with people, I have found God's word to be sufficient in understanding human behavior as well as sufficient in it's power to change the condition of the human heart. It is not and never will be the wisdom of this world and human reasoning that leads to real transformation and healing. Scripture warns us about the world's wisdom and how it contaminates our thinking and our hearts. It also points to the true source of change.
"This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic." James 3:15
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." Proverbs 16:25
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" Romans 12:2
Lastly, consider Jesus's words as recorded by his disciple John and ask yourself if you know the Truth. There is no middle ground, you're either following after the wisdom found in the world or you're following the wisdom only God can give through His written word. Only one leads to life and peace.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6
"If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
What're you waiting for?