Updated: Mar 24
An essential and necessary element is often lacking in the mental health field.
In my own experience, the spiritual realm was off limits in most secular mental health facilities I worked in. This part of the client’s life was usually reserved for a chaplain staff member to address…but to me it was the most important factor in one’s mental health to incorporate. I often felt lost in how to help people with fidelity to the most important aspect of their humanity – the soul – while also trying to operate within my limits as a mental health clinician.
After completing my master’s program in Mental Health Counseling and working in various treatment facilities and levels of care, I kept thinking “that’s it??”. I knew there was more to healing. I knew that we were bypassing something imperative to the human experience. After all, for the Christian life, the eternal is all that truly matters and what we are called to live for. 1 Timothy 6:12 says “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Additionally, Christ boldly speaks into the hearts of believers in Luke 9:23-24 stating “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”
The Bible is the roadmap for the Christian life. It is the spiritual food we need to consume daily and live by to cope with the realities of this world, to seek peace, and to experience the love that heals all wounds. The Gospel of Matthew states that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Just as we need food, water, and shelter to survive, we also need spiritual instruction and a relationship with our divine Creator to be truly and wholly well.
As a therapist who worked in the secular world for nearly 8 years prior to switching over to Christian-based counseling, I can tell you that there is a spiritual brokenness in many that leaves them on a hamster wheel of “healing” that does not work long-term.
I worked with countless clients of varying belief systems outside of Christianity, often atheist or occult worldviews, and their wounds were deeply and so obviously spiritual. Many of them had encountered horrible traumas that led them to extreme coping skills such as addiction, eating disorders, self-harming, chronic relationship issues and more (not to say these things don't impact us all). But when the topic of faith in something greater arose, many of them shut down completely and were unwilling to discuss concepts of God. Others had fallen into the trap and deception of the enemy and were blinded to eternal truth that could provide actual relief. Life broke them down in such a way that left them utterly empty and desperate to stop the pain with things of the world - materialism, wealth, success, meaningless relationships, fruitless "spiritual practices", self-focused narcissism, etc.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that God has "written eternity in the heart of man." Additionally, the entire book of Ecclesiastes talks about the meaninglessness of this life without God, and why the avenues mentioned above lead to spiritual burnout. There is a hole within us that this world cannot fill, and there is a battle between our flesh (our humanness) and our spirit that seeks to steal the promise of eternity from our futures. Romans 8:6 says “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Lastly, 1 Peter 2:11 states “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
Furthermore, there is a toxic culture of “self-love” taking over the mental health field. Of course, most things are not black and white with this concept absolutely being included. Loving ourselves is important in healing and caring for our temporal needs and our bodies, but we must also be balanced and tempered with healthy self-denial as Christians as this is the sacrifice we are called to in order to be a disciple of Christ.
Self-denial is a concept that our modern world is unfamiliar with but it is a profound spiritual practice that addresses so much of the human struggles we face. Romans 12:2 emphasizes the counter-culture we are to live by as Christians, stating “do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Everything about how we live, how we think, how we behave, and how we heal is unique as Christians, and often seems backwards to the rest of the world. I encourage you to find a sound therapist that operates from this worldview, who infuses the Word of God into your counseling, and who has a genuine love for the Christian spiritual life. One who understands these concepts and practices them will help you in ways that no secular approach will be able to come close to. All the skills and evidence-based practices in the world will only take you so far. When it comes to the trauma and wounding of this broken world, your soul (the eternal) is what will ultimately need to be healed beyond the mind and body (the temporal).
Lastly, remember the promise of our Lord in Jeremiah 30:17 stating "I will restore you to health and heal your wounds." He wants to heal you. He can and will supernaturally heal you. He made you for a loving and fulfilling relationship with Him...but we have to answer the call and come to the end of ourselves and this world.
Soul Revival Christian Counseling is based in San Antonio, Texas and is accepting clients for virtual counseling in Texas and Colorado. Please visit us at https://www.soulrevivalchristiancounseling.com for more information or to book a free 30 minute phone consultation with Michelle Byrd, M.Ed., LPC.
** DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not therapeutic or medical advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 988 or 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255). **