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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bontrager

The Struggles of Trauma, Mental Illness & the Christian Life

There is so much confusion among Christians about the issue of counseling and mental illness. Some think that it undermines the authority of Scripture to even see a therapist. Others seem to lack discernment about how to prevent therapy becoming a gateway to unbiblical life choices. We asked our friend, Dr. David King, professor in social work at Indiana Wesleyan University, to come on the show and share his perspectives about the intersection of therapy and the Christian worldview.




 

Dr. David King is a helpful voice in the area of mental health and he is a member of our Academic Advisory Council at CFBU. Dr. King  has been working in the social work field for 30 years providing services in church, community, and private practice settings. He holds a Doctorate in Social Work from Walden University in Social Work Administration, a Master's in Social Work from the University of Kentucky, and a Master's in Pastoral Counseling from Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. King is a licensed clinical social worker in Michigan. 

Within the realm of mental health, professionals may call themselves “Christian counselors”, but this meaning varies widely.

Types of Counselors:

  • Isolated: this person often focuses primarily on the Biblical perspective, while ignoring other mental health research/theories; the counselor may often quote Bible verses and tends to over-spiritualize things

  • Accommodating: people who would call themselves “Christian counselors” but are not very discerning; in other words, they may utilize a variety of different counseling approaches from their professional training, while also calling themselves a Christian, but with no actual understanding/application of the broader worldview implications

  • Integration: utilizing theories or evidence from the world and integrating these well with a Biblical perspective; in other words, understanding how a method/theory may or may not align with Biblical principles and recognizing whether it is consistent with God’s Word

Development of “Trauma”:

  • Historically, the concept of PTSD initially came from experiences of war veterans, in terms of identifying symptoms and reactions

  • Generally speaking, trauma is the things that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope and it could have a long lasting impact; it manifests in an overwhelming fear response

  • Factors of frequency, duration, and intensity will affect the level of trauma symptoms

  • It’s important for Christians to ask, “Is this true?” when evaluating situations of trauma; if a counselor is constantly catastrophizing situations, this will lead to cognitive distortion, which is detrimental to healing and growth

Perspective of Therapy:

As Christians, we must be informed by our Biblical worldview and ask:

  • What do we believe the problem is; therefore, what do we believe the solution is?

  • For example, how is sin playing into this problem? Sin is pervasive, so how is my personal sin involved, in addition to the fallen state of our biology, relationships, etc

  • Be careful not to be reductionistic. In other words, the source of the problem is not based on only one thing! 

What do I look for when looking for a Christian counselor?

  • What is their training and educational background?

  • What is their theoretical and clinical approach? 

  • Just because a therapeutic practice is evidenced-based, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for a Christian to utilize (eg Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)

  • What is their theological perspective?

How can I be a good client?

  • Don’t just show up and expect your perspectives (and potentially false and misguided views!) to be affirmed

  • Be ready to engage in the efforts of truth-telling

  • Change takes work; for Christians, this is a process of sanctification!


 


 

Resources:


Click here to download Dr. King's free e-book:




Association for Christians in Health and Human Services:




Come see us at the Unshaken Conference! Check out the trailer and then click the link to register for the conference near you! Use the code FRIEND20 to get 20% off the ticket price!




Connect with the Guest:


Check out Dr. King's website: https://www.healingourpainfulexperiences.com/


Dr. King's faculty page at Indiana Wesleyan University: https://www.indwes.edu/academics/faculty/david-king



Sponsor:


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