The Role of Spiritual Wellbeing in Advancing Mental Health

Rock House Center presented at the TLPCA pre-conference leadership dinner on April 9, 2015.  This presentation by Marisa White, PhD, LPC, NCC, Holly Barruso, MA, LMFT, and Rock House Center Founder John R. Murphy validates the importance of addressing spiritually in mental health interventions and the effectiveness of Rock House Center’s approach to purely Biblical counseling. To review the presentation slides please click on the link below.

TLPCA The Role of Spiritual Wellbeing in Advancing Mental Health

Posted in Behavior health, Biblical Counseling, Dr. Marisa White, Mental heatlh, Spiritual Well-Being, Spiritually directed care, TLPC | Tagged , , , , ,

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What Happened to My Marriage?

“What happened to my marriage?” is the deeply troubling and personal question in the hearts of Rock House Center clients looking for a pathway to a restored marriage. While the details of each situation are unique, the root cause and the way out of the suffering are actually very consistent. So much so that we have come to refer to this foundational issue of a struggling marriage as Cause #1. We haven’t identified a Cause #2, because we have not seen anything else more prevalent in challenged marriages. The #1 answer, of course, is God’s pathway to restoration.

 It is commonly said that “likes attract”, while others declare with equal confidence that “opposites attract”. Either way, there is also the underlying belief that for whatever reason these personalities do mysteriously attract, they are meant to be together. Most beliefs about attraction include the assumption that the attraction is destined to result in marriage or at least a relationship which will bless them both. As a result of working with couples who come to Rock House Center to address their struggling marriages, we have come to see a very different pattern of attraction.

Mutual emptiness and the attraction it generates are at the center of the struggle. The depth of the mutual need is greater than either spouse could ever fill. The unmet expectations quickly bring about frustration and blame focused on the spouse. We cannot give what we do not have, so a marriage under these circumstances is destined for disappointment. Even though the relationship may start off strong due to the strength of the attraction, it is prone to derail.

This mutual emptiness is commonly caused by emotional or physical abuse, extreme criticism, conditional love, and performance-based acceptance from key life figures like a parent. People with these feelings are truly suffering and seek to find someone to fill their emptiness. They work hard at relationships that hold the promise of being the answer to how bad they feel about themselves. That includes investing a great deal of emotional energy and time pursuing and winning over their relationship interest.

When two people in this emotional state meet, they are readily drawn to the pursuit and all the positive attention associated with the courting stage. The mutual attention begins to address and relieve their emptiness, and that relief advances the relationship. Both people are seeking approval and assurance in the relationship and work very hard to please each other. This communicates that the other is valued. Feeling valued by someone you value begins to soothe negative emotions of worthlessness or feeling unworthy to be loved.  This soothing is a powerful attraction to advance the relationship. During courtship, this “positive energy” keeps them together and leads to longer term commitments. The problem comes when it is revealed that the relationship is running on emptiness.

The persona that each has displayed to this point is not sustainable, and interactions begin to sour with the first criticism, indifference, distraction, unkindness, or disinterest. When spouses have healthy levels of self-worth, this can be dismissed with grace toward each other. When it happens between two people with low self-esteem, the slightest negative comment hurts to the core of their well-being. Instead of the needed forgiveness, there is offense and probably obsession to blame or fix the other as the seeming source of the pain. The relationship quickly begins to erode, simply because people make mistakes, offense is taken and never truly forgiven, and disappointment and disillusionment set in.

As unforgiven offenses collect in the heart of both spouses, the behavior which first caused their own emptiness begins to manifest, launching a degenerative relationship spiral for which there is only one hope. As trite as it may sound to some, the only hope is the love of God and forgiveness. The only answer for the unconditional love and acceptance we all need is God. Imperfect people on their best day cannot satisfy the need we all have for unconditional love and emotional intimacy. People universally need assurance that there is someone with whom they can be completely transparent who will always love them back. True unconditional love is a divine need which can only be filled by the divine – God.

God has the way out. The restoration begins with forgiveness – starting with forgiving your spouse and working your way back through the timeline of your life to all of those who you rightfully hoped would affirm your value. Our parents, who did the best they could with their own life history, may well be on the list. Next we need to reject any lie we believe that we are somehow too flawed for God to love us without our earning it. Then we need to ask God to help us establish our worth in the belief of His perfect love for us. Do all of this in prayer to your loving Heavenly Father Who is always trustworthy to love you back. Over time, He will fill your emptiness from His wellspring of love for you.

 

 

Posted in Biblical Counseling, christian counseling, Counseling, Crisis, depression, Marriage, Marriage enrichment, Mid life crisis, Need help with my marriage, Self esteem, Self worth, Selfworth | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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Helping Your Child Win the Faith Battle in College with “Therapeutic Discipleship”

50% of students lose their faith after four years of college1. Common sense tells you that if your child is already struggling to make good decisions in high school, it is highly probable that their decisions will become worse in college. They are also at high risk to disavow their faith by the time they graduate. The inability of church and family-based discipleship to change behavior and build a resilient foundation of faith leaves college freshmen at the mercy of a worldly and virtually rule-less environment with no accountability or incentive to strengthen moral resolve.

If you are hoping that your student will find a Christian college professor, remember that 96% of college professors don’t believe that the Bible is the word of God and 51% say that it is a “book of fables”2. That leaves you counting on your child to connect with some college ministry. The truth about campus ministries is that they are unsuccessful in engaging any significant percentage of professing Christian freshmen and have no better impact than the church in changing behavior. No, this problem needs to be addressed directly and done so before your student leaves home and is away from parental and church guidance.

From our perspective in providing Biblical counseling to young adults, it’s clear that the best efforts of Christian youth groups, church programs, and discipleship-minded parents is not always enough. Young adults who are acting out through rebellion, sexual activity, self-harm and substance abuse are usually struggling with anger, low self-worth, depression, anxiety, and fear. These root causes of their self-destructive behavior cannot be resolved through traditional means. Therapeutic discipleship in the form of Biblical counseling is the most effective way to resolve the root causes of negative emotions and the resulting harmful behavior.

Biblical counseling as we uniquely define it at Rock House Center is in effect “therapeutic discipleship”. With this approach a person is simultaneously strengthening and advancing their Christian faith while resolving the motivators of unwanted behaviors. College freshmen with a firm foundation of faith who are free of negative emotions and grounded in their Christian identity have the best chance to succeed in college and in life.

1 University of Destruction. David Wheaton, (2005)

2How Religious are America’s College and University Professors? Neil Gross, Solon Simmons (2006)

Posted in anger, anxiety, Biblical Counseling, depression, Discipleship, Emotional healing, Faith, Selfworth, Suicide | Tagged , , , , , , ,

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Christian Counseling vs. Biblical Counseling Models

The labels of Christian Counseling and Biblical Counseling do little to clarify the difference between them nor do they define the distinctions within these two surprisingly dissimilar approaches. As a result, people looking for a Christ centered healing experience from a life challenge are likely to be surprised with what they find. It is important to understand the distinctions to avoid a frustrating and potentially expensive false start in trying to get help.

This list of key differences should provide some direction:

Key difference #1 – Foundational Approach

  • Christian Counseling is primarily focused on modifying behavior through the use of secular therapy delivered by a Christian counselor. A spiritual perspective may be added to varying degrees. Does not often include prayer.
  • Biblical Counseling is focused on using Biblical truth to change behavior and incorporates prayer as a key element.

Key difference #2 – Mechanism for change

  • Christian counseling functions under the belief that if you believe differently, you will act and feel differently. Largely avoids beliefs that are at the level of character, faith and values.
  • Biblical Counseling generally operates under the concept of “sufficiency of scripture” within which is the supposition that if you know what the Bible says, your awareness combined with your effort to comply will bring change.
  • Rock House Center Biblical Counseling relies on facilitating God-led conviction regarding the condition of one’s heart as compared to the character of Christ and responding in repentance as the basis for change.

Key difference # 3 – Mechanism for sustained change

  • Christian Counseling and virtually all Biblical Counseling attempt to sustain change through new beliefs empowered by one’s discipline to override the unwanted emotions or behavior.
  • Rock House Center Biblical counseling places trust in God to remove unwanted emotions and reduce the desire for the unwanted behavior, so that the client progressively makes more successful life decisions.

 Awareness of these key differences is a valuable guide in finding the counseling model that most resonates with one’s religious beliefs and practices. More importantly, following the guide should reduce the time, energy and resources expended before relief from the life challenge is realized.

Posted in Biblical Counseling, christian counseling | Tagged ,

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Escaping the High Cost of Emotional Suffering – Truth

Replacing Damaging Lies with Life-Giving Truth

Healthcare professionals have long acknowledged that our beliefs about life, ourselves and God impact our emotional wellbeing and therefore our health. Our experience at Rock House Center is that most people are suffering under the burden of false beliefs that bring about negative emotions like: fear, depression, hopelessness, low self-esteem and others. These emotions account for significant healthcare costs and loss of productivity.

While the key to addressing false, damaging beliefs continues to be elusive through traditional secular methods, biblical counseling is a highly effective model of replacing lies with truth. The reason it is so successful is that God’s ultimate Truth is the basis to defeat lies and redirect beliefs toward hopeful, positive thinking.

We know from scripture that Jesus has no lies in Him, that God desires us to reflect His character and that Satan is the father of lies which advance his murderous intent. Satan advances his purposes with lies, while Jesus advances the will of the Father with Truth.

So we want to rid ourselves of any lies we believe and replace them with God’s Truth. That would be consistent with God’s desire to make us like Christ and remove the tormenting lies. A lie must be believed to harm us. Any lie is a direct assault on the abundant inner life that scripture promises believers.

The Word says that the Truth shall set you free. If so, then a lie is an implement of bondage. Being in bondage is being in the control of another.

We meet regularly with people who struggle because they believe lies that result in low self-esteem, sometimes believing that they are virtually worthless. Some sources of those lies are:

  • Having a father or mother who was not emotionally equipped or physically present to express the love the child needed, resulting in the belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with them or they are not good enough to be loved.
  • Statements ranging from ‘you are a failure’ to ‘God is punishing you because of how bad you are’.
  • Wrongly concluding that based on their life, God must not love them or has turned His back on them.
  • Beliefs that ‘I have to earn God’s love’ or ‘work to be assured of salvation’.

 

All of these beliefs are actually tormenting, joy-robbing lies that damage the quality of life and potentially lead to self-destruction. A most tragic outcome resulting from lies is the person who chooses to take their own life. Do they come to this place knowing the truth of who God is and how much He loves them? No! They have believed a series of lies that has brought them to a point of believing the last fatal lie that the permanent solution of death is their best answer to the way they feel about their life at that moment.

One of the most important life truths is that our value has been established by the God of the universe through His perfect love for us. Any other basis for our sense of self-worth is fleeting and untrustworthy.

God has known us, loved us, fought for us, sacrificed for us and paid for us, so that He can spend eternity with us. What could be a greater statement of our value? We cannot separate God’s love for us from how much He values us. The Truth of how greatly you are valued is inextricably intertwined with how much you are loved by Him. Our God loves us, so your value is absolute, eternal and unassailable.

Ask God to reveal what lie you have believed that contradicts how much God loves and values you. And if there is a person you need to forgive for communicating that lie, pray that He would bring that person to your mind. Then we will pray to reject that lie and offer forgiveness to the person.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the truth of Your love and that I can be assured of my worth through Your perfect and eternal love for me. Please reveal the lie I have believed that opposes Your truth and show me if there is anyone that I need to forgive.”

“Heavenly Father, I reject the lie that my worth can be established by anything other than You. I specifically reject the lie that_______. I accept the Truth that You love me and value me perfectly. I declare that You value me immensely and desire to have me in Your kingdom for eternity. I reject all lies about my worth from how people have treated me or what they have spoken over me or any lie that opposes the truth of how much You love and value me. I also forgive them and ask You to forgive them as well. Please heal these people of the lies they suffer under so that they could be free of their suffering and prosper.

Father please forgive me for believing a lie that opposes Your truth and remove Satan’s access to torment and control me through lies. I ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus. Amen.”

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