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by:  John B. Woodward, D.Min.

A comic strip from the Peanuts series by Charles Schulz features Lucy in her make-shift stand with its posted sign:  “Psychiatric help 5 cents.  The doctor is IN.”  Charlie Brown has once again visited Lucy’s booth for some counseling:

Lucy: “I’ve been thinking about your case a lot lately.”

Charlie Brown: “That’s gratifying.”

Lucy: “You know what your trouble is, Charlie Brown?  You don’t have a personal philosophy.  You need to develop a philosophy that will carry you through times of stress. Can you do that?  Can you develop a personal philosophy?  Think, Charlie Brown, think!”

Charlie Brown: (Contemplating) “Life is like an ice cream cone.  You have to learn to lick it.”

Lucy: (Running away hysterically) “That’s the most stupid philosophy I’ve ever heard!  I can’t do anything for someone who has a philosophy like that!  You’re hopeless, Charlie Brown!”

Charlie Brown: “It’s hard to develop a real personal philosophy in less than twenty minutes.”1

Apparently, Lucy was never trained to handle the troubles of good old Charlie Brown!  She did have a point, though:  we need a personal belief system that will carry us through times of stress.  But when our understanding of ourselves, life, and the Lord still leaves us with chronic mental, emotional, and relational problems, we can look for some counseling help.

One of the challenges in deciding to get help, however, is to sort out what kind of counseling approach to use.  One way to put counseling options in context is to identify three broad categories of formal treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

First, the psychiatrist is trained as a medical doctor that is oriented to treat clients through medication.  This doctor specializes in organically based problems and uses drugs such as anti-psychotics (as in treating schizophrenia), lithium (as in treating bipolar disorders/manic-depressive cycles), anti-depressants (for treating endogenous depression), and anti-anxiety drugs (for treating extreme anxiety).2

Secondly, the psychologist is trained as a therapist to diagnose and treat problems of the “soul” (Gk. psuche).  Secular models of psychological counseling include:  Psychoanalytic Therapy, Existential-Humanistic Therapy, Client-Centered Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Behavior Therapy, Rational-Emotive Therapy, and Reality Therapy.  There are also versions of such secular models in which therapists, who identify themselves as Christians, seek to counsel in a way that is compatible with their faith.

Thirdly, the pastoral counselor should be trained to diagnose and facilitate recovery from spiritual problems that also affect the soul, and usually the body as well.  Pastoral counseling extends beyond “clergy”, including the ministry of any equipped believer who provides biblical counsel.  This assistance ranges from vocational biblical counselors to others who are ministering on an informal basis.

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