Part 2 – TREATING EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Secondly, you should explore the EMOTIONAL and SPIRITUAL roots of your depression. This can be done in many ways. The first, of course, is to see a counselor. There are many fine Christian and non-Christian counselors out there. Within Christianity, there are three schools of thought regarding therapy.
1. Therapy Is From The Devil
The argument goes like this… “modern therapists rely on a worldly, humanistic, unbiblical view of man. They deny the real problem, our sin, and our need for God and his salvation. They even encourage couples having problems to try having affairs!” The problems with this fanatical, unbalanced, isolationist view are many.
- It Denies the Value of Science There are many strengths, and some weaknesses, in science and the scientific method. The main strength is that, through observation and experimentation, you can learn a LOT about the causes and mechanisms of phenomenon in the natural world. Modern physics, chemistry, and medicine have all been built on the scientific method, and have benefited us greatly. These same methods have been applied to the psychological disciplines, and we can benefit tremendously from that knowledge as well. One weakness in science is that your assumptions and your world view affect how you interpret your observations. However, rather than throw out all psychological science because of *some* scientists’ misinterpretation of results, it is better to use the information from within a Christian framework (or whatever framework you think makes sense). A good example of this is the argument over homosexuality. Both secular and religious scientists have studied homosexuality. Mainstream psychology has decided that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon, probably caused by physiology. However, some Christian therapists believe that homosexuality has its origin in primarily environmental factors, problems in gender identity development caused by poor or absent gender role models in the life of a child. They have developed therapy to “heal” homosexuals based on this model. Same data, different assumptions. The point is, data can be interpreted with any set of assumptions and world-view you want, including a biblical one.
- It Characterizes All Therapists As Immoral and Anti-God This is just a fanatical scare tactic. There are good and bad therapists. Some are atheists, many are not. Not all spiritual psychologists are good, not all “secular” ones are bad.
- It Ignores Emotional Needs and Provides Simplistic Religious Answers Sometimes simple answers are the best, but with complex emotional issues, simplistic advice, especially from trusted “leaders,” not only falls short, but makes the recipient feel inadequate because it didn’t work for them – even though the fault was with the advice, they trust others more than themselves (sometimes with good reason – you may have very little faith in yourself at low points in life, which is ok). People who can offer *only* simplistic answers like “just trust God” or “stop focusing on your self and you will be fine” have never really successfully dealt with deep emotional scars within themselves or within a significant population of others. Avoid them because they will only do damage.
2. Standard Therapy, Including Medication, Can Be Used Within A Christian World-View
This is a more balanced view. It allows for the integration of spirituality and standard, tested therapeutic methods. It acknowledges and uses all that science has learned about how to treat depression, as well as our need for God in the healing process.
- Pastoral Counseling v. Psychotherapy Be aware that pastoral counseling is not the same thing as psychotherapy. Pastors may have some superficial and useful skills that they learned in seminary regarding counseling, but they usually do not have the deep skillset that someone with an entire degree in counseling has. A Christian psychotherapist may have many more tools at his disposal to help you uncover and resolve deep issues. Pastoral counseling, though usually free and easily accessible, may only be good if your issues can be solved in a few visits. If you have ongoing issues, you probably need regular and ongoing therapy for more than a year.
To help you determine just what kind of therapist you might need, check out CBN’s excellent article about How to Choose A Christian Counselor. You can also check out the AACC to see how much is going on in this arena.
3. Standard Therapy Must Be Supplemented With (Or Replaced By) Healing And Deliverance Ministry
Some Christians, and other spiritual healers, realize that psychological problems like depression have a spiritual component, and often, there are spiritual problems at the root of illness, such as guilt, hatred, and existential loneliness. While some healing and deliverance ministries do great work, some focus almost exclusively on this method of healing, and claim that up to 80% of sickness is caused by demons. Those that eschew psychology and recommend ONLY healing via spiritual healing and deliverance are probably to be avoided.
- Deliverance So-called “Healing and Deliverance” ministry is a specialized Christian school of thought and practice. Deliverance is short for “deliverance from tormenting spirits and possession,” while healing is merely healing of emotions via many other methods. The idea behind deliverance is that through sins or soul injuries, a person has allowed evil spirits into their lives, and in many areas, are subject to emotional torment, resulting in mental and physical sicknesses. They do not have the power of will or spirit to be free of such things, and need someone with spiritual power and authority to pray over them and help them be freed of these influences. In extreme cases, the person’s will is totally subsumed by demonic activity – these people are called “possessed,” and need exorcism. One of the gross errors in Healing and Deliverance ministries is an overemphasis on casting out demons. It takes a spiritually sensitive person to determine when a person needs prayer for healing and when they actually need someone with spiritual authority to “cast out” or expel spirits. Much emotional damage has been done to people who didn’t have demons, just wounds that needed healing.
- Inner Healing Inner healing can take many forms, including: a. Inner Child Work This was pioneered by people like John Bradshaw, and is based on the psychological model of Erik Eriksson (8 Stages of Psychosocial Development). This work is very powerful, but there are few if any good Christian books on the subject (opportunity?) b. Healing Prayer Healing prayer, a.k.a “deep prayer” was pioneered by people like Leanne Payne, who started out in the ex-gay movement. However, her work has spread to heterosexuals as well. Another significant name in the inner healing prayer movement is Francis McNutt, who has a powerful prayer and teaching ministry of inner healing. I went to a McNutt meeting once, and it was quite an experience. He has published quite a few books, and you can also hear one of his seminars online. c. Logos Therapy A.k.a. “Bible Therapy”, this method depends mostly on “renewing the mind” by learning to view yourself, God, and others from a biblical point of view. Usually, repentance, restitution, and forgiveness are emphasized. Logos Therapy also emphasizes God’s salvation through Jesus as central to healing. This is often practiced as a substitute for regular therapy by people who don’t trust psychology, and want to use “God’s psychology,” i.e. the bible only, for healing.