When your church or small group prays for someone undergoing heart surgery or receiving treatment for cancer, do you spend much time thinking about whether the surgeon or oncologist is a Christian?
After all, God is God and since He created the universe, it seems a given that He can use anyone or anything to accomplish His purposes, right? Why then does the question come up so frequently when the need for mental health treatment arises, especially for kids?
I think the critical issue for parents who have a kid in need of mental health care is finding a clinician with a track record of demonstrating excellence in their field, regardless of that person’s belief system.
The concern many parents experience about seeking help outside the Christian community is often centered around fears that they’re introducing a person into their child’s life who might be inclined to actively undermine the parents’ authority or their child’s sense of right and wrong. Good professionals seek to understand the child’s world and the family’s world and demonstrate cultural sensitivity when serving families of different backgrounds. Identifying highly effective professionals with the appropriate training and experience to work with kids may be a major challenge in large parts of the country, especially when families are limited to clinicians who contract with a particular form of insurance. The question Christian parents should ask when they approach their pastors, friends, neighbors and professionals in search of referrals for their children are:
Will this person seek a thorough understanding of why my child is experiencing difficulties leading to a plan to help them function better…academically, socially, in extracurricular activities and in an age-appropriate way as a member of our family?
I started thinking about this topic earlier today while reading in the Book of Isaiah about Cyrus. Cyrus was the Persian king who overthrew Babylon and gave permission to the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Check out this passage from The Message:
God’s Message to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom he took by the hand
To give the task of taming the nations,
of terrifying their kings—
He gave him free rein,
“I’ll go ahead of you,
clearing and paving the road.
I’ll break down bronze city gates,
smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances.
I’ll lead you to buried treasures,
secret caches of valuables—
Confirmations that it is, in fact, I, God,
the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
It’s because of my dear servant Jacob,
Israel my chosen,
That I’ve singled you out, called you by name,
and given you this privileged work.
And you don’t even know me!
I am God, the only God there is.
Besides me there are no real gods.
I’m the one who armed you for this work,
though you don’t even know me,
So that everyone, from east to west, will know
that I have no god-rivals.
I am God, the only God there is.
I form light and create darkness,
I make harmonies and create discords.
I, God, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:1-7 (MSG)
It’s God doing the work. He has things under control. He can use anyone or anything to accomplish His purposes.
With that said, in our next post I’ll suggest when parents should consider seeking out a mental health professional who is also a Christian.
Updated May 23. 2014.
Key Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!
I may have a unique perspective. I am actually a patient of a doctor and therapist who are employed by an organization that prevents them from talking about whether or not they are Christians. In seeing both of these people, I have a hard time trying to implement especially what the therapist says because it seems to be a direct opposite of what the Bible teaches. I am told that I need to put myself first, but the Bible teaches to put others first. If I were seeing a Christian therapist, I might be able to resolve that conflict and many others. Because of that, I am on seeing my therapist when I absolutely have to. With the psychiatrist, it’s not as bad because I only see her for medication and I only take the medication as a last resort.
So, would I recommend that parents take their children to see a Christian therapist? Definitely. As for a psychiatrist, I don’t know on that one. I think that seeing a Christian doctor is preferable, but not as much of a necessity as for a therapist. That’s my two cents.
I was having a conversation today about how cultural sensitivity needs to work both ways. Lots of mental health professionals talk about the importance of understanding and respecting the values of others, but the reality is they only do so for as long as they AGREE with those values. I would think that understanding your identity as a Christian would be essential to a counselor or therapist helping you to identify solutions to problems consistent with your values and world view.
In fairness, I can understand why some therapists wouldn’t think it’s relevant to share their own beliefs with the folks they treat. Unless they’re careful, it’s easy for the session to become about THEM as opposed to the person they’re supposed to be helping. I’ve found that on occasion, a little bit of well-timed self-disclosure, if done for the benefit of the kid I’m seeing or their parents, often helps.
Thanks for reading the blog.
When a Christian seeks help for their child they want a person who will steer them in a biblical direction. A non-christian therapist will have no clue regarding the biblical principle of denying oneself for the needs of another. I have actually been to both a Christian and non-christian therapist for my child and the advice was very different. Seek Godly advice for everything you do when possible. Do not settle!
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This is a home run, Steve! Thanks! VERY well done!
I was privileged to see a specialist in Boston who is secular. I had severe OCD, and unfortunately there is a great lack of secular specialists properly trained to treat OCD, never mind Christian specialists. My psychologist was very respectful of my belief system and even helped me to incorporate it into my treatment. I think the key is to question the potential therapist carefully. The best part is that as my illness improved, my relationship with Jesus improved as well.
I saw a secular specialist in Boston as I had severe OCD and there is a huge lack of properly trained OCD therapists, never mind Christian OCD specialists. I was very clear about my belief system, and my psychologist was very respectful and even incorporated it into my therapy. As my illness got better, my relationship with Jesus improved too. I think the key is to carefully question any potential therapist. Blanket statements about things like this can be dangerous. Thank you for a thoughtful post.