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Should I Seek Professional Counseling?

If you’ve skimmed through the news lately, you might have noticed the increased calls for help concerning emotional, mental, and marital issues.  One state reported an 800% increase in calls to their suicide hotline. It should come as no surprise as this quarantine has isolated those who are in need of healthy community, accountability, and counsel. It has imprisoned individuals who have unresolved tensions with those they live with. 

I think it’s important for us to recognize that many of these issues were not directly caused by the pandemic but were brought to light by it. As we saw about a month ago, people were stocking up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and masks, and many were mocked for it. But how sad it is when one turns up their nose to their neighbor simply because their reaction seems foolish. The reality is, most behaviors are reflections of the actual root problem which further encourages us to be slow to judge and quick to listen.

Has this season of quarantine shed light in any dark areas in our lives? Perhaps years spent ignoring or running away from an issue is now impossible due to this virus. We’re placed in a situation where we must confront matters and can no longer depend on our jobs, gyms, or other public areas for escape. The greatest tragedy is that many solutions exist today, but because we are too afraid, are not aware, or have reached a point where we simply cannot do it ourselves, we refuse help. Speaking from personal experience, it is easier to numb the pain rather than go through the unknowns the solution holds, but no matter how much we salve the wound, the pain doesn’t go away until we cure the cause.

I want to encourage you by reminding you that there is hope today, in Christ, and one of the steps toward restoration is through counseling, and more specifically, biblical counseling.

“What is the norm and why do you believe it to be so?”

One of the most powerful questions that I’ve been asked by a counselor was, “What is the norm and why do you believe it to be so?” It’s a question that challenges us to investigate the origins of our behavior and responses in life. Consider a child who grew up in a family where the parents would often argue violently. You could understand this would definitely influence what she would consider normal ‘arguing’ behavior in her future marriage. What she believes to be the norm, can actually be too aggressive to others. Children who grow up in abusive families tend to grow up with issues of insecurity—constantly anxious about whether or not they have done enough to please their parents. I would claim that this is one of the biggest reasons why many do not seek counseling, because they don’t realize their understanding of the norm is not healthy at all! They believe it is, but when placed in the context of God’s Word, it’s not right at all. 

Ever wondered why you have certain responses in life that cause discomfort? Are you tired of certain behavioral responses or reactions that continue to come back no matter how hard you try to avoid or ignore the scenarios that trigger them? It is possible that there are certain root issues that haven’t been fully confronted or resolved that cause these triggers. 

This is one of the reasons why I’m a proponent for biblical counseling, because scripture is the norm and the Spirit and truth of God dives deep into the hearts of people, not only offering an explanation of the issue at hand, but the power to heal it as well. Scripture is very clear on how parents should treat their children, how husbands are to treat their wives, and how to treat our neighbors. God’s word is the correct norm we innately desire in our lives. 

Before I close, here are some common hurdles and counter-arguments that prevent us from seeking professional counsel:

  1. Fear – As mentioned earlier, sometimes fear of the unknown (often associated with the healing process) is so intimidating that we choose to continue to suffer because that is familiar to us. I encourage you to seek counsel from your pastors and mature Christian friends to help you walk through these things. The question we have to answer for ourselves is, “Do I actually want to get better?” We must recognize how restoration helps us live out a life that glorifies the Lord. Who is our Lord? What does he have to say about fear and anxiety?
  2. Shame – Coming from a culture of honor and shame, I can totally understand the fear of embarrassment that comes from seeking professional help. “What will other people think of me?  What if people think I’m crazy or weak?” I encourage you to remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Our sense of value and purpose in life is not defined by our weaknesses nor our circumstances but what Christ has done for us. True Christian brothers and sisters do not mock those who are in need, but rather understand that as sinners themselves, we need all the help we can get to overcome through Christ. I have many examples to share about this (speaking as a Korean-American) but if I could summarize all of those examples: it is better to face that shame and get better than to hold your ‘honor’ and continue to suffer.
  3. Money – Sadly, this is a common and valid reason why many do not seek counseling.  But please do not let this be a reason not to get help! Sometimes churches can have benevolence funds to help directly for these types of things. Many professional counselors work on a ‘sliding scale’ where they can adjust their fees according to your needs. Certain counseling groups can also accept your insurance if you have any. Even though it’s difficult, let’s look for reasons to accomplish rather than run away. 
  4. Pride – Perhaps the most deceptive and destructive reason is pride. Perhaps to save time, money, and effort, we go with the easier route of ignoring or believing we can overcome the issue by ourselves. But like cheap glue, it may seem like things are holding together at first, the minute extra pressure is added (such as a worldwide pandemic) things can begin to fall apart. Let’s humble ourselves and embrace true trust in the loving and perfect hands of our God.

I pray that this post is an encouraging nudge to get the help that you may need. One of the first steps towards healing is recognizing that we actually have a problem and this is understandably difficult for many. But I want to encourage you that once we get over that initial fear (hopefully through a loving and encouraging community), you too will recognize that it was worth it. 

If you have any questions or thoughts about the process of counseling and/orneed examples, feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to share some of my experiences.

Note:Counseling and the restoration process is a complex matter. Counseling, no matter how professional is not the end all, but part of the process towards restoration. Healthy community, accountability, love, and Christ are all necessary parts towards healing. 

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