As a new parent, young ministry leader, and recently licensed Psychologist I was doing my best to serve Christ but I was struggling with anxiety and depression. God led me to move from the psychotherapist’s chair to the client’s couch. I sought help in my own psychotherapy.
Ministry Leaders Need to be Led
Being in psychotherapy was the best training I could’ve received to provide psychotherapy for others. In fact, I’ve come to believe that every counselor needs to receive counsel, every pastor needs to be pastored, and every ministry leader needs to submit to another’s leadership — as onto Christ, of course.
We just can’t be effective or satisfied as Lone Ranger leaders. We really do need each other and without the support, encouragement, and guidance of a trusted spiritual mentor or soul friend we’ll end up in trouble.
But I didn’t enter into psychotherapy to become better at providing psychotherapy for others. I sought help because I was overwhelmed with pressures to achieve, be ideal, and make other people happy. I was afraid of failure because my self-esteem was always on the line. I felt guilty if I said no to people and opportunities so I kept trying to do more and more.
I Needed a Christ’s Ambassador
Through my Christian therapist God provided me the soul care that I needed. I learned how to express my feelings and work through conflicts, receive compassion, and attach more deeply in relationships. I learned that Jesus Set Boundaries and I need to also.
Through the psychotherapy process over time I got free of my false self and came alive as my true self — my God created and Christ-redeemed self — and in the process I discovered the joy of helping others, not by trying hard, but “out of the overflow” of God’s grace to me.
My therapist was “Christ’s Ambassador” to me (2 Corinthians 5:20).
I was at the Bottom of an Old Well
What’s it like for me to be in psychotherapy?
In 1992 I wrote about my personal struggle of going through psychotherapy in my prayer poem: “Becoming ‘I’.” It tells the story of how through my relationship with my psychotherapist God found me at the bottom of an old well and set me free to be me!
My experience in psychotherapy was very much like David’s prayer in Psalm 40:1-5:
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
Blessed is the [person] who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done.
I looked up and into the whites of your eyes
And I saw myself deep inside the bottom of an old well –
All alone except for your eyes peering from the skies;
Lost until now but still trapped in this living hell.
I didn’t even know I was down inside there;
I thought it was me who was up on the ground outside –
But it couldn’t be me who has looked so good everywhere;
It must be the roles I played so my pain I could hide.
This is the real me who is down this old well then.
Those who’ve walked by me just didn’t see or hear –
I reached out to them until I couldn’t reach out again;
I remained alone and unknown until you came and waited near.
Now your hand reaches way down and I want to reach way high;
I’m trying to trust again because I need what you offer –
Please keep looking and waiting and reaching for my reply;
Our hands – are just – about – to come – to – ge – ther.
Psychotherapy for Pastors, Pastors’ Wives, and Ministry Leaders
As part of our Soul Shepherding ministry to pastors and leaders Kristi and I offer Psychotherapy to individuals and couples in our office in Irvine, CA. We also offer soul care and spiritual mentoring, not only in our office, but also by phone, Skype, or e-mail. We help pastors, pastor’s wives, and missionaries for whatever they can afford to pay.
Soul Shepherding is a 501c3 nonprofit ministry supported by tax-deducible donations.