Counselor to Missionaries

August 19, 2013

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“Oh, what a need for what you’re planning to do!”  That’s the typical response I hear when someone learns of an exciting new ministry I’m starting.  Technically it’s part of member care,  (Member Care is the ongoing preparation and taking care of missionaries for strong personal lives and effective ministries.)   Not that member care hasn’t already been going on, but it’s new to me.  The question I have is why aren’t there more counselors doing what I’m doing?  When I put it together in the form of a job description, I begin to understand why not.

 

Member care requires a lot of travel.

I will be taking 4-6 trips a year to various places in the world.  I like to travel and I love to get to know people in the areas where they live and work.  The trips will not include all the comforts of home but I will experience how a lot of different people manage.

 

Member care requires a lot of counseling experience.

After 37+ years of counseling, I feel pretty comfortable helping people express their concerns.  I can listen non-judgmentally while discerning deeper issues.  People who are struggling don’t need as much advise or criticism as they need encouragement and clarification of issues.  They need to see how their behaviors impact others as well as how others impact them.   Generally speaking, we tend to evaluate others on the basis of their behaviors while we evaluate ourselves on the basis of our intentions.  What a wonderful opportunity to put my experience to work in the challenging situations involving individuals, couples and groups in conflict overseas where they are feeling stressed and alone.

 

Member care requires cross-cultural flexibility.

Having taught cross-cultural counseling and providing counseling in several different countries, I’ve discovered that a lot of things that we assume to be true here in the US do no fit in other cultures.  When I was in Zanzibar, for example, I discovered that there is no word for “depression” in Swahili.  It turns out that in their interwoven corporate society, they don’t experience depression like we do.  They help each other out of their down times.  We tend to push our rugged individualism beyond the limits of our abilities to cope.  Some places respond to stories, some to small group interaction, while others to applied Bible passages.    This leads to a fourth requirement that tends to filter out a lot of people.

 

Member care requires a deep knowledge of Scripture plus training in counseling. 

What a blessing it’s been for me over the years to see the ideas taken from my PhD in counseling turn into applications of Bible truths that I learned while getting my ThM in New Testament studies at Dallas Seminary.  The Bible is truth, but sometimes it’s hard for us to understand how to apply it.  Psychology seeks to apply principles in a practical way, but isn’t always anchored in truth.  How exciting to see the truth of God show itself in cross-cultural, practical and trans-historical timeless ways.

 

Member care requires submission to the authority and structure of a mission organization.

East-West Ministries, International has been so gracious to make a place for me among their missionaries so I can work on a team.  The job that needs to be accomplished is too big for one person or a small group.  East-West Ministries has missionaries in 40 countries and their vision calls for adding 200 more missionaries in the next five years!  That will require a lot of screening, training, developing, supporting and encouraging.  My first assignment may be to train counselors in China.

 

Member care takes a lot of money.

As a missionary, I’ll need to raise financial support, both one-time gifts and regular monthly contributions to pay for one-month’s living expenses (I cut back my Dallas Seminary contract to only 11 months) and for all the trips plus administrative expenses.   Will you consider committing to a monthly contribution?  All contributions are tax-deductible.

To contribute on-line, click here.  East-West has made it very easy.

I would very much appreciate your support in this important endeavor, both in the form of prayer and finances, however large of small.  Many, many missionaries don’t make it for more than a few years because their adjustments are more than they can bear.  My hope is that my encouragement and perspective will strengthen them in continuing with the Lord’s work.

 

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To Africa to Train Pastors in Effective Counseling

June 18, 2012

Leaving for Tanzania in 2-1/2 weeks.  In addition to teaching pastors how to meet their people’s needs through counseling, I’m preparing a men’s retreat and two Sunday sermons for an English-speaking church.   Here are some of the details.  Still needing additional financial contributions to meet expense, so if you feel moved, please send to East-West Ministries (see bottom of letter below).

 


Helping Teenage Cutters

June 15, 2012

When I look around the community for good people doing good things, I need look no further that to one of my previous Interns, Kristine Newton.  She brings her maturity and competence to the counseling room to help, among other situations, teens who are cutters.   If you are one of these teenagers or if you know one, you would do well to read this article.  I asked Kristine to write something to help us understand what’s going on that drives this behavior and also what can be done to help the teen move from despair to a more mature contentment.  Need help?  Call Kristine.  She’s good.

It seemed like a normal night, their teenage daughter, Alice had come home and said good night. She seemed safe and happy; Mom and Dad were relieved and began to watch TV.  Less than ten minutes later, Alice came down the stairs, face flushed, tears in her eyes and blood gushing down her arm. While her parents were relaxing, Alice had gone to her room and slashed her arm. She had been cutting secretly for over six months, but tonight she used a box cutter and didn’t realize how sharp the blade was. The cut was so deep it required a trip to the ER and six stitches. Alice’s parents were in shock, what in the world had she done to herself and why?!!

It is estimated that one of every 200 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 in the United States engages in self-harm of some kind; of those 70% cut themselves. When families come to my office, the scene normally plays out like this.

Two very anxious parents and one scowling teenager enter the room and sit across from me. The adolescent informs me, “I will not talk to you or to them!”  They either deny the cutting is serious or state that their parents are being overly dramatic. “After all,” the teen says, “It’s not that big of a deal; cutting just makes me feel better.”

“Makes you feel better?!! That is ridiculous!” the parents exclaim.  With desperation, the parents turn and give me a look that begs me to talk some sense into their teen immediately.

The weird thing is . . . the teen is at least partially right. Cutting is a coping mechanism that “works” for some people.  Scientists have studied the issue, and believe cutting creates a temporary high, similar to the way adrenaline works.  For most of us, this does not make sense.  How in the world can hurting yourself make you feel better?  Like other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol, outsiders can easily see the dangers, but the person engaged in it cannot.  Cutting is deceptive, destructive, and can be addictive; even though for a time, it helps relieve tension, reduce numbness and/or create a distraction from stressful life events.

While cutting may appear to “work” for the person using it, like drugs and alcohol, it leaves a bitter aftertaste, and is a dangerous illusion. Cutting can lead to unplanned medical expenses, trips to the ER and, infections which sometimes cause life-long health problems. At minimum cutting leaves unattractive physical scars, and never gets to the root of the issue. Emotionally and relationally, people engaged in cutting end up isolated from others, filled with deep shame and self-hatred, and develop incredibly effective skills at hiding reality from those closest to them.

It is important to note that while cutting may look and feel like a suicide attempt, or a cry for attention most times it is not.  This surprises most of us.  Many people who engage in cutting are not attempting to kill themselves; they see cutting as a way to deal with their pain, so that they can keep on living. While cutting is not often a suicide attempt, it can be a precursor to it, and those who engage in cutting are more prone to attempt suicide in the future.  Sometimes like our teenager Alice in the first paragraph, the cutting may lead to an accidental cutting that is much more serious than intended – even accidental suicide.

To help us understand some of the reasons why a person might cut, there are several characteristics that seem common. Most cutters have experienced more than their fair share of pain.  Many have been sexually abused, grown up with family members who have drug and/or alcohol addictions, or have experienced an extraordinary trauma in their lives. When we actually begin to hear their stories, it is often a wonder to us that they are still alive, and it is understandable that they are struggling.

A second characteristic is that they often feel they have become a burden to others, they feel isolated, and thus tend to deal with their problems without outside help or advice.  They believe others are sick of listening to them, don’t understand them and can’t or won’t help them. Therefore, rather than ask others, they take on the pain themselves and engage in self harm.  One client who ended up in the emergency room said, “I didn’t want to kill myself.  But I didn’t want to burden my mom anymore by telling her I was down, again!  I thought I could cut myself and deal with it that way.  But the cut was a lot deeper than I intended. Now I am so mad at myself, I was attempting to take care of myself, but now I have created more drama and cost my parents even more money because of the hospital bill.”

A final characteristic is cutters are very passionate, sensitive individuals who feel their emotions in vivid Technicolor.  God has given them a unique personality and emotional framework that has very sensitive receptors to the soft side of life.  Many times those who struggle with cutting are fun to be with, exciting to share struggles with, and often very compassionate with others. This places them on a very steep roller coaster ride. The highs are very high and the lows are almost intolerable! The downside: pain they feel at a high level and don’t know how to deal with it. They may try to tell someone they are hurting, but are blown off because others don’t experience the issue at the same intensity.

So what do you do if like the parents in the opening story, you have discovered someone you care about is cutting? Here are six suggestions.

1.  Trust.  Trust that God loves your loved one even more than you do! He loves to shine light in dark places so that He can bring restoration. Trust in His power, loving-kindness and timing to do what He has promised in your life and your loved one’s life.

2.  Don’t Panic.  My guess is that like the parents above, you would be a bit freaked out. That is normal. Don’t be shocked by your reaction.  It is very important to deal with the problem, but do so calmly and not in a panic. Remember, cutting is usually not a suicide attempt, but it is often a cry for help. Your panic could encourage more hiding, aloneness, and be a precursor to more not less cutting.

3.  Communicate love and care. Tell your loved one that you care about them, that you want to be supportive and that you want to see them get help. Do not scold, rebuke, or preach at this point, simply and clearly let them know you are in their corner and cannot be run away!

4.  Find a therapist.  I recommend finding a good therapist for your loved one. A therapist who is experienced in working with cutters is best. Therapy is often necessary not only to teach the cutter new coping skills, but also to work through the trauma that is at the root of cutting. Therapy also helps to educate the cutter of their sensitive emotional nature so they may see it as a blessing, not a curse, and to teach them to use that gift properly and well. If you are the parent, you should attend sessions as well. This is beneficial. It helps the cutter feel supported, and it will also help you. I know this may sound scary, but the therapist can not only help you know how to best deal with your situation, but also work through any doubts you may be having about your parenting skills.

5.  You find a therapist. Dealing with a cutter presents unique challenges; seek a counselor who can help you learn to react to your sensitive loved one in a new and godly way. Even if your loved one will not go to therapy, you should go! Therapy can help you deal with the situation when the person you care about does not want to change.

6.  Be a friend.  This is a time where your loved one really needs a healthy relationship. Listen when they need to talk, open the door to deeper issues, but don’t try to pound down the door. Make sure that you that you remember how to have fun with them! Don’t treat them like a project or a problem. And be patient. This behavior has usually occurred in secret for some time, a few sessions with a therapist will not make it go away. Like addictions, there may be periods of sobriety and then some relapse.

Kristine Newton, MA, LPC works with adolescents and adults at Heritage Counseling and Consulting, in the Park Cities area of Dallas. Through her earlier work at Heartlight Ministries, an inpatient rehab center for teens, and Metrocare Services, she has extensive experience working with adolescents and adults who have engaged in self harm.  To contact her, call 214.363.2345


Good Counseling Comes to the Broader Community

May 8, 2012

Good counseling costs a lot of money.   But not always, thanks to Dr. Michael Leach.  He has opened Richland Oaks Counseling Center right in the middle of a multicultural area and commits to providing services that are

     accessible,

     effective

     and culturally responsive for all who participate.

Right across the street from Richland College near Abrams Road and Walnut St., “ROCC” provides easy access.

How does he do it?  First, he focuses on social justice rather than making a lot of money for himself.  That’s the kind of guy he is.  A highly trained and skilled therapist and educator himself, he opts to supervise doctoral students and master’s level students from Argosy University and other graduate schools in the Dallas area.

He holds to a vision of a community in which staff, clients and various community organizations join in supporting persons with mental health needs so that all persons have the opportunity, including the necessary services and supports, to participate, with dignity, in the life of the community, with its freedoms, responsibilities, rewards, and consequences.

So, here’s a good man doing a good thing in the community.  How can you benefit from this service?  Give them a call at 469-619-7622.  Check out their Facebook page by clicking here .  Then, give them a try.  Some cynics say about counseling, “What you want, you can’t afford and what you can afford, you don’t want.”  Here’s a refreshing exception.


Baby Boomer Divorce on the Rise

May 3, 2012

angry-boomer-coupleResearchers found the divorce rate among those 50 and older nearly doubled from 1990 to 2009.

The  video report of NBC’s John Yang states the statistics but spins the trend in a shallow way.   Okay, increased freedom and independence may be part of divorce adjustment.   Starting to do things you’ve always wanted to do sounds like a positive adjustment.  But it doesn’t sound to me like people are learning much by simply “getting used to going solo at middle age.”  I have some questions.

How can a couple learn to do more of what they want to do by helping each other?

Doesn’t learning how to build a relationship of intimacy sound more like growing into adulthood?

Where does personal growth fit into the picture?  I don’t believe “it is what it is” any more than “I am what I am.”  too static for me.  Seems to me that a healthy marriage is one that stimulates personal growth for each person!

If  “knowing God” is our ultimate goal in life (and I think it should be), then shouldn’t we devote ourselves to any and every means of complying with His design?

Do you have some questions?  Let’s hear them.

 

 


“Understanding the Male of the Species”

March 17, 2012

Kelly G. Antwine, M.Ed., LPC

Kelly Antwine presented a verbal time-lapse picture of how the “Male of the Species” developed into what it is today.  Cultural pressures have shaped the roles in the home.  Prior to World War, 27% of the families lived on what they could produce on less than 100 acres of their homestead.   Neighbors helped each other.  Children worked along side their parents.  After the War, we clustered into the new invention called “suburbs.”
On the negative side, he explained how men have deteriorated relationally after returning from the War.

  • Men no longer worked with their sons out on the farm producing the family’s sustenance.  Instead, they worked in the factory, away from the family.
  • Men no longer worked cooperatively with one another in mutual assistance.  Instead, they competed for the ever-narrowing opportunities for advancement.
  • Men no longer valued their worth on the blessings that provided dignity.  Instead, they turned to status defined by income and material possessions for their worth.

On the positive side, he called for restored manhood by

  • sharing emotions and vulnerability with one another, implying that transparency builds intimacy.
  • taking back the responsibility of training our sons how to be persons of integrity, refusing to outsource that responsibility to “professionals” like daycare workers and teachers.
  • entering into a personal relationship with God that is genuine and authentic, resisting the temptation to just going through the motions of religious rituals that have little personal meaning.

Lots of good food for thought.  The North D/FW Chapter of the Christian Counselors of Texas organized the meeting which deserved more attendance than came.  Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Preston Place Counseling in Dallas.  He has a lot of experience with addiction recovery and can be contacted at 972-960-2222 or Kelly@PrestonPlaceCounseling.com.


Culture and Empathy in Cross-Cultural Counseling

March 13, 2012

When I taught a course on cross-cultural counseling, I faced the challenge of selecting the most critical issues to emphasize.  Clearly, empathy was identified as the critical condition for effective counseling.  Without empathy, people cannot connect.  With empathy, the work can begin.  I wish I had come across this article by Chung and Bemak when I was teaching.  My students would have had another paper to read.  It’s really good.  Drs. Rita Chi-Ying Chung and Fred Bemak are on the faculty at George Mason University.  (If you want to read the whole article, it’s in the Journal of Counseling & Development, Spring 2002, Vol. 80 Issue 2, 154-159.)  Here are some excerpts.

Abstract from the authors:
Empathy has been identified as a core condition for providing counseling. There are numerous articles discussing the components of empathy. However, as the U.S. becomes increasingly ethnically diverse and the world becomes more globalized, there is little discussion on how empathy will be effective with diverse populations. This article discusses the interaction of culture and empathy and suggests guidelines for establishing cultural empathy
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Various Descriptions of Empathy
  • the counselor’s ability to enter the client’s world (Rogers, 1961)
  • to feel with the client rather than feel for the client (Capuzzi & Gross, 1999)
  • to think with the client rather than for or about the client (Brammer, Abrego, & Shostrum, 1993)
  • the therapist’s ability and effort to place him- or herself symbolically in the position of the client and understand the client’s world.

But empathic understanding alone is not enough for effective therapy. The therapist must also have the ability and skill to communicate and demonstrate empathic understanding so that the client perceives it. So it’s an extremely relational ingredient.

Worldview is defined as the way individuals perceive their relationship to the world.  Worldviews not only comprise attitudes, values, beliefs, opinions, and concepts but also affect how individuals think, make decisions, behave, define, and interpret events.  The challenge for the counselor is to place oneself inside the client’s frame of reference and then have the ability to effectively communicate one’s understanding of that world.   For example, Asian students believed that the counselor displayed greater empathy when the counselor considered the students’ cultural values, such as family or societal influences, than when the counselor focused on Western values of individualistic personal attributes and needs.
The display of culturally sensitive responses and attitudes by the counselor is more important than an ethnic match.  The counselor’s ability to do this may have an impact on their credibility and subsequent ability to be culturally empathetic.  When Chinese students perceived the counselor to be empathetically involved, they also perceived the counselor to be credible. The credibility predicted their willingness to be in counseling.
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The authors list six major dimensions that significantly contribute to effective cultural empathy:
  1. Understand and accept the context of family and community for clients from different cultural backgrounds. This is especially important given the collectivistic nature of many cultures that emphasizes the social-familial context.
  2. Incorporate indigenous healing practices from the client’s culture when possible. An integration of traditional healing methods demonstrates that the counselor has a knowledge and understanding of the client’s beliefs and values. This requires an understanding of the client’s cultural conceptualization of mental health, manifestation of symptoms, and cultural expectations for treatment outcomes (Chung & Kagawa-Singer, 1995). If the counselor does not work within the cultural framework of health and mental health for each client, cultural empathy is likely to become an imposition of the counselor’s cultural value system rather than a culturally sensitive understanding of and response to the client’s problem. It is important to note that the incorporation of traditional healing methodologies does not mean that counselors must actually perform rituals such as Native American sweat lodge healing or sun dance, but rather that they work concurrently and cooperatively with traditional healers in true partnerships that entail the utmost respect for traditional healing methodologies (Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, in press).
  3. Become knowledgeable about the historical and sociopolitical background of clients. For example, the United States has a history of discriminatory behavior toward ethnic minority populations, such as the slavery of African Americans, genocide of Native Americans, and internment of Japanese Americans. In addition, immigrants in the United States may come from countries at war or countries that have long-standing conflictual relationships between different ethnic or religious groups. These issues have important bearing on how, when, and where cultural empathy is expressed by the counselor and requires counselors to be aware of and sensitive to the importance of transgenerational trauma on clients.
  4. Be knowledgeable about the psychosocial adjustment that must be made by clients who have moved from one environment to another. This could range from relocating to another neighborhood or town; moving between urban, suburban, and rural settings; or migrating from one country to another. In all these instances, psychosocial adjustment plays a key role that would be important for a counselor to understand (Berry, 1997).
  5. Be highly sensitive to the oppression, discrimination, and racism that are encountered by many people and often on a daily basis (Bemak et al., in press; Robinson & Ginter, 1999; D. W. Sue, Bingham, Porche-Burke, & Vasquez, 1999). It is essential for counselors to understand the nature and impact of this experience in the healing process while maintaining culturally appropriate empathy with these deeply rooted issues.
  6. For those clients who feet underprivileged and devalued, it is essential for effective cultural empathy to facilitate empowerment for clients (see Bemak, 1998). This may require that counselors know about and provide information about community resources and services to clients and create supportive responses to clients so that they become confident and skilled in growing personally as well as promoting social change in their lives and communities.

In summary, to be effective with culturally diverse clients, it is critical that the counselor displays and demonstrates cultural empathy. Without the counselor’s culturally responsive empathy, there is a high probability of clients’ premature termination of counseling and the danger that the counselor will be ineffective with clients. Simply stated, the contribution of culturally responsive empathy is that it has the potential to greatly contribute to the healing process when working across cultures.


Help Children of Divorce

January 17, 2012

Kids suffer from divorce.  My heart goes out to these boys and girls who often demonstrate more common sense about getting along than their parents.  They face an enormous adjustment for which no kid is equipped without some help.   Now, KidWorks provides that help.  Here’s a note from Rob Pine, the Executive Director, ChristianWorks for Children, highlighting a strong leader, Monica Epperson, and a ten-year-old boy of divorced parents, Cody.   Watch the video, read their story, let your heart respond with some kind of support.   They need facilitators as well as financial support.  Are children important?  Jesus thought so: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 19:14)

Rob writes:

God directed Monica Epperson our way to serve Him and join us as a National Representative for KidWorks, to develop and distribute materials, and to train others across the country.  She has a powerful story of her own as a child of divorce, and she has a passion to help children defeat the fears and worries that accompany that experience.  The author of two children’s books, Bounce and A Heart with Two Homes, Monica provides personal and heart-rendering insight into the issues that children of divorce face and into how KidWorks effectively addresses those issues.   She writes about this in a posting on the ChristianWorks.

It was a typical night at KidWorks, and all the groups had been in session for awhile.  The topic for the evening was Fears and Worries. One of the Middles’ facilitators suddenly appeared with a little boy named Cody who had asked to leave the group. Cody was obviously having a hard time that evening and began to cry. Our KidWorks Coordinator listened as he explained he wanted to leave because he didn’t want to cry in front of the other kids. In Cody’s own words, he expressed that “Fourth graders are too big to cry, but I know it’s alright to cry.” This exceptional ten year old boy must have felt very torn. As the conversation continued, he eventually shared what was behind the tears. His divorced parents continued to fight in front of him even while talking on the phone. The public display of his parent’s inability to get along was a big worry for him. After a bit of conversation, and composure on Cody’s part, he was ready to go back into the group. He felt better!

Cody was really brave to share as he did. He was brave enough to cry, even though it was not in front of the other kids. As is often the case with children of divorce, his pain and hurt were deeply rooted. Being able to release the pain and hurt is a step in the healing process.  KidWorks is a safe place where kids can share their deepest hurts along with their fears and
worries. Group facilitators help kids like Cody learn to address issues of divorce as well as help them learn coping skills to deal with those issues.

You can contact the KidWorks Coordinator, Beverly Ritz at britz@christian-works.org, for more information.


Healing through Horseplay!

November 24, 2011

Barbara Currence, MEd, LPC

Barbara Currence is a good person doing a good thing.   She uses horses to help people (ages 6 through adult) work through their personal problems.  What kind of problems can her approach help?

 

 

 

 

  • learn creative thinking and problem-solving skills
  • develop responsibility
  • learn how to develop and maintain relationships
  • develop effective communication skills
  • discover how to deal with grief, loss and anxiety
  • learn lifeskills such as trust, leadership, and teamwork
  • develop boundaries, and discover what changes are needed
    to create healthy families and relationships

Why horses?  Here’s what she says:

Because horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Accomplishing a task involving horses creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.

Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse, does not necessarily work with another. At times, they are stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for learning about our own world.

Check out her web site for lots of neat pictures and details like fees, location, contact information, etc.

How does it work?

Be sure to watch the video so you can get a feel for how it works.  Click here

This is an authentic approach that you can trust.   Helping through Horsing Around has received its certification through EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) which is an international organization that is very professional and ethical and requires both the licensed therapist and the equine professional to receive additional hours to remain certified in EAP (equine-assisted psychotherapy).  EAGALA’s website is linked off of our’s, and is www.eagala.org

One kid put it best,

“At school when I am doing my work, I used to get so frustrated and give up. Now I just think about how frustrated I was getting the horse to do an activity, and that I didn’t give up and it worked. I remember that at school and it helps me to know I can do my schoolwork too.”

Other approaches not working for you?  Try horsing around.  They’re good people doing a good thing.