Have you ever sat in a church and heard a pastor say,
“You don’t need a therapist you just need Jesus?”
Well, unfortunately I have. I’ll never forget while completing my master’s program FOR COUNSELING, hearing a guest preacher state those very words in his sermon. I was left feeling discontent and completely checked out of the message from that very moment.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 it tells us that God has given us a sound mind. However, if you’re honest that’s not always how you feel. As a believer, I struggle with the thought of just “praying about it”. I don’t believe God has designed us to be lazy and just pray, with the expectation for him to do the rest of the work. I believe he also wants us to be full participants in our healing.
I have often heard faith without works is dead, stemming from the scripture of James 2:26. If this is true, why is the answer for mental health diagnosis, like depression, a dealing that we advise people to just pray about? That’s equivalent to praying for a person with diabetes (another diagnosis) and then continuing to eat things that are not conducive to your healing. We have to treat mental health as we do physical health and put forth effort to align those things we have prayed for in the spiritual realm into our natural.
I listened to a sermon recently by Stephanie Ike titled Claim your Freedom. At some part of her sermon she spoke on meditating on the word day and night as the Bible says. She went on further to claim that this means to build upon that word. For someone struggling with depression they may pray over their depression and its symptoms, and find scripture to guide them daily. To build upon that might also mean seeking a therapist.
A misconception of seeking therapy in the church might allude to one not having faith in God. However, I believe it suggests you are participating in your healing process and need additional support to build upon. There are tools that therapist have that aid those in need of support that many clergy members are not privileged to. Many times people leave a fulfilling church service feeling empowered and return to the same issues with no practical tools to apply to their natural circumstances.
My suggestion is not to stop praying but to build upon your prayers and do the work. Even if doing the work means seeking a therapist. I understand that therapy can be a taboo subject. It may even be a scary thought to think “I may need a therapist”, because I too have been there. I would not suggest something I have not done myself.
Yes, I am a praying Christian who has sought therapy, and I am a therapist.
If you’re reading this and feel as though you need additional resources don’t feel ashamed to ask for help. You can also be specific about who you receive counsel from to ensure their religious beliefs align with yours, if that is of interest to you. To those battling with mental health, again I say to you don’t separate your faith from your works. Continue to build upon your prayer and be active in the progression of your mental health.
Shamara Howze is a School Based Mental Health Therapist in Washington, DC. Shamara enjoys exploring expressive art therapy and has aspirations of becoming a Registered Play Therapist. Shamara’s career life and leisure overlap as she enjoys all things art, including painting, clay, and drawing. She is a native of Charlotte, NC and enjoys spending the holidays home with her family. Shamara has plans to expand in the Mental Health field and says, she’s just getting started.