(The following article was first published in Jewel Warrior, a women's Christian online devotional. Please subscribe to JW and never miss out on their daily encouragement)
Like most women, if I find an amazing sale or come across a great recipe, I tell everyone all about it. This is how I feel about therapy. If you're close or within earshot, I'm most likely telling you all about the blessed benefits of sound, biblical counseling.
Hi. My name is Kacie. I'm Black, a Pastor and I see a therapist once a week.
Did you know that according to the American Psychiatric Association, only 1 in 3 African Americans who need therapy receive it? There are multiple reasons, but some of the barriers that prevent African-Americans from receiving care include:
Distrust of the healthcare system
A lack of culturally competent health care providers
No insurance or underinsurance
My husband and I decided to seek couple's therapy because we needed tips on how to communicate about money. The first time we met with our Christian therapist, a younger, white woman, I assumed that she would give us a one-step or two-step plan on how to better manage our money. Maybe she would give us some phrases, or language on how to communicate, but to my surprise, she kept asking me and my husband, questions about our childhoods. She wanted to know:
Growing up, how were finances handled by our parents?
What belief systems about money were established in our childhood?
How did our parents talk to us about money?
Over time, our therapist taught us not only how to communicate with each other better about money but also brought a sense of awareness, patience, and compassion into our marriage about our childhoods and how that played a part with our money management. I was so impressed with the results of therapy in my marriage, that I decided to begin meeting with the same counselor weekly to go deeper into some issues from my childhood that I felt were coming out sideways in my marriage.
I have been meeting with a therapist for close to one year and I've provided a few of the personal benefits I have discovered:
The opportunity to share freely without interruption or judgment. Who doesn't like sharing the things God places on your heart, and doing so without a filter or judgment?
Healthy tools to process my emotions. Previously if not feeling well emotionally, I would on auto-pilot confess scriptures, or say a quick prayer. Therapy has been a great way to work one-on-one with my counselor, to identify the root of my issues AND then powerfully pray and declare scriptures over the issue.
Therapy has taught me to slow down. Do you ever feel like you are moving from one thing to the next? Taking care of your kids, your husband, serving at your church and running errands? Therapy has taught me to check in with myself a few times each day. It's a time to assess and be honest with my feelings and bring them before God. Oftentimes, I have learned, my being busy or in a rush has been simply a way to avoid dealing with the deep-seated emotions in my heart.
Therapy holds me accountable. Therapy costs me money and time. I don't want to waste either. Often, I get "homework" from my therapist. Areas she wants me to work on. Because I want to be well emotionally, it is important that I take my counseling sessions seriously and do the homework that is prescribed. This reminds me of the man laying on his mat for 38 years and Jesus asks him, "Do you want to be well?"
A great form of self-care. Taking the time to meet with a therapist has been a great reminder to myself that, I matter. For a long time, I thought that if I weren't neglected or suffered physical abuse, then well, my issues were minor and that I just needed to get over them. Working with a therapist has taught me that trauma, soul injuries and pain are real, and a healthy person acknowledges when she has been hurt and is willing to seek God and do the work (homework, taking time to think and reflect) to be healed.
I wouldn't be telling the truth if I told you that initially, I did not the effects of stigma, meeting with a therapist. In fact, during my first therapy session, I cried. It was painful for me to admit that I needed help in my marriage. Like many, I had such a stigma concerning therapy and receiving mental health services. (True story: it took me four months before I confided to my mom that I was in therapy and I tell her just about everything!)
The shame and embarrassment I had about seeing a therapist weekly is gone. In fact, I believe that God has called me to share my testimony so that if God ever calls you to seek professional counseling, you will remember my testimony and not walk, but RUN to therapy.
I have experienced such freedom and wholeness from meeting with a therapist and it has been another tool in my spiritual toolbox, along with prayer, scripture, and serving in church to live the abundant life, Christ died for me to have.
Proverbs 15:22 says: Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors, they succeed.
Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Like that good girlfriend who shares an amazing dress sale at Macy's, or a new recipe through Pinterest, I want to share God's great love and desire for you to be free, whole, healthy, and happy. If you find yourself feeling stuck, or unhappy with where you are, I encourage you to seek biblical counseling and advice. I am so happy that I did.
Looking for a good Christian counselor? I recommend you try Agape Christian Counseling Services.
Kacie Starr Long is an author, talk show host, and the proud wife of Alfred T. Long Sr., when not writing, Kacie enjoys sewing. She has served alongside her husband as a Pastor, and now they know serve through their non-profit, Jacob's Ladder Ministries which provides programs and resources for individuals who have been incarcerated. Kacie is passionate about one of their programs, Sew Hope, which is a sewing school for previously incarcerated men and women. Connect with Kacie at www.InspiredOverflow.com and via her YouTube page for more inspiration and encouragement.