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The COVID-19 pandemic has upended countless lives and devastated the nation’s economy, but its staggering, often unseen, impact on mental health is just as alarming. We’ve seen an increased rise in mental health challenges over the past year, including anxiety and depressive disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation among Americans, especially among youth. But Christians struggling with these same challenges often find it hard to feel OK seeking the help they need.

While it’s not taboo within Christian circles to see a doctor for a physical ailment, an extended hesitation precedes seeing a counselor for a mental ailment. In both cases, the helping party is a trained professional dedicated to your well-being, so what’s the hang up?

For one, we may feel guilt admitting we need help outside of leaning on our faith, our relationship with God, and our church community. Somehow, seeking therapy has subconsciously been correlated to a lack of faith or a “weak prayer life.” But this kind of thinking that reduces mental health to spiritual deficiencies is neither productive nor biblically sound. Proverbs 15:22 (NASB) tells, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”

In our well-meaning prayers and high-hoping, we sometimes fail to see that God provides what we need in the form of the resources available to us. The sooner we recognize this, the sooner the process of healing can begin.

Here are some of the common barriers Christians face when considering counseling, and how overcoming them can help you move forward in freedom.

I Can Pray My Problems Away

Ever share a tough problem with someone and their response was, “Just pray about it”? It’s not wrong to lean on this advice, but it can pigeonhole Christians into the thinking that the responsibility to fix things is in their hands. Prayer is the bedrock of Christian faith, and going to God is our first line of defense when facing life’s hardships, but we are not meant to tackle everything we face alone. God is our strength (Psalm 28:7), but professionals are in our path to lend support!

You might hear people say, “I have God, I don’t need a therapist,” but consider this: The same humility we have in admitting that we need a Savior is the same humility we should have in receiving support from others. Nobody, especially God, expects you to have it all together, so why should you? Our faithful prayers are irreplaceable, but counseling could be the answered prayer you’ve been ignoring.

I Need to Look Strong for Everyone Else

You can be strong and still be human. Having the “perfect life” (on the outside) does not make God more real in your life over someone who is struggling just to get by. When we share our vulnerabilities, we feel closer to one another and less alone. Why suffer in silence just to prove you’re trusting in Him? Keeping a smile on your face while you’re breaking on the inside to inspire someone else is admirable; but ultimately, you’ll begin pouring into others from an empty place. God can fill the holes in our lives, but a counselor can start the patchwork by helping you identify what those holes actually are.

I Can Get the Help I Need from My Friends and Family  

The relationships in our lives are so essential and give us so many of the things we need to thrive: love, companionship, and support. But our personal relationships can’t always provide us with the unbiased opinions we need to see our plights in a new light. Counselors rely on careful academic training and their experience to help you explore feelings and angles in your situation you might not have considered. If you’re experiencing cycles of negative thought patterns or behaviors, maybe you haven’t tried looking at it a different way.

Therapists Don’t Have the Same Values as Me

It’s understandable to want to protect your faith from outside viewpoints that rely on principals outside of God, but many Christian counseling services lean on His counsel to tackle the unique issues you face. Finding a therapist who shares the same values as you can be the safe space you need to open your wounds just wide enough so they may be healed. Even if you don’t open up right away, a good therapist who believes in God can see Him working through every little inch of the quicksand and keep you paddling toward hope.

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May 23, 2021