You’ve probably heard this one before:
“The bishop isn’t a therapist!”
Typically, this is stated in a way that is somewhat critical of the spiritual counseling model we have in our faith tradition in relation to bishops or other leaders we see as having authority.
Someone is experiencing a problem with mental health, finances, marital relationships, compulsive unhealthy behaviors (sin), etc., and they turn to their bishop (or other religious leader) for help and direction.
Sometimes this doesn’t go well and can make people’s problem worse.
These negative anecdotal stories get passed around and then, instead of blaming that particular circumstance, the entire model gets blamed.
Or you have probably heard people say, “The bishop is a [insert non-therapeutic occupation], not a therapist.”
This is completely silly, and I bring this up because it is also very insulting to so many leaders striving to get the best type of help to those struggling individuals.
Yes, there are definitely horror stories where a church leader might discourage getting professional help or simply prescribe a good helping of prayer and scriptures study to overcome their problem.
But these horror stories are infrequent outliers, not the norm.
The other irony is that these statements never get said about other non-professional supportive people like parents, loved ones, or close friends.
Can you imagine telling a youth never to look towards their parents for support about their struggles with anxiety because their parents aren’t therapists?
Or if someone is struggling with suicide ideation, should they not at least call a close friend they trust?
Yes, it is true, church leaders are not therapists, but they are a gateway to phenomenal therapeutic or other needed resources.
We need to thank them for trying (even those who completely drop the ball).
If my loved one ever has a struggle that they don’t feel ready to speak to a therapist about, I hope they reach out to me or even their church leader.
Let’s put away the criticism that church leaders aren’t professionals.
Let’s promote our religious model because it has helped way more people than it has hurt.
We first need to get more people asking for help before we can get them asking for therapy.
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