Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Counseling & Coffee… Understanding the difference between traditional Psychology and Biblical Counseling

Counseling & Coffee… Understanding the difference between traditional psychology and Biblical counseling

by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Recently a 6th grade student asked me a very insightful question after a chapel service for her home-school group in Orlando. She wanted to know the difference between the kind of psychology talked about on popular television programs and Christian counseling. It was a great question because every day the industry of psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy become more and more a normal part of our culture, but often this popular source of advice doesn’t include the kind of wise counsel talked about in the Bible. Here's how I answered her question with hopes that it will add value to your journey as well.

I believe that psychology is the study of human nature and behavior, which is extremely useful to reveal
Why people do the things they do.
However, psychology is often unreliable on guiding people with
What do to about their behavior
because it is based on a humanistic view of right and wrong which changes with each and every situation.

When people from different backgrounds are facing difficult situations- they tend to justify their decisions and excuse their choices to fit what is most comfortable for them at that time. God's Truth, as described in the Bible, is always the same and never changes. Having faith in Christ provides the main foundation for a person to view as they consider how to make wise choices in every other area of their lives.

As a Believer in Christ, my perspective on everything is changed, especially on how to provide wise counsel that is consistent to a Biblical world-view instead of from an ever changing secular world-view that tends to follow the advice or trends from different experts and authors who may be popular at the time.

Let me describe it through a word picture of a coffee-maker.

Psychology is like ground up coffee sitting in a coffee filter. It comes in hundreds of different flavors, consistencies and from different parts of the world. The amount you put into the filter may be slightly different each time, which gives you a different 'brew' each time. Sometimes its' too strong, other times it's too weak. When you open up the coffee container and take a big whiff, it might smell really good or it may smell quite bitter. It may be an expensive brand like StarBucks, or have special flavors like Barnies, but in the end, it's just coffee.

Human behavior is like the water that flows into the mixing area. It may be bottled water from a spring, or it may be tap water that has been treated with chlorine to be safe for drinking. Water is different if it's been flavored or has been mixed with chemicals or additives depending on where it came from in the world, (like the very good, but pricey Evian water from the Swiss Alps!) But no matter where it may come from, it's just plain old H-2-O, just water.

Faith in Christ and His Word is the coffee filter. That tiny paper filter is the most important part, because it sorts and strains out all the ground up ingredients of psychology mixed with whatever contaminants or impurities are in the water. You usually don't ever even see or notice a coffee filter, but who would want to drink a cup of all the muck it filters out?

Coffee filters are simple things that have an important purpose- safety & comfort. The safety is from not choking on the grounds. The comfort is what makes a cup of coffee enjoyable. You need both. Just like psychology needs Biblical Truth to provide a safe and comfortable place for people to build better lives.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print,
provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with corporations and organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group by visiting their extensive posting of blog’s and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Friday, March 07, 2008

Why Don't People Change?

Understanding the connection between feeling ‘normal’ and being ‘healthy’
By Dwight Bain

People don't change until they think they need to, in fact, it’s completely and totally impossible to experience real behavioral change, (lasting longer than 21 days), without understanding this foundational process and more importantly, knowing what to do about it in your personal life or situation. This is based on the dramatic difference between two extremely powerful dynamics that can be traced back to our deepest beliefs which lay buried inside our heart, (spirit) and our brain, (soul). It is essential to know the difference between these two psychological elements because it is the absolute most important part of moving forward to experience dramatic life change.

Until you understand how this internal process impacts you personally, you will be helpless and powerless as you spiral back and forth between habitual behavior and hopelessness. However, when you take time to understand these internal dynamics a couple of important things begin to happen. Your failure cycle begins to slow, and then stop and then begin to spin in a new direction toward a better way of life. While this sounds good, be forewarned- the longer you have reinforced a pattern of habitual failure; the harder it may be to head into a new direction of real change, one that begins on the inside long before you see it show up on the outside.

Here is the basic formula to understand the process of real and lasting change in your personal or professional life; followed by a comprehensive analysis of each to guide you past the mental barriers block you from achieving the process of lasting change so you can begin to live a better quality of life-

One force is fueled by the very powerful emotional connection of ‘feeling Normal’

The other force is driven by an even more powerful dynamic- ‘being Healthy’

Normal-
There are multiple factors which cause an individual to feel "normal" which simply means, 'normal to me'. Even though you don’t think about it very much, you already know almost every single element that has built up to create this massive internal belief that affects so much of every aspect of your behavior in every part of your life- home, work, relationships, finances, spirituality and health.

Different people describe it different ways; like feeling comfortable or trying to be reasonable; others may describe it through comparisons like, ‘everyone does it this way,’ or ‘everybody knows that this is the right way to do it,’ and still others use the rationale of ‘it’s crazy not to do it this way’ because to them it is totally automatic to view a situation according to their previous life experiences. No matter how many roads you zoom down to try and describe the process, all roads eventually lead back to your core belief about what it really means to be normal.

Here are a few of the more than one hundred variables that psychologists and behavioral counselors can use to measure how you define being normal. Think through them while you are reading to see how quickly you can spot how some of these factors have influenced and shaped your life.

Factors used to determine how ‘normal’ you are-
Age, gender, culture, educational level, birth order, number of siblings, family background, personality, socio-economic factors, religious beliefs, work ethic, marital history, community values, family of origin, work experiences, school experiences, failures, successes, accidents, illnesses, organizational ability, friends, peers, professional colleagues, vacations, travel, holidays, teams, sports, concerts, entertainment events, geographic moves, difficult changes, painful losses, significant births, tragic deaths, traumatic events, wise mentors, patient coaches, caring teachers, loving pastors, gentle grandparents, reading books, mass-media, television, music or film, childhood memories, and the list of key factors goes on and on.

Remember, it’s not one or even a dozen factors that lead to our understanding of what is ‘normal’ because it’s based on a very complex mental process that is simple for us to sort through since we grew up with it, but extremely difficult for others to try and grasp without specific training or extensive education on the subject. Also, unless someone is very well connected to knowing what they believe inside, the media influences that come from images or ideas found in television, films, music, magazines or music are among the greatest forms of influence of what each of us believe to be ‘normal’.

Normal is our way of trying to describe things that feel comfortable or acceptable to us as well as being one of the main factors that lead to shaping what we automatically come to expect from others and what we eventually begin to attack in ourselves. You are beginning to see that ‘normal’ doesn’t mean what you think it does, and the opposite of normal isn’t really abnormal or ‘crazy’ even though that’s how a lot of people try to describe it because it feels so different, weird or difficult to comprehend.

This is why what appears to be ‘crazy’ to some is completely and totally acceptable and even automatic to others. Some people boldly label others as ‘health-nuts’ and they only smile and take it as a compliment, while others who are boldly called ‘junk-food junkies’ or ‘couch potatoes’ simply laugh it off as a joke. Both sides may be trying to boldly communicate a point, but all the other person hears is noise because they know deep inside their heart and mind that they are normal, and everyone else would of course then believe what they believe- because it’s so, well, normal! Think about all of the conflict, confusion and miscommunication that come into our lives because of this very powerful connection between what is ‘normal’ and what is really considered ‘healthy’.

For example, research shows that 80% of American women don’t like their body image at all, and many even report completely hating their body image.

Is this because they don’t have the ability to take a deep breath, or have clear skin tone, or ten fingers, ten toes, two ears, one nose and two eyes that can track light? (Which is how many hospitals ‘score’ a newly delivered baby who has just arrived on the planet via their mother’s tummy- they measure that child’s normal appearance and functioning body parts using the Apgar scale
What is an Apgar score?One minute — and again five minutes — after a baby is born, doctors calculate the Apgar score to see how he's doing. It's a simple process that helps determine whether your newborn is ready to meet the world without additional medical assistance. This score — developed by anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar back in 1952 is used to rates a baby's appearance, pulse, responsiveness, muscle activity, and breathing with a number between zero and 2 (2 being the strongest rating). The numbers are totaled, and 10 is considered a perfect score, It's easy to remember what's being tested by thinking of the letters in the name "Apgar": Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance, and Respiration.
Or is because they don’t believe they measure up to “Hollywood” standards of outward beauty and appearance? (which is about a lot more than the right number of body parts because it is based on looking, acting and behaving on the outside like some celebrity they will never meet, instead of just acting like themselves and being at peace with who they are on the inside). If a woman embraces the false belief that a particular body image will guarantee acceptance and approval she will never be happy on the inside, because age and gravity will always be working against her on the outside.
Contrast this unbelievable amount of insecurity in American females, (some as young as 9 years old), with women in other parts of the world where these media influences aren’t present and you know what happens? The opposite thing happens. That’s because those women aren’t influenced by outside images at all, so they don’t worry about their body size at all either. Why is that? Because the word “normal” to them is based on more realistic factors much closer to their own experience, genetics and culture.

American parents seem to spend way too much time begging, pleading or demanding that their daughters either lose or gain weight, yet it’s often totally ignored and interpreted as nothing but noise by a girl who has been heavily influenced by the unrealistic images of beauty painted by media, instead of an obtainable body image based on who she is as a young woman perfectly designed by a God who loves her very much. Regardless of age, nothing really can change in a man or woman’s behavior or lifestyle until there is a change in thinking about what feels ‘normal’ to the much bigger dynamic of personal beliefs that dramatically can lead us to a lifetime of really being ‘healthy’.

Another example that may describe intellectually almost everyone knows they shouldn’t smoke tobacco; however, that knowledge doesn’t change their behavior one bit. There is more information available on the dangers of smoking tobacco now than there ever has been in the history of the world, yet it doesn’t stop people from buying or smoking cigarettes with virtually no regard for the health risks that are printed on the side of every pack.

Little kids can even beg their parents with tears to ‘please stop smoking’ while pouring out their anger, love or fears over their own mom or dad’s health yet it does no good to change the behavior, or to change it for very long. What’s going on? Are they nuts? What more could it possibly take to get the message across than the broken heart of one’s own son or daughter? A million dollars? Nope- or ten million either because no amount of money, begging, pleading, or even legal boundaries about age or not smoking in an elevator or bed for basic safety can change a person’s use of tobacco from the outside, when they have accepted how normal and necessary it is for them to have it on the inside.

This powerful, (but often invisible to us), dynamic functions as an ‘auto-pilot’ in our brain and can trigger continual conflicts, habitual impulsiveness, compulsive behaviors or addictive relapses every single time it comes up- from age five to eighty-five. It is the source behind being completely out of control with our words or actions, even when we know better- at home or work and typically gets worse over time if not addressed. This dynamic is also what ignites or explodes the major problems we have with other people, because it is the source of most marital fights, business failures and financial struggles.

Our invisible expectations are quite visible to everyone else, yet silently keep growing bigger inside of us because they are often fueled by our core beliefs and strongly held convictions about what is ‘normal’ and ‘right’ to want or desire in a particular situation at home or work, no matter how out of balance, unreasonable, irrational or expensive that desire might actually be. This process actually gets much more intense based on the closeness and connection of the relationship being considered- which explains why we seem to demand the most from the people in our family and the least from total stranger… leading to dumping the most anger and frustration on the one we are supposed to love the most; while apologizing and being the most kind to a stranger. The closer you are- the more you will either add tremendous value to a better quality of life, or cause the most pain- there isn’t much middle ground on this one.

There are almost as many techniques and therapeutic approaches that can be used to map out how to change each individual element of being ‘normal’ so you can imagine that it might take a long time to struggle through each and everyone to finally ‘get your life together’ enough to begin to really practice the principles that lead to a lifetime of wellness, contentment and peace. Good news! There is a better way! One that you can begin right now called, “Never Go Back” and it’s based on the principles of being Healthy, instead of just feeling normal.

These factors are almost always enmeshed and intertwined throughout multiple areas of our lives and determine the base level of self-esteem, self-discipline and self-motivation that shape a tremendous amount of the success we will have in life. (about 80% or so), Once you can determine what a person will do in a particular set of circumstances, you can almost always predict what they will do again and again. Some people have a built in belief system about life that causes them to continually self-improve in some areas while just as quickly self-destructing in others, (think Elvis). Why such an imbalance and gap? Because they grew up where certain ‘core values were continually taught, modeled, and rewarded so in that area, they learned the ‘habit’ of success. Once you the see how easy it is to view the image

This tremendously powerful dynamic between what is ‘Normal’ & ‘Healthy’ is especially easy to get confused when it’s about something we have to deal with every single day of our lives from the cradle to the grave; nope, it’s not love- and it’s not money- but it is food. Sometimes the most common problem for many people begins in their childhood because they begin to use food to ‘fix’ other problems or pressures. It doesn’t work for kids and eventually destroys adults.

You are beginning to see that the changes necessary to Never Go Back are based on internal beliefs and core values, instead of external changes like joining a new fitness club or buying a bathing suit you can’t fit into to hang in the bathroom as an incentive to change. That’s why some people never seem to get better because all they have ever known is failure and frustration and the hopelessness of gradually giving up on their dreams. They don’t know what’s like to live free from the psychological power of food controlling their lives, so they keep trying and trying a process that brings more pain, difficulty and failure; while their dreams of a healthier lifestyle are slipping away and slowly dying and dying.

There is something better than just dreaming about a balanced and healthy lifestyle- living it! That’s what this book is about. This process has worked for others for countless centuries because it’s built on the God’s foundational truths that never change and will always work, regardless of a person’s gender, age, culture, personality, resources or education. Good news! By reading this far, you have already taken some bold steps to experience a permanent lifestyle change, because you now understand the internal dynamic that points you toward continual self-improvement or self-destruction. Now you can move forward to understand how something as basic as food can be triggered in one of four predictable ways, any one of which can continually defeat you from real change, or continually bring wellness to your body, mind and spirit. It’s time to take what you learned and move forward to master the food triggers that have held you back for too long.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print,
provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with corporations and organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group by visiting their extensive posting of blog’s and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Benefits of Therapy

By Linda Riley, LMFT & Certified Sex Therapist

Emotions are normal and we experience them everyday. How we deal with them affects us in positive or negative ways. Not dealing with them at all will lead to problems in our relationships with others, either at home or at work. When we are struggling with negative emotions we expend a lot of negative energy which tremendously affects our productivity and can leave us feeling drained and depressed. Therapy provides a constructive way to process these emotions and prevent us from remaining stuck and developing self-defeating behaviors. First of all it can help us better identify and understand our emotions by recognizing where they come from and how to manage them.

Challenging life circumstances provide opportunities to grow and develop a stronger sense of who we really are. How we chose to respond to our circumstances leaves us feeling positive or negative about ourselves. Each choice we make affects us in either a small or large way, and slowly over the course of time we become either a healthy and happy person or an unhealthy and unhappy person. Therapy can help you make better choices. It is only when we let go of negative energy that positive energy can flow into our lives. The biggest difference between happy and unhappy people is that happy people chose to deal with the negative things in their life so they can let go of the negative energy and focus on what’s good and positive. Sometimes this means letting go of the past so you can move forward into your future. Getting stuck in the past interferes with accomplishing our goals and aspirations. Therapy can help you choose how to respond to difficult circumstances and people. Holding on to negative emotions not only causes stress and depression but recent research also clearly demonstrates that it causes heart disease as well.

Therapy can help you…

1. Recognize dysfunctional patterns of behavior that keep you stuck in negativity.
2. Realize how damaging negative emotions are, like anger, shame and guilt.
3. Develop the ability to make choices that positively impact your life.
4. Improve your relationships.
5. Take control of your life so you have more positive energy to work with.
6. Become an emotionally healthier person.



Written by: Linda Riley, A Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Sex Counselor who has counseled family's and couples for over 22 years. Her focus has been with enriching relationships and understanding relationship dynamics. Promoting personal growth and building healthy self-concepts to help her clients achieve maximum results in their personal and professional lives. For additional free resources and articles please visit http://www.lifeworksgroup.org/ or 407-647-7005.