Recently, I was asked what it means to be a counselor. My response was confusing because the meaning of the word counselor is the role of an advisor, but I rarely give advice. I believe that with the right skills, my clients can solve their own problems and gain confidence to handle future problems.
Being depressed is all-consuming and it affects the mind, body and soul. I often hear loved ones ask a depressed person if they have “tried not to be depressed”. As anyone who struggled with depression knows that willing yourself to not be depressed doesn’t work. This brings to question how people make progress when it comes to depression and what that progress looks like. From the perspective of the outside looking in the solution to depression seem obvious – get up and get going. However, real progress in fighting depression comes in small victories. There is a skill in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that is called opposite to emotion action, which states that if you truly want to change stop doing what you’re doing and do the opposite.
I struggled with depression in high school and I found that the more depressed I felt the more I isolated myself and I count myself doing things that reinforced sadness instead of trying to change it, like listening to sad music. Sometimes we cut ourselves off from our greatest weapons against depression like exercise and a support system. Small victories come when we are able to push ourselves to do some of the small things we used to do. These small things might be getting out of bed, checking the mailbox, calling a friend or catching yourself smiling. Celebrate those victories, even if no one else sees them.
Dealing with anxiety can feel overwhelming at times, and in times of the panic attack can feel like you are dying. The first thing to know about panic attacks is that they can only last a few minutes. People can only withstand extreme emotional states for basically a few minutes before it becomes too exhausting. This principle can be seen in dialectical behavior therapy in the skill "ride the wave". In the skill, anxiety or panic is visualized as a big wave headed right for you- waves can knock you down and can turn your life upside down. However, waves are temporary, they crash and and the recede. When we ride the wave we acknowledge our fear and our experience of panic without trying to control it.
When I talk about the skill with clients, I often hear a chuckle. They say, "so you're telling me to do nothing". I think that we want to know "why" anxiety comes and "how" to get rid of it, but sometimes in explaining it we hold onto it longer than it would have lasted if we simply acknowledged it and let it go. Sometimes doing "nothing" in a situation can be one of the most important skills of all. Like any skill, it needs to be practiced. The Goldilocks principle for anxiety states that a person needs a certain amount of anxiety to be motivated to change and to get a chance to practice. However, too much anxiety will be overwhelming and counterproductive to practice any skills. Sometimes people are so sufficiently medicated that they lack the motivation and the ability to practice skills that they could be using to face anxiety in the future (possibly without medications).
Self-esteem is a good goal in itself and certainly helps people face daunting challenges like depression. What do you do when you cannot face the person in the mirror and you cannot name 5 things you like about yourself? You do not need to love yourself – you need to feel like you can do something about your situation. In psychology speak, this is called self-efficacy. It is built through practice and requires action. In my experience, self-efficacy is still possible when self-esteem is not there. Rarely is a situation truly hopeless. Even when you feel like you hate yourself, you can still believe that you can take one tiny step in the right direction. Believe that you can do something.
1. Pastors can talk too much. Talking too much can confuse people and leave them feeling unheard.
2. Giving advice without really listening. This increases the chance of pastors giving bad or irrelevant advice.
3. Giving sympathy instead of empathy. Not being comfortable around people in emotional pain may motivate pastors to “water down” their message.
4. Not making a safe place for people to share. People take a big risk when making a confession. If that confession is public then the stakes are higher. Some ground rules are needed to help ensure safety, if not confidentiality.
5. Amplifying feelings of guilt and shame. A little bit of guilt goes a long way and feelings of guilt can be motivating for change. However, too much guilt can be a paralyzing burden for anyone to try to carry.
6. Getting pulled into the problem. Addiction almost always involves family and it is easy to be pulled into family conflict. It is important to remain neutral and outside the situation. Sometimes, trying to help the situation actually hurts the addict. Through the best intentions, pastors can enable continued addictive behaviors– especially through financial support.
7. Believing that addicts can be “cured”. This leaves pastors unprepared for potential and likely relapse. Recovery is a process and it takes time. Approximately 60% of people struggling with addiction relapse. However, recovery is still achievable through treatment. Recovery must be continually maintained (as with diabetes) and people struggling with addiction can live free from the influence of substances.
Depression affects 6.7% of adults or approximately 15 million people. Depression is not a feeling or a character flaw. Depression is a chronic condition that can be observed in the brain. This picture shows the activity of two brains, one depressed and one not. Depression affects all aspects of a person’s life and its symptoms include depressed mood, fatigue, sleep problems, feelings of guilt and shame (common symptom experienced by men), and thoughts about death and dying.
Depression is not a feeling or a sign of weak character. Depression is a chronic condition of the brain that can be observed. The picture in the blank shows activity within two brands – one normal and one depressed. It is no wonder that depressive symptoms include depressed or down mood, taking little pleasure in activities, sleep problems, energy loss, feelings of shame or guilt (this tends to be amplified in men), and thoughts of death and dying.
If left untreated, depression can progress to thoughts of suicide and suicide itself. Suicide is the leading cause of death for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Suicide is discussed when it happens, but depression remains somewhat unspoken. I believe that there is still a stigma in terms of depression and other mental illnesses that makes talking about it hard to do. I would like to share video of someone brave enough to talk about depression.
1. Pornography sabotages relationships.
a. If you use pornography to cope with or avoid your problems, you may be at risk of
b. If you spend more time looking at porn than you intend to, especially if you begin to
miss important moments in your real life.
c. About 1/4 of internet porn users access porn on their mobile phones. This 24/7 access to
porn puts users at greater risk of addiction.
4. You may become callused toward sexual abuse victims
b. involved in sex trafficking
c. unaware that they are on the internet
www.sexhelp.com - For more information on what qualifies as a pornography addiction
http://blog.clinicalcareconsultants.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/porn_stats_2013_covenant_eyes.pdf - For more information on pornography statistics.