Christian Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
"Take Captive Every Thought"
Transcript: “Take Captive Every Thought”
Dr. Brian Campbell
Hello, my name is Dr. Brian Campbell.
I would like to welcome you to this presentation entitled: Take Captive Every Thought.
In this talk, I will introduce you to a cognitive-behavioral approach to Christian Counseling. This approach is based solidly on God’s word, and is consistent with the scriptures as contained in the Holy Bible. The presentation is intended for Christian Counselors and for individuals currently receiving counseling.
During the course of the presentation, I will teach you the basic techniques utilized in a cognitive-behavioral approach to Christian counseling. I will also show you how cognitive-behavioral techniques can be used to help you change your thinking, behavior, and your underlying beliefs. Finally, I will show how your beliefs, when they are brought in line with God’s Word, will bring mental health and freedom from psychological problems. Now let’s turn to focus on the most important concept in this presentation, the concept of “beliefs.”
The key to understanding mental health and mental illness can be summed up in one word, the word “Beliefs.”
What is a belief?
A belief is something you consciously or unconsciously accept or assume to be true.
For example, you may believe you are dumb or stupid. Or, you may believe there is no hope for this world.
Now it is important to understand that just because you “believe” that something is true, does not necessarily make it, in reality “true.” Many things we believe in are actually false beliefs, or lies.
All beliefs can be separated into two basic categories: Irrational beliefs, or lies.
And rational beliefs, or truths.
Irrational beliefs, or lies, are associated with sin, and psychological problems, such as misery, unhappiness, and suffering.
For example, if I accept as being true the irrational belief that “Nobody could possibly love me,” this could result in a lifetime of hurt, sadness and psychological problems.
Fortunately, even though we are often taught lies, we do not have to continue to believe them. We, as Christians, can focus on Rational Beliefs, or truths, as revealed in God’s Holy word. When we start believing the truth, we immediately start becoming more mentally healthy. Our thinking is literally transformed and we begin to experience the fruits of the spirit, such as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
For example, what do you think would happen if you stopped believing the lie that “nobody could possibly love me” and started believing the Biblical truth that: God created me and loves me more than I can every know or understand. As you might guess, if you reject the lie and start believing the biblical truth, this new belief would have a profound influence on your mental health and happiness.
If beliefs are so important to mental health, where do the come from?
For the most part, we learn our beliefs through our experience in the world.
As children, our parents have a strong influence on what we believe.
Later on, the world around us starts to have an ever-increasing influence on forming our basic beliefs.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and not everything parents teach children to believe in is actually true. Many parents—either intentionally or unintentionally--teach children lies, or false beliefs, about themselves and about the world.
Not only do parents sometimes teach lies, or irrational beliefs, the world around us is notorious for teaching false beliefs. In fact, when we stand back and look at the history of mankind, we start to see that many of the so-called “scientific” truths of bygone years, are now seen as “false beliefs” in modern society. Let’s take a moment to look at a few of these false beliefs.
At one point in our history, we believed that sun gods and moon gods could influence our crops. We also believed that the earth was flat, and that the earth was the center of the universe. We now know that these and other popular beliefs of the past were false.
In fact, it is not hard to imagine that many of the so-called scientific facts that are taught in our schools today, will be considered to be fiction in years to come. Therefore, as Christians, we must continually evaluate what the world teaches us to “believe,” and hold it up to the light of the Truth, as revealed in God’s word.
Another source of irrational beliefs that the world teaches us can be seen in the form of man’s superstitions. Our superstitions reveal that many things we assume to be true are downright silly and obviously “false.” Superstitions are clear examples of irrational beliefs that make no sense. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the most common superstitions.
A black cat crossing the road brings bad luck.
A rabbit’s foot brings good luck.
Walking under a ladder is bad luck.
Although you may feel that superstitions such as these are funny or silly, many of you are probably guilty of having one or more of your own “favorite” superstitions.
Although superstitions are relatively “harmless” and typically have little effect on our lives, other “false beliefs” are clearly toxic and are very harmful to our mental health and can have damaging long-term effects.
I will use the term “toxic beliefs” to refer to beliefs that can be extremely damaging and harmful to our mental health. If left unchallenged or uncorrected, these toxic beliefs can have a significant impact throughout our lives. For example, if your parents and the “world” teach you that you are dumb or stupid, this belief can influence you negatively throughout your lifetime.
By now, I hope you are starting to see that our beliefs are very important to our mental health. In fact, virtually all psychological problems have underlying “false” beliefs associated with them. Anxiety, depression, and all mental health issues stem from irrational beliefs “or lies” that have been taught to us and that we have accepted as being true.
Given the argument that our beliefs are so important to our mental health, why does it seem that we often just accept what is being taught to us, hook, line and sinker, without evaluating the truth of what we are learning? Well, the fact is that our brain doesn’t always evaluate the “truthfulness” of what is being taught. It very often just accepts that what it is is learning as true, without questioning. Young children are especially susceptible to simply believing what they are taught, without evaluating whether what they are learning is, in reality, “true” or “false.”
For example, when I was young, about four years old, my mother saw me eating the peel from an orange. She told me to “Stop eating that, that’s poison.” Well, I believed her, and over the years I observed that everyone else must have known that orange peels were poison, because everyone else carefully took them off the orange and threw them away. Because my belief was never disconfirmed or challenged, I continued to believe that orange peels were poison until I was 28 years old. At that time, my wife of one year was making icing for a cake and started to grind some of the outside of the orange peel to put in the icing. I watched in horror as she put what I believed to be poison orange peel into the icing. When I confronted her, she looked at me in a very concerned way, and probably wondered how and why she ever married such a strange person. Fortunately, we’re still married, and fortunately my belief that “orange peels are poison” did not have much impact on my life. However, as I have emphasized previously, many of the things we have “bought into,” without evaluating them, are far from harmless. In fact, they can have far-reaching consequences on our lives and mental health.
Our underlying beliefs are like the ocean tide. The ocean tides are deep, and their influence is very broad and wide. In a similar manner, our underlying beliefs are often deep and broad based. They can develop slowly over a lifetime, and they can be difficult to fathom, or discern. In fact, they are often so deep and far-reaching, we can find it extremely hard to identify or label these beliefs and put them into words. For too long, we have simply accepted them as being true, and we are often unaware of how they affect many different aspects of our lives.
Discovering our underlying beliefs is an extremely important part of Christian counseling. The reason this process is important is that our underlying beliefs have a profound influence on “what” we think and “how” we think. Using the analogy of the ocean, our thoughts “flow out of” and are formed by our underlying beliefs (which are represented by the tides). That is, just as the tides determine whether there are any waves on the beach, so our underlying beliefs affect the formation and content of our thoughts
Unfortunately, we do not always see the connection between our underlying beliefs and our thoughts. A big part of Christian counseling is aimed at helping people discover the connection between “thoughts” and underlying beliefs. It is not an exaggeration to say that vast majority of “what” we think about and “how” we think about ourselves and our world can be traced back to our underlying beliefs.
We have just seen that our underlying beliefs affect our thinking—that is, the formation of our thoughts and the content of our thoughts. But beliefs don’t just influence our thinking, they also have a significant influence on our behavior. Using our ocean analogy, just as our thoughts “flow out of” our underlying beliefs, so our behavior “flows out of” our thinking. Try to visualize the relationship between our thoughts and our behavior by thinking of our behavior as being represented by the action or movement of the wave. That is, the way the wave “behaves” is influenced by our thinking, and our thinking, in turn, is influenced by our underlying beliefs. Thus, our beliefs, our thinking, and our behavior are all related. Let’s take a moment to look at an example of how our thoughts can influence our behavior.
Let’s start, once again, with the underlying belief that “the world is not safe”
In a previous slide, we have shown how this underlying belief can result in thoughts such as “everyone’s out to get me.” Now let’s go one step further. If you think such thoughts on a regular basis, it is not difficult to see how they can significantly influence your behavior. In fact, you may stop going outside and start avoiding people altogether as a result of this thinking. This is a clear example of how our thinking can affect our behavior.
Now, let’s continue with our analogy. Thus far, we have seen how underlying beliefs affect our thinking and how our thinking, in turn, can affect our behavior. But in addition to affecting our behavior, there is another powerful influence that our thinking has on our lives, namely: our thinking significantly influences our emotions. Once again, using the analogy of the ocean, we have seen that our behavior “flows out of” our thinking. In a similar manner, our emotions also “flow out of” our thinking. That is, there is a direct relationship between our thinking and our emotions. In our analogy of the ocean, think of our emotions as the waves crashing into the shore. Many of our strongest emotions flow directly out of our unhealthy thinking. Now let’s return, once again, to the example we have been using to see how our thinking can clearly influence our emotions, or feelings.
If we believe that the world is not safe, this can cause us to think that “everyone’s out to get me.” In a sort of cascading effect, this thought, and others like it, can trigger powerful emotions such as fear and anxiety. To some extent, all of us are already aware of the influence of thinking on emotions. For example, we all know that we can make ourselves more frightened by thinking frightening thoughts. We can also make ourselves more depressed by thinking depressing thoughts, such as “there’s no hope,” “The world is going to Hell.”
Let’s take a moment to summarize what we have been learning. Thus far, we have seen how our underlying beliefs can have a powerful affect our thinking, our behavior, and our emotions. In addition to these influences, our underlying beliefs also affect three important areas: Our perception—how we look at and process the world;
Our self-talk—how we talk to ourselves and what we say to ourselves; and, finally, our underlying beliefs, ultimately, affect our very Salvation. Let’s look first at how our underlying beliefs affect our perception of the world.
What we believe, or accept to be true, can have a powerful influence on how we perceive the world. In fact, the way we look at the world and process information is often significantly influenced by our underlying beliefs. Although we are not always aware of it, our brain tends to “look for” evidence to support what it already believes to be true. For example, if you believe that you are fat, you may tend to look in the mirror and see yourself as fat, even when you have lost a lot of weight. This occurs in the disorder called Anorexia.
The tendency to “look for” evidence to support our beliefs is called “selective attention.” During the process of selective attention, the brain selectively attends to information that will support what it already believes to be true. For example, if you believe that people are out to get you, you will tend to find evidence to support your belief.
Once the brain has found evidence to support its belief, it tends to confirm its own bias.
In a sense, the brain says: “Uh-huh! I knew I was right!” This process, which is called “confirmatory bias,” gives further support to the brain’s underlying belief.
In addition to influencing how we perceive the world, our underlying beliefs also influence how we talk to ourselves and what we say to ourselves. We refer to this general phenomenon as: “self-talk.” In case you haven’t noticed, most of us are always “talking to ourselves.” What we say to ourselves, about ourselves, can be extremely important to our mental health.
People with psychological problems typically engage in self-talk that is not very healthy. For example, a person who has been taught by his parents that he is “stupid” may talk very negatively “to” himself “about” himself. This negative and critical self-talk, can be very damaging to the individual and further reinforce the underlying irrational belief that he is stupid. In Christian Counseling, from a cognitive-behavioral framework, it is often very important to help individuals change the way they talk to themselves, about “themselves” and about the world around them.
Finally, and without a doubt the most important point, our underlying beliefs affect our very salvation. If the underlying belief in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior is not in place, then nothing else really matters. On the other hand, if we do believe in Jesus Christ and proclaim Him as Lord and Savior, we will be saved and inherit eternal salvation. In Christian Counseling, helping individual’s secure their eternal salvation takes precedence over all other counseling objectives.
In summary, we have seen that our underlying beliefs affect: thinking, behavior, emotion, perception, self-talk, and our eternal salvation.
Because of the critical importance of beliefs, Christian Counseling focuses on helping individuals identify and change their irrational beliefs, or lies, and bring them into line with God’s truths, as contained in the Bible.
For purposes of education and training, the entire process of Christian Counseling can be broken down into four main steps: 1. Identify Underlying Beliefs, 2. Challenge Irrational Beliefs (or lies) 3. Replace Irrational Beliefs with Biblical Truths, and 4. The truth will set you free.
Step I: Identifying Underlying Beliefs
Helping individuals discover their core beliefs typically takes time and skill and is part of the main focus of the ongoing process of counseling. There are three primary sources of information that can be used to help identify an individual’s underlying beliefs: Background information; questionnaires and checklists, and interview. Stated simply and concisely, the role of the Christian counselor is to “draw out” the irrational beliefs and help the individual replace them with Biblical truths.
Important background information is usually obtained when the individual first enters counseling. For example, information regarding an individual’s childhood, education, parents, medical history, and work history are typically obtained on intake forms.
Such information can provide an important starting point for helping the counselor identify an individual’s underlying beliefs. For example, a person’s educational history may reveal a long-term pattern of poor school performance and poor school grades.
Such experience could result in a wide range of irrational beliefs, including the unhealthy belief that “I’m dumb or stupid.”
Questionnaires and checklists that specifically target unhealthy beliefs can be useful in quickly identifying some of the more harmful, or “toxic” beliefs that are associated with mental health problems. For example, the following slide shows an excerpt from a checklist that targets the harmful messages that parents sometimes teach their children.
The checklist is entitled: Toxic Beliefs Parents Teach Children. It includes such items as: You’re the cause of our family’s problems; If it weren’t for you, I’d be happy; and You can’t do anything right. Obviously, messages such as these are extremely unhealthy and are likely to result in a wide range of toxic beliefs that almost certainly will need to be addressed in counseling.
In addition to using background information, the Christian Counselor utilizes the interview process and the ongoing dialog of therapy to obtain additional information regarding underlying beliefs. Very often, the initial interview with the Counselee, which focuses on the “presenting problem” or “crisis,” will provide the first insight into the person’s underlying belief system. For example, a business man once came to see a counselor in what appeared to be a “crisis.” He proceeded to tell the counselor he had just lost some business accounts that would result in 100,000 loss in profit for the year. He cried and wept openly as he related the story. However, further on in the discussion, he proceeded to tell the counselor that he was still earning well over 400,000 per year.
Obviously, there were some very serious problems with underlying beliefs that became apparent during this initial interview. Beliefs such as: “You’ll never have enough money,” or, “money is the most important thing in life” may well have been underlying this man’s psychological problems.
During the process of counseling, the counselor is likely to identify many different irrational beliefs that need to be challenged or “corrected.” However, not all of these irrational beliefs will be addressed at one time. In general, irrational beliefs that are associated with the person’s so-called “presenting problem” will usually be addressed first.
Thus far in our discussion, we have pointed toward one of the most important sources of irrational beliefs in our lives, namely, our experience in the world (including our experience with our parents). Over the next few slides, we will take time to further highlight the importance of experience on the development of underlying beliefs. Then, we will turn to look at additional sources of irrational beliefs, including: our sinful nature, our biology, our brain, and the Devil.
We have already taken our first glimpse at the “toxic beliefs” that parents sometimes teach children. The powerful role of our parents in the formation of our basic beliefs cannot be understated. However, in addition to our parents, there are many other important sources of influence on the development of our belief system, including the media, and other significant people in our lives. But before proceeding to other topics, let’s take a moment to once again look at some of the harmful messages that parents sometimes teach children.
You’re not wanted. You’re stupid. The world’s a scary place. Don’t trust anyone. You’re hopeless. We like your brother/ sister better than you. Now it is extremely important to note that not all of these toxic messages are communicated verbally—that is, in words. Many of these messages are communicated nonverbally, through actions, gestures, or innuendos. Nevertheless, whether they are spoken or unspoken, the underlying “message” containing the toxic belief, is often communicated “loudly and clearly” to the child. These devastating messages can result in a lifetime of pain or suffering.
Although parents have a powerful influence on the development of irrational beliefs, they are by no means the only source unhealthy beliefs. All you have to do is to take a brief look at what we are being taught by our media sources to observe the toxic messages that are being sent to us “in living color” and on a regular basis. It doesn’t get any better. Go for the gusto. If it feels good, do it. It goes without saying that these and other “toxic” beliefs that are “driven home” by our media can serve to teach a wide-range of unhealthy beliefs that run contrary to God’s Word. Unfortunately, many of these “false beliefs” are simply accepted as being true, without evaluation or challenge.
In addition to our media sources, other significant people in our lives can also serve as important sources for our underlying beliefs. Some of these sources seem friendly, or harmless, but this is not always the case. For example, our teachers, relatives, professors, and even our clergy, may intentionally or unintentionally teach us irrational beliefs or “lies.” Consider for a moment the theory of evolution. It has been popular for some time for teachers and professors to teach beliefs about evolution that can have a significant impact on the lives of our children and on adults. Very often, theories such as evolution are taught as “fact,” despite the lack of hard scientific evidence for the theory, and in the face of evidence that clearly contradicts the theory. Obviously, if the traditional doctrine of evolution goes unchallenged, the belief system that it supports can have a significant impact on our lives.
Finally, even our pastors and other clergy have been known to be the source of irrational beliefs, or lies. It perhaps goes without saying that just because your pastor tells you something is true, does not mean that it is, in fact, true. As Christians, we must always evaluate what is being taught by man as truth and compare it to the truth as presented in the Bible. We are to “test everything” in the light of God’s Holy Word.
Although much of what we have come to believe in is learned through our experience in life, there are others sources of irrational beliefs that need to be considered. For example, it not far-fetched to assume that at least some of our irrational beliefs are related to our basic sinful nature. As Christians, we believe that God created a perfect world, and then man turned from his perfect plan. This resulted in “defects” in man” that have plagued us throughout the story of mankind on this earth. All of us inherit, from birth, a sinful nature that is hostile to God. This sinful nature may be the source of some of the “lies” that cause us pain and psychological problems.
Sometimes it is hard for us to accept that we are sinful from birth. However, if we take a close look at young children, we can often observe clear signs of our sinful nature. For example, material possession, jealousy, greed,--all these seem to present in children almost from birth—and without being taught by parents or by the world. I am reminded of a Christian parent whose son stole a pencil from another child at school. The parent assured the teacher that: “he never learned that at my home.”
Turing to a related topic, the results of Adam’s fall may also be seen in defects in our biology. Many of the “lies we believe” appear to have a close link to defects in our biological makeup. For example, we know that many psychological disorders run in families and can be linked to defects in our genes. These defects, in turn, can have a significant impact on the way we think and behave.
Mental retardation, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, have all been shown to be linked to underlying genetic and/or biochemical factors that can have a profound influence on thinking. Returning to our analogy of the ocean, underlying biological defects and disorders can be thought of as the “rocks,” “hills,” and “valleys,” on the bottom of the ocean floor that influence the tides and the formation of the waves. The influence of our biology on our thinking and behavior can be extremely powerful. In fact, it is often necessary to address the biological problems prior to, or in conjunction with, focusing on the individual’s belief system.
Fortunately, although our biology can significantly influence our thinking, it does not totally determine it. Even if a person has underlying biological defects or neurochemical problems, he can still be helped to change his beliefs and his thinking and bring it more in line with God’s word.
Now let’s turn to consider the role of medication in counseling. Many Christian’s fear medication and accept the irrational belief that “all medications are bad.” The truth is that medication intervention, in certain instances, can be extremely important to the process of Christian counseling. Certain disorders, especially psychotic disorders, and cases of severe anxiety or depression, may require medication in order to stabilize the client so that he or she can benefit from counseling.
Now let’s consider our last major source of irrational beliefs—the devil.
As Christians, we believe that the devil is “alive and well” and can have significant influence in our lives, if we let him. The devil or “evil one,” is described by Jesus in the book of John as a “liar and the father of lies.” In addition, Jesus goes on to say regarding the devil that quote: “there is no truth in him.” As Christians, if we are not careful, and fail to put on the armor of God, we can be influenced by the lies of the devil. We can begin to believe his lies instead of the truth. Of course, if we believe the lies of the Evil one, this can have significant consequences on our mental health.
Step 2. Challenge Irrational Beliefs
After irrational beliefs “or lies” have been identified, the next major step of the Christian counseling is to challenge the person’s false beliefs by attacking them with targeted questions, scriptures, and changes in behavior.
One way of the most important techniques for challenging an individual’s unhealthy beliefs, is to ask questions--question that cause the person to re-evaluate or reconsider the validity of his or her irrational belief. Along the same lines, scriptures can be used that “argue against” “break up” the irrational belief and challenge the validity of what we have assumed or what we have accepted as being true.
Many of the questions that are used to challenge a person’s false beliefs draw upon the Christian’s knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ, and his or her knowledge of the truth, as revealed in the Bible. Because these questions are intended to “break up” the underlying irrational beliefs, or associated irrational thinking, it is convenient to think of these as “Thoughtbusters.” Some examples of Thoughtbusters would be: How might Christ view this belief? What’s the evidence for this belief? Does the Bible support this belief? “Could I convince Jesus that my beliefs are correct?”
Another way to challenge or “break up” irrational beliefs is to provide scriptures that directly challenge the irrational belief. For example, if a person holds the irrational belief that “There’s no hope,” this unhealthy belief can be directly challenged with the scripture: “Anyone who is among the living has hope” (Ecclesiastes 9:4). We will look at this process in more detail in a subsequent section of this presentation.
From a Christian counseling point of view, the Bible is the best mental health textbook ever written. Everything that is done in counseling should be consistent with God’s Word. Now let’s move on to another topic.
Another way to challenge an individual’s underlying faulty belief, is to help him or her make significant changes in behavior, or actions. Sometimes the best way to challenge a belief is to take action that, by its very nature, “argues against” the validity of the belief.
Let’s take a moment to look at an example.
A woman came to counseling who was very depressed. She complained that her house was a total disaster. She felt that the situation was hopeless and that she would never be able to clean it. The counselor challenged her to go home and clean off just the coffee table--a chore that he knew she could accomplish. When she returned the next week, she reported that she did, in fact, manage to clean off her coffee table. Her success, although it was tiny in some respects, argued strongly against her underlying belief that the situation was utterly hopeless. This process of “changing behavior to challenge beliefs” can be applied to a wide variety of underlying irrational beliefs.
In a similar, and somewhat related procedure, the counselor can help the individual challenge underlying beliefs by asking him or her to conduct an experiment to “test” whether the underlying belief is supported by evidence. For example, a person who incorrectly believes that his mother and father hate him is asked to take data on the number of times his parents say or do loving things for him during the following week. To his surprise, the individual returns and reports that his parents actually say and do many things that indicate that they love him. The data from this little experiment argue strongly against the underlying “false” belief that they hate him. Now let’s turn to another technique that can help challenge irrational beliefs.
Recommending changes in activities can provide yet another method for helping individuals directly or indirectly challenge irrational beliefs. Activities such as watching a sunset or taking a nature walk can often help individuals gain a better perspective on their problems. For example, if a person believes: “My problem is huge and insurmountable,” a walk outside at night may help put the problems in better perspective, as the person contemplates the vastness of space and awesome power of God.
This brings us to an extremely important concept in Christian Counseling—the importance of helping individuals put things in proper perspective. Helping individuals “stand back” and look at their problems from a different perspective can prove to be vital for challenging irrational beliefs and bringing about mental health. For example, it is very natural for people to believe that all pain and suffering are bad, or undesirable.
However, the Bible tells use something very different. Scriptures tell us: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). For example, the apostle Paul wrote: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5: 3-4). Helping individuals put their problems in a proper perspective, can be a very important tool for challenging irrational beliefs.
STEP III: Replace Irrational Beliefs with the Truth
In our previous discussion, we have identified a number of sources for irrational beliefs, or lies. We have also highlighted several methods for challenging unhealthy beliefs. The third major step in the Christian Counseling process is to replace irrational beliefs with the truth.
The Holy Spirit
There are two main sources of the truth. The first source is the Bible, which includes the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The second source is the Holy Spirit.
In Christian Counseling, the Bible is the main source of the truth that sets us free from irrational beliefs, or lies. After identifying irrational beliefs, the Christian Counselor selects scriptures that directly contradict and “argue against” the underlying irrational belief. Let’s look at an example. If a client comes into counseling who is experiencing anxiety, one of his or her underlying irrational beliefs may be: “Something dreadful is going to happen.” This irrational belief can be refuted by many different scriptures, including those found in 1 Peter and Ecclesiastes.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
“A man cannot discover anything about his future.”
Let’s look at an example. If a client comes into counseling who is experiencing anxidty, one of his or her underlying irrational beliefs may be: “Something dreadful is going to happen.” This irrational belief can be refuted by many different scriptures, including those found in 1st Peter and Ecclesiastes. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “A man cannot discover anything about his future” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
Pearls: Scriptures to live by
If you are like me, it is often difficult to find the right scripture at the right time during counseling. Because of this, I compiled a book of 2500 scriptures that were specifically chosen for Christian Counseling purposes. The book is entitled: Pearls: Scriptures to live by. Many of the scriptures contained in Pearls are available, online, at Counseling4Christians.com. The site is intended for Christian Counselors and for individuals currently receiving counseling. It contains hundreds of scriptures, recommended books, links, and other important resources.
After selecting scriptures that refute or “argue against” the underlying false belief, individuals are encouraged to memorize these scriptures and commit them to heart. The scriptural basis for committing scriptures to memory can be found in Psalm 119: “I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”
In addition to memorizing targeted scriptures, individuals are also encouraged to meditate on God’s Word. Meditation refers to the practice of reflection or contemplation
Meditation involves actively thinking about the scriptures and evaluating them in terms of how they apply to your life. Meditation can also involve additional research and Bible study in order to discern the true meaning of the scriptures
Another method used to help people replace irrational beliefs, is to encourage them to talk about themselves in more positive and mentally healthy ways. Changing the way you talk to yourself, about yourself, can be very helpful in replacing irrational beliefs
For example: Instead of saying “I’m hopeless,” encourage the person to say to himself: “I’m a child of God and He loves me.”
We have already seen how memorizing targeted scriptures can help individuals replace irrational beliefs. In a similar manner, encouraging individuals to memorize appropriate self-statements that correct or refute irrational beliefs can be extremely helpful in replacing irrational beliefs and bringing about mental health. For example: A person who is plagued by sin can be encouraged to memorize the following corrective self-statement: “I’m not perfect, just forgiven”
Attacking Irrational Beliefs (Lies)
It is a basic fact of learning, that repetition is a key factor in the process of changing thinking and behavior. In the cognitive-behavioral model of Christian counseling, individuals are encouraged to frequently challenge irrational beliefs and frequently repeat scriptures and positive self-statements. Overall, we encourage individuals to “attack” irrational beliefs on a regular and repetitive basis. The scriptural basis for this attack is reflected in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Unfortunately, most of us have a difficult time remembering to repeat scriptures or corrective self-statements and Biblical truths. One of the most useful tools for facilitating repetition is called the Motiviader. This is simply a prompting device that can be set to “go off” and vibrate at intervals throughout the day. The vibration serves as a reminder to repeat a scripture or a corrective self-statement such as: “Thy Will Be Done.” For example, if you set the motivaider to vibrate every seven minutes throughout the day, you would, over the course of the day, repeat this phrase over 100 times. Of course, it goes without saying that you would not normally make this statement out loud. Instead, you would be prompted to make the statement silently, to yourself, throughout the day.
The Holy Spirit
Another way to change and replace irrational beliefs is to learn to listen to the Great Counselor within us, which is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, which dwells within all believers, was sent by God to guide believers into the truth. In fact, the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of truth.” The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and reveals God’s truths to us in our everyday lives.
We can also replace irrational beliefs through active prayer and petition to God. God encourages us to pray and ask for anything in his name and he will do it. Christian counselors encourage individuals to pray that God will take away irrational beliefs and replace them with Biblical truths Christians are also encouraged to pray for others, even their “enemies” and to pray for the entire process of counseling.
“Tools” for Change: The Bible; The Holy Spirit; Prayer; Behavior Change
This next table summarizes the various “Tools for Change” that are utilized by Christian Counselors who adopt a cognitive-behavioral framework. Now let’s turn to the final portion of this presentation.
Another tool that can be used to re-program thinking throughout your day is the of use inspirational music. The Christian counselor can help individuals select songs with lyrics that directly counter and replace irrational beliefs. For example, If you believe that your life is totally out of control, you might try listening to Twila Paris’s song: “God is in control.” Christian songs are readily available on the internet. Songs can be downloaded and a CD of specially tailored songs can be produced that address the individual’s underlying irrational beliefs.
Our journey into mental health is a journey into the truth.
Our very salvation depends upon our acceptance of the truth, which God desires for us. “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Corinthians 2-4).
Thinking ImprovesàActions Follow
As we focus on the truth, and begin to follow it, our thinking improves, and our actions naturally follow. “I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
Our thinking is literally transformed by the truth. This transformation brings us in line with God’s will for us, and brings freedom. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
As we begin to follow the truth, we come into the Light—which is Jesus Christ.
“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been through God” (John 3:21).
The Truth will Set You Free!
In the final analysis, the truth will set us free. “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Fruits of the Spirit
And how will you know when you are free, you will begin to experience mental health, and fruits of the spirit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Once you have begun following the truth instead of lies, it is extremely important to engage in activities that help maintain the changes in thinking and behavior. Individuals in Christian counseling are encouraged to attend church regularly, study the Bible, pray, and help others learn about the truth and how the truth sets you free. This concludes our presentation. May God Bless you and lead you into the source of all truth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In His love,
Dr. Brian Campbell