It’s interesting how language changes. We used to talk about “mental illness” and that changed to talking about “mental health”. The latest phrase is “mental wellness”. I was asked recently to define mental wellness and Christian counseling. According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is
…a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Freud said it much more simply: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”
I like the change in terminology. Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental illness. Being emotionally healthy is much more than being free of psychological and spiritual issues. Mental wellness refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
Love and work are a good starting place but leave faith out of the picture. Leave the above definition in place and add the following three ingredients and I think we have a good idea of mental wellness and Christian counseling.
Mental Wellness and Christian Counseling
See God As He Really Is
It is not the counselor’s job to proselytize or impose theology on you. That’s a conversation between you and your pastor, minister, or priest. The counselor’s job is to challenge you to think about what you really believe, not just repeat the same church-y answers you’ve learned by rote and spout off without really thinking. Do you believe what you say you believe? Do you say one thing but do another? It’s not helpful is you say God is good but deep down you think of him as a cosmic cop who delights in writing tickets and can’t wait to punish you.
See Yourself As God Sees You
Too many Christians talk about God as loving and full of grace but in the deep part of their minds they really think God is only interested in blessing other people… not them. God’s promises apply to everyone else… not them. Everybody else is someone God loves… but he has abandoned them.
Behave As If You Really Believed The Above
Changing deeply held beliefs involves changing what we say to ourselves. Behavior change is important, too. I’m not suggesting life is as simple as “fake it til you make it”. There is, though, a powerful dynamic between self talk and behavior. Too many people wait until they feel better before they change their behavior. That can be a long wait.
Emotional And Mental Wellness For A Christian Is:
- Recognizing your own abilities
- Coping with the normal stresses of life
- Working productively and fruitfully
- Contributing to your community
- Seeing God as he really is
- Seeing yourself as God sees you
- Acting or behaving accordingly