And why you should choose a secular counselor
When we left the church in 2013, I had no plans to leave the Church (capital C) as a whole. We went from the church home we’d been with for over 18 years to another, much smaller church where the kids and I had our homeschool co-op connections. We were “changing churches.” I had no idea the path it would lead me down and had never heard of deconstruction before. It was just the first step in the process.
What is deconstruction, anyway? Josh deKeijzer at the End of God blog explains it this way:
“Deconstruction starts with the realization that all of reality is constructed. This is so because we can only see, i.e. understand, what we can place in an interpretative structure of understanding. When applied to faith and belief systems deconstruction can have dire, but ultimately healthy, consequences. “
I certainly wasn’t going to be on the outs with the One Who Saved Me, but the road of deconstruction began with that first move. We changed churches after about a year, and I began to question the motives of the church, the services, and the function of the worship team. But I wasn’t backsliding. I wasn’t leaving God. People who left the Church were Backsliders. They were walking away from God and condemned to Hell. It was simple black and white. Either you were with God or you weren’t. I was angry and becoming cynical due to my horrible experience when we left our home church. That’s all it was. Right?
And then we decided to try a different church. Then two. And my cynicism and criticism of the show the worship team put on and the obviously fake “How are yous” and I started to enjoy it less and less. Along the way, this along with certain political and news events began to affect my marriage and I found myself desperately needing someone to talk to about it. A friend referred me to a local counselor in early 2018. He was a pretty nice guy, but at the second meeting when we were getting to know each other, we quickly discovered we had similar backgrounds, namely with the Assemblies of God church. He was a former A/G minister. On top of that, the way he talked made me suspect that he was seeing our former pastor professionally or that they were possibly friends.
Alarm bells. Ding ding ding! I was so uncomfortable but he assured me that his background didn’t influence his objectivity in his profession. My gut was telling me to RUN but my ever-present devil’s advocate empathy said ‘Give him the benefit of the doubt’. So I did. At our third session, we were discussing purpose, and he told me, “Well, with most people I don’t share this, but I know that I’ve been given this job because God wants us to save lost sheep, so that’s what I do. I go after lost sheep and bring them back. Like you.”
And still I didn’t stop seeing him.
I should have left then and ever come back, but only took four more sessions and I reached the end. The day he started spouting patriarchal rhetoric at me when I was working through marital conflict issues, telling me, “You just need some boundaries in your marriage” and, ” God made men and women for specific roles in marriage,” was the day I decided enough was enough. As I left that day, he said, “You know, I would really like to pray with you today.” I told him, “I don’t think I want you to do that. Thanks anyway,” and I left. Then I began searching for a counselor who more closely matched my needs.
For starters, I wanted a female counselor.
I wanted someone who had dealt with childhood abuse and understood the issues that come from that. I later learned, when I did find my counselor, that this is called Trauma-Informed Therapy. I did find a nice lady, about the same age as me with whom I connect very well. She is flexible in our sessions depending on my current needs. Sometimes it’s just talk therapy. Sometimes she educates me on my thought processes and how to break through unhealthy cycles. And sometimes, she uses EMDR for helping me work through what I now know is PTSD related to my abusive military upbringing. It has all enabled me to come through it.
I have changed and become more confident.
When I first began seeing her, my anxiety levels were around a 7-10 when it came to bringing up conflict-related issues with my husband. I struggled to speak up with my needs and wishes. I was very much a doormat, not because my husband walked all over me (he didn’t, really) but because I always just gave in to whatever he wanted to do.
It was through the trauma identification process with my secular therapist that I realized the affect my upbringing with my father and my heavy indoctrination by the the A/G Church was still having on my everyday life. The cycles of feeling inadequate, being a placating people-pleaser in order to avoid conflict, and my severe issues related to Evangelical Christian teachings have all begun to settle down and fade away. It’s not without the occasional recurrence, but with therapy, I don’t cycle back into the unhealthy patterns as often or as deeply. She isn’t a Religious Trauma Therapist, but she works so much in trauma and emotions-focused areas that she has helped me think through the issues that I always just “took on faith” and believed and did because that’s what was expected of me.
I could never have come through all of this with a Christian counselor. Dealing with trauma, emotional things, and related marital issues, etc. while going through deconstruction simply cannot be handled by someone who is committed to first and foremostly “saving lost sheep.” You are not a project. You are not a salvation target. You are a person and you need to be heard and taught how to walk through your own life.
I found my counselor through the Psychology Today Find a Therapist search tool. You can put in specifics including the gender of the therapist, issues they specialize in, treatment methods, and even filter to just those who accept your insurance.
Another thing I’ve done is I started taking CBD for my anxiety.
I don’t take anti-depressants or any other meds for this. I use Hemp Oil Drops for maintenance. I have been able to decrease the amount that I take daily since I have been in therapy. Between therapy and CBD, I am healthy and happy.
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