Q: I went to a member of my religious clergy six month ago to discuss some addiction and depression issues I am having. I spoke to him again this past Sunday and told him that I hadn’t made any progress. He told me that all the answers lie within our religion and I must not be utilizing them the way I should or could. He said that continuing to fast, pray, attend church, and read scriptures were the building blocks that I could rely on. His advice was to recommit and “press forward” and we’d checkup in another 6 months. When I left his office, I felt horrible and discouraged. My gut is telling me that I am in need of some professional help. Would I be a good candidate for counseling?
A: What a great question!! Yes, I think you would be a good candidate for counseling. I have listed the reasons why I think counseling would help in my blog for the week. Thank you for reaching out!
There are so many things to keep in mind when getting advice regarding mental health or addiction from your religious clergy or anyone for that matter.
- People mean well. We look for advice from people we trust and know have our best interest in mind. Does that mean their guidance is correct? No, not necessarily.
- Follow your gut. If your instincts tell you to do something, pay attention. The more we pay attention to our “gut” the more in tune we will be. The less attention we pay, we may lose our instincts all together.
- Consider the source. Regarding issues of depression and addiction, look to a professional who has schooling in these fields for advice. If religious clergy do not have training in diagnosing or treating addiction or depression they should be referring these problems out to mental health professionals.
- Guilt never works. Hearing and internalizing that you are not dedicated enough or under-utilizing your religious practices usually adds to discouragement…and addiction…and depression. Instead of sitting with guilt, spend your energy looking for other resources and solutions.
- Assess religious practices. Practicing your religion through fasting, prayer, church attendance, and scripture reading can be beneficial practices. If they work for you, keep it up. If these practices cause you anxiety and stress, consider understanding why, taking a break, or discontinuing them.
- Avoid “Insanity”. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. If you have a behavior pattern that you have not been able to change month after month, year after year, consider a different approach. If every time you seek advice from a particular individual and you always feel “horrible” afterward, look for another resource for advice.
- Seek professional help. There are a lot of reasons why people struggle with depression and addictions. Mental illness, genetic predisposition, brain chemistry, lack of understanding of how to cope with stress and difficult emotions, and covering up painful memories are some of the reasons. To say “all the answers lie within our religion” is misguiding individuals from getting all the help they deserve. Find a mental health professional to help you find the root of these issues and work on resolving them.
If you’d like to talk – please give me a call.
Florie Jackson, LCSW
4505 S. Wasatch Blvd. Suite #190
Holladay, UT 84124