Integrating Faith and Therapy for Positive Counseling
By Michelle Ruschman
During a time when people are struggling with mental health, it’s good to know that support is so readily available. One hometown hero who is invested in seeing our community live fully is counselor and author of “The Therapist: Stories about Parenting, Narcissists, Combat, Abuse, and Marriage,” Kathlyn C. White, who is with Carpenter House in Niceville.
Carpenter House is a faith-based counseling center and Kathlyn remembers how it came to be named. “I was sitting in traffic one day in Niceville and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that said, ‘My boss is a Jewish carpenter.’ Wow. Right in that moment I thought, ‘If I ever have a business, I will call it Carpenter House,’ because my boss is a Jewish carpenter too.”
Kathlyn has always had a passion for mental health. But, it wasn’t until she was in her 30s and working on her Master’s, that she was saved and decided to integrate her new faith into her work. Since then, she has been helping people by weaving Christianity, faith and the Bible into counseling.
“When you become a Christian, you have this hunger for knowledge. I always say that cognitive behavioral therapy started in the Bible. The Bible tells us to think on positive things, and that’s cognitive behavioral therapy.”
So, what is the difference between Christian and secular counseling? One example she cites is in marriage counseling. “I do my best to keep the family together. It’s not possible 100% of the time, but I am not leaning toward divorce, like some counselors are, especially if the counselor has been divorced. You really never want to see a marriage counselor who does not have a successful marriage, because they don’t know how to stay married. I’ve been married for 43 years. I know how to stay married and include a chapter in my book about how to have a healthy marriage.”
Kathlyn suggests additional qualifications to look for when seeking out mental health professionals. “I think you need a counselor with some experience. I’ve had experiences in all kinds of places because we were a military family. I started out in an inpatient treatment facility with patients who had what’s now called dissociative identity disorder. I’ve helped people recovering from satanic cults and have worked in domestic violence shelters. I’ve worked with people who are low-income and with children who were navigating the foster system. You want to look for someone with a wide base of experience, who thoroughly understands the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and can speak to all these situations because all these things are very complicated.”
Psychology Today is a source that can offer a list of local counselors, but once you’re ready to meet, Kathlyn suggests there are aspects to the counseling you should look for that will help your success.
• Trust your intuition that it will, or won’t, be a good fit.
• Ask how many patients a counselor is seeing a week. The more they talk to people, the more experience they have to offer your session.
• Look for a counselor who is willing to set goals with you so you can see how much progress is being made.
• You might not know what to say to a counselor, especially in the beginning. But, a counselor who is able to ask open-ended questions will be able to help you open up.
After a patient suggested that Kathlyn write down her own experiences, “The Therapist” was born. One of the most rewarding experiences from her book was with a young woman called “B,” who was only 14 when they met. “When I met her, she didn’t know she was psychotic. She thought she had a friend, Max. But, he was a hallucination that began when she was sexually abused. Max helped get her through her troubles. I had to break it to her that her best friend wasn’t real.”
In the course of their therapy over the next year and a half, Kathlyn was able to help “B” feel what had been suppressed in her childhood, so she could live out a healthier adult life—something we all want to experience.
For more information, visit carpenterhouse.net or go to Amazon for your copy of “The Therapist: Stories about Parenting, Narcissists, Combat, Abuse, and Marriage.”