Ask the Counsellor

Posted Aug 1st, 2019 in Anxiety, Glen Slingerland, Ask the Counsellor, Mental Health

Back in the spring, we received this inquiry through the Pure Chat portal on the website:*

Hi, my name's Andrea and I'm currently in counseling at college, however, I'm looking for something that could be more long-term and could add to the counseling I'm currently in. I'm curious how you handle counseling on the topics of mental illness (such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harm) as I know you're based around working with young mothers.

Here was my response:

Thanks for contacting us! 

My name is Glen Slingerland, and I am the Director of Biblical Counselling here at Elisha House. I am not sure how familiar you are with our ministry, so let me start with an overview, then move to answer your inquiry as best I can.

Elisha House opened over 30 years ago with the goal of reaching out to abortion-minded women and providing them with education and support when facing an unwanted pregnancy. During the years of ministry that followed, we discovered that many of the young women coming to the Centre for help were facing difficulties of all kinds, and so the counselling piece of the ministry began to develop. Husbands and boyfriends were also encouraged to come for life-skills classes as well as mentoring and/or counselling.  Eventually, the counselling piece became more of a prominent part of the ministry. We now offer our counselling services to men, women, couples and families of all walks of life.

Our counselling model is decidedly biblical. We believe the solutions to the struggles we face are ultimately found in the Bible, which points us to a living and healing relationship with Jesus. Certainly, the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to all the particular instances and issues we face (for example, the Bible does not talk about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), but it does address the fundamental roots of the issues we face. In the example of OCD, the Bible does talk about fears and anxieties, which are at the root of OCD, and provides solutions to those fears in pointing us to the God who is in control of all things, promises to watch over his people, and direct all of life events to a good end. We also recognize that the world doesn’t work the way it was originally designed to work, and we suffer deeply with mental and physical limitations, as well as difficulties imposed on us by our circumstances and environments.

So in counselling, we first seek to understand the struggles of our clients which includes both their experiences of life in this broken world, as well as their own interpretations of their experiences. We help our clients uncover the roots of the issues they face, and seek for answers to these core issues by exploring the truths of the Bible and of God himself.

One such truth is that we were created by God as a dichotomous being; we were created with a body and a soul. Thus, there is both a physical and a spiritual component to our existence. These parts are inter-related, and there is much to both of these components that is mysterious. The brain in particular is an incredibly complex organ that scientists as still trying to understand.

When it comes to mental illness, we consider both the body and soul dynamics that may be at play in a person’s struggle. We recognize that there are likely physiological concerns that need to be addressed, and so we check in on things like diet, sleep and exercise. We often will talk to our clients about their beliefs surrounding the use of psychotropic medications, and refer them to their doctors or ask them to ask their family doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist for further evaluation. In terms of addressing the spiritual component, we explore how clients respond to the struggles they face. They may not have control over whether or not they are struggling with depression, let’s say, but they can learn to respond to the struggles in healthier ways, and employ tools to help cope with life better while in the midst of the struggle. This, we believe, is possible with God’s help.

I hope this explanation is helpful. I understand that there are a vast number of mental health issues, so if you have particular questions about some of them, I would be happy to continue to dialogue with you. Should you wish to come for a tour of the Centre, we would be happy to arrange that for you as well!

* reprinted with permission; name has been changed to protect identity.