Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What is Therapy?

My name is Aaron Arnold. I am an intern Family Therapist and new addition to the ongoing ministries of New Hope. Although there is much I might attempt to expound in future posts, I thought it best to begin with a brief reflection on therapy itself.
I believe therapy is a relationship that promotes health, particularly mental/emotional health. That begs the question what is health? The best definition of health—and the easiest to remember—that I have heard and happily borrow from one of my professors at Evangelical Seminary, Myerstown, PA, Dr. Robb Palmer is: mental health is the making of good connections in all directions. Therapy then is a relationship that promotes the making of good connections in all directions.
What does that look like? While therapy might take place in a variety of contexts, it usually takes place in an office. What might you expect walking into an office and meeting this or another therapist? Hopefully, you will encounter a person who is interested in you, not simply your mental life and workings, but someone who takes an interest in your person, someone interested in comprehending the mystery of who you are, have been, and might become, someone willing to walk with you into the deserted, lonely, frightening, or painful places of your life and also the sparkling, lush, enlivening, exuberant places of your life alongside of you. Hopefully, you encounter a therapist full of wonder at the small part of you that you might wish to be comprehended at the time and as much of you as they in some small way are able to comprehend.
Such therapists begin as all therapists with assessments, which explore these landscapes of clients’ lives. Assessments can be formal and use questionnaires, reports, or measures of informal, active listening with intent. It is always fair to ask a therapist what it is he or she is trying to assess or what he or she is listening for. Many clients find that being heard, being seen, being understood, mapping those landscapes of their lives to be very meaningful. It might be that doing so opens up new areas of activity, possibilities of growth, or increased awareness of which are the rugged and which are the level paths open to them.
While the process of assessment, of exploring and mapping is ongoing, doing so is a particular focus at the outset of therapy. Once an initial ‘working’ map has been developed, the focus of therapy usually shifts to actually navigating the landscape. Often in this working phase of therapy, new paths are made through the development of communication skills, problem-solving skills, and identification of latent resources.
Often the horizons of one’s life, the borders of one’s working map, intersect with others’. Therapists sometimes discover two people might be like neighbors arguing over the placement of or necessity of a fence; others might be like neighbors negotiating access to certain resources. Couples and families might seek therapy for any number of reasons. Therapists might be employed as consultants, guides, interpreters, surveyors, etc. depending on their scope of practice and qualifications.
All therapists offer a third-party perspective and some specialized knowledge of ways others have managed similar circumstances. Therapists have limits in their competencies and biases. A good therapist can acknowledge his or her own horizons and limits of perspective, and it is always fair to ask a therapist about his or her training, limitations, or biases. There are no perfect therapists, and not every therapist will be the right therapist for you, but every therapist should be able to recommend alternative services, whether the therapist or client believe that another provider would be more suitable.
Aaron Arnold
Counseling Intern

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Closer Look at Marriage (Part 3)

In my last blog entry, I shared about honoring God’s gift of sex in a healthy and God-honoring way. As we think about the beauty of God's gift of sex, it is also valuable to take a step back and think about things that cloud or damage our awareness of others and ourselves as sexual beings: 

      Media is increasingly sexualizing our culture, directing sexual messages increasingly to children. Watch any amount of TV programming, and you will see this is the case. There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on girls, young women, and adult women, to have the right body size, even if it means starving one-self and spending inordinate amounts of time in the gym, or in the office of the plastic surgeon.
      Girls, women and boys are sexually abused in increasing numbers. Sexual abuse leads to brokenness, a loss of innocence on the part of children, and a myriad of relationship and intimacy problems later in life.
      Another menacing problem is the increasing ease of access to pornography which enables men and women to enjoy sexual images without intimacy. One recent study found that 20% of Christian women and 50% of Christian men struggle with using pornographic materials. This can lead to addiction which affects the brain's chemistry and leads to escalation as people look for increasingly more graphic and brutal images and eventually to actual experiences with unknown persons to satisfy their addiction. Partners are deeply hurt and marriages are broken when their partner is addicted to pornography. People who struggle with this type of addiction need consistent and ongoing therapeutic intervention and accountability, not just for a short period of time, but often throughout the rest of their lives.
      People struggle with knowing how to manage their sexual attraction as they are in dating relationships or as they work or are in school with people of the opposite sex. We all know that temptation happens. I feel safe to say that all of us, even those of us in a marriage relationship, have experienced temptation; temptation is not sin, but we cannot ignore those inner passions that call to us because we are all vulnerable, and we need to establish boundaries that honor the gift of our sexuality and the sanctity of marriage. 

Marriage therapists say that if you're not talking about temptation within the context of your marriage, you probably should be, and if you cannot talk about those things, then you may want to seek some help to do so.
Let's also not forget that new beginnings are always possible. If you are in a situation where you have fallen in some way in your sexual life, forgiveness and a new beginning are always possible. It is never too late to start over. Jesus brings to us the possibility of healing and restoration in him as we choose to receive it.
God longs to bless us through healthy expressions of our sexuality. He wants us to enjoy intimacy and physical pleasure and emotional connection in our marriage relationships. God wants us to have fun as sexual beings provided this is within the context of heterosexual marriage. He is not out to torture us with unreasonable desires and restrictions about sex. Rather, the boundaries that are outlined by God in His Word and are taught by the church, represent an invitation to wholeness and joy that is far more powerful and fulfilling than the casual, free for all sex that is so often promoted and endorsed by our culture. I will close this writing by quoting from the Love Chapter in the Bible - I Corinthians 13. We usually hear these verses read at weddings, but let's think of them in the context of the sexual relationship in marriage: 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails. 
May God guide us as we navigate the challenges of living with sexual integrity in today’s world!  

Tom Horst, Marriage and Family Therapist
New Hope Community Life Ministry

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

92-Year Old Preacher

The following story was shared by David Rench on an inspirational website. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me.

92-Year Old Preacher

While watching TV one day, I observed a church in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had been retired many years. He was 92 at that time and I wondered why the church even bothered to ask the old gentleman to preach at that age.

After a warm welcome and introduction of this speaker, and as the applause quieted down, he rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with great effort and a sliding gait to the podium. Without a note or written paper of any kind he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly and slowly began to speak...

"When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your pastor asked me to tell you what was the greatest lesson ever learned in my 50-odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials.

The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heartbreak and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me...The only thing that would comfort was this verse...

Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
We are weak but He is strong...
Yes, Jesus loves me...
The Bible tells me so."

When he finished, the church was quiet. You actually could hear his footsteps as he shuffled back to his chair. I don't believe I will ever forget it. ~ David Rench

Shared by Mary Lehman

Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Year to Serve Others

When the New Year arrives we often contemplate how we can be a better Christian or person.  What exactly are things we can do to become a better person?  I recently did a Children’s Message at Church on this very idea.  The children came up with ideas of helping people and being nice.  In John 13: 1-17 we read about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples after he had supper with them.  When Jesus came to Peter’s feet, Peter did not want Jesus to “stoop to that level”.
What we don’t realize is that during Jesus’ time, washing feet was a job that a servant would do.  Jesus was teaching His disciples as He teaches us that we need to humble ourselves and become a servant and serve others.  We do this by helping another person when they are sick, hungry, or in need of shelter. We do this by quietly holding the hand of a person whose loved one has just died or by sitting and listening to someone share what is on their heart.  That is being a servant.  
When was the last time we have done these things?  Perhaps it is something that we are afraid we aren’t equipped to do; however, there is always a talent that God has bestowed on us that will enable us to serve others.  So when we feel that we can’t be of help to someone else we need to stop and think about our talents and how we can use those to serve others.

Will you be a servant with me?

            Make me a servant, humble and meek

            Lord let me lift up those who are weak

            And may the prayer of my heart always be

            Make me a servant, make me a servant

            Make me a servant today

Have a Happy & Healthy New Year!

Elaine Campbell, MA, MHC