…So, am I crazy?

I have been asked this question in counseling more times than I can count, and each time it surprises me. This may not be news to you, but I want to be sure you know we don’t use the term ‘crazy’ in the field of psychotherapy! The word actually was used many years ago as a term to describe someone who was psychotic, who was behaving in bazaar ways. But using it today to describe someone who is psychotic is like using the word ‘crippled’ for someone who has a physical disability. Sadly, there are people who have mental illness with psychosis—typically, people who suffer with schizophrenia. This is a serious illness, and it is nothing to joke about. Psychosis is treatable, and, schizophrenic people need the same love and respect that you and I need.

But why then might someone jump to the most extreme (and demeaning) word (‘crazy’) after talking about his problems when coming to counseling? Because of the stigma about counseling that exists in our culture. I think the real question being asked is, “Are you going to judge me because of my problems, symptoms, worries, behaviors?” Well, I’m not going to judge you. I’m already biased in favor of counseling because that’s what I do, and I think it’s helpful for you and for your relationships—even (and sometimes, especially) your relationship with God! I think we all need counseling at some point in our lives, and for some of us, for more than one season. Remember, I see counseling as a form of discipling.

But the question is asked because our culture (both secular and Christian) is judgmental. We fear being seen as ‘crazy’ because having problems means you have a weakness or a flaw, something embarrassing or even shameful. I wonder how many people pretend they have no problems (or, not very big ones) to avoid being considered ‘crazy’. And I would guess their problems still show up no matter how much effort they make (through drugs, alcohol, excuses, control, work, perfection, worry…) to keep them from showing. I liken this to sitting on a beach ball in a pool, trying to balance on it, keeping it under water. Eventually, it pops up, defeating all your efforts to keep it hidden.

I think the more appropriate question to consider is “Am I broken?” My response to that question is, ‘Yes, you and I both!’ because we are. My side of the table represents brokenness just like your side. We all need truth, we all need love—the truth and love of Jesus Christ. How does that relate to counseling? I’m so glad you asked!

The logo of the Christian Counselors Collaborative or CCC (the counseling program grown out of the counseling department at Allegheny Center Alliance Church, www.acaca.net), which depicts a flame, is taken from Psalm 119:105:

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

God’s truth, appropriately given in love, helps define what the current situation really is (shines a light onto our ‘feet’ for orientation and true understanding) and helps show the direction ahead for walking in that truth (shines a light onto our ‘path’ beyond—usually with new ways to think, do, and be). This is a process which can take time. Counseling is the perfect setting for such a process.

I also like the verses found in Psalm 40:1-3 as a description of the process of God’s direction and healing:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

To me, this describes God’s mercy and love towards us when we are so broken. All we have to do is cry out and wait. And I think that waiting is not passive, but seeking, expectant. If we are seeking truth, He will not withhold it from us. He lifts us out of our sorrow, trouble, brokenness. (This is usually felt in counseling when a client can express fears, feelings, behaviors, without condemnation; our Lord does the same). He sets our feet on a solid rock (His truth, often learned in counseling, corrects lies some of us believe). He puts a new song in our mouths (a heart freed from condemnation, freed from resentments, anger, grief—through repentance and forgiveness; a heart of thankfulness and praise, from a renewed relationship with God). And many will see the changes, and will hear our testimonies of His faithfulness.

Hmm. Is this ‘crazy’? Then by God’s grace, I’m certifiable, and blessed to be so!