I recently was asked how Marriage and Family Therapists get critical ministry experiences. As I pondered the question, I flashed back to when I first entered the field in 1986. As a beginning therapist, many of my referrals came from pastors, and church related organizations. I very quickly became disillusioned with Christians. I spent hours working with the dysfunctional individuals and families in the church, who were living lives far away from God. I continued to ask myself the questions “Why are Christians no different then the individuals that claim no faith?” “How can I effectively minister to this hurting Christian?”
It was not too long afterwards that I began to see the importance of integration; to view personal maladjustments holistically. I began to see how the influence of both personal and corporate sin in the individual’s life needed exploration. While working with a Christian I am able to focus on such issues as the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, and the importance of deep caring relationships while being an agent of reconciliation. I am also able to look at the individual and ask myself how her personality style and personal history has influenced and distorted her understanding about God, as well as human relationships. I am fully committed to understanding human nature and human functioning and the clear message of scripture on how God has intervened in history to change lives.
So, back to the question, how marriage and family therapists get critical ministry experiences? The platform to minister is a given; we are privileged by the entrance of a couple who are ready to divorce, a woman caught in adultery, a husband caught up in pornography, difficult communication, grief and anger at God for taking a child or a husband, on and on, the cry of despair is limitless. We are able to share a journey on a very dark path, but with the comfort of the Holy Spirit guiding us to the light of life in Him. We get to know people on a level that very few have the opportunity to go. I continually marvel that God has called me to this ministry!
Dr. Judith Needham-Penrose PhD, LMFT