Some people don’t know how dangerous they are. They sit behind their podiums, blasting their well-thought out theology, and never know how much damage they are inflicting. If they do start to wonder, they push those feelings aside and say, “It’s God’s Word. My feelings don’t matter.” And so goes the sad case of abuses all across the world in evangelical circles.
My husband and I have been going to counseling. At first, I wanted nothing to do with it because the guy is a Christian counselor. I thought,” What a bunch of crap!” So at first, I wasn’t game.
But our marriage was falling apart. I was convinced my husband was emotionally abusive because he neglected me, ignored me, and invalidated most things I said. I was about to leave him.
Some people told me counseling was worthless. Since I thought he was abusive, the thought was that he was good at convincing a therapist too. And I would just be further abused. And in all honesty, he showed all the signs of emotional abuse except it never seemed personal. He seemed to just be ignorant of the fact that how he acted hurt me a lot.
So I struggled with what to do.
Two years before this point, I had sat in a counseling office at church. The dangerous theology was spewed and believed by everyone but me. The pastor / counselor told me I was subject to my husband. He told my husband to love me like Christ loved the church. This never quite sat well with me just like “spare not the rod” never sat well with me in parenting. How can loving someone consist of a power trip, control, and one being over the other? How could God love me but then tell me I’m less than my husband because I am female?
It never made sense. And besides that, issues were never discussed. Bible verses were used to cover over “sins” but we never discussed those in any detail. I was sent home and told to submit. All my husband had to do was be a leader, whatever the hell that means.
When we left the church, I just was so angry at so many things. The teachings that I was less than. The idea that I didn’t matter without my husband. The constant invalidation not only from my husband but from men at church that I trusted.
I remember statements about other women too where the pastor said the husband needed to get his wife under control. But then there was always that love part thrown in. Like that means anything? Being willing to lay down your life in every way except control or leading the family or having to work. How very “Stepford Wife” of you. The hypocrisy was blinding.
So after that experience which dragged on for many months, I was just unwilling to go. I couldn’t take more invalidation or being told I didn’t matter. I couldn’t handle another blow to my already fragile heart.
I told myself I’d go one time. If during that meeting, I even once felt invalidated or not heard, I would be done. The meeting came and I felt completely like crawling out of my skin. Most of the emphasis was on my husbands fragility and self-worth. He talked previously with the counselor about his childhood. I listened with little empathy. Everyone has had a shitty childhood. Get over it. I thought to myself. But I kept listening. I didn’t feel invalidated but I still didn’t feel as if the root issue was being addressed.
I walked out rather pissed. Was I just supposed to feel sorry for him? All this talk of childhoods and maltreatment but little concern for how I feel. I decided I’d go one more time but I’d be more verbal.
Two weeks later I was back again. I expected this to be my last. But I shared many things and to my surprise, the counselor knew exactly what to say and how to address it and even told my husband that he was invalidating my feelings. He threw out some ideas to help us. I honestly didn’t feel like connecting with my husband or trying to work at our marriage but I decided to hang in there.
We’ve gone several times now and most times I’m not the one putting in the effort. Instead, I see him trying to change. This is huge because in the past, I was the one with the problems and I needed to change. So after seeing that for a few months… that he was serious, things have begun to turn around. I now trust that my efforts are worth something.
I often criticize Christians on this blog, but I can’t say anything negative about our experience with a Christian counselor. He has truly shown Christ in his dealings with my husband and I. It’s a breath of fresh air after our last experience. It causes me to wonder if there is a world of Christians that are actually sincere. I wish I knew more of them. It’s so drastically different than my dealings with those male pastors who believed in a man centered society where women just went along quietly. Psh.
I later learned the differences between these counselors. While both claimed Christianity, only one man was qualified to help me. The first counselor was trained in nouthetic counseling (NANC). Do a search and you will find horror stories of these so-called counselors.
One website describes it this way:
To become a Nouthetic counselor, one needs only to be very familiar with scripture and the Bible. There are no educational requirements—in fact, the idea of Nouthetic counseling is that it is done by friends, family, and fellow members of the church in an informal method, not as a type of therapy or formal counseling.
According to the Certified Biblical Counselors website (where my former pastor was certified), they offer training through videos and online courses and an exam. They also have you record counseling sessions and then review the session, critiquing your approach. Otherwise, anyone can basically counsel if they are willing to pay the fee and undergo limited training. The only way they won’t is if you are a sex offender. Oh joy.
The thing that really pisses me off is they feel they are able to handle any issue with a Bible verse. This quote was on their website regarding abuse:
In 2018, the ACBC annual conference will focus on the problem of abuse and show how the resources of Scripture equip Christians to counsel abused persons and those who have harmed them.
It’s ridiculous! A monkey with a piece of paper and literally no training should not be counseling abuse victims.
In contrast, our trained counselor studied at a reputable college and has an MA in marriage and family therapy where he underwent hours of supervised sessions and was trained on how to use scientifically backed therapies. Other counselors have been trained in DBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EDMR for abuse and trauma. They aren’t just given a degree. They put in hours of study and build up their practice and continue in their learning.
Of course there are counselors who suck, but overall I’ve seen a huge difference in my family because of therapy.
In my opinion, nouthetic counseling is abusive and causes more problems. It adds shame to trauma and abuse victims and is dangerous for those who should be seeking real help in the form of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
If I had stayed in that church, I know by now I would’ve been divorced and my husband would still be listening to their chauvinistic BS. I’ve met people in other churches that push for trained counseling instead of nouthetic because they know how dangerous it is. I’m thankful they know where to draw the line. For these churches to counsel people with hardly any training is a sad, abusive practice. Its taken our marriage years to bounce back after their corrupt teachings. I credit the educated therapists who undergo extensive training and know how to listen and apply that knowledge in a healthy way. Without them, my family would be no more.