There is a different kind of math that we as therapists use when we meet people. I refer to it as therapy math. It is different because we are assessing people based on their family mental health history, traumas, life experiences, childhood communication patterns, and a number of other assessment tools. These different factors help create a detailed picture of the person sitting across from us in the therapy room. Rarely is there a simple reason that explains why the person makes the choices they do. Most of the time, the emotional math equation that defines the person is more involved than a simple equation such as 1 + 1 = 2. In most situations, we are trying to discover the algebraic equation that brought us to our present day sum and identifying the unknown factors can sometimes be confusing.
Our western culture tends to process information from surface observations and then constructs a scientific math equation. However, there can be other unknown factors in the equation that are not easy to identify that also play a role. For example, we might look at a person who is overweight and perceive them to be lazy. However, we haven’t taken the time to discover the reasons a person struggles with their weight. It could be a thyroid or other hormonal imbalance problem that continues to fluctuate, verbal abuse a person endured as a child over their weight, poverty that prevents them from buying healthy food, or sexual or physical abuse in their youth that makes them want to hide their body or a myriad of other reasons. There is a multitude of factors that can cause a problem and part of the healing process is uncovering the root that keeps the person stuck in the behavior they find to be uncomfortable, whatever that may be.
Our western rational thinking has also invaded how the American Christian church interacts with mental health issues. As a therapist, I hear people repeatedly misapply biblical principles to mental health issues that need other solutions to find freedom. For example, I might have a very depressed or anxious individual come into my office who is living in an abusive environment. They might think they need to pray harder or work harder at submitting to their spouse or must read their Bible more. In actuality, they need to start using some personal boundaries to restrict the evil behavior being perpetrated against them so they feel less depression and anxiety. It is essential the western church start understanding that psychotherapy can help and empower people to live more free and full lives. Understanding the therapeutic math equation that keeps people from moving forward with others (and even with God) is the first step to gaining freedom. In the attached podcast Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss this topic of mental health and the church. Expand your therapeutic math skills to understand people in more profound and compassionate ways.