Recently, a middle aged gentleman made a counseling appointment. He told the story of his teenage prodigal son. His son had problems in school, was using alcohol, and absolutely refused to go to Church. The father acknowledged he has been busy with his job and his Church calling. He had been bishop in his ward for several years now. He pled, “Please, just tell me what to do with him?”
In pondering the father’s request, I reflected back on lunch. I had just went through the drive-through window at McDonald’s where I ordered “Two cheeseburgers, a fry and a lemonade.”
Their was a striking similarity between the father’s request for me to “quick fix his son” and my request of the McDonald’s server for a “quick fix of my lunch“.
“FAST FOODS” MENTALITY
Fast food mentality is a crippling mindset in our world today. “I want what I want when I want it and that usually means NOW“. This mentality not only affects our physical health, but the same logic now influences our approach to solving emotional concerns. In solving emotional concerns we want the “Doctor to tell us” how to solve our concern in not more than “Three easy steps.” (Given the price we charge for a 50 minute counseling session these expectations may not seem unreasonable!) Nevertheless,
IF parents are having problems with a teenage son failing school;
IF a husband is having problems with his wife’s control of the money;
IF a wife is having problems with her husband performing his role as the father;
…..Or whatever the life challenge might me… our fast food mentality often influences us to FIRST seek “take out” and
GO TO COUNSELING!
Unfortunately, because of the nature of dealing with emotional concerns and life challenges the ‘Fast Food” mentality does not apply.
Whether with a bishop or mental health professional, there is danger FIRST seeking OUTSIDE counsel without having explored personal and family resources. (One of the few exceptions would be a concern like suicide – one should immediately seek outside help.)
Seeking outside help FIRST suggests you are incompetent and do not have the resources to effectively deal with an emotional challenge. THIS IS NOT TRUE!
IN THE STRENGTH OF THE LORD
YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS
In fact, one of the best ways to boost your long-term happiness is to use your strengths in successfully coping with or resolving a life challenge. Each of us has certain strengths that are perhaps so natural to us that we may not even consider them strengths. But those strengths are inside you – between your left ear and right ear. In order for us to grow and become fit for our Father’s Kingdom, we must learn to use these strengths to do hard things.This is our birthright.
SOLVE YOUR OWN PROBLEMS
“The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves.” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church) A good counselor would do likewise. The welfare and psychological principle goes like this:
Church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Blessed with the gift of agency, they have the privilege and duty to set their own course, solve their own problems, and strive to become self-reliant. Members do this under the inspiration of the Lord and with the labor of their own hands. … The Lord has commanded members to take care of their minds and bodies. (Handbook 2: Administering the Church 6.1.1)
Here’s another quote supporting the idea of self-reliance.
…The individual, as we teach, ought to do for himself ALL that he can. When he has exhausted his resources, he ought to turn to his family to assist him. When the family can’t do it, the Church takes over…. (This Thing Was Not Done In A Corner, Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign November 1996)
DISEASE OF COUNSELITIS
Dallin H. Oaks warns us about a culture of dependency:
… The growth required by the gospel plan only occurs in a culture of individual effort and responsibility. It cannot occur in a culture of dependency. Whatever causes us to be dependent on someone else for decisions or resources we could provide for ourselves weakens us spiritually and retards our growth toward what the gospel plan intends us to be.(Repentance and Change,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, pg. 37).
I’ve never met a client yet that with some personal effort couldn’t generate at least one impression about answering the question “What should I do?” (And believe me I’ve met some pretty disabled inadequate clients.)
Seeking too quickly and depending too much on another’s advice (Even if it’s the Bishop!) – places you at risk of “catching” the dreaded condition known as Counselitis.
…We seem to be developing an epidemic of “counselitis” which drains spiritual strength from the Church much like the common cold drains more strength out of humanity than any other disease. … Speaking figuratively, many a bishop keeps on the corner of his desk a large stack of order forms for emotional relief. When someone comes with a problem, the bishop, unfortunately, without a question, passes them out, without stopping to think what he is doing to his people. …That, some may assume, is not serious. It is very serious! On one hand, we counsel bishops to avoid abuses in welfare help. On the other hand, some bishops dole out counsel and advice without considering that the member should solve the problem himself… (Solving Emotional Problems in the Lord’s Own Way. Ensign, January 2010, Boyd K. Packer)
When an individual relies FIRST on a church leader, mental health professional or someone else to solve their problem, to give them the answers, to tell them what to do etc etc …. Counselitis begins.
In the late stages of Counselitis the individual becomes dependent on the advice giver and overlooks the importance of self and family resources. Thus, failing to recognize and develop much needed problem solving and coping skills needed for Godhood. The video Stuck on an Escalotor illustrates the FINAL STAGES of “Counselitis.”
Back to the father’s request concerning his wayward son
I reminded him of the access he had to personal revelation as a “father” and as a “bishop” in dealing with his son. I felt it was premature for him to be asking me for counsel without having made a serious effort himself to deal with the challenge.
I asked if he had had any impressions on how he might help his son. He paused and thought. He recalled before he became bishop, he and his son enjoyed going fishing together. At which point the father added, “I’ve thought maybe I should take him fishing again.” Then he quickly added, “I really don’t have the time … Doctor, just tell me what to do!”
I told him what to do, “Take your son fishing.”
(I didn’t charge him $100–but in hind sight I should have.)
1) Identify your life challenge with as much clarity as possible.
2) Accept responsibility for your life challenge. (See: The Gift)
3) Think about it for at least a week.
4) Assess your resources and stress levels. (See: Five to Survive)
5) Pray about it for at least a week.
6) Fast at least one time about it.
7) Search the internet including LDS.org for related problems and solutions.
8) Talk about it with a trusted family member.
9) And if you’re LDS – Have youre name placed in the local LDS Temple and ask for a priesthood blessing.
10) Be sensitive to impressions you receive.
One impression may be to do all the steps for another week.
And of course another impression may indeed be go to the bishop or a mental health professional! And if that impression comes after you’ve made a personal effort to solve your concern, fine.
“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask…” (D & C 9:7)
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