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Change of mind from better to worse...

Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby Brian » 02 Mar 2009, 02:34

Been out of town most of the last week on a business trip and with limited time to commment on posts. Without referencing individual posts - some comments on thoughts expressed:

Polycarp's statement I referenced in original post was directly related to his being called to renounce his faith at the time of his martyrdom in AD 155. When I commented on my own desire to honor Christ regardless of external circumstances, it was within this context. I still stand by this statement because easy external circumstances can be just as much a hindrance to active faith in Christ as persecution can be.

As mentioned in other posts - Divorce is a messy topic. Like many in western society today (in my case the USA) I am a child of divorced parents with adultery as the catalyst. I will not divulge which of my parents were guilty of this sin. Take my following comments for what they are worth.. maybe not much, but here I go:

30 years on from the event - I am convinced more than ever that Biblical Scripture is right when Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce due to hardness of hearts. One parent's heart had hardened toward the other and led to unfaithfulness. While the short term effect of the one parent's leaving the house was somewhat of a relief, the long term emotional effects were not very good for any of us left at home, including the custodial parent. I realize that physcial abuse has its own dynamics and the Lord does not condone it either. Physical abuse was not material to my family's situation. At the same time, it was through that time that the Lord drew me back to himself while still a teenager and has led me to this point in my life. It truly has been the Scriptural affirming of 'making beauty from ashes'. Christ did it at Polycarp's martydom and I pray Christ continues to do this in my life.
In Christ alone,
Brian

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby postodave » 02 Mar 2009, 23:09

Polycarp's statement I referenced in original post was directly related to his being called to renounce his faith at the time of his martyrdom in AD 155. When I commented on my own desire to honor Christ regardless of external circumstances, it was within this context. I still stand by this statement because easy external circumstances can be just as much a hindrance to active faith in Christ as persecution can be.

Polycarp's rhetorical comment was brave and fitting in its context. But as a life strategy it would be disastrous because it would entail always being certain that ones enemies were so wrong one had nothing to learn from them. In general those early Christians learned a huge amount from the pagan Greeks. The Christianity of say the fourth century was very different to that of the second and yet one could not say it was worse. If the Church had simply taken a rhetorical stance against paganism rather than assimilating so much Greek wisdom the world would have been a poorer place. So external circumstances can be seen as a hindrance or as the context that makes faith possible.

I would say that of all the Church's the Orthodox Church has the wisest approach to divorce. The Catholic idea of annulment seems to me nothing more than a piece of casuistry wherein one can have divorce and call it something else while the Protestants and Anglicans have swung between a total ban and a glib acceptance. Now the strength I would see in the Orthodox approach is that by allowing the possibility of divorce it avoids the situation we got to in protestant countries where people felt trapped in marriages that were dead or seemed so. There is no true faith involved in staying in a marriage because you have no choice. When people are free to explore possibilities even the dead can return to life.

I know there are problems in practice Mitch for example there is evidence that many counsellors come from a religious background which they felt to be oppressive and so find religious views difficult to accept but I hope this is going to far:
But in practice I think most counsellors think they are there to dispense good advise
for it suggests that most counsellors simply ignore their training and do something else instead which is appalingly unprofessional. It would be like going to a doctor who instead of prescribing medicine hands out sweets. Certainly one of the first things I say to a client is 'I will not offer advice.'

The problem I saw with Rus - Well there were several. Regarding faith as a proposition he had placed himself firmly in the camp of the scholastics both RC and Protestant. He was suggesting that anyone who seeks help for his emotional problems outside his own faith group was not merely misguided but 'insane'. Even allowing for rhetoric that is a strong claim; I have yet to meet a trained counsellor or therapist who would agree with that. Thirdly he was seeing a therapeutic relationship as one of dominance and submission which suggests he has read very few person-centred works. It would have taken so long to iron out what seemed to me to be misunderstandings that I gave up. But that was hasty and if Rus or Cyranorox can recommend some good writing on either power relations in counselling or the person-centred approach from an Orthodox perspective I would be more than willing to take a look.
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby rusmeister » 03 Mar 2009, 02:41

postodave wrote:
Polycarp's statement I referenced in original post was directly related to his being called to renounce his faith at the time of his martyrdom in AD 155. When I commented on my own desire to honor Christ regardless of external circumstances, it was within this context. I still stand by this statement because easy external circumstances can be just as much a hindrance to active faith in Christ as persecution can be.

Polycarp's rhetorical comment was brave and fitting in its context. But as a life strategy it would be disastrous because it would entail always being certain that ones enemies were so wrong one had nothing to learn from them. In general those early Christians learned a huge amount from the pagan Greeks. The Christianity of say the fourth century was very different to that of the second and yet one could not say it was worse. If the Church had simply taken a rhetorical stance against paganism rather than assimilating so much Greek wisdom the world would have been a poorer place. So external circumstances can be seen as a hindrance or as the context that makes faith possible.

I would say that of all the Church's the Orthodox Church has the wisest approach to divorce. The Catholic idea of annulment seems to me nothing more than a piece of casuistry wherein one can have divorce and call it something else while the Protestants and Anglicans have swung between a total ban and a glib acceptance. Now the strength I would see in the Orthodox approach is that by allowing the possibility of divorce it avoids the situation we got to in protestant countries where people felt trapped in marriages that were dead or seemed so. There is no true faith involved in staying in a marriage because you have no choice. When people are free to explore possibilities even the dead can return to life.

I know there are problems in practice Mitch for example there is evidence that many counsellors come from a religious background which they felt to be oppressive and so find religious views difficult to accept but I hope this is going to far:
But in practice I think most counsellors think they are there to dispense good advise
for it suggests that most counsellors simply ignore their training and do something else instead which is appalingly unprofessional. It would be like going to a doctor who instead of prescribing medicine hands out sweets. Certainly one of the first things I say to a client is 'I will not offer advice.'

The problem I saw with Rus - Well there were several. Regarding faith as a proposition he had placed himself firmly in the camp of the scholastics both RC and Protestant. He was suggesting that anyone who seeks help for his emotional problems outside his own faith group was not merely misguided but 'insane'. Even allowing for rhetoric that is a strong claim; I have yet to meet a trained counsellor or therapist who would agree with that. Thirdly he was seeing a therapeutic relationship as one of dominance and submission which suggests he has read very few person-centred works. It would have taken so long to iron out what seemed to me to be misunderstandings that I gave up. But that was hasty and if Rus or Cyranorox can recommend some good writing on either power relations in counselling or the person-centred approach from an Orthodox perspective I would be more than willing to take a look.


Hi PoD,
I'm trying to not post at all - Great Lent has started. But I will say in brief that I was commenting on divorce.
Mitch understood me correctly. (Thanks, Mitch!) Emotions are things we experience - sometimes (but I now believe rarer than is popularly believed) it can be the result of a serious problem. But they are not supposed to run our lives. Again, we all like to think we are exceptions, we all like to think that we have the mysterious disease or problem that gives us the excuse, the "get-out-of-jail-free" card; that rules (such as keeping vows) are for everyone else. And a decision to divorce is decidedly spiritual. This is what I had in mind by "insane". It IS insane to make a decision of such import with counselors who do not share your faith. Even then, such a decision, in Orthodoxy, is not really up to you. You may petition - but it is the Bishop who grants or denies, and if he grants, then it is an economia. But if you are being guided by someone who holds a different worldview - who does not see marriage as a sacrament, who does not hold that we must pick up our (various) crosses and follow Christ (and one of those crosses may be a difficult spouse who brings sorrow and heartache) and who holds personal happiness above that salvific goal, then yes, your counselor does not understand what is really most important to you and although he may be the most "professional" in the world, he is liable to give advice that is spiritually harmful, even if it fits the goals for what he sees as cure and health, and a lot of people today DO see divorce as the way to that. (Did you read GKC on vows?)

I (naturally) agree - the way of the Orthodox Church is the best. But most in today's society need much more to be reminded of the importance of the vow and "for better and for worse", and so although I don't agree with Chesterton 100% here, he is mostly right - just as the Catholic Church is mostly right.

Any man with eyes in his head, whatever the ideas in his head, who looks at the world as it is today, must know that the whole social substance of marriage has changed . . . Numbers of normal people are getting married, thinking already that they may be divorced . . . The Church was right to refuse even the exception. The world has admitted the exception; and the exception has become the rule . . . The Catholic Church, standing almost alone, declared that it would in fact lead to an anarchical position; and the Catholic Church was right.

{The Well and the Shallows, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1935, 42-43}

And the position of the modern world IS anarchy. In speaking of equal and opposite errors, surely the great error of our time is the freedom of divorce, not the Catholic total denial of divorce. I don't see hordes of people groaning about not being allowed to divorce. I do see people marrying frivolously and making of marriage whatever they want and redefining as they please.
There is no true faith involved in staying in a marriage because you have no choice. When people are free to explore possibilities even the dead can return to life.


Perhaps you have a completely different context in your head for these words, but taken 'as is' and in the context I read them, this is totally inconsistent with Orthodoxy and is a perfect example of why no Orthodox Christian should come to you for counsel on divorce - ie, my main point. Making a vow means voluntarily abandoning your freedom and choice. When we marry we are no longer free, and that is the point of marriage. "Being free to explore possibilities" does mean anarchy, and such thoughts expressed to an Orthodox Christian are spiritually deadly. As Chesterton said in Heretics, ch 1, the most important practical thing about a man is his philosophy, and Faith is the wellspring for philosophy.

Please forgive me - I am not going to go multiple rounds back and forth during Lent, but this much I felt had to be said.

May you have a blessed Lent!
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby postodave » 03 Mar 2009, 22:32

Hi Rus - I don't want to disrupt your Lenten prayers and greatly admire your dedication but I will keep this brief and perhaps we can pick it up again after Easter. Indeed the issue you have raised is one which deserves a thread of its own - I would like to know how other people see this. But a couple of points:
postodave said:
There is no true faith involved in staying in a marriage because you have no choice. When people are free to explore possibilities even the dead can return to life.

You queried the context of this. It should be taken in the context of my earlier quotes from Rogers and Russell. Rogers felt that a counsellor should stand in a relationship of unconditional positive regard towards a client - that he should not offer judgement let alone advice - most counsellors even non-Rogerians would accept this today as the basis for counselling and this would I think include any Orthodox Christians who are counsellors. But if you are aware of any Orthodox who have a different experience of counselling, who do not extend UPR to their clients I would like to hear about them. So if a client who was an Orthodox Christian wanted to discuss the possibility of divorce with a counsellor the counsellor even if he was himself Orthodox could not make that a no go area and it would be unprofessional for him to do so. Any non-Orthodox counsellor in counselling an Orthodox Christian would always try to counsel from within that persons frame of reference. So although he might want to challenge the person at certain points he would try not to do that on the basis of an external frame of reference i.e. in this case from outside Orthodox belief as perceived by that person in so far as he shares his beliefs with the counsellor. I cannot emphasis too strongly that a counsellor should not try to advise a client. This is one of the first things you learn when you begin counselling training. I do not expect a reply to this but I do feel you should become better informed about the way therapy works before you try to criticise its approach.
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby rusmeister » 13 Mar 2009, 02:11

postodave wrote:Hi Rus - I don't want to disrupt your Lenten prayers and greatly admire your dedication but I will keep this brief and perhaps we can pick it up again after Easter. Indeed the issue you have raised is one which deserves a thread of its own - I would like to know how other people see this. But a couple of points:
postodave said:
There is no true faith involved in staying in a marriage because you have no choice. When people are free to explore possibilities even the dead can return to life.

You queried the context of this. It should be taken in the context of my earlier quotes from Rogers and Russell. Rogers felt that a counsellor should stand in a relationship of unconditional positive regard towards a client - that he should not offer judgement let alone advice - most counsellors even non-Rogerians would accept this today as the basis for counselling and this would I think include any Orthodox Christians who are counsellors. But if you are aware of any Orthodox who have a different experience of counselling, who do not extend UPR to their clients I would like to hear about them. So if a client who was an Orthodox Christian wanted to discuss the possibility of divorce with a counsellor the counsellor even if he was himself Orthodox could not make that a no go area and it would be unprofessional for him to do so. Any non-Orthodox counsellor in counselling an Orthodox Christian would always try to counsel from within that persons frame of reference. So although he might want to challenge the person at certain points he would try not to do that on the basis of an external frame of reference i.e. in this case from outside Orthodox belief as perceived by that person in so far as he shares his beliefs with the counsellor. I cannot emphasis too strongly that a counsellor should not try to advise a client. This is one of the first things you learn when you begin counselling training. I do not expect a reply to this but I do feel you should become better informed about the way therapy works before you try to criticise its approach.

Hi, PoD,
I do agree that there are some things where one should defer to the professional. I'm attempting to limit criticism to that which falls into the purvey of all of us.
My first bleat here - the words 'counsel' and 'advice' (or their verbal forms) are synonyms. They mean the same thing. So I guess I would ask what a person is doing going to a counselor if he is not seeking counsel, or if the counselor is forbidden to give counsel?
Secondly - you describe an ideal of a counselor - who is a human being - who evidently completely suspends his own worldview in (whatever it is he is actually doing with the client; see first bleat). Trouble is, the counselor is not an ideal. he is a human being. And even if he does achieve the ideal, he would then encounter views that contradict what he sees to be true. How then, can he do anything at all, other than listen, and perhaps smile, let alone guide another person toward a solution consistent with the truth and his ultimate good? The examples I could provide of such conflict are legion. The counselor who achieves the Rogerian ideal would be, in such cases, in the position of UPRing his client toward harm or even destruction.

Unconditional positive regard is a term used by the Humanist school of psychology. Humanist psychologists believe that by showing the client unconditional positive regard and acceptance, the therapist is providing the best possible conditions for personal growth to the client.
Unconditional positive regard can be facilitated by keeping in mind Carl Rogers’ belief that all people have the internal resources required for personal growth. Rogers' theory encouraged other psychiatrists to suspend judgement, and to listen to a person with an attitude that the client has within himself the ability to change, without actually changing who he is.


This is pretty much opposed to everything traditional Christianity teaches. The Christian who accepts what Christianity has taught for 2,000 years believes that without Christ we do not have that ability to change, and that it is essential that we repent, and change who we are. Humanism itself is opposed to divine revelation or faith. I'd say Rogers is obviously inconsistent with the Christian counselor.

If how you earn a living is inconsistent with the Faith, then either the Faith or the job must be abandoned.
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby Bluegoat » 13 Mar 2009, 11:45

rusmeister wrote:My first bleat here - the words 'counsel' and 'advice' (or their verbal forms) are synonyms. They mean the same thing. So I guess I would ask what a person is doing going to a counselor if he is not seeking counsel, or if the counselor is forbidden to give counsel?
Secondly - you describe an ideal of a counselor - who is a human being - who evidently completely suspends his own worldview in (whatever it is he is actually doing with the client; see first bleat). Trouble is, the counselor is not an ideal. he is a human being. And even if he does achieve the ideal, he would then encounter views that contradict what he sees to be true. How then, can he do anything at all, other than listen, and perhaps smile, let alone guide another person toward a solution consistent with the truth and his ultimate good? The examples I could provide of such conflict are legion. The counselor who achieves the Rogerian ideal would be, in such cases, in the position of UPRing his client toward harm or even destruction...

This is pretty much opposed to everything traditional Christianity teaches. The Christian who accepts what Christianity has taught for 2,000 years believes that without Christ we do not have that ability to change, and that it is essential that we repent, and change who we are. Humanism itself is opposed to divine revelation or faith. I'd say Rogers is obviously inconsistent with the Christian counselor.

If how you earn a living is inconsistent with the Faith, then either the Faith or the job must be abandoned.


You know, my own understanding of counseling as a profession is that the counselor is meant to help the client put his own thoughts in order, to identify his own beliefs and values, and to ask the questions that will help the client come to a better understanding of his own situation so he can then take the steps he needs to resolve it. Which could include going to get advice from a priest, for example. But the profession of counseling is really rather more limited than what many people imagine. Now, to my mind, the counselor refraining from imposing or even presenting his own worldview, beliefs and values on the client, in that relationship, is not inconsistent with faith. People are not able to make good decisions when they are having trouble understanding/dealing with their own feelings and thought processes. I think helping someone do this, aside from whatever immediate help it brings, will ultimately put them in a much better position to have a fruitful and intentional relationship with God. They might not go on to choose that, but that is always the possibility with free will.

That being said, I know beliefs and worldviews are impossible to totally divorce from actions. I have seen this occasionally a counselor who really did not believe that the spiritual had any kind of existence except in people's minds; it is difficult, perhaps, to see a cause or effect when you think nothing is there. It also seems to me that sometimes professional counselors can give the impression that real transformation is not possible, we are always limited by what we have been given by nature and circumstance. I suppose these things are deep-seated and fundamental parts of people's worldview that are hard to get past.

I've been watching this discussion with interest, it has given me some food for thought in a situation I've been considering in real life.
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby postodave » 13 Mar 2009, 23:19

Rus said
My first bleat here

In using the word bleat you seem to be copying Lewis in the speech he gave to a group of clergy when he claimed to be a Sheep telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. The problem I have with this is that unlike Archenland Knight you have not drawn on your own experience of therapy but are making an abstract and entirely external critique and displaying no understanding of the therapeutic process.
Rus said
- the words 'counsel' and 'advice' (or their verbal forms) are synonyms. They mean the same thing. So I guess I would ask what a person is doing going to a counselor if he is not seeking counsel, or if the counselor is forbidden to give counsel?

This is utterly irrelevant. Words derive their meaning from their context not their etymology.
Rus said
Secondly - you describe an ideal of a counselor - who is a human being - who evidently completely suspends his own worldview in (whatever it is he is actually doing with the client; see first bleat).

This is almost the exact opposite of what counselling theory says. If you have been reading up on Rogers as you seem to have been you will know that as well as encouraging UPR rogers encourages congruence or being your total honest self as a counsellor. In this context the idea of worldview is far too abstract since it can too easily refer only to professed or nominal belief.
Rus said
Trouble is, the counselor is not an ideal. he is a human being. And even if he does achieve the ideal, he would then encounter views that contradict what he sees to be true.

This is entirely true and most counsellors constantly wrestle with their own imperfections and try to become better at what they do. This is why here in the UK counsellors have a supervisor to whom they can take these issues. But if I can only help someone who has no ideas that contradict my own then I probably can't help anyone except by trying to browbeat him into agreement with me - some forms of so called Christian Counselling have taken exactly this approach with disastrous results.
Rus said
How then, can he do anything at all, other than listen, and perhaps smile, let alone guide another person toward a solution consistent with the truth and his ultimate good? The examples I could provide of such conflict are legion. The counselor who achieves the Rogerian ideal would be, in such cases, in the position of UPRing his client toward harm or even destruction...

I suggest you read some more of the counselling literature to build up a better picture of how it works. Counsellors do not only smile with people - they weep, rage and run the gamut of human emotions. As for leading people towards destruction; well the type of counselling you seem to advocate where the therapist stands over against the client and tries to make him submit to his ideas has had exactly that result in some cases (try reading Van Belle's 'What's wrong with Christian counselling and what's right with secular counselling' for an illustration of this point - you will find it at the 'all of life redeamed' site)
Rus said
This is pretty much opposed to everything traditional Christianity teaches. The Christian who accepts what Christianity has taught for 2,000 years believes that without Christ we do not have that ability to change, and that it is essential that we repent, and change who we are. Humanism itself is opposed to divine revelation or faith. I'd say Rogers is obviously inconsistent with the Christian counselor.

Not everything Rus. You simply can't apply the law of excluded middle to concepts; you have to be more subtle or you end up talking nonsense. Clearly people do change without becoming Christians and clearly those changes are sometimes changes for the better; to say otherwise is to deny God's common grace and limit his action in the world to those who profess faith. You can't criticise Rogers by making crass generalisations about humanism because humanism itself is a very diverse phenomenon and Rogers rarely describes himself as a humanist. There have been a number of Christian counsellors who are Rogerians (for example Brian Thorne) and others who have borrowed from Rogers without accepting everything he said (for example Van Belle) My counselling tutor reminded me this week that in counselling it is the relationship not the theory that is important so you do not need to accept all that Rogers said to be a person centred counsellor.
Rus said
If how you earn a living is inconsistent with the Faith, then either the Faith or the job must be abandoned.

True but irrelevant. I do wrestle with these issues and I don't expect easy answers. I also believe God has called me into counselling and that he wants me to go by the secular route. Whether you think I am right or wrong please pray for me. Trust me this is a tough journey. I am about to seek a counselling placement and I am going into therapy again as I need to as part of my training. I am deliberately seeking a non-Christian therapist - insanity to you I know - but the only way forward for me because I know that as a therapist I will have to work with people who do not share my world view and I need to experience that from the receiving end.
blugoat said
You know, my own understanding of counseling as a profession is that the counselor is meant to help the client put his own thoughts in order, to identify his own beliefs and values, and to ask the questions that will help the client come to a better understanding of his own situation so he can then take the steps he needs to resolve it. Which could include going to get advice from a priest, for example. But the profession of counseling is really rather more limited than what many people imagine. Now, to my mind, the counselor refraining from imposing or even presenting his own worldview, beliefs and values on the client, in that relationship, is not inconsistent with faith. People are not able to make good decisions when they are having trouble understanding/dealing with their own feelings and thought processes. I think helping someone do this, aside from whatever immediate help it brings, will ultimately put them in a much better position to have a fruitful and intentional relationship with God. They might not go on to choose that, but that is always the possibility with free will.

Exactly - though I would want to emphasise God's grace as well as human responsibility (you see I am still Calvinist enough to dislike the term free will)
bluegoat said:
That being said, I know beliefs and worldviews are impossible to totally divorce from actions. I have seen this occasionally a counselor who really did not believe that the spiritual had any kind of existence except in people's minds; it is difficult, perhaps, to see a cause or effect when you think nothing is there. It also seems to me that sometimes professional counselors can give the impression that real transformation is not possible, we are always limited by what we have been given by nature and circumstance. I suppose these things are deep-seated and fundamental parts of people's worldview that are hard to get past.

Yes, I think this is true. Counsellors are only finite fallible humans. They make errors. I read something recently where a group of counsellors all felt very hostile to religion because they had come from backgrounds which lead them to associate religion with repression - as indeed Rogers himself did. And I would say to anyone in therapy who found their counsellor hostile to their own belief system to consider changing therapists. However I cannot see the solution to this problem being for Christians to steer clear of secular training and hide in their own Christian ghettoes which seems to be what Rus is advocating.
bluegoat said
I've been watching this discussion with interest, it has given me some food for thought in a situation I've been considering in real life.

I would be very interested in hearing more.
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby Bluegoat » 14 Mar 2009, 19:02

[/quote]
I would be very interested in hearing more.[/quote]

There are two things really, not actually very exciting. One is a proposal for a counseling service through our church, though not church run in any way - that has been given to the parish council. It would be "spiritually focused" but not specifically Christian. So I have been thinking about that.

The other is that I have been thinking about the counseling my dad gets, which I'm not sure is very helpful. Unfortunately because of the way our health service is, he gets it from the psychiatrist that monitors his meds, which I don't think is ideal. I have been trying to think what other options there might be and how I could stick my nose in what is not my business without being inappropriate. Through his church is one option, but since he is a total pagan, I'm not sure if it would do much good either.
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Re: Change of mind from better to worse...

Postby postodave » 14 Mar 2009, 22:32

bluegoat said:
There are two things really, not actually very exciting. One is a proposal for a counseling service through our church, though not church run in any way - that has been given to the parish council. It would be "spiritually focused" but not specifically Christian. So I have been thinking about that.

It sounds interesting. What kind of involvement would the Church have? And who would be providing the counsellors?
and bluegoat also said
The other is that I have been thinking about the counseling my dad gets, which I'm not sure is very helpful. Unfortunately because of the way our health service is, he gets it from the psychiatrist that monitors his meds, which I don't think is ideal. I have been trying to think what other options there might be and how I could stick my nose in what is not my business without being inappropriate. Through his church is one option, but since he is a total pagan, I'm not sure if it would do much good either.

Well there is a potential conflict of interest there for sure. I had a friend who was schizophrenic and he told me once that he talked for a long time while his psychiatrist was taking notes. He thought the psychiatrist was writing down what he said but then according to him the psychiatrist said 'I'm not writing that rubbish down.' Of course he may not have been remembering the words accurately but the perception of the psychiatrist not being interested in him as a person was certainly there.
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