I frequently get the question; “What type of counseling should I look for?” The research says that “Cognitive-Behavioral Counseling” is the most effective, however here in Johnson City TN religious faith beliefs are also very important to us.
What is the difference between these two forms of counseling?
Glad you asked!
First, let’s define each of these forms of counseling and then consider if they can be integrated into a more holistic form of Cognitive Behavioral Christian Counseling.
Cognitive Behavioral Counseling
Cognitive-Behavioral Counseling is founded on the belief that we can control what we think – Cognition’s, and we can control what we do – behaviors. It is much harder for us to control what we feel – our emotions.
The difficulty associated with controlling our emotions is driven by the fact that our emotions are triggered by what happens around us rather than inside us. This is true because our senses are processed by the emotional brain first, the amygdala and hippocampus.
The emotional brain processes sensory input, what you see and hear, thousands of times faster than we can think about them.
As the emotional brain process’s sensory input it looks for abnormal information, things that it needs the rest of the brain to figure out. We frequently talk about this as a fight or flight response.
The “emotional brain” relies upon intuition and experience to judge sensory information either good or bad. If the emotional brain does not perceive a threat or benefit associated with sensory information it tends to ignore it.
The “cognitive brain” uses logic and reasoning to decide if the sensory perceptions of the emotional brain need to be acted on by the “behavioral brain”. The behavioral brain controls our voluntary and involuntary muscles and internal control systems.
As we (or should I say, our brains) gain more and more knowledge about how the world around us works and what to expect, our level of emotional reactivity tends to go down giving us more time to think about what to do.
Most mental health problems are driven by external stressors that increase emotional sensitivity and reactivity.
As stress increases we tend to act without thinking to attempt to reduce stress more quickly, however that is when the problems tend to increase.
Because the emotional mind is not a logic based system like the cognitive brain, it is prone to make snap judgments that often result in bad consequences.
Cognitive Behavioral Christian Counseling
When we look at the bible and the lessons it teaches, we find that scripture teaches us not to trust our feelings, but to obey God’s commandments. Scripture is like a road-map for our lives. God does not promise us that are lives will be easy, in fact just the opposite is taught.
It is hard to follow God’s word and to consistently follow the instructions of scripture.
However, if we slow ourselves down enough to allow us to think through the consequences of our actions we can and will make better choices!
Making better choices is what Choice Counseling is all about.
Learning to slow down enough to freely choose what we think and do in response to how we feel is the art of cognitive-behavioral counseling.
Integrating the lessons and language of scripture into that thought process is the art of Cognitive-Behavioral Christian Counseling.
If you live in or near the Johnson City, TN area and feel you would like to talk, then feel free to call me at 423-502-4158 for a free initial telephone consultation. I look forward to exploring how cognitive-behavioral Christian counseling can help resolve some of the challenges in your life.
Doug Fox LPC, MDiv.