What is an Anxiety Disorder and How Can Christian Counseling Help?

By Mali Hawkins, MS, LMFTA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

We all experience times of stress, worry and anxiety. A change in jobs, a move to a new city, the arrival of a new family member, or any other life transition can raise concerns and fears about how we will cope with the future. In my work as a counselor I see anxiety manifest itself physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. When anxiety becomes all-consuming it can affect every area of our lives.

Signs of Anxiety Disorder

Many people wonder whether their anxiety is “normal” or whether they should be concerned about it. Here are some signs that indicate that your anxiety has too much power in your life right now:

  • Excessive or unrealistic worry that is hard to control and that occurs more days than not for several months
  • Restlessness, fatigue, shakiness and muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath, a dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea and diarrhea
  • Feeling on edge, having trouble concentrating, experiencing difficulty sleeping or falling asleep, and irritability

How a Christian Cou...

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Identifying OCD: A Christian Counselor’s Advice on Obsessive Thoughts

Many people talk about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and may even diagnose it in others without truly understanding what it entails. OCD is a disorder that can have chronic consequences for those who suffer from it. In order to avoid the deteriorating consequences that OCD brings, it is most important  to accurately identify the disorder and to seek help. This article will provide a Christian psychologist’s perspective on this disorder, and will give some helpful hints for identifying OCD and seeking treatment while taking control of obsessional thoughts.

Understanding the Terms

OCD is an anxiety disorder that is defined by the presence of obsessions or compulsions. These terms can be tricky to understand because, like the disorder itself, people often use terms like anxiety and obsession to describe many different types of thoughts, feelings or behavior. When identifying OCD, an accurate definition of these terms is important.

What Does it Mean to be Obsessive?

In the context of OCD, obsessions are defined as intrusive thoughts, ideas, images, impulses or doubts. These are experienced as unacceptable, senseless or bizarre and they evoke subjective distress in the form of anxiety or doubt. Some examples of typical obsessional themes include: aggress...

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Seeking Spiritual Guidance: A Christian Counselor’s Perspective, Part 1

Where do we go when we are faced with tough questions about our faith? Who can we turn to when we need to make sense of what God is doing in our lives? How do we go about making decisions for the future? This article is the first in a two-part series in which I outline a systematic approach to finding out what God may be saying to you, based on my experience as a Christian counselor.

Recognize That You Are Dependent on God

We all know what it feels like to be lost and unsure of what to do next. Such experiences can be stressful, depressing and anxiety provoking – as you will know if you find yourself in such a situation at present. Where do you turn when you are searching for direction, or simply questioning what God has next for you?

Actually, this experience of not knowing where to go can often serve to remind us of our need for God. It can help us to put our hearts in the right place, for the first step to finding direction is to humbly accept our position of being totally dependent on God. When we give up control and accept that God knows what He is doing, we may find that a burden has been ...

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Seeking Spiritual Guidance: A Christian Counselor’s Perspective, Part 2

Living a Christian life is challenging and we sometimes face tough questions about our faith. We may have questions about what God is doing in our lives, or we may need help as we make decisions about the future. Where do we turn for such guidance as we seek to do God’s will?

In my previous article, I outlined a systematic approach to finding out what God may be saying to you based on my experience as a Christian counselor. I pointed out that the first step is to recognize that you are dependent on God, and suggested that we can learn from the example of those who have gone before us. More specifically, we can learn from the approach of John Wesley who highlighted the importance of Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience for those who are seeking God’s will in their lives. Having discussed the importance of Scripture in the previous article, I now turn to Wesley’s other points.

Tradition Shows Us How Earlier Generations Sought God’s Will

This second point of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral involves precisely what we saw...

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A Christian Counselor Talks about Grief and Loss, Part1

By Rick McGregor, MA, LMHCA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of you will face. When you lose a spouse, parent, sibling or child, your grief can be particularly intense. Grief and loss is a normal and natural part of life, but knowing that doesn’t remove the shock, confusion, sadness and depression. The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process that enables us to work through our feelings and move forward.

What is Grief?

Grief is a reaction to loss that can encompass a range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It is experienced differently by each person, according to your personality, beliefs, and relationship to the deceased. Feelings common to grief are sadness, yearning, guilt, regret, and anger – and a sense meaninglessness can also be present. Emotions can be surprising in their strength or mildness, and contrary to the expectations of the griever.

Thoughts during grief can vary from “there’s nothing I can do about it” to “it’s my fault, I could have done more” to “he had a good life” to “it wasn’t her time.” Your thoughts can be troubling or...

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A Christian Counselor’s Thoughts on Effective Listening, Part 2

By Rick McGregor, MA, LMHCA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

Talking and listening is fundamental to any relationship. It sounds simple to say that a conversation involves both speaking and listening, but all-too-often our conversations involve a form of competition as we seek the power that comes through speaking. We have learnt how to speak, but we have not necessarily learnt how to listen. Yet we all need to be heard and understood and there is nothing more hurtful than realizing that the people close to us aren’t really listening to what we have to say.

In my previous article, I argued that listening is a skill that we need to learn. I suggested that listening is about showing respect and empathy for the other person in such a way that they will feel able to communicate more of what is really going on. Good listening opens up the conversation, rather than closing it down by offering quick solutions. In this article, I continue that discussion by suggesting some more concrete ways in we can develop listening skills that further a real communication.

Develop Your Active Listening Skills

As I mentioned ...

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A Christian Counselor’s Thoughts on Effective Listening, Part 1

By Rick McGregor, MA, LMHCA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

Talking and listening involves a unique relationship in which two people are constantly switching roles. In any conversation the speaker and the listener are jockeying for position, with the needs of one competing with the needs of the other. If you doubt this, try sharing a personal problem with someone and see how long it takes for them to interrupt you – either with one of their own problems, or in order to share a similar story or to offer you advice. Nothing hurts more than the sense that the people close to us aren’t really listening to what we have to say. It sounds so simple to say that a conversation involves one person talking and another person listening, and we so easily take it for granted. And yet it can often feel as if those closest to us aren’t really listening.

Listening is a Skill that We Can Learn

The need to communicate touches every area of our lives. Everything we do in life requires communication with others. In the first years of life, we learn to speak and this is an important developmental milestone and a sign that a child is developing normally. However, listening is an equally important skill that we need to learn. When we don’t learn to ...

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