What is chemical dependency? Perspectives from a Christian counselor

I was recently speaking at an event for marriage and family therapy students and emerging professionals. It was the kind of event where students could meet others in the field who have gone in a variety of different directions and ask any  questions they might have.

Some students asked about the various job opportunities available, some about how to handle the emotional stress. One question directed towards me, though, stood out. As I had been hosting the event, I previously introduced myself multiple times and touched on my own line of work. Besides working at Seattle Christian Counseling, I work in a community mental health setting, working mostly with people with substance abuse issues. The question brought to me inquired about my language, “people with substance abuse issues.”

“I noticed you never said you work with alcoholics or addicts. Why is that? Is there something that’s changing about the language in the field?” the current student asked me.

See, she is currently a chemical dependency professional branching out into the marriage and family therapy field. Her experience has been working with addicts and alcoholics, and that’s how she has always referred to the people with whom she worked.

She asked me about the use of my “person first” langu...

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Help for Sexual Addiction for Women

This article on help for sexual addition references the book, Ready to Heal, by Kelly McDaniel.

Love and sex addiction is a double bind. If we seek a relationship, which we are all designed to do, we will experience pain. If we then avoid relationships, which seems logical when we’ve been hurt, we will also experience pain – usually the pain of being isolated. When we are lacking healthy role models in our formative years, we may arrive at adulthood without the tools to navigate pain.

With repeated betrayal in relationships, we may end up with some of these feelings:

  • I am not at “ease” or at peace.
  • I rarely know a moment of comfort in solitude.
  • I have difficulty being alone or still.
  • I have disordered eating, sleeping, and/or spending patterns.
  • I grow increasingly confused and tired.
  • I have difficulty trusting people.
  • I become more isolated while pursuing sex or romance.
  • I lose interest in friends, hobbies, family, and work.
  • I can’t seem to identify or live within my value system.
  • I experience more and more episodes of irritability, rage, and restlessness.

Shame sets in when we can’t seem to free ourselves from choosing destructive...

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Relational Intimacy in Marriage: Joint Accomplishment vs. Self-Reliance

As I continue this series of articles on "Ingredients for Relational Intimacy in Marriage," I once again express my gratitude and deep respect to Dr. David Ferguson, his book, Intimate Encounters and The Great Commandment Ministries team in Cedar Park, Texas.

Marriage Myths & Lies

Healthy marriages require specific ingredients that include intentionality and clear purpose. It is a sad commentary in our Christian and non-Christian marriages that few couples have a common vision for their lives. One doesn't have to look very far to find another fractured and collapsed family.

Sadly, very few individuals have ever stopped long enough to consider what a Godly vision (direction with passion and wisdom) is for their lives. Consequently, marriages perish relationally. In fact, God's Word says, "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild" (Proverbs 29:18).

If we don't have clear direction for our marriages, we are blind to the absolute necessity for relational ingredients that can insure a successful marriage. This leads to the question, "What is stopping us from experiencing 'Joint Accomplishment?'"

I suggest we explore a few marriage myths and lies that cripple relationships and permit toxic relational ingredients to thrive.

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4 Tips to Save Your Marriage

If you've clicked through to this article, my guess is that you're either desperate to save your marriage, or trying to find ways to help another couple save theirs. In either case, I pray that the following tips shared here will be a practical help to you, and that God would use this offering, combined with His grace and power, to make a difference for good.

Before we begin, allow me to lay some groundwork. I have been married for 23 years and have worked as a couple’s therapist for the past 19. While I have gained a lot of insight into the psychological dilemmas that couples face through secular study, my worldview about marriage as an institution is shaped through my faith as a Christian.

This article is intended to share helpful tips based on my personal and professional experience that allow couples to have a growing, nourishing marriage that will last for life. As a Christian Counselor, I pick approaches to couple’s therapy that reflect Biblical principles. The tips below reflect a blending of the two that I have seen make all the difference in a couple staying happy long-term in their marriage versus ending up shipwrecked on the shores of divorce and misery.

Practical Tips to Save Your Marriage

Tip #1: Make sure love is more than a feeling<...

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ADHD Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments: What Every Christian Should Know

What is ADHD?

The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) lists Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a “Neuro-developmental Disorder” and refers to it as a neurological disease. It notes that it is not only found in children, but in adolescents and adults.

The DSM-5 states that “individuals with ADHD may present with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, or one symptom pattern may predominate … Three presentations of ADHD are commonly referred to: combined-type, inattentive-type and hyperactive/impulsive-type … the appropriate presentation of ADHD should be indicated based on the predominant symptom pattern for the last six months.”

Summarizing the DSM-5’s description of ADHD, the ADHD Institute defines it as “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development, has symptoms presenting in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities), and negatively impacts directly on social, academic, or occupational functioning. Several symptoms must have been present before age 12 years.”

The National Institute of Men...

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Useful Tips for Christians Struggling with Codependency

Although the idea of codependency is a popular and often derogatory concept used in our self-help and pop culture society, it represents a real conceptualization of struggle and pain for a lot of people, especially those in committed relationships.

Just as in most cases with emotional, psychological, and mental health problems, Christians and people of faith can and often do struggle with the prospect and reality of codependency in their marriages, committed relationships, and often in their relationships with children and parents.

As a Christian counselor, I work with many people who often get stuck in their relationships because of codependent learnings, leanings, and/or characteristics. In the counseling relationship, we will work to understand, develop awareness, and help see a new way or path to relating with others.

What is Codependency?

Codependency refers to pain caused by the sufferings we encountered during our childhood, but becomes expressed in adulthood, leading to a higher chance of compulsive/addictive behavior and relationship problems. Codependency can be attributed to specific feelings and behaviors that result in an aversive relationship that is full of self-loathing and self-sacrificial behaviors.

The condition leaves you at a point where y...

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What are the Depression Effects on Women and How to Cope

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression effects on women may include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Warning signs of suicide with depression include:

  • A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing...
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