Interview With Christian Psychological Counselor: 'We Need to Do Something for People With Depression'

A pictures show a man sitting on the couch with depression.
A pictures show a man sitting on the couch with depression. (photo:
By Li ShiguangNovember 4th, 2022

Brother S lives and works in an economically developed part of East China. He has been engaged in psychological counseling for many years. Over the years, Brother S has seen many people suffer from mental illnesses, mainly depression, and has also shared the joy of the recovery of many patients.

"We decided to start this ministry because we saw so many cases of depression and we wanted to help them." Brother S said. He suggested at first that the church should come out, but the church had some difficulties in doing this due to policies and other reasons. It’s better to be done on an individual basis.

Their counseling service is completely free of charge. In recent years, about 1,000 people a year have contacted them for counseling. A very common problem among them is depression, and the number of depressed teenagers is increasing.

"When we face visitors, we mainly conduct professional psychological counseling. If the visitor is a Christian, we would talk about faith with them. But for the vast majority of our visitors, we only provide psychological counseling."

When they started the ministry, they almost only accepted patients with mild mental illnesses. For severe cases, they referred them to special psychiatric hospitals. However, with their professional psychological skills constantly improving through learning and the accumulation of experience, and the unsatisfactory treatment in many psychiatric hospitals, they also gradually began to receive severe cases and tried to treat them and accompany them with professional techniques and a meticulous attitude.

Traditional churches generally do not accept psychology, but Brother S believes that psychology is not in conflict with the Christian faith.

He explained, "God's human being is made up of these three parts: spirit, soul, and body. People could have problems in spirit, soul, and body. For bodily problems, we go to see a doctor; for soul-related problems, we need to see a psychiatrist, and for spiritual problems, we need to find God, go to church to learn about God and build a relationship with Him."

Brother S claimed that many mental illnesses are soul-related problems. "There are some people with purely spiritual problems, such as workplace stress, as the work is so stressful that they end up with mental illness. It is not necessarily because of committing sin. The student could experience great academic pressure, which also causes mental illnesses. For such situations, professional psychological counseling can be the solution, and indeed has achieved very good results," he added. 

But he also admits that psychology has its own limitations. "Mental illness may not just have soul-related causes, but also spiritual causes such as sin. If only psychological counseling is employed, but the spiritual problem has not been solved, this is curing the symptoms instead of the disease. Even if the illness seems to have been cured, it is likely to recur in the future." Brother S said frankly, "For such situations, we do not have a good solution, and we can only provide psychological help for them."

Among the Christian patients that he comes into contact with, a large proportion suffers from depression for a number of reasons. Some are because of their parent-child relationships, as the parents and children do not get along, or cannot communicate properly. Both parents and children are at risk of becoming depressed. But as for Christian patients, it is easier to solve their problems. "Because we agree with each other in spirit, and we can bring them to God." Therefore, Brother S believes that Christian faith and psychology are not in conflict, but can become a good complement to each other.

"We are now in the third year of the global coronavirus pandemic. More people are suffering from various mental illnesses. Before, most cases were mild, and there are few patients with severe mental illness. But now there are fewer mild cases, but more severe cases. Many seriously ill patients experienced suicidal thoughts, some of whom were Christians."

Brother S mentioned, in the future, psychological problems and mental illness will become more serious. There were about 83 million depressed people in China a few years ago, but now there are more than 100 million. Heavy work pressure and life pressure have put many people under a great deal of anxiety and panic. It happened not just in some industries. People from all walks of life are facing great pressure and very cruel competition.

- Translated by Oliver Zuo

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