• Tom Cleary

Therapy and the Grace of God


The recent stories regarding the mental health issues of athletes Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have pushed this issue into the forefront of the public conversation. That is an increasingly common thing to occur as the issue of mental health and the treatment of mental health issues is much more open than it has been before.


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24 Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34

According to the World Health Organization there has been a 13% increase in mental health conditions (including substance abuse) in the ten years ending in 2017.


There are many who would chalk this up to whining and a generational defect amongst the younger elements of society. I think this to be erroneous. Mental health, especially the subset of substance abuse, is a real thing and it has damaging consequences for the afflicted as well as those close to them.


I suspect that mental illness has been with humanity from the beginning but that we are simply more open to discussing it. It mirrors the slow evolution of attitudes surrounding those of a different sexual orientation. As some brave souls came forward to discuss their mental health situation, more and more followed. After a time, there remains few who do not know somebody who has suffered at one time or another with mental distress.


Additionally, as society grew wealthier it became easier to acknowledge and deal with the incidence of mental health. Mental hygiene became yet another good that became accessible and affordable for an increasingly large number of people. As this wealth increase and concomitant increase in the provision of mental health services went along it became easier for more to identify with those who suffered from mental illness. Most simply because it was increasingly likely that you were one of them. So, it has become much easier for me to say that I am in therapy. Sorry, bad habit I meant to say I AM SEEING A THERAPIST.


What Therapy Can Do for You, If You Let It


I am not going to burden you with a lot of detail. Suffice it to say that I suffered from panic attacks and a high degree of anxiety. It got to the point that it was interfering with routine aspects of my life. So, out of more desperation than anything else I sought help. I was incredibly fortunate to find a gifted counselor who quickly (scarily quick, perhaps) got to the root of what was ailing me.


What therapy does in a nutshell is to first, clarify the issues. It brings out what the problem is. Before you can target a solution, you must know what the target is. A trained professional can help you do this. Don’t ask me how, I just know because I have seen it first-hand. A lot of my situation had to do with forgiveness, and I have spoken of this previously on a large scale and a more personal scale. Mostly it had to do with forgiving oneself, perhaps the most difficult forgiveness of all. Nonetheless, this process has helped me immensely and it continues to do so.


The second and most important thing a therapist can do for you is to provide you with a set of tools to regulate your emotions. This is important. Many people, including previously me, have a misconception about therapy. The point is not to deny your anxiety or your fear or any other emotion. Emotions by themselves just are, they are neither good nor evil. How you act upon those emotions is what is most important. Once you accept that you are not a bad person simply because you get angry or fearful or anxious, you can move on toward not letting those emotions stop you from living your life.


This brings up another misconception. Many people think that therapy is simply a way for slackers to get out of working or otherwise acting like adults. I am sure you can find such a case of a malingerer but overall, I am equally certain that most people do not want to stay stuck paralyzed by their mental illnesses. Few things are as nauseating as not being able to live your life because of an emotional or mental affliction.


This is the true benefit of therapy. A good therapist can provide tools for dealing with your problems, the most important of which is to give voice to those problems. These tools can be as varied as the human imagination, and no one tool is right for everyone all the time. What I can tell you is that if you find a gifted therapist and are willing to commit to the process you can discover tools that will make a marked improvement in your life.


Therapy as the Grace of God?


Yes, therapy and therapists are extensions of God’s Grace. God helps humanity by way of other humans. We are literally the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of our Lord here on earth. I would go so far as to argue that people can be extensions of God’s Grace even unknowingly. God orders all things, which means even people who do not believe in God can be extending God’s Grace to those who do.


None of this is diminished by the fact that therapists are paid. Do not fall prey to the fallacy that payment means a lack of care and concern on the part of the professional. I have devoted too much space to the efficacy of freely formed prices to rationally allocate scarce resources (among them therapists) to think that this endeavor should be organized any other way. Besides, having gone through the process I have found, my therapist at least, to be bright enough to make a good living doing something easier than absorbing and dealing with the pain of others.


The point of all this is to recognize that God provides all that we need to build lives of purpose and passion and meaning here on earth. He has even provided those with the skill and passion to help us recover from the broken, damaged mess we often are. I would encourage all who may need this kind of help to show enough faith to accept the help that God has gracefully provided via these talented professionals.


Just remember, as in all things Godly, to try as best you can to pay it forward and give as much of God’s Grace to others as you have received from Him. You may just find that therapy makes it possible to do that more than you thought you could.


Praise Be to God

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