Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12: 1-2
Talk therapy has been proven to be effective. Having a space where one can be assured of confidentiality and empathy allows one to initiate a process, a movement in the psyche towards cure. People however, often enter therapy accompanied by erroneous ideas of the process. A proper understanding of therapy is important if one is to comprehend a therapist’s need to serve the whole person.
The word ‘therapist’ comes from the Greek and means “soul server”, but a therapist obviously cannot afford to be inattentive to mind and body as well. Often people have been taught from a medical model of therapy and imagine that the therapist is there to fix their mental health symptoms much the way a doctor would set a broken bone. Or they will reason that although body and mind are connected, the body is a chemical composite, therefore medications alone should prove the panacea…the path to cure.
With this model, symptoms of anxiety are seen as something to bombard with pills, or worse yet, to shock away with electric shock therapy. Symptoms are not something we need to listen to, but are seen more like a beast, something to eradicate. On the other side of the spectrum, some clients do not, it seems, imagine any connection between mind and body at all and will be offended if there is any talk of the necessity to think of nutrition and exercise as essential to mental health. They reason that their issues are mental health ones and if they wanted nutritional or exercise advice, they would go elsewhere. Of course, talk therapy needs to examine the early factors of one’s development that have led to the issues presented, but inattention to one’s health state may leave undetected a more serious issue that is connected.
Often the same take is given to the suggestion that mental health includes a spiritual dimension as well. Is not our God on the side of our physical and mental health? Should not our mental health therapist also be cognizant of the state of our physical and spiritual health as well? Despite the present plague of health issues and obesity in our society, there are some who are addressing the issue of better nutrition and how it affects wellness of body, spirit and mind.
More than a half century ago, Norman Brown in his book, “Life Against Death”, suggested that the time had come when we should ask what Christian theologians mean by ‘the resurrection of the body’. Perhaps it might have a symbolic component as well as the meaning of life after death. For example, it might point to a body cleansed from the effects of eating an unhealthy, average American diet, now one free of disease. A new wave of doctors believe that 75% of diseases we suffer are caused by what we eat. Mental health wellness will be achieved only when the whole person—mental, physical and spiritual–is addressed.