I work with Christians that seek counseling from a Christian perspective. I have been a Christian for over 39 years, and I believe that the Bible is inspired by God and the standard for truth. I cultivate my own walk with God daily, and I am active in a fellowship of believers. For clients who ask for and want a Christian perspective in their counseling, I partner with them to seek God's presence and direction using whatever modality is comfortable for them. I am careful to work within each client’s belief system and I am trained as a professional to assess and consider someone's spiritual needs as part of therapy, but never project my own values onto others. I do not assume or proceed with a therapeutic approach without first discussing it and obtaining my client’s consent and agreement. If there are religious wounds from unhealthy church cultures or family backgrounds, I am able to assist my clients to face the deeper issues of trusting God, in order to help re-establish a renewed relationship with God and other believers that is so vital to growth and maturity as a Christian.
Below is a more detailed description of two of the modalities I use in this regard to help relieve symptoms, Splankna and Immanuel. I am listed as a trained practitioner on both of these websites (see below).
Splankna (Christian Mind-Body-Spirit Work)
I am trained and certified as a Master's level practitioner in “Splankna”, which is the Greek word that is translated in the Bible as “compassion”, and literally means “the deepest part of us” or “gut”. Splankna is considered experimental, since it does not yet have the full body of research to back it's outcomes, but there is much research currently being done that is supportive. (See other books such as "Retrain the Brain", by Dr. Carolyn Leaf, and "Molecules of Emotion" by Candace Pert). Splankna is considered a holistic healing modality. For further information, please visit, www.splankna.com. Although it is about 15 years old (relatively new compared to other treatments), the modalities it uses within it's approach are all standard treatment approaches that have been researched and developed for over thirty years. These include E.M.D.R., Thought Field Therapy (T.F.T.), and Neuro-emotional technique (N.E.T.) all of which have been shown to heal trauma when used on their own, but when combined into the Splankna protocol and covered with prayer, they are much more effective. It is said that a "tree can be known by it's fruit". I have personally observed over the last ten years that I have been using Splankna with my clients, that it is one of the most gentle and efficient methods in clearing symptoms and trauma that I have ever used. I have not received any negative complaints about it, and my clients tend to prefer it and ask for it, once they try it for at least 3 sessions, due to the symptom reduction that they experience.
For further insight and clarification, feel free to go to the Splankna website and listen to the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) audio presentation, that explores the theological questions and justifications. In addition, the developer of Splankna has written a book that is very inclusive and explanatory, called "Splankna" by Sarah Theissen, Marriage and Family Therapist.
What is it?
The theoretical basis for Splankna can be described in the following way. One way to think of it is that the human system is comprised of body, mind and spirit that are overlapping. Just like a computer’s hard drive and soft drives are overlapping and work in conjunction with each other, so do the body, soul (emotions) and spirit (beliefs). It is being discovered that these parts of us are much more overlapping than was originally thought, according to the Western world view which tries to separate the mind, body and spirit. Trauma experts have known for years that the body and brain hold both the memory of the emotion, and the emotion itself actually takes up physical space in our brain. Once discovered and connected with, these emotions can be released and "rewired" or changed. (see "Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma" by Peter Levine, and "The Anatomy of the Soul" by Curt Thompson). Romans 12:2 speaks about how we can actually be transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is exactly what actually happens in Splankna and science is now beginning to catch up with Scripture.
Who can do Splankna?
Splankna isn’t for everyone. It works well in about 95% of people who are ready to utilize their intention and connect with their bodies and with the lies that they have believed over their lifetime that are producing symptoms. It requires that the client is either willing to pray to revoke certain toxic beliefs, or allows the therapist to pray for them on their behalf. The client doesn’t have to be a “Christian”, but must have a willingness to pray, or be prayed for, to God through Jesus, and be open to the work of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives. Splankna is effective for adults, teenagers, and any age child, providing their parent is present. It does not contain any New Age beliefs or practices.
How Splankna is different from other Mind Body Techniques:
Until Splankna was developed, it was difficult to find a modality that allowed believers a way to access body or subconscious memory in a spiritual way that lined up with their beliefs. However because God made the body, He has also made ways for us to access the painful places where these memories are stored. In Splankna we believe that the subconscious is simply the inner most part of us that God wants to access in us, since He does want truth in the inner being. We are able to allow that access with our free wills to these deeper places in order to root out underlying beliefs, vows, lies or agreements that we have made at some point in our lives, usually during times of trauma, and no longer remember them. The Old Testament states that God wants truth in the "inward parts" of us, which in Hebrew is the word "Cheder" or "subconscious" in todays vernacular. "Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6). This is also the same meaning for "Splankna" in the New Testament.
Unfortunately not all of the things that we’ve agreed to believe are true. Only God holds the corner on "absolute truth” or wisdom. What our subconscious tells us is only what we came to believe at the time of trauma, which eventually becomes truth to us. It is only part of the story as we saw it at that moment, and therefore it is subjective truth only. We should not build our lives on subjective truths alone, but often we do. This is the key difference. After a traumatic event, the subsequent lies, vows and agreements that we take on and house in our bodies, souls and spirits, can cause great disruption in our thinking, emotions and behavior, as well as in our relationships, because they don’t line up with God’s truth. For example, a person physically or sexually abused as a child can come to believe that they are "not worthy of love", or that "nobody will ever want me, or treat me well". Because these “truths” are only subjective, which means they are lies that we have come to believe are true, they are difficult to root out and discover without tools that help with that. Have you ever tried to talk someone or yourself out of a firmly rooted belief and have that fail miserably? This is one of many reasons that these lies and vows need to be processed out and not "talked out" with conventional psychotherapy. They can do much damage throughout our lives and must be processed out of our spirits (where we hold beliefs) in order for our minds, bodies, emotions and relationships with God and others to fully heal. Once renounced in prayer, and replaced with truth, people often find that they no longer think about, feel or believe those lies. They find that their behaviors shift and that they no longer have to manage the symptoms that used to be there, with psychological techniques. The symptoms are simply not there anymore. As Jesus said in John 8:32, the truth really is able to set us free. Results vary with individuals and no specific results can be promised, but this is a common (more often than not) experience among the clients I have personally worked with.
How does it work?
The emotions that accompany traumatic life experiences also seem to be stored in the body, almost like electrical charges. These trauma emotions seem to disrupt the body’s natural electrical polarity, or balance, so therefore the trauma emotion can be discovered through a neuromuscular technique. We believe this is allowed by God because it is not God's original design for us to carry this trauma inside of us for years. We were designed to live in the garden of Eden, after all, not in this trauma based world. God wants us to heal and live full and abundant lives. Once this trauma emotion, along with the lie that accompany it are discovered, the client is able to release the emotion when they touch their own body point where it is stored and think about the emotion briefly at the same time. This combination of “circuitry (holding or tapping the body points) plus intention (thinking about the emotion), helps discharge the content and emotional “charge” out of the body and mind. After the emotion is cleared, the client is then able to renounce the lie and or false belief. This is always done while the client is fully alert and working with the therapist and within protocol, which is always in submission to God and surrendered to what He wants for the client. It is not like hypnotism, where the subconscious is accessed apart from the client’s full awareness, cooperation and intention. After the charge and the content of the emotion is cleared out, the client can more easily do affirmations and cognitive statements that are very similar to what would be used in cognitive therapy, to replace the misbelief and allow the brain to re-wire and make new pathways, according to the client’s highest belief system.
What are the results and Side effects?
These subconscious and often hidden beliefs, along with the physical and emotional charges that accompany them, are often what underlie many of the symptoms that complicate our lives, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Some have come to accept these as “natural” consequences that they just need to live with. These can sometimes include depression, physical diseases, anxiety, avoidance, phobia’s, hearing voices, feeling “detached” or living in different personalities, inability to succeed in certain areas of our lives, inability to access God, express or know our spiritual gifts, live in the moment, and be the healthy and vibrant sexual, emotional and spiritual beings that God designed us to be. For a large percentage of the clients that use this technique, there has been full resolve of such diagnosis as PTSD, major depression, hearing voices, suicidal and self-harming tendencies, anorexia and bulimia, anxiety disorders including phobias, panic attacks, and OCD. However there are no guarantees that these results will occur.
Because the sessions are covered in prayer, God leads each person to release what is exactly right for them, in that moment: no more and no less. God never gives us more than we can handle. For this reason, this is one of the most gentle techniques that I have seen in all my years as a therapist. There are rarely any side effects or complaints that I have observed in over 10 years of doing Splankna, other than the client may notice that they need to sleep a little more for the brain to process things for a little while, and that they may feel some shifts that leave them wondering what to replace the "old" pattern with (which is why we assign renewal statements or affirmations for homework), and they sometimes need to lower their medications if they clear a physical symptom that was attached to a false belief. This should always be done with a doctor's advice and consent.
The only explanation that I can find for the large percentage of gentle and positive results we see with Splankna, is that because it is required that in order to do Splankna, the therapist and client must agree to let God lead the session, what follows often bears much fruit to God's credit and glory. Some of the fruit is subtle and can takes several months to notice, and at other times it is very sudden and occurs right after the session. Some people notice that symptoms that have been present for years disappear. Others indicate that issues that seemed to run like a program or pattern in their lives, stop occurring. Most importantly, people often begin to feel and access parts of themselves previously shut down to God, others, their gift and call in life, their relationships, or their vocation. Additionally, many people who do this work say such things as, “I feel more whole”, or “Things I used to struggle with just are not a problem anymore.” Although change or the rate of change can never be guaranteed since it is very individual, most of the changes that I have observed have usually happened in significantly less time than is usual than for similar kinds of diagnoses using talk therapy. The time it will take you cannot be determined or guaranteed by the therapist or the developers of Splankna. Please feel free to visit the website www.splankna.com to learn more about this technique.
Although difficult to explain to others, once experienced, most of my clients ask for Splankna in their sessions over and over again. Since it is quite different than conventional talk therapy, some patients need some time to get used to the treatment and how it works. For that reason, I offer one additional free half hour, added to a session, to explore and explain Splankna and how it works if that is requested by the client.
Is there ‘Homework’ in between sessions?
Homework is a vital and important part of Splankna therapy. Usually in the form of affirmations and prayer. The work a client does in between sessions is part of rewiring the brain to form new pathways to replace the old. This is the part that heals the brain by giving it a “truth” pathway to replace the lie or vow that was believed for years. This new ‘circuitry’ helps to continue the healing and correction of the wiring in the brain that led to physical or emotional symptoms. It is similar to what is required in Cognitive Behavioral therapy.
Summary and Example:
For example, if we were abused as a child, verbally, physically or sexually, we most likely adopted a “lie” about that abuse and why it happened to us, in an effort to survive and to make sense of such a tragic event. At the time this seems rational. Certainly what happened to us is true, and needs to be validated. However, it is what we tell ourselves about the event that ends up being a lie sometimes, and ends up continuing to hurt us even years later, long after the abuse has ended. For example, we might believe that we were abused because we didn’t deserve to be loved, or because we weren’t good enough, or didn’t work hard enough. We reason that if we had done those things, then we wouldn’t have been abused. If we carry this into adulthood, this “lie” or misbelief causes great damage and malfunction as we try to “work harder” and “be perfect” in order to avoid rejection or further abuse. This can result in symptoms such as workaholism, people pleasing, poor boundary setting, broken marriages, anxiety, low self-esteem, performance driven thinking, depression, addictions, insomnia, poor relationships, poor health, fatigue and exhaustion, and a general spirit of discontent. If we don’t deal with the root “lie” and replace it with truth, such as “The real reason I was abused was because my abuser had a problem with anger or control, and it had nothing to do with me", or, "I am worthy of being treated with consideration and respect", then the lie continues to manifest. It is possible to learn “techniques” to manage the lie, but the lie itself still lurks beneath the surface. However, if we can actually remove and replace the lie by processing it out and then replacing it with truth, then the lie and the subsequent symptoms go away, and no longer need “management”.
The Immanuel Approach
Immanuel is a way of approaching life more fully connected to Jesus. Instead of going after the trauma directly, this approach focuses on improving or establishing a stronger connection with Jesus instead of the trauma and before going into the traumatic experience. Going after the trauma from a disconnected state can cause the experience itself to be re-traumatizing. Once connected in a safe way with Jesus, most people can be gently walked through the trauma at the pace and in the order that God knows is best. This is measurably more gentle, because it is God doing the work and not the therapist, or oneself. It is similar to a little child being afraid to go into the basement alone. Once Dad or Mom comes along (assuming they are safe people for their child), then while holding their hand the child is able to go into the basement and not be traumatized by the experience because he/she did it while connected to someone safe. Immanuel is based on many years of brain science on attachment and how the brain attaches to God and others. It also is based on the "Life Model", a developmental model founded on foundational scriptures from the Bible, and the combination produces powerful results. Again although no result can be guaranteed, many who try the Immanuel approach (including myself) are forever altered.
Some people are not ready for this approach because they do not feel safe with God yet. One of the main components of the Immanuel Approach is that it helps gently address and lift barriers to God that may have been there for many years. Some people find this approach to give them multiple insights and clarity, as well as a lifting of symptoms and patterns that have been established long ago. It can be done for any issue and not just trauma related concerns. For example, if a person is having trouble performing on their job, fully connecting in a relationship, facing fears that have long held them back, they can bring this issue into their Immanuel prayer time and ask God to address it. Often times they are able to understand the issue for the very first time and feel connected and safe enough to explore it with God, as He leads them. More importantly, since insight doesn't always lead to change, they are able to experience God with them in the midst of the problem or issue, which in itself often leads to the change of functioning, which is more sustainable than insight alone (similar to the child going into the basement example). When someone feels safe and attached they learn differently than when they do not. This is because the right (relational) and left (logical, processing) sides of the brain are both used during the Immanuel exercises, and each have very different functions. When used together, the change is much more powerfully felt and experienced and usually leads to more permanent shifts, than when only one side or the other is used. In some sessions, the Lord leads people to only to address aspects of their emotional and spiritual growth instead of traumatic memories. For example, He may help them with procrastination, laziness, avoidance, or difficulty attuning with others. The good news is, when God is leading, and the person and therapist are both connected to Him, the sessions are uplifting and life giving.
The breadth and depth of Immanuel is difficult to explain on a website and really must be experienced. Feel free to ask me about this approach if you find this interests you. There are many things you can do in between sessions with the Immanuel approach to prepare you for the sessions themselves. For further understanding please visit www.joystartshere.com and/or www.immanuelapproach.com. Both are excellent sources that discuss the developers insights and foundations: Dr. James Wilder on www.joystartshere.com gives an overall view and understanding of the Immanuel approach and what to take as first steps in this journey, along with many resources to study it yourself. Dr. Karl Lehman on www.immanuelapproach.com is a psychiatrist and discusses the Immanuel approach from more of a clinical and research point of view, and how he uses it with clients in therapy sessions. (In addition, www.alivewell.org is how the Immanuel Approach is used in prayer ministry if you are interested). I am listed as a practitioner on the Immanuel Approach website.