Answers to the Most FAQs About My Counseling Services
1. I don’t agree with all your Christian beliefs. If I come to see you, will you try to “convert” me?
When people come to me for emotional healing, I hold no expectation that they be converted my beliefs, nor do I use my counseling office to preach to people or proselytize. However, with their permission, I may ask people to think about and try to articulate their beliefs about God, and ask questions about their beliefs in the context their current problems. I may ask — again with their permission — to experiment with Christian approaches to problems, which may or may not result in their becoming Christians or changing their beliefs about God.
2. How do you integrate your scientific training with your Christian faith? Don’t you see inconsistencies between the two?
I see the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the scientific method as our instrument for investigating and understanding God’s created order. In those areas where scripture and science may “appear” to be in conflict, I question the validity neither of scripture, nor of the scientific method, but rather our fallible human interpretation of scripture and scientific data. Psychology is the body of knowledge we have from applying the scientific method in understanding ourselves. Although I do not agree with non-Christian psychologists on everything, I do pay close attention to the data they have collected and described, because they are usually very good investigators of human behavior. I strongly believe that psychology can be a very legitimate and useful science when properly understood and applied. However, psychology — the human study of the human mind and heart — is tricky business, because we cannot really understand ourselves without the light of Christ on our hearts and minds. Therefore, it is far more important to seek God, in the face of Jesus Christ, than to seek to understand ourselves. And then, when we find and experience God’s presence though Christ, we understand ourselves and our fellow human beings much better.
3. How effective is your counseling approach?
Many clients meet their counseling goals in 12 sessions or less. Those who have experienced severe and prolonged abuse or neglect or who are trying to reverse an addictive lifestyle that took many years to develop often require more sessions. Aftercare surveys of former clients have consistently assigned me high ratings on “making a lasting positive difference in my life” and “someone I’d highly recommend to a friend.”
4. Do you prescribe medication?
No. Only physicians and psychiatrists can evaluate the need for, and prescribe psychotropic medication. As a clinical counselor, I gladly leave that burden to them while I focus on the psychological and spiritual factors contributing to emotional distress in my clients. If I think that medication could help, then I would refer you to your physician or a psychiatrist, especially if we see no remission in your depression or anxiety after 4-6 weeks of counseling.
5. What’s your view on medication for psychological problems?
Under prolonged and severe stress, the brain can be depleted of important chemicals involved in neurological functioning. Therefore, I support the wise and careful use of certain psychotropic medications — such as the antidepressants — that can help restore balance in the neurochemistry. In my clinical practice, psychotropic medications often serve a temporary purpose until my clients are coping better with stress. Then, when my clients get better and want to go off medication, I always recommend that they return to the prescribing physician with the request for gradually reduced dosages of the medication under the physician’s supervision.
6. I need marital counseling. How does that work?
Typically, I would meet with you and your spouse in the first 75-minute session, and, by the end of the session, I would suggest a treatment plan that would probably include meeting with each of you individually, in addition to couple sessions. In couple sessions, I carefully observe and respond to a couple’s communication and problem-solving skills, how each person responds to the stress of marital conflict, and try to show a couple how each person’s unique personality and spiritual giftedness might contribute to both the marital problems and solutions. In meeting with you or your spouse individually, we would explore the negative feelings and thoughts and behaviors that occur in the presence of your spouse. Marital conflict often “triggers” feelings of worthlessness, alienation, rejection, powerless that I believe only Jesus can change into love, joy, and peace. Once those wounds are healed in you, the marriage greatly improves. When both partners experience healing, the marriage improves all the more.
7. What’s your view on divorce?
I believe that the only biblical grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, that is, when the adulterous spouse shows no remorse for his or her sin and is not seeking reconciliation with God or the spouse. Unfortunately, in our day and age, people use divorce as a quick-fix for their own pain, a “way out” out of the emotional pain they experience by the presence of the hurtful spouse. Typically, the person seeking divorce these days is experiencing so much anger and pain that he or she cannot fully comprehend all the consequences of this drastic measure. I see myself as called into the ministry of saving marriages, not being part of the wrecking crew. Marital vows are for a lifetime, and let’s remember that they are made in the presence of God. As a Christian counselor, an important part of my mission is to help people keep their marital vows, and work through any obstacle to fulfilling them. In cases of physical abuse, addiction (such as to drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.), I counsel the offended spouse not to seek divorce, but rather, if necessary, a season of separation, until trust and safety is restored over time. Ideally, during a season of separation, both you and your spouse can devote significant time to individual counseling for personal healing, while meeting together periodically with a Christian professional marital counselor both you and your spouse can trust. In my counseling practice, I seek the mending of hearts first, and then, afterwards, the mending of marriages, in that order.
8. But my marriage looks hopeless. Shouldn’t I divorce?
Divorce is, of course, your legal option. However, even in the case of adultery, there is still hope for reconciliation in Christ, especially when the offending spouse is repentant. I firmly believe that there is hope for the resurrection of marriages that are, by any human measure, dead. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa gave an interesting response when asked, back in the 1980s, when asked to explain why he had hope for reconciliation between whites and blacks in his home country. He said this: “Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This means hope for South Africa!” Things were very bad for South Africa back then. But now South Africa is a place where institutionalized discrimination (apartheid) is a thing of the past, and where the fruit of forgiveness and reconciliation, through Christ, is flourishing, due in large part to the Christian leadership in that country. What was true for South Africa is also true for many marriages today, which are living testimonies of Jesus’ power to bring about reconciliation even when it looks absolutely impossible.
9. What’s your approach to counseling divorced people?
I offer treatment for PDT (“Post Divorce Trauma”) in which I treat the issues of divorce recovery similar to the issues of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In 21st century America, divorce is far too minimized and not correctly viewed as the major trauma it is for each spouse, the children, the extended family, the community and society as a whole. But getting back to each divorced spouse, the psychological fallout of divorce can often last for years, even decades, after the divorce. Many of my divorced clients — whether they have initiated divorce or have been divorced — have an enormous amount of baggage to sort out: hurt, anger, and betrayal. PDT sufferers need to know and experience God’s forgiveness for their own contribution to the failed marriage, while also forgiving whatever blame appropriately assigned to the ex-spouse. The sooner the the PTD sufferer get into treatment, the better. Otherwise, the PDT sufferer is left with a cracked, crumbling and weak foundation for rebuilding his or her life, let alone another relationship or marriage. When someone divorced marries again — without having unpacked and sorted out all this baggage — it gets hauled into the new marriage, causing more suffering for the PDT sufferer (and the new spouse). Many re-married PDT sufferers nod their head in full agreement when and say, “So you’re telling me that it feels like ‘It’s deja vu all over again’?” Even then, however, there is hope, provided that the re-married PDT sufferer gets help, and gives whatever time is necessary to unpack the baggage and sort it all out until it is resolved, preferably with a qualified counselor.
10. What are your qualifications for counseling children and teens?
I am very interested in the faith development of children and teens and enjoy helping them work through emotional and relational conflicts at their current level of faith development. In addition to my published work on faith development in youth, I have over 25 years experience in helping children and adolescents identify, express and resolve inner conflict and, whenever possible, to rebuild any broken relationships with family members and God. Children and adolescents often internalize family stress, which is why I believe it is important to invite both parents and other family members be a part of the healing process whenever possible. I have over a quarter century of professional experience in counseling children and adolescents, especially in the context of family and marital conflict, and emotional, verbal and physical abuse. This includes my work as a child and adolescent psychotherapist at Covenant Children’s Home in Princeton, IL from 1987-1989, and as Family Therapist at Family Services Association in Beloit, WI (1990-1995), where I provided individual, group, and family therapy for children from troubled home environments, training and in-services for other professional counselors, and education about children’s issues for the Beloit community. I also served on the adjunct faculty of Judson College between 2000 and 2004 teaching undergraduate courses that included the academic study of childhood and adolescent development. My specialized interest in the cognitive development of children in the context of their religious faith is described in my article entitled “Faith Development Over the Lifespan” which was published in the Spring 1997 issue of the Journal of the Psychology and Theology. I was honored to receive a Templeton Prize that year in the behavioral science category for that article, which has been used in universities for teaching students and training counselors on how to provide therapy for children within the framework of the family’s religious belief system.
11. My child (or teen) does not want to come in to see you for a first visit. What do you suggest I do?
I have three suggestions: 1) First, you could require that your child or teen come in for a visit. Usually this is no problem when both parents firmly agree that “We want you to see Dr. Scott”; if they kick and drag their feet, that’s OK, just let them express their resistance. They are probably just scared of a new experience. Also, let them know that you will stay in the office or just outside the office, if they prefer; 2) Ease your child’s fears by giving him or her a choice in the matter: Tell your child that that he or she can “fire” Dr. Scott if he or she wants to, but that you want your child to meet with Dr. Scott at least once. That makes your child feel some power and control in the matter, and allows him or her to take some ownership of the counseling experience. 3) Just leave the rest to me. I’ll attempt to win over your son or daughter in the first session, so that he or she will want to come back. If for any reason your child does not want to come back, I could provide a referral to another counselor.
12. How do you treat clients with LGBT issues?
As a Christian counselor, my focus is NOT upon your sexual or gender orientation as much as upon your spiritual orientation. In other words, I am here to help you conform more to the image of Christ and experience love, joy, peace and other fruit of the spirit. So if you want to identify with Christ and His Word even MORE than you want to identify with your sexual or gender orientation, then I can truly help you. Not by changing your sexual orientation or gender identity. I assume that you probably did not “choose” your sexual orientation or gender identity and feel powerless in changing such things, at least for now. I also assume that God is not wanting your sexual orientation or gender identity to change as much as He wants your spiritual orientation to align in conformity with the image of Christ in you. How? By learning how to abide in Christ (see my Counseling Approach for more on this) until you’re really experiencing God's grace, comfort, and empowerment in your struggles in such a way as to give you more options than simply leaning in to what feels natural or to follow the crowd. So let me be absolutely clear: in my practice, my focus is NOT on changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone, but rather on helping born-again believers with sexual orientation or gender identity issues learn how to abide in Christ more fruitfully and experience God’s grace, comfort, and empowerment in their current set of challenging circumstances. If changes in sexual orientation or gender identity occur as a result, than that would be a by-product and NOT the focus of our therapy sessions. My LGBT clients would attest that my focus is not on sexual orientation as much as it is on their spiritual orientation , knowing that "in everything God works for good" (Rom 8:28); they would also attest that my focus is not on their gender identity as much as it is upon their spiritual formation, that is, being "conformed to the image of Christ" (Rom 8:29).
13. What is your view on Christians who commit suicide? Do they go to Heaven?
I take no absolute stand on this issue because I see nowhere in the Bible where God is clear and solid on the issue of suicide in all cases. Suicide in Christians is a very complicated issue that involves inner motives and intentions that only God can fully know and judge. I will say that I strongly discourage absolute stands on teachings either way. For example, those who teach that suicide automatically causes a soul to go to Hell cause needless distress to those who have lost a loved one to suicide while mentally ill. On the other hand, teaching that all Christians who commit suicide are certainly in Heaven can 1) contradict the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, 2) devalue one’s life mission in this world, and 3) tempt a Christian in a weakened state to actually murder themselves (Genesis 9:6) which, as a final act, blasphemes the Author of Life. Moreover, suicide will certainly not cause Jesus to say, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:23). So in counseling suicidal people, I stay rigidly neutral on the issue and by doing so obey my professional ethics to “First do no harm.” Instead of discussing theology with a suicidal person, I focus on what I believe God Himself focuses upon: the suffering person’s need to experience His grace, comfort and strength in far greater measure than they presently are experiencing during this dark hour of their lives. How? By helping the suicidal person abide in Jesus-the-Vine — see my Counseling Approach on this website — until love, joy, and peace replace anger, depression, and fears. This approach has served me very well in more than a quarter century of full-time professional counseling ministry.
14. Do you do premarital counseling?
Yes. I have over 25 years of marital counseling experience to help prepare couples for how to respond to the weather the future storms – the inevitable stressors and conflict — that will come in marriage. My premarital counseling usually consists of six (6) sessions in which I would assess and respond to the each person’s communication skills, family of origin issues, negative and counterproductive ways of coping with stress and conflict, spiritual giftedness (strengths and weakness), each person’s current relationship with Jesus-the-Bridegroom.
15. I want to be a professional Christian counselor some day. What qualifications should I set as goals?
First you must love God, His Word, the Church, His people and books. After that, the bar must be set high, because I believe Christian counseling should always be worthy of that name. A professional Christian counselor should 1) believe the Bible is the inerrant, absolute standard of truth, 2) be trained in the science of psychology and art of counseling, with a master's or doctorate from an accredited university, 3) have at least two years of professional experience under licensed supervision, 4) be state-licensed to practice counseling, or at least be under licensed supervision, 5) exemplify continued spiritual, personal, and professional growth, having a set references of reputable Christian colleagues and pastors, 6) follow a written ethical code of professional practice to which he or she is accountable by a board of peers, and 7) stay up to date on issues, advances in the field, and academic and theological literature.
16. I do not live in your area. Where can I find a qualified Christian counselor?
For information on professional Christian counselors in your region, or for free advice on a specific problem, please contact FOCUS ON THE FAMILY. Their phone number is (800) A-FAMILY (232-6459)
Is your question still not answered? If so, you may email me directly at [email protected] for any other questions regarding my services.