Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book Review: "The Freedom from Depression Workbook"

In line with our December social media focus this month of “Holiday Blues: Depression at Christmas”, we will be reviewing “The Freedom from Depression Workbook” by Dr. Les Carter and Dr. Frank Minirth. This book review is written by one of our counselors, Christine Baker. She works out of our Birmingham and Tuscaloosa offices. If you would like to read more about her, click here.

                The goals of this book are to help the reader define depression and identify it in their lives, understand the mental and physical factors of depression, and develop coping skills to fight against depression in their lives. This is done through reading and response throughout this workbook. The authors identify anger, feelings of inadequacy, abuse, and grief as triggers for feelings of depression. Once they define depression in this way, they move onto how to protect yourself against it. This includes teaching the reader about healthy boundaries, possible medical interventions, suicide prevention, and more specific skills linked to the reader’s personality type. The book is based around a 12-part process to manage depression, which includes the following:

1.       Be aware of the indicators that tell you that changes are needed.
2.       Know that anger can be uncovered and choices can be made regarding its purpose.
3.       Become committed to healthy boundaries and assertions.
4.       Believe in yourself. Know your worth and value as a person.
5.       Refuse to be the perpetual victim of part of present abuse.
6.       Allow time for natural grief to run its course.
7.       Know that the best way to be in control is to resist the craving to be in control.
8.       Make allowances for painful truths.
9.       Understand how your personality can predispose you to depressive feelings.
10.   Be open-minded as you consider the medical aspects of depression.
11.   Reveal your struggles with thoughts about death. Allow others to know you thoroughly.
12.   Be committed to positive attitudes that can bring balance to your emotions.

What did you find helpful about this book?
                I thought that the fact that it was a workbook makes it very helpful for the therapist and the client. This book offers the therapists many interventions to use with clients, and offer the person reading it on their own to really make the journey through the book a personal one.

What do clients find most helpful about this book?
                My clients really enjoy the questions throughout the book because it offers them a chance to, not only receive the information, but also look at how it specifically affects their lives. My clients also like the 12-part process to managing depression because it is a good synopsis of what they learned in the book, and it is something they can easily memorize or carry with them at all times.

Favorite Quotes:
  • ·         “Let’s acknowledge that depression does not just befall weak and problem-prone people…Given the right ingredients anyone can suffer from depression.”
  • ·         “Depression is anger turned inward.”
  • ·         “A major problem encountered by depressed people is boundaries that are not respected.”
  • ·         “You may not find depression an easy problem to confront, but it does not have to be an impossible problem.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Do I Grieve During the Holidays?

Q. I recently lost a loved one to cancer. I grieve everyday. When I think about the holidays, I am not sure I even want to celebrate this year. It just seems like it will be too hard. What do I do?

A. As much as you might want to ignore it, Christmas is coming. “Silver Bells” has already begun proclaiming ‘it’s Christmastime in the city’ even though it is barely November. The empty place at the annual Christmas Eve dinner has already crossed your mind many times.

Perhaps you found yourself wanting to avoid the mall the day after Thanksgiving, not because of the crowds, but because you are not ready to do any shopping. It all reminds you of one thing -- Christmas is going to be difficult this year because of the recent loss of a loved one. Although you did not have a choice in your loss, you do have some decisions about how you mourn this Christmas season.

It is important to acknowledge to yourself and those close to you that this season will not be the same as in previous years. Your life and family have been altered permanently. As you face this reality, give yourself permission to mourn this enormous loss. There is no right or wrong way to grieve this Christmas.

Remembering your loved one during the holidays can aid in your journey towards healing. Perhaps you want to tell stories (including humorous ones) about your family member as you open presents. Friends and family members may share lists of their favorite past Christmas memories with him or her. You may also choose to begin new family traditions, such as going to an earlier Christmas Eve service followed by dinner at a relative’s home.

Perhaps your friends and family were with you from the time you heard the news until you said goodbye to the last guests at the funeral. Now you long to have that same support to endure December and the winter months to come. It is important that you ask for what you need. Spend time with friends, request prayer and talk to them about your pain. On the other hand, there may be a Christmas party you send your regrets to because you don’t feel like celebrating. There is freedom in knowing and following through with what you need. However, make sure that you do not completely isolate yourself from others.

During these difficult days ask God to sustain you. Turn to the Word of God as a source of strength. Some of the Old Testament books such as Job, Psalms and Lamentations may be comforting as you work through your grief. Memorize Scripture so that it is “hidden in your heart” no matter where you are throughout your day. Keep a journal of your feelings and write out your prayers to God. You might write a letter addressed to your family member about how much you miss them this Christmas.

As you remember and grieve for your loved one this season, remember that God is able to sustain you as the Psalmist writes: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:12).

Additional Tips on Handling the Holidays:

1. Talk to your family and friends about your expectations for this Christmas.
2. Be sure to stay involved in church and church activities during this time.
3. Make a donation to a charity or your church in memory of your loved one.
4. Do not be afraid to cry or laugh. Do whatever you need to at that time.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: Children's Books on Thankfulness


In line with our November social media focus this month of “The Core of Thankfulness”, we will be reviewing two children’s books on gratitude, “Thank You, God, for Blessing Me” by Max Lucado and “I’m Thankful Each Day” by P.K. Hallinan. These book reviews are written by one of our counselors, Christine Baker. She works out of our Birmingham and Tuscaloosa offices. If you would like to read more about her, click here.

“Thank You, God, For Blessing Me” by Max Lucado:

This ten-page book tells the story of a day in the life of Little Hermie, who is a thankful green caterpillar. This book is very well-illustrated with lots of color for your children to enjoy. Little Hermie visits all of his friends and goes through all of his daily activities and thanks God for each one. This is a great book to teach your children about how we can be grateful to the Lord for everything, big and small. I would recommend this book for children ages 2 and up. If you would like to purchase this book, click here

“I’m Thankful Each Day!” by P.K. Hallinan:

This twenty-six page book rhymes its way through the day of a young boy. The book is well written with some words understandable to children of all ages, and some more challenging words. The book is very well illustrated with beautiful bright colors. It is a great resource to use to teach children to be thankful for things outside of just material possessions. It is not an obviously Christian book like “Thank You, God, For Blessing Me”, however you could easily use this book as part of a family Bible study to help teach your children about gratitude. I would recommend this book for ages 5 and up. If you would like to purchase this book, click here

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How Do I Teach My Children About Thankfulness?

Dear Anne,
I can see that your social media focus this month is a focus on thankfulness. I feel like I am starting to understand that more and more, but how do I teach my children to be thankful? It's not that they are greedy, but a lot of the time I feel like they expect all the things they receive instead of really appreciating it. Help!

-Not Wanting My Children to Be Brats

Dear Not Wanting My Children to Be Brats,

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time to emphasize thankfulness within our family. However, like everything else in parenting, daily consistency is the best way to teach our children that thankfulness is an attitude that is important to God.

We teach our children whether we want to or not. Little eyes see our actions, and little ears hear our words, and then our children model what they have learned from us. My children, before they could properly pronounce the words, began to say “thank you” when someone gave them something they wanted.  That behavior was “caught” rather than “taught.” It did not necessarily indicate a grateful heart, but this simple behavior laid the groundwork for more difficult “heart work” to come.

As Christian parents, our greatest hope for our children is that they see their Creator as their greatest joy. It is difficult to desire the Giver of all good things if we are not content with what he has given. Often, we covet God’s gifts. It is a challenge to move beyond merely loving the blessings of God to being satisfied in Him. And let’s face it, with live in a culture where we and our children are constantly bombarded with messages to covet the newest and coolest.

Often in the Old Testament, we see Israel turn from God because they had “forgotten” what he had done for them in the past (Judges 8:34, Hosea 8:14, and Psalm 106:21). God tells us that we should always be speaking to our children about Him, so that they do not forget. Our voice may be the only one our children here challenging the messages of our culture. Certainly, Thanksgiving is a good time to reinforce the daily habit of thankfulness. During this special time of the year, we should model being thankful for the blessings that we have received.

On a practical note, my husband and I have found that an awareness of the lives of Christians outside of the United States has helped our children to appreciate what they have. My children were able to make friends with a set of siblings that are their age before that family left for Papua New Guinea to do tribal missions. That personal connection informs our five-year-old’s prayers. It taught her to think of others when shopping in the toy department for things that we could mail to her friends. It showed her that children who do not have television or video games are still blessed, because they know God and have their family.

We also pack a box or two for Samaritan’s Purse through our local church. After viewing the holiday toy catalog, my daughter dreams of the wonders found in its pages. These dreams are made more realistic when she understands that a child somewhere will only receive flip-flops for Christmas, and yet will appreciate them. Thanksgiving is also an ideal time to point out the many blessings that we have received as a family, and to remind our children that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17) who knows our needs (Matthew 6:32) and will withhold no good thing from His children (Psalm 84:11).

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: "Boundaries" By Cloud & Townsend


To stay in line with our social media focus for October of "Boundaries: Our Emotional Property Lines", we will be reviewing Cloud & Townsend's book, "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life". This book review was written by our masters level intern, Angela Mains. If you would like to learn more about her, check out her Counselor Spotlight on our Facebook page here


Society today is famous for violating boundaries, making it difficult for people to learn what healthy boundary setting looks like. Healthy boundary setting is a topic that tends to illicit a number of feelings in people. Many people feel guilty or selfish for setting healthy boundaries, or they are afraid that setting boundaries will open them to hurt or that they will hurt or damage their relationships with others. In “Boundaries” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend (1992), these topics are addressed, and it also deals with  relationships that conflict with boundaries, then closes with outlining what healthy boundaries are and gives a great picture of how that is lived out in the life of an individual. Cloud and Townsend (1992) outline the beautiful gift of boundaries that God has blessed us with and the freedom that can be found when healthy boundaries are in place in a person’s life.

What did you find helpful about this book?

Many times, I have had clients express to me how they feel depressed, anxious, or simply taken advantage of because of the way they have learned to interact with the people in their lives. It is not uncommon to see this result in dealing with anger in a passive-aggressive manner. Setting healthy actually frees people to be able to love and care for the people in their lives without feeling like a doormat. People are able to embrace the concept of serving out of love rather than obligation. “Boundaries” guides people toward taking responsibility for their own behavior, rather than trying to take ownership of other people’s feelings and decisions. It shows scripturally how God intended for us to have boundaries.

What do clients find most helpful about this book?

“Boundaries” has a number of narrative accounts throughout that make the book relatable, easy to read, and relevant. As clients read, they first come to feel like Cloud and Townsend truly understand their perspective and are more likely to continue to read for the tips on how to overcome. The chapters on healthy boundary setting are insightful and practical. While it is ultimately up to the client to put these principles into place, Cloud and Townsend anticipate many of the possible pitfalls in carrying this out and work to help clients troubleshoot whatever difficulties people may face in setting boundaries.

Favorite Quotes:

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and where someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”
“People with boundary problems usually have distorted attitudes about responsibility. They feel to hold people responsible for their feelings, choices, and behaviors is mean. However, Proverbs repeatedly says that setting limits and accepting responsibility will save lives (Proverbs 13:18, 24).”
“…an internal no nullifies an eternal yes. God is more concerned with our hearts than he is with our outward compliance.”

If you would like to purchase this book, click here

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Dear Anne, 
People are always telling me that I need to have healthier boundaries, but I don’t even know what that means! I mean I know I have a problem telling people no, which leads me to sacrifice myself to the point of exhaustion for others, and I get wrapped up in other people’s lives and problems a little too much, but isn't that normal for a sweet southern Christian women? Help! I just need to know what healthy boundaries are and how I can start to implement them in my life!

Dear Sweet Southern Lady,
You are not alone with having difficulties saying “no” to people.  Often time we don’t tell people “no” out of fear that we may hurt their feelings, or that we may lose out of other opportunities.  There is nothing wrong with saying “no”, in fact saying “no” can be much healthier for us than always saying “yes”.  When we are constantly saying “yes” to people we over extend ourselves, just like you have mentioned you do.  The problem with this is we get ourselves stretched so thin that we are unable to give our best.  Which is better, to do a great job on a few tasks or to do fair to poor work on many?  My mom always told me that “it’s not always what you say but how you say it”.  We need to learn how to say “no” is a way that it is acceptable to people.  
We can let people know that now is not a good time for us, or that we already have prior commitments.  As Christians we are to look to Christ as our example of how to live our lives.  Jesus often had to take time for Himself, and to get away from the crowds of people.  His days were full of teaching, healing, and serving people; but He always made time for Himself.  During this time He would rest and pray to God the Father (Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, Mark 14:32-34, Luke 4:42, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12).  But we also see in Mark 4:35-41 how Christ “said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind…”  There was always someone else that was seeking help from Christ, but He knew there were times when He had to leave the crowd behind and say “no” to them.”

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: "No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction"

Falling in line with our social media focus this month of "Sex Addiction: The Silent Assassin", we will be reviewing Marnie Ferree's "No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction". This book review was written by one of our counselors, Christine Baker, who works in our Birmingham and Tuscaloosa offices. She has a special interest in working with women struggling with sex and love addiction. If you would like to learn more about her, read her staff bio here

This book is a comprehensive look at female sex and love addiction. It beautifully melds together the author’s, Marnie Ferree's, personal testimony of her own struggle with sexual addiction and teaching on how sex and love addiction presents in women. This book examines the problem of sex and love addiction in women by looking at the messages that society gives women about sex and relationships, a definition of sex addiction and how it presents in women, a look at the consequences of sex addiction, and a description of the diagnostic criteria. No Stones then goes on to look at the root of sex addiction by looking at family of origin issues, abuse, abandonment, and the coping skills that develop based on these things. Lastly, Marnie describes the solution. She talks about the importance of surrender, sobriety, disclosure, and community as tools in recovery. She also talks about how to heal from the wounds of your childhood and how to move forward into healthier relationships.

What did you find helpful about this book?
As a clinician, I found the description of the sexual addiction cycle most helpful. She talks about how we come into the world wounded through our family of origin, abuse, and/or abandonment. These things cause us to have very negative and shameful beliefs about ourselves (i.e. “I am not worthy of love”, “The only way I can feel love is through sex”). When the client discovers their own form of acting out (i.e. excessive masturbation, pornography, affair partners, one-night stands, etc.), they find that it is a short-term fix for the pain than they are experiencing. It helps soothes the shame they experience by feeling wanted by their partner. However, the problem is once that sexual experience is over; the shame comes back stronger than ever. This causes the addict to be right back in their pain and on the lookout for their next opportunity to act out. This helped me understand that sex addiction is not about sex – it is about pain and fear of intimacy.

What do clients find most helpful about this book?
I have found that clients have really enjoyed the personal aspect of this book. So many women who struggle with sex and love addiction feel like they are the only ones. This is so not the case as recent studies have shown that 1 out of every 3 people visiting pornographic websites are women ( and 20% of Christian women report having an addiction to pornography (Second Glance Ministries). When my clients read this book and hear Marnie’s story, they feel like they are reading their own thoughts. It helps my clients realize that this is a real problem that they are dealing with, it has real consequences, and it also has a real solution that “will work if you work it” (Sexaholics Anonymous).

Favorite Quotes:
  • ·         “Sexual addiction really isn’t about sex at all, which is something I had intuitively always known. It is an intimacy disorder – a desperate search for love, touch, affirmation, affection, and approval. Obviously, sex addiction is false intimacy and a false solution for legitimate needs, but it’s driven by pain and loneliness, not by physical gratification.”
  • ·         “Abuse trauma dictates the form of acting out. Abandonment trauma provides the fuel for the addiction… It’s a key factor that keeps us doing what we’ve decided we don’t want to do. Addiction, after all, is an intimacy disorder, remember? It’s not about sex; it’s about a desperate search for love and connection. It’s about not being abandoned.”
  • ·         “Healthy fellowship equals freedom from lust. Being in a safe community is the antidote for addictive behaviors… The very thing that will help heal us is one of our greatest fears. Being intimate means being known and if we’re truly known, we risk rejection and abandonment. It’s the old struggle.”
  • ·         “It’s impossible to recover from an intimacy disorder without practicing intimacy.”
If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What is Sex Addiction?

Question: I am reading through your tweets that contain statistics on sexual addiction, and I am wondering, what is it exactly? I am guessing that it is just someone who has sex all the time, but I bet that it is more than that. I would love to hear a more specific definition, and learn more about recovery options. Thanks!

Answer: That is a great question!  To help you with your understanding of sexual addiction, I would like to start by explaining the continuum that sexual behavior falls on.

First, if someone is engaging in no sexual behavior with him/herself or with a partner, then they would be abstinent. Next, appropriate sexual behavior, in the Christian context, would be sexual activity within the confines of a marriage relationship. These first two categories are considered healthy sexuality. The next level on the continuum would be acting out. This is the person who occasionally engages in sexual acting out with either alone (with pornography and/or masturbation), or with a willing partner who is not his/her spouse. Next, the person may start to abuse their sexuality through promiscuity or excessive masturbation. Lastly, that person may fall into the addiction category with their sexual behavior, the characteristics of which I will describe next (Ferree, 2010). The reason that I wanted to go through this continuum first is because I think it is important to recognize two things. First, that just because you are struggling with sexual integrity issues does not necessarily mean that you are a sex addict. Second, if you are struggling with sexual acting out, it is important to know that it is a slippery slope to addiction, so it is important to get help as soon as possible.

There are four main aspects that characterize a sexual addiction: compulsion, obsession, tolerance, and continuing despite adverse consequences. Compulsion is where the addict engages in the sexual behavior even when they don’t want to. Some addicts describe compulsion as “feeling driven” to act out.

Let’s use John as an example. John signs onto his computer with his only intention being to check his email. When he sees an ad with a woman in a bathing suit, he experiences an overwhelming urge to surf the web for pornography, even though he promised himself and God he wouldn’t do that again last Sunday at church. He feels powerless to stop.

Compulsion is the main characteristic that separates the sexual sinner from the sexual addict. The second characteristic, obsession, is when the addict is abnormally preoccupied with sex, to the point where other important aspects in their lives are ignored.

Let’s take another example with Julie. Julie is having an affair with Bob, and she spends all of her time thinking about him, planning their next rendezvous, writing him secret emails, etc. to the point that her children feel abandoned by their mom because, even when she is with her kids, her mind is somewhere else.

A third characteristic is tolerance.  Tolerance refers to the neurochemical process that happens through prolonged sexual acting out that tells the addict that they need more and more sex to accomplish the same “high”. Prolonged sexual acting out actually alters the brain chemistry. This means that sexual addiction is a progressive disease, where more and more acting out must be done for the addict to get the same high.

Lastly, a sexual addict will continue in his/her addiction despite adverse consequences. “Continuing to do something that harms you just doesn’t make sense; that is the hallmark sign of addiction” (Ferree, 2010). An example of this would be if a woman was engaging in heavy promiscuity. She goes to the doctor and finds out that she has an STD. She knows that this has come from her anonymous sexual partners, but continues in her sexual acting out anyway.

So, if you or someone you care about can see these characteristics as part of his/her sex life, what do you do? Well I have two words for you that will probably scare you to death, but they are vital to your recovery from this disease: tell somebody.  You cannot do this alone. My guess is that you have tried a lot, and to no avail. This is because this fight is too big for just one person. You have to bring other people into your corner to help you get healthy. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed”. You have to face your biggest fear of someone finding you out head on.

If you don’t think you are at a point where you can tell people in your life, start out with going to a therapist and telling him/her, or go to a Sexaholics Anonymous group. Eventually, both your therapist and/or your 12-step group are going to require you to open up to the people in your life, but maybe this could be this first step in your recovery process.

Now, we could spend countless pages talking about the twelve steps to recovery and accountability partners, but unfortunately this blog does not permit that. So, my prayer for anyone struggling with this disease is to reach out. Stop living in the shadows of your sin and come into the light. It will be hard, but I know that the Lord promises that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). He cleanses us from our sin, we cannot do it alone. Admit your powerlessness to the Lord, confess your sin, and allow him to help you walk in righteousness.

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: "Life’s Healing Choices: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits"

Falling in line with our social media focus this month of "Addiction, Recovery, and the Gospel", we will be reviewing John Baker's "Life's Healing Choices: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-Ups, and Habits". This book review was written by one of our counselors, Barry Bolin, who works in our Pisgah, Scottsboro, Guntersville, and Rainsville offices. Barry has a special interest in addiction so he volunteered to do our book review this month. If you would like to learn more about Barry, click here


The synopsis of the book is best described from the book itself.  The following is a direct quote:

“…Life’s Healing Choices offers freedom from our hurts, hang-ups, and habits through eight healing choices that promise true happiness and life transformation.  Using the Beatitudes of Jesus as a foundation, Senior Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and John Baker, who is also a pastor of Saddleback, developed the eight choices shared in this book.”

“…Through making each of these choices, you too will find God’s pathway to wholeness, growth, spiritual maturity, happiness, and healing.  You’ll find real answers, real hope, and a real future-one healing choice at a time.”

Helpful Points:

 In the last section of the book called “Closing Thoughts”, there are scripture references for each chapter of the book.  This is an instant theme-based bible study tool for anyone with any need.  Each chapter is well organized including “action items” that prompt the reader to apply what is being consumed.  The action items include pray about it, write about it, and share about it.  Another approach the writer takes is to include stories or testimonies of others that have experienced recovery.  This approach creates many benefits including demonstrating to the reader that we are not alone in our struggles as well as inspiration to go forward in recovery.  There are those of us that enjoy a “step approach” or “how to approach” to most anything we encounter in life.  LHC provides this feature and many will find this appealing rather than reading overly abstract concepts that can create ambiguity and lack of focus.  Finally, the book integrates both bible-based eternal truths with practical direction to meet the needs of brain and spirit.

Counselor Feedback:

In the chapter called “Making Changes”, there is a section discussing character defects.  One of the questions raised addressed the source of our character defects.  I found the explanation given by the author to be appropriately balanced.  The sources cited were biological, sociological, and theological.  The terms are converted into more memorable words like chromosomes, circumstances, and choices.  What I like even more about this section is that the reader is provoked to be responsible for behavior in spite of sources.  This creates ownership for making positive changes.  Maybe a weakness of the material, in contrast to professional journals and the like, is the absence of evidence-based research especially on addiction and recovery.

Favorite Quote:

Difficult.  How do I narrow down one line in the book that wins over so many others?  Rather than commit to one, there are a pair of quotes that can redirect our lives toward stronger healthiness. 

In Choice 6, Repairing Relationships…

“Nothing drains you emotionally like bitterness and resentment.”

Then in Choice 7, Maintaining Momentum…

“Pride blinds us to our own weaknesses and keeps us from seeking help.”

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Do We Handle Addiction in the Church?

Question: I have really enjoyed learning more about addiction and recovery this past month through your social media outlets. I would like for myself, my family, and my church to get more involved in fighting addiction, but, to be honest, I have no clue where to start. We don’t talk about addiction at all in our church or family. So, my question for you is how can we get involved?

Answer: That is a great question! I am so happy to hear that the Lord has used our social media focus this month to open your eyes to the stronghold that the enemy has in the church through addiction. I think that your feeling is one experienced by many Christians. We see the problem, we see the devastating effects of the problem, but we feel lost because we don’t know how to combat it. So, where do we start? I think that there are three main areas that church needs to experience growth in in order to better fight addiction: education, transparency, and addressing addiction from the pulpit.

The place where you must start when attacking any issue is to become educated about it yourself. Some ways to do this is to read books about the addiction cycle, study how addiction affects the family, and, most importantly, learn about the recovery process. We don’t want to just be a group of people that knows a lot about addiction, we also want to know about the road to freedom from that addiction. Study the tenets of the twelve-step programs, visit an open celebrate recovery group, and/or talk to people in your life that have experienced freedom from addiction and learn from their experience.

When looking at education on addiction, I really believe that it needs to be a church-wide effort. It needs to start with the pastors educating themselves on addiction and recovery. Then the pastors need to be pouring that knowledge into their elders and small group leaders, who are most likely going to be the ones on the front lines when church members confess their addiction struggles. One idea is to create some kind of document that lists recovery resources in your area (i.e. 12-step groups with meeting times and locations, counselors in the area that specialize in addiction and residential treatment centers for addiction). This will hopefully help your elders and small group leaders feel even more equipped with practical ideas for those struggling.

Another tool to be used in the fight against addiction in the church is vulnerability between the church members. If we have all of the best education and resources to fight addiction in our church, but no one feels safe enough to confess their struggle, we will not get very far at all. Again, I think the needs to start with the church leadership. If the pastor is honest and vulnerable from the pulpit, this will encourage the elders and small group leaders to do the same. When they model transparency to their small groups, the entire church will experience freedom to follow God’s command and, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (James 5:16).

Not only is it helpful for the pastor to be vulnerable and honest about his past and current sin struggles from the pulpit, but it is also beneficial for the pastor to actually preach about addiction. This shows the church body that this church and the people in it are not afraid of the tough issues. It also reminds those struggling with addiction that they are not alone and, most importantly, that recovery is possible through Christ.

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: John Bevere's "The Bait of Satan: Your Responses Determine Your Future"

Falling in line with our social media focus this month of "A Lesson in Forgiveness", we will be reviewing John Bevere's "Bait of Satan". This book review was written by one of our counselors, Melanie Howard, who works in our Birmingham and Columbiana offices. Melanie has been a part of the Pathways Counseling staff for about 15 years, and we are lucky to have her. If you would like to learn more about Melanie, click here. 

Bevere’s “Bait of Satan” is a penetrating and challenging book. The title of the book doesn't immediately reveal the book’s theme which is the importance of forgiveness. We learn that Satan’s “bait” is any unforgiven offense that is stored in your heart.  Bevere explains that offenses will come because we live in a sinful, fallen world, but we have a choice as to whether or not we become “offended” by the “offense”.    Bevere teaches how to become free in Christ by practicing forgiveness and reconciliation.  The book uses the examples of Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers and David’s persecution by Saul to illustrate the how “offense” happens.  It’s a short book, but not a quick read as it will likely require time to ponder and reflect.  The book emphasizes the seriousness of the sin of unforgiveness as it shows how the trap of offense hinders your prayers, stifles your ministry, and damages your relationships.  Harboring offenses keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God’s plans for our lives. 

What do I find most helpful about this book:
I believe that this book does an excellent job of exposing the often hidden sin of unforgiveness.  Those who read the book with an open heart are very likely to find it convicting.  Many fail to recognize the bitter root of unforgiveness due to feeling “justified” in being “offended”.  Unless the Holy Spirt reveals it, people may be unaware when an offense has entered their heart and “trapped” them. 
In my 14 years as a professional counselor, I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone walk into my office and tell me, “my biggest problem is that I’ve allowed unforgiveness to take root and I’ve become bitter towards God and others”.  However, I believe that unforgiveness plays a big role in marital conflicts, divorce, church splits, and conflicts at work.  Unforgiveness may also be a contributing factor in cases of depression and anxiety.
I also appreciate the way the books addresses the fact that people may become “offended” when God when he doesn’t act as they hoped he would. 

Words of caution: I highly recommend this book, but I’d like to mention a few things. While the book does an excellent job presenting the importance of forgiveness, I believe it may over-simplify the process of forgiveness, especially for those who have been victims of violent crimes and other “life-altering” types of offenses.  Those seeking more of a “step-by-step” process for forgiveness may prefer to read some of Ev Worthington’s writings on forgiveness. There were a few places where I have some doctrinal disagreements with the author.  Doctrinal issues aside, I still believe that it is a powerful work on the topic of forgiveness.  

Favorite quotes:
  • Our degree of maturity will determine how well we will handle an offense.
  • Our response to an offense determines our future.
  • When we retain an offense in our hearts, we filter everything through it.
  • When we filter everything through past hurts, rejections, and experiences, we find it impossible to believe God. 
  • Acquiring an offense keeps you from seeing your character flaws because blame is deferred to another.
  • It is righteous for God to avenge His servants. It is unrighteous for God's servants to avenge themselves.
  • A person who cannot forgive has forgotten the great debt for which they were forgiven.
  • It is not difficult to obey when you know the character and love of the one to whom you are submitting. Love is the bottom line in our relationship with the Lord. If that love is not firmly in place, we are susceptible to offense and stumbling. 
  • There is only one person who can get you out of the will of God, and that is you!
  • Physical growth is a function of time. Intellectual growth is function of learning. Spiritual growth…is a    function of OBEDIENCE. 
  • When we are settled in trusting God, we are not moved from the Father’s care.  We will not succumb to the temptation to care for ourselves. 
  • To give yourself in total abandonment, you must know the One who holds your life.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Q. I am feeling very angry and hurt.  I am struggling with forgiving someone in my life whom I trusted and never thought would do something so terrible to me. I am a believer and know that I should forgive this person, but how can I forgive someone who has really hurt me?

A.  I am so sorry to hear about your hurt. When someone that we trusted and put faith in lets us down and then goes even further to hurt us, it is a terrible amount of pain.  Thinking about forgiveness can be very difficult and can seem almost impossible.  But there is hope, and there are steps you can take to help yourself heal and arrive at a place of forgiveness.

Dr. Everett Worthington, a popular Christian writer on forgiveness, offers some very practical step-by-step guidelines when attempting to work through forgiveness.  Something important to note about Dr. Worthington is that he is not just writing from a clinical or research perspective.  This is a man who endured a great deal of hurt and trauma from the murder of his mother one New Year's Day.  He not only writes as a very gifted clinician, but also as someone who has experienced a horrific hurt that he had to process.  Ultimately, to his credit, he experienced forgiveness toward the man who brutally killed his mother.

First, let's explore what forgiveness is not.  Forgiveness is not saying that what the person did is okay.  It also does not have to include reconciling with the person (however, if that is the end result and it is safe, that is a much  better outcome).  Remind yourself of these truths when you make the choice to forgive.  Oftentimes, we think that by forgiving someone we are saying what they did is okay or we are condoning their behavior.  That is simply not true.  Think about God's forgiveness towards us as believers.  If by forgiving us God was saying our sin was okay, that would not measure up with the character of God.  We know that God does forgive us but does not condone our sin.  We, as children of God, are called to do the same.  Remember the Lord's Prayer, "...forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).

Next, let's look at our motivation to forgive.  Oftentimes when we are experiencing hurt, we need to remember why we are choosing to forgive this person.  I want to offer you two motivations for forgiveness: 1) The Lord requires it of us, and 2) it is a much healthier choice to forgive than to stay angry.  Dr. Worthington says in his book Forgiveness and Justice, "Christians do  not forgive because it is easy -- it isn't.  Christians forgive because it is right and because we are responding to God's love and forgiveness to us."  We forgive because we first were forgiven by our Heavenly Father.  "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). There is also research that shows if you hold on to resentment, it actually makes you physically more sick than if you were to let go of the resentment and hurt you are experiencing.  So not only are we commanded -- and that is motivation enough -- but there is actual, physical benefit to forgiveness. 

Lastly, is it important to note that forgiveness is a choice.  I like to say there are two types of forgiveness: positional and progressive.  Dr. Worthington calls these types decisional and emotional.  Positional forgiveness is the choice that you make to forgive who hurt you.  This is a cognitive decision.  This is you making up your mind that you do not want to hold on to the hurt this person has caused you to experience.  You are giving up any right to exact revenge or hold on to resentment. Progressive forgiveness is the letting go and working toward the emotional healing of the hurt.  This is actually letting go of the negative feelings you have toward that person and replacing them with neutral nor positive feelings.  

Dr. Worthington employs an acronym in his work toward forgiveness.  He uses the word REACH to show us a five step approach on how to work toward forgiveness: (Taken from Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope by Dr. Everett Worthington)
  • Recall the hurt -- You must work on becoming familiar with your story and work on lowering your anxiety when you are retelling the story.  Once you can retell the story without it overtaking you emotionally, it no longer has power over you. 
  • Empathize -- This one is hard.  He is asking you to see the wrongdoing from the other person's perspective.  Dr. Worthington encourages you to think about why someone might do what they did to you.  Again, remember, it is not about condoning, but about understanding the person who hurt you.
  • Altruistic gift of forgiveness -- You make the choice to forgive the person without an expectation of anything in return.  Remember, you can only change yourself, not someone else.  Forgiveness is more about you than it about the other person.  You are freely offering your forgiveness to them no matter what their response might be. 
  • Commit publicly to forgive -- This can include telling a group of friends about your decision, writing a letter to the offender, or telling a close, trusted friend that you are choosing to forgive and move on. 
  • Hold onto forgiveness -- There will be times when your hurt resurfaces.  Remind yourself that you have worked through this in the past and you have made a choice to forgive.  Continue to leave the hurt and walk away from it.  
If you find that you are not able to work through the above steps or that you are feeling stuck in unforgiveness,  you might need to seek out some additional help.  Sometimes, we need a neutral person to help us sort out our feelings.  This could be a pastor, trusted friend or a counselor.  Whomever you choose, make sure they are a safe person that you can trust and can depend on to help you through your hurt.

Good luck on your journey toward forgiveness.  It is a hard road with many bumps, but it is a road worth traveling for your emotional health. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review - "The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life"

Since our social media focus this month is "Anger & How to Manage It", we will be reviewing Dr. Les Carter's "The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life". This book review was written by one of our counselors, Dwight Wilson. Dwight works out of our Sheffield, Hartselle, & Athens locations, and we are blessed to have him as part of our Pathways counseling staff. If you would like to find out more about Dwight, click here.

It is easy to identify rage in people who lose their temper at traffic jams, unruly children, unresponsive coworkers, and unrealistic bosses.  But we may not recognize more subtle manifestations of anger, such as being uncomfortable with loose ends, acting impatiently, or being overly critical.  That is anger, also.  And, as is so often the case, angry folks don’t seem to realize that the behavior causing them problems at home or at work actually stems from unrecognized and unresolved pain and emotional injuries from the past.  Is all this negative emotion inevitable, or are there choices about how to respond—choices that can improve personal relationships as well as emotional health?
The Anger Trap is a landmark book that strips away the myths and misconceptions about anger and reveals how you can learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger so that you may choose, or help someone else to choose a better, more spiritually enlightened path.  The Anger Trap examines the root causes of anger and can help you realize your patterns and break the destructive cycles of criticism, frustration, and irritation that hurt you and others around you.  Drawing insight from timeless spiritual wisdom as well as cutting-edge research, Dr. Carter offers practical techniques to free you from anger, its hidden insecurities, fears, and selfishness, and thereby improve the quality of your home and workplace life.
The book clearly illustrates how the change process works and it is filled with real-life examples of the ways people have come to terms with their anger by applying the concepts Dr. Carter outlines.

What do I find most helpful about this book?
This book has given me a new understanding of anger, its origin, and how it is a construct of one’s past.  It enables me to have more compassion with clients who are dealing with appears to be uncontrollable anger.  It has revealed the need for patience with others, as well as, their need for encouragement that this is not an insurmountable obstacle that cannot be overcome.

What do clients find most helpful about this book?
Clients discover for the first time that they can overcome the fear, pain, insecurity, control of others, and find freedom from this curse that has been seemingly a monster that has hovered over them all of their life.  They are able to find release from an ever-present emotion that keeps them from becoming the person they aspire to be.  They are finally able to give up the thing that destroys most normal relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.  The find that they can become comfortable with self and others without the continuous shadow stalking them.

Favorite Quotes: 
“Holding onto anger and bitterness makes as much sense as you drinking poison, hoping it will kill the other person.”
“Anger can be defined as the emotion of self-preservation.”
“Angry people are hurting, fragile people.”
“Though the anger may seemingly be a reaction to someone’s current lack of cooperation, it is also a response that can be traced to pain and rejection in key relationships from years gone by.”
“Those who are caught in the anger trap have not learned to approach anger constructively.”

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Slow to Anger

Q. I find myself getting angry pretty quickly.  I want to really work on this and to follow James 1:19 that says, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."  Any suggestions as to how I become slow to anger?

A. What a great goal to be striving for!  As believers, we are to work on our anger and keep it in check.  It sounds like you really want to improve this area of your life.  Acknowledging this is the first step to success in dealing with your anger.

The first thing you should do is look at your overall stress level.  When you find yourself stressed out, you will be much more likely to grow agitated and will have less patience for people or situations. Scripture says, "Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil." Psalm 37:8.  You may need to evaluate what is going on in your life and where your stress might be originating from.  The anger you are experiencing might be displaced anger.  It might be only once you understand where your anger is coming from that you are able to control it appropriately.  Have heard the scenario before that dad comes home after a terrible day at work and kicks the dog?  In that scenario, dad has displaced anger and taken it out on the poor dog.  Make sure you are not taking out anger and frustrations on others and making them your proverbial dog. If you are interested in learning more about stress, click here for a past article on stress inventories

Secondly, you must look at replacing your reactionary responses with some proactive coping skills  The Word says, "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." Psalm 4:4.  It is not realistic to believe that you will not ever be angry.  Rather, it is what you do with your anger that matters.  Check out this list below of somethings you can do to help you better cope with your anger:
  • take a time out
  • count to ten
  • exercise
  • think about your response before you speak
  • think about possible solutions rather than focusing on the problem
  • deep breathing 
  • journal your feelings
  • progressive muscle relaxation (click here for example)
  • art
  • praying
  • meditating on scripture
Last, rely on God's word and God's people.  James 1:20 says, "For man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."  Focus on what Scriptures says that God does want for your life.  Spend time mediating on the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Also, surround yourself with people that are calming to you.  Share your struggle with anger with your friends as well.  Ask them to hold you accountable to reacting and responding differently.  Ask them to pray for you as well.  Without the help of the Holy Spirit, getting our anger under control could be next to impossible.  The Lord can absolutely grant you the serenity to cultivate the patience you need in your life. 

Again, know that you are well on your way to working on your anger.  Seeing that you have a struggle and verbalizing that you would like to improve in this area is half the battle.  Now purpose in your mind that you want to change and begin to employ some of the strategies above.  Good luck!  
*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: Intimate Allies

***For a chance to win a FREE copy of Intimate Allies, like our Facebook page by clicking here.  Your name will be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy.  Just like our page and you are entered.  Contest ends May 24th!***

This week, Ask Anne will be a review of a great marriage book entitled, "Intimate Allies" by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman.  If you are interested in purchasing the book, click here.


Intimate Allies is a fantastic book on the theology of marriage.  Allender and Longman tackle the issue of what marriage is all about: Glorifying God.  This book is not a how to in your marriage or a ten step process, but rather it is a book to help you think about your marriage differently.  This book looks at the Biblical roles of husbands and wives and what we can do to work together in our marriage.  When two people come together, the authors point out, they are coming together as two sinners in an imperfect union.  We must learn how to live together in this imperfect union and how we can best achieve the deepest level of intimacy possible as Christian spouses.

What do you find the most helpful about this book:

This book is all about giving you, as a Christian spouse, a different perspective on your marriage.  They define marriage as, "requiring a radical commitment to love our spouses as they are, while longing for them to become what they are not yet.  Every marriage moves either toward enhancing one another's glory or toward degrading each other."  They point out the sole purpose of marriage is to glorify God.  In our marriages, we are either bringing glory to God or we are not.  That is a profound statement that is rather sobering to think about.

After defining marriage and how two sinners come together to bring glory to God, the authors move on to what it means to become intimate allies in this crazy world.  Allender and Logman write, "Human beings are glorious creatures of God as well as ugly sinners.  Both truths need to be fully grasped as a man and a woman enter into the marriage relationship.  These two truths give a husband and a wife the basis for expectation and hope as they act in the present, deal with the past and look forward to their future together."  It is through this idea of expectations the authors set the tone for how we must accept one another and offer grace in our marriage relationships.

What do clients find most helpful about the book:

One facet of the book that clients find very helpful is the thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter.  I often encourage my clients to read this book together as a couple, especially if they are looking for ways to reconnect or deepen their relationship.  By reading the text together and engaging in meaningful conversations, I have seen many couples begin to feel that sense of intimacy the book talks about.

I also think that most of my clients have found the idea of seeing their spouse the way the Lord sees them is incredibly helpful.  So the next time their spouse acts selfishly or thoughtlessly, they try to see that as their sinful nature instead of taking it personally.  This allows them to be more gracious, because the hope is they quickly remember they are just as selfish or thoughtless because they are equally sinful.

Favorite quote:

"A successful marriage is one in which two broken and forgiving people stay committed to one another in a sacrificial relationship in the face of life's chaos."

"Jesus is the one who gives us the grace that allows us to acknowledge our own sins and also forgive the sins of ours spouses."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Christian Marriage Support

Q. I have been married to a wonderful man for several years now.  As our marriage continues to grow and evolve I want to make sure I do whatever I can to be the best spouse possible.  As a Christian what can I do to best support my spouse and make my marriage glorify God?

A.  What a wonderful question.  If more spouses would ask this question the state of marriage in our country would vastly improve.  You also mention a key point about bringing glory to God that I want to address. First though, let's start with some practical things you can do to support your spouse.   

Open, healthy communication is key to any marriage. The way we speak to one another and how we speak to one another can set the tone for a healthy marriage.  Scripture says in Proverbs 18:2 "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions."  We should really work to understand one another and work to see their perspective.  When you can see where your spouse is coming from and seek to understand them, you are more likely to have a productive conversation.  It is not about being right or airing your own opinion; rather it is about seeking understanding through open communication.  Scripture also implores us to use our mouths to build one another up.  Seek to live out Ephesians 4:29 that says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Secondly, you should examine your expectations for marriage.  In your question you asked what you could do to best glorify God in your marriage.  The best thing you can do to glorify God is to love your spouse unconditionally.  In order to do this, you must have correct expectations about your spouse.  We are all sinful people who are imperfect, ugly sinners according to Genesis 3. We will hurt one another and we will let each other down due to sinful hearts and sinful desires.  If we expect that we are married to an imperfect person will be more likely to  not take things personally.  

Because of this sin in our lives, it is very important for us to take a look inward before we seek to correct or judge our spouse.  In Matthew 7:3-5, we see Jesus talking about taking the plank out of your own eye before you judge that of our brother.  This is also true for us when it comes to our Christian spouse.  Often times the conflict that we feel in our marriage is more about sin in our own life and less about the sin of our spouse.  

But if you have examined your own life and find that you need at address an issue with your spouse, make sure to extend grace to him.  Ephesians 4:32 goes onto say, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  The best possible way to show someone the glory of God is by forgiving one another just as he forgave us.  Marriage is the best possible picture to see this glory.  By continually loving your spouse and extending that grace to him, you continually show the love of Christ to others.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts."

Let me commend you on a great question.  Marriage in the United States in under attack.  We need to be working to treat marriage as the sacred covenant that it is.  For more information on past blogs pertaining to marriage click here.  Also, if you are interested in where your marriage stands and if you guys might be in need of marriage help, click here to take a short quiz.  Press on in your marriage and keep pursing the Lord together.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.