Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Neuroscience is starting to catch up with the Apostle Paul, who spoke with assurance about the transformational capacity of the mind more than 1900 years ago. Paul asked his readers to accept by faith what neuroscience has recently demonstrated. In the past few years, neuroscience has not only identified many of the processes by which the renewal of our mind takes place, but also the responsibility that we have to do this carefully and with intention.
This blog-thread presents my approach to counseling, psychoneural transformation, which assumes primacy of the mind over the brain, using the brain’s capacity for development. Our brain is constantly renewing itself in interplay with our mind, a process that is rapid and chaotic in childhood and adolescence and continues to be vibrant and powerful throughout adulthood, on into very old age. This constant renewal is both hopeful and exciting, but it also has a dark side, which is why Paul encouraged the focus of transformation on God’s “good, pleasing, and perfect will”, guided towards a God-honoring life.
This blog-thread is about the intersection of faith and neuroscience that produces healthy transformation, presented from a perspective that argues that faith and neuroscience must be jointly considered, each respecting the other. Currently, this is a minority perspective, because most scientific communities and most faith communities have not matured to the point where respectful conversations accepting of each other’s positions are commonplace. There are of course, wonderful exceptions, and I hope that this blog contributes in some small way to these conversations.
This blog-thread reflects my personal transformation and presents case studies of the transformation of people I have worked with professionally as a counselor and psychologist in the field of Rehabilitation. Most of these are presented anonymously, out of my professional responsibility as well as my respect for them and their families.
An important pattern that will become apparent is that my professional abilities have always been limited by my knowledge and worldview, with my early work less effective than my recent work. But this is true for all of us, carpenters, mechanics, attorneys, physicians, counselors and psychologists. We all serve our clients better as we develop expertise with greater knowledge, skills, and abilities.
What is different for psychologists, counselors, and many healthcare professionals is that whenever faith is important to our patients, our resistance to addressing faith as a legitimate issue unnecessarily limits our effectiveness. The faith of their clients is not a pertinent issue for carpenters, mechanics, or attorneys, and many physician specialists such as radiologists or pathologists. But for those of us who interact with the minds of people to whom we provide professional care, whenever their minds are affected by their faith, our ability to facilitate transformation is limited to the degree that we ignore their faith.
And yet the contributions of science to healthcare are not to be ignored. My recent work is more effective than my early work not simply because I allow my clients faith to be a legitimate part of our work together, but because I bring to this work my expertise with scientific knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Do I force faith into my work with my clients? Of course not. The last question in my intake interview is, Who do you turn to for emotional support?, with a follow-up question, Do you have a particular faith or believe in a higher power? By asking the question, I make available to my clients the space for a conversation about faiths place in their lives. By making it the last question, I allow the issue to be bypassed comfortably when the 20% of my clients who either have no faith or are antagonistic to the idea of faith describe their position.
How do I integrate faith into our professional relationship with the other 80%? It depends on the client. When faith is a peripheral issue, it usually will not be an aspect of our interaction. When the persons faith is a central issue, it will have more prominence, but it will not crowd out science. In these situations I can only honestly share my experiences and those of other people of faith that science illuminates faith and faith gives meaning and purpose and a moral compass to science and scientific practice.
This blog describes my life in Rehabilitation, as a person and as a professional. Rehabilitation is the venue for the “bad things-good people” God-challenge to be actively addressed every day, with meaning and hope arising from the fear and sadness of catastrophic life events. My primary message here is that Rehabilitation is the ultimate proof of how God designed us for resilience, meaning, and happiness, implemented by a God-wired brain in concert with other God-wired brains. Rehabilitation is the best modern example of God’s work with the Apostle Paul that led him to encourage us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know what God’s will is for our lives his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”