I have been a Licensed Professional Counselor for over 8 years now. I am a professional in my field, but I still have a lot to learn.
Recently a life altering event changed the trajectory of my life and my profession. People used to ask me why I became a therapist. My answer was fairly simple, “I knew what it was like to hurt, and I knew what it was like to discover healing.” Life had placed me in the path to be a therapist. God had placed me in the position to be one. Years ago, I met with an amazing counselor after experiencing a cancer scare. I was able to walk through the trauma and grief of this due to my faith, a whole lot of prayer, a wonderful therapist as well as a supportive community—church, job, friends, and family. I believed that I would never be the same after that season of my life. Yet, God did a big work and used others to help me heal through it.
I was in a place where I felt I could be used to encourage others, since pain had been a part of my life. Little did I know, that that pain would not be a one-time event-- it would be intertwined into the tapestry of my years before, and, my years to come. But, so would unending joy.
Every time I meet with a new client, I try to explain to them the importance of counseling. I share that their first step is to acknowledge their need for help, and how proud I am that they did. It is important that I also share that counselors themselves often need counseling as well. To whomever is reading this, we (as counselors) see therapists for our own well-being. We are all human and experience our own struggles. There are times when it is beneficial and it is healthy to say “I am not okay and I need help.” It is imperative that we spread this message and shake off the negative mindset surrounding mental health issues. It is essential to know that you are not alone, and that there is healing and support available if you simply reach out.
With years of education, practice and life experience, I continue to learn that life changes—that trauma can be relived— that some things need to be said out loud and processed with someone outside of family and friends. I’ve also learned that healing isn’t only possible, but it’s attainable. Throughout my years of study and hearing the life stories and heartbreak from others, there is a central theme in every person—the importance of connection.
One of the main goals we seek to accomplish in therapy is connecting the client into community and into relationships with others. There was a Ted Talk recently that discussed how the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection. I believe this to be true in many areas of our life. Connection has the ability to uphold us and allow us to not walk this journey alone.
Connection in the Counseling Relationship
As therapists, we have the unique honor of hearing life stories from those who choose to entrust us with them. When I see someone begin to break free from some of the burdens of their past or their pain from life experiences, it is a true blessing. It becomes evident they are finding their way, seeing light in the darkness, and working through their struggles and frustrations. Each person who sits in front of me shows so much strength and courage to show up week after week. They are actively working through their fears and personal battles. For those reasons and more, I care deeply about the relationships I establish with the people who come to see me for therapy.
Connection in the therapeutic relationship is so significant. This is why there are so many studies showing how important this connection is.
Laurie Myers wrote in Counseling Today: Connecting with Clients, “All Counseling approaches and techniques have at least one thing in common — their potential effectiveness is likely to be squelched unless the counselor is successful in building a strong therapeutic alliance with the client.”
Mental Health Professionals acknowledge the importance of the relationship with our clients as well as their relationships with God and others.
What does the Bible say about connection?
Connection with Jesus
We declare that Jesus Christ—who lived, was crucified, was raised from the dead, and who will come again—is the Living Word of God. It is to Christ that Scripture points. It is through Christ that we have life (John 5:39–40). These are truths to live by. We must have connection through Jesus first in order to have connection with others. Our connection with Christ is at the foundation of who we are as humans. God created us in his image (Genesis 1:27). We were never meant to be separated. Sin separated us from God, but we were given the chance to be connected to Him again through his son, Jesus Christ.
Through this, we are adopted and accepted into the family of God. Rick Warren said “Christianity is more than a belief system. Christianity is a belong system.” The Bible says we were born again into God's family when we became a follower of Jesus. It also says that we've been adopted into God's family. Both are great metaphors for what it should mean to be a part of community.
Connection with Others
Throughout Scripture, the Bible address the prominence and the meaning of connection. From the beginning, we were created for community. The first thing God said was, "It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God said that humans were not made for isolation. We were made for connection. Why? God created Eve to be a helper and a suitable companion for Adam (Genesis 2:18). This tells us that God intended us to be in community with others when he created humanity.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This passage addresses several reasons why we should be in relationships with others. We were made to live in connection with others as one body.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12:4-6).
We are the body of Christ here on earth. Each of us plays a part and carries a purpose. However, we must work together for something bigger than ourselves. We must stand in community, alongside one another, and support each other.
Call to Authentic Connection
As a society we are more “connected” than we’ve ever been. We have unlimited access to phones, computers, internet, and social media. Yet, we still feel disconnected and isolated somehow. Connection through social media and through online forums cannot fill our inherent need for personal relationships with others. This is an important reminder for us all. A screen can only get us so far. We must be in face to face community with others. In turn, we must also invite others to be in community with us. We need to be open and mindful of those who are hurting around us. We long for authentic relationships, for acceptance, for love, and for realness. We long to alleviate the plague of disconnection. Through true connection and community, we can start to feel less alone and see healing in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Hopefully this article will help you see the importance of connection and the role it plays in your day to day life. Recognizing our own needs helps us walk through each day. There was never a question of our need for community, but there should be an active lifestyle of creating and accepting that need. If you are struggling, if you are overwhelmed, if you are hurting and/or feeling the weight of life on your shoulders, please seek out help. We (Medical Health Professionals) are here to listen, to support, to encourage and to be a safe place for you.