Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Live In Fear: Mastering the Art of Freaking Out (Review)

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers and the BookLook Bloggers Programin exchange for my honest review.

The title of this book piqued my interest. As a new counseling professional, I am interested in reading books about mental health. When I read on and discovered that this book was about a pastor's struggle with a severe anxiety disorder, I knew I had to check it out. Pastor Lance Hahn has struggled with a severe anxiety disorder since childhood. Through this book, he talks about his struggle, what it means to be a Christian with an anxiety disorder, practical steps to help cope with anxiety through practical solutions such as medication, exercise, thought restructuring, and even maintaining a health diet to exploring scripture and what it says about worry. It's a misconception that people who struggle with mental health issues aren't strong in their faith, but Lance Hahn proves this wrong as he speaks about his struggle and how his faith has been made stronger throughout this struggle. Hahn makes sure to stress that he is not a mental health professional and anyone who is struggling should seek professional help while working through the practical solutions that he has found to be helpful as someone struggling with these issues. I highly recommend this book and I will keep it on my shelf to share with clients that may be struggling with these questions as well.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lessons I've Learned from Counseling

Before I decided to become a mental health counselor, I myself had undergone counseling on a couple of different occasions. First, as a child. I had a bit of trouble making friends and my parents took me to a counselor. Years later, as a young adult, I saw a counselor to help me with depression. I no longer see a counselor, though sometimes I think that it may be a good thing to do once in a while. I am able to manage depression myself using what I have learned from counseling along with my much stronger faith in God and prayer. Here are some things I learned from counseling.

- Every little thing that goes wrong is not the end of the world. Learn to choose your battles, when to let things go, and how to deal with the disappointments in life and you will be a lot happier. It's not always easy. It takes time. It's worth it.

- Complaining just bums you out more than anything. Stop complaining and do something about it!

- Good counselors are not there to give advice or tell you the answer. Good counselors will guide you to find it for yourself.

- Good counselors do not accuse you or blame you for all of your problems.

- The right counselor can help to empower you, strengthen your resolve, and provide you with tools to help you move on.

It's interesting to be on the other side of the couch, so to speak. But here I am. I'm waiting for the right opportunity to come along and meanwhile I'm continuing to learn all that I can so that I can be an effective counselor in the future.
Thank you for sharing my journey!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Case for Hope by Lee Strobel

I received this book from the BookLook Bloggers Program for free in exchange for my honest review.
It's taken me a while to write this review. I received this book before Christmas, got caught up in all the holidays, was working hard on my internship and finishing up school, and before I knew it my 3 months that I had to write the review had expired! Luckily, BookLook Bloggers knew I was good for my review and started my account back up again so I could post it. So, without further ado, here it is!

The Case for Hope by Lee Strobel explores the question, "Where can we find hope in a hopeless world?" These days, when we hear the hate spouted from the mouths of politicians, see the news of terrorist attacks across the world and even violence, homelessness, and heartache in our own city streets, it can be hard for some to find that hope. Some turn to other things for hope, but not of them can sustain them for long. Lee Strobel explores the Biblical basis for the case that our hope should be in The Lord. Strobel explores the hope of what Jesus did for us, dying on the cross and sacrificing himself so that we might live. He also relates many stories of people in his life who turned to Christ in their hour of need and found hope in the Lord. I highly recommended this book to anyone who is in doubt, from Christians who are having so much doubt that they are having trouble studying the Bible for the verses that may bring them hope to someone who has not even found Christ and needs somewhere to turn for direction. At the end of the book, Strobel offers a 30 Day Journey of Hope with a Bible verse to study each day to remember the hope that is in the Lord. This is a great book to anyone who wants to "look ahead with confidence and courage." The most profound thought that Strobel shares and that I took away from this book is the thought that we should take this hope out to the world. God died for all of us and this should be shared with everyone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Say Something!

This time of year, just a little over a week before Easter, 15 years ago, I was at the lowest point in my life. I had always been a little “down in the dumps” from time to time. I was sort of a pessimist. I complained a lot, didn't have many friends, and just kept to myself most of the time. I had someone I loved in my life, but we were in a long distance relationship. I was also away from my parents and I had started to push away the few friends that I had with my isolating behaviors.

It's been said that one of the first things to be affected in depression is one's perception. With me, this was absolutely true. I felt like my life was spiraling downward and out of control, but things were actually ok! I was doing well in college, getting good grades. I had a couple of great friends and I had a boyfriend and parents that loved me, even though they were miles away. So why did I feel so awful? I couldn't put my finger on it. I didn't know how to define it.

Until one day, my practicum supervisor (I was studying to be a teacher) pulled me aside after class. She wanted to speak to me privately. She asked me how my practicum was going. I lied and told her it was going fine when truly I felt that I couldn't handle it and I could barely drag myself to get out of bed every day. She asked me how I was feeling. I said fine even though I had been to the doctor recently trying to find out why I was so tired all the time. She looked, her eyes full of concern, and said, “It just seems to me that you are very very depressed.” That was the word. That was it. The truth hit. I began to cry, at first just a little, and then sobbing almost uncontrollably. She gave me some information about the student health center and help me set up an appointment to go see a counselor there.

I can't remember the name of that professor, but that first step; her ability to recognize the signs in me that I was denying in myself, set me on the path to recovery. If it weren't for that professor, I don't know if I would be here today. I hope that somewhere out there in internet land, this reaches her as a thank you. But even if it doesn't, I want her to know that I am thankful for what she did and said. You never know how your words may influence another. For me, her words set me on a path to recovery and eventually led me down the road to become a professional counselor. I encourage everyone to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of mental illness if you are concerned about a friend or a loved one. Let them know you are concerned. Sometimes it just takes a few words to change someone's life forever.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Word of Promise New Testament (Audiobook) - A Review

I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

I thought it would be a nice change of pace to review something different, an Audiobook! This is a review of an audio version of the New King James Version New Testament published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The Word of Promise is presented in "dramatic audio theater" and stars Jim Caviezel, the actor that played Jesus in Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, as Jesus. Other famous voices include Terence Stamp (General Zod in the old Superman movies, and more recently the YES Guru in Jim Carrey's Yes Man!) as the voice of God and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Brad Paisley's wife and star of the Father of the Bride movies) as the voice of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

I have to admit that I am not used to listening to the Bible, or audiobooks in general. I started listening half-expecting to be hearing biblical passages read and recited like they are in church. So, the drama of it threw me off a bit at first. But after a few minutes, I was pulled in. I was wondering how Jim Caviezel was going to present the voice of Jesus when he became angry, turning over the tables in the temple. I was wondering how Mary's voice would sound when she was morning the loss of her son. I was drawn in and I found that this was a new and different way to "read" the New Testament. It may be a great way to present the New Testament to children, who may have trouble reading the words presented in the Bible or have trouble paying attention. Listening to the Bible may be a great activity for families. They can listen to a passage and then talk about what happened, learning about Jesus as they go. I also gave an audio Bible as a gift to my mother-in-law, who would need a very large print Bible in order to read it and would probably have trouble turning pages. An audio Bible is a great tool for her and she was very happy to have one. This is a great presentation of the Bible with big name voice actors to boot! I recommend it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: Coming Clean by Seth Haines

You may have noticed that I haven't posted on the blog in about two months. I have been quite busy in my second internship at a treatment center for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. It's occupied 20+ hours of my week each week, the rest being occupied by my family.

As you may know, I have been receiving books for free from Book Look Bloggersin exchange for my honest review for several years now.

When I had an opportunity to review a book written by a Christian author about his journey to sobriety, I thought this was an excellent opportunity for me. I could not only learn more about what it means for someone to struggle with addiction, but I could learn more about it through the eyes of a Christian, another believer. My hopes had been that I could teach from this book in one of my groups, but alas the group that it would have been appropriate for has been in the hands of one person for so long that he pretty much "owns" that group. But anyway, on to my review.

In this book, Seth Haines journals about his first 90 days of sobriety. Not only that, but he "comes clean" about so many things; his dwindling faith in God, his difficulty forgiving others, his disagreements and wrestling with God, and so much more. I personally have not struggled with addiction. I have, however, had trials and tribulations in my life. Who hasn't? I have asked God to heal myself, to heal other people, to take away poverty, pain, hopelessness, depression, the list goes on. I often feel like my prayers are unanswered. Seth Haines' words give me hope. God answers all our prayers, maybe just not in the way we would like. We are often looking for some supernatural healing of sickness, pain, suffering, etc. But God doesn't always bring it that way. God has His plan and we, as finite beings, can never really understand what that is. Another insight gained from Haines' book is that of forgiveness. There are a few people in my life that I have forgiven. It doesn't change much for me except that there is no longer hatred in my heart that affects my beliefs or how I live my life. I have let those hurts go and they no longer affect me. Forgiveness is a hard concept for a lot of us, but for Haines' it reached even deeper as he was forgiving people that he didn't even really know, people that had affected his childlike faith. Without spoiling the book, let me just say that Haines' words are poignant, heartfelt, and insightful, bringing to light so many thoughts that many of us have had as Christians. If you have struggled or are struggling with addiction or even if you are simply struggling to get by in life, I recommend this book. Read it, take it to heart, think of Christ's love for you and be changed.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (the Colson Way) - A review of a book by Owen Strachan

I must admit, the tagline of this book got me. As a Christian, I know that this is an especially hostile world today. The only place so far I have had courage to speak out in faith against some of the travesties occurring in the world today has been on Facebook, and I've already gotten a lot of flack for that. At least on Facebook, I never have to see, talk to, or deal with any of these people again. They are faceless to me. But as a true Christian, I should engage in the public square. I should speak out and share my faith with others. But how?

The book The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World by Owen Strachan shows us an example of a man, Chuck Colson, who lived his life in politics and the public square and share his faith without fear. Mr. Colson worked under President Nixon and was implicated in the Watergate scandal. He was a born-again Christian after a life of wrong turns and bad decisions. Owen Strachan communicates Colson's story and shares points about how Colson's example can be valid to us today.

There were a couple of things I disliked about this book. First, it was very much an autobiography. Of course, I was expecting this, but it was difficult to get through the first several chapters that were all about Mr. Colson and didn't seem to have any applications to me as a Christian. Also, although I think that other Christians can serve as a model for how we can present ourselves in this world, our ultimate model should be Christ. I don't think that any person should be glorified, but God himself should be glorified. Maybe I missed the point. I don't know. But I couldn't get past the fact that this book about this normal, everyday human being was telling me how to be a Christian today. Shouldn't I get that from Christ?

One thing that I did like is that Strachan presented quite a few "gems" about how to present ourselves as Christians in the public square and what we may go through. This is my favorite, "The church is the true culture the brings light into all the world. To do so, we must often be a counterculture. We will often be oppossed, hated, and mocked. We will be persectured in small and great ways." Strachan reminds us of this, and he also reminds us that, as Christians, "we oppose evil wherever it is found in order that we might love our neighbors and lead them unto God. In this work, we are witnesses" (p. 180-181).

As a Christian, it is truly my goal to be a witness, to be in this world, but not of it, to be an Ambassador of Christ and share his love with the world. If that means standing against what is "popular" to profess what is right according to Christ, then so be it.

So, though there were some things I didn't like about the style of the book, overall the concept was great and it did bring to light what I already know. It is difficult to live in the world as a Christian, but I always remember that first and foremost I am a citizen of God's Kingdom, not of this world.

I received this book to review for free as part of the Book Look Bloggers program. I received this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. For more information, click here.