OCD, ERP, and Christianity

ocd and christianityI often hear from obsessive-compulsive Christians asking, “If my OCD is centered around my faith, will ERP still work even if my therapist is not a Christian?”

I’ve written elsewhere about how OCD is an arsonist, setting fires (obsessions) in our minds and how our compulsions are like shortsidedly trying to put out the fires instead of going for the arsonist directly.  You don’t need a Christian cognitive-behavioral therapist.  You just need someone who knows ERP and knows it well.  In other words, you need an OCD assassin.

If you are obsessing about the unforgivable sin or something else faith-related, you don’t need a great theologian to dialogue with you about it.  (In fact, chances are that you’ve already discussed this with all your Christian friends and maybe even a respected pastor.)  After that conversation with the theologian, you’re probably just going to start obsessing again, either about the same thing or something else.  You need someone who can take out the OCD, and yes, I mean “take out” in a sniper kind of way.

“But I’m worried that ERP is just going to cover up my real issues.  I don’t want to just forget about these things.  I want to solve them.”

First of all, you’re misunderstanding ERP.  It doesn’t sweep issues under a rug.  It’s not like you’re brainwashed into believing that life is now perfect.  Not at all!  It rewires your brain so that you can think the way “normal” people do– less circularly.

Secondly, you’re misunderstanding life and faith.  These things aren’t “solvable”– at least, not generally.  Sure, you might be the one person in a million who has God audibly speak to you one day– but probably not.  Life is full of uncertainty.  It’s a FACT.  And faith is about TRUSTING God even in uncertainty.

You need to get it out of your head that you will ever be rid of uncertainty in this life.

Back to the original question …

Your ERP therapist is not going to talk you through theological issues.  That’s not his/her job, and actually, it would be counterproductive to what ERP is all about.

If you can find an incredible cognitive-behavioral therapist who is also a follower of Christ, then yes, by all means, go to that person!  But if healing and health are your goals, then your first order of business is finding someone who knows how to do Exposure and Response Prevention.  You are looking for an OCD assassin, not someone to have tea and Bible study with.

Thoughts?  Further questions?

 

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6 thoughts on “OCD, ERP, and Christianity

  1. I agree, I chose to find an OCD expert first. However, it was REALLY important to me that I found an expert who was respectful of my beliefs (and not all experts are, unfortunately). My psychologist was very understanding of where I was coming from, and even suggested that I invite my pastor to an appointment so that the three of us could come up with a plan to fight my scrupulous issues while not compromising my relationship with God. The appointment never did happen for various reasons (although I had a few appointments with my pastor and other church staff members separately from my psychologist). I think if you can have a TRUE OCD expert (Christian or not) and coordinate your treatment with a trusted and wise individual (like a pastor) who shares your belief system, that you can fight the illness without compromising your beliefs.

  2. I remember telling my therapist once “I would like to talk about my anxiety with a priest who understands these issues”, and she told me that I would be seeking reassurance that way.

  3. Pingback: A Detailed Post about ERP | Lights All Around

  4. Pingback: Is Mental Illness a Spiritual Issue? | Jackie Lea Sommers

  5. Pingback: Question & Dancer: What is “Normal” with OCD? | JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

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