Some of you don't want to pay for counseling. You think I'm just a glorified friend. You think you can read a book instead. You think your pastor is qualified to do the job. You think it's stupid to spend money on something you can't see. You think it's stupid to talk to someone about things you can't change.
Here are my favorite rebuttals:
If you were having a heart attack, would you pay whatever it cost to keep yourself from dying? ($500 for the ambulance, $1000+ for the emergency room) Are your heart and relationships not crucial for survival? And while we're there—would you let your best friend do your heart surgery? Or maybe you could just read a book on heart surgery?
Does your uneducated friend understand the functioning of the human brain and mind? Have they spent YEARS studying human behavior and researched methods for healing relationships? Have they spent thousands of dollars learning how to really listen and done their emotional work so they can be differentiated enough not to codependently take on your problems and drown in them themselves? Are you sure? And then how confident do you feel that they won't share your most precious information—your deepest, darkest secrets and injuries—with someone else?
That book can tell you how to do it, but can it really BE WITH you as you are trying to heal? Can it see your heart and validate your pain? How confident do you feel that you will pick the right book and the right method and the right timing so as to not blow up your relationships in the process?
So your pastor—a person well studied in your holy books, a person possibly long-educated in the functioning of the church and its people, a person with possibly MORE training in religious values, a person (hopefully!) emotionally sound and morally upright. But has he/she studied the complexities of attachment, marriage, mental health, personality disorders, depression and severe anxiety? Are they aware of the alliance between heart and mind? I'll admit that there are some pastors who have done the difficult work to learn the NON-oversimplified answers, but I can also tell you that I have seen more harm than good done by well-meaning pastors who were in over their heads and didn't know how to admit it. How about I not tell people the Greek meaning of the word agape and you not tell people to just read their bibles more when they are suffering so painfully that they are considering ending it all.
I realize that talking about things you can't change is incredibly painful. I understand how it feels worthless and maybe even masochistic. But I also think that most people who say that haven't ever really had anyone sit with them in their pain, so they can't possibly know the healing benefit. I dare you to try me.
To be clear, all of these things (friends, books, pastors) are CRUCIAL to life. They are important resources and invaluable supports. They're just not therapists. Therapy picks up where those things leave off. And when we're done, we hand you back to them.