- Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Dear Dr. E, I have noticed an increasing number of parents, even within the Church, are hiring therapists for their children. I’ve heard a story about a mother who hired a psychologist to help her daughter adjust to preschool. I have also heard about parents of preteens putting therapists on retainer to help on an as-needed basis with everything from basic relational stress to birth control decisions. What is your opinion of this trend? Does this professional intervention help a child adjust to life’s challenges? Should I consider this for my son and daughter? — WANTING TO BE A GOOD MOM FROM ARIZONA

Dear Good Mom: I am going to be very blunt. The answer is no! The current trend of hiring therapists to help children with everyday challenges is unhealthy. 


Because it’s your job. You are the parent. The government is not. The school is not. Hollywood is not. And the therapist is not. Your child’s social and moral development is your responsibility, and this is not something you should “farm out” to someone else. 
I am not saying there is never a time for you to “tag-team” with a trusted pastor, priest, or even a professional counselor, but I want to emphasize “partnership.” Bad counseling can be damaging enough to adults, let alone an impressionable child. Never let any therapist have unfettered access to your son’s or daughter’s mind and soul. If you think your child needs professional help, then you have the responsibility to make sure what they’re hearing is sound. Do not trust any counselor until you first verify that they know what they’re talking about. 

Frankly, much of the advice that passes for “counseling” today is garbage. This is my industry. I have three degrees in this stuff. I know the underlying theories behind much, if not most, of it, and while there is a lot that I find fascinating, there is one common thread that you should be aware of. The preponderance of modern psychological theory comes to the wrong conclusions because it looks at the wrong thing.  

What do I mean?

Suppose I gave you an assignment to develop a “theory of fish.” To do so, I tell you to take a pencil and a pad of paper and go down to the local lake, walk along the beach, and document everything you see. Your observations will serve as the foundation for your theory. 

Now, let’s assume that as you walk along the beach, you see fish lying in the sand; their eyes are bulging out, they are gasping for air, and they smell terrible. So, you take out your pencil and paper and write: Fish are caked with sand. They have eyes that bulge out. They gasp for air and have a pungent odor—fish stink. 

So, here’s the question: Is your theory accurate? The answer is yes because you wrote down exactly what you saw, touched, and smelled. 

But I have another question: Is your theory complete? The obvious answer should be no. Why? Because even though your theory is grounded in what you saw and smelled; it is based on looking at the wrong thing. 

What your theory lacks is the recognition that if you would pick these fish up and put them back in the water, they would flourish and be what they were intended to be. 

This is the problem with ninety percent of today’s professional therapists. Almost all of their guiding theory is akin to looking at fish on the beach: Accurate, yes, but far from complete. In assessing the world around them, counselors see the dirty, dying, crusty, and confused nature of our culture and conclude that this is the way people are supposed to be. They see “fish on the beach” and assume this is what fish are. They fail to see the obvious: The beach is not where fish belong. We should put them back in the water. 

C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, says, “Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than is clay. His point is that while everyone tries to find the most accurate explanation for human flourishing, we sometimes look at the inferior thing and mistake brass for gold. We confuse our “accurate” theories that represent how things are with the truth of how things “ought” to be. We forget that a theory is good only when it turns toward God’s intended order and is always incomplete when it turns away. 

Only by looking through eyes bigger than our own - or our therapist’s - can we see beyond a broken world and recognize that we must pick “the fish” up and put them back into the water where they belong. Only then will your son and daughter flourish and become what they were intended to be in the first place.

If you are seeking guidance in today’s changing world, Higher Ground is there for you. Everett Piper, a Ph.D. and a former university president and radio host, takes your questions in his weekly ’Ask Dr. E’ column. If you have moral or ethical questions for which you’d like an answer, please email askeverett@washingtontimes.com and he may include it in a future column.

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