Distinctly Christian, Mental Health Care
By Dr, Joshua Mears , Clinical Director of Faith Integration
Clinical + Christian = Unique in the World of Mental Health
When Jesus began his ministry on earth, he amazed many people with his approach. He healed both physically and spiritually. What does it mean to pattern our work after Jesus’ ministry? Dr. Joshua Mears, Clinical Director of Faith Integration for CFS, answers some key questions about the unique work happening at Christian Family Solutions.
Q: Christian Family Solutions has “Christian” in its name. What does it mean to deliver distinctly Christian care?
Dr. Mears: The 110+ mental health practitioners at CFS have embraced the calling to be exceptional counselors in the mental health sector. That’s who we are. Our calling demands that we aspire to be the best possible clinicians and use the best possible techniques grounded in clinical research. Compare this diligence to other Christians who serve in vocations such as teachers, medical doctors, or construction workers – these Christians do their work without being overtly Christian but nonetheless serve with a high integrity and exemplary stewardship of God’s gifts. The nature of who we are as Christian counselors compels us to have a high threshold for quality, a love for the neighbors we’re serving, and a faithful sense of duty to our clinical work.
Aside from who we are, what we deliver matters. We have a counseling soul care therapy process that can be uniquely connected to a client’s faith and values. When clients choose us as a mental health provider, they choose to add this values-driven set of faith integrated interventions into their care plan. Our CFS clinicians strive to be well-trained and competent in both of these areas – clinical techniques and faith integrated interventions
Q: How did the field of secular psychology become so opposed to integrating personal faith with mental health treatment?
Dr. Mears: The secularization movement within the field of psychology dates back to the founding fathers of the field who came from an era
when psychology, philosophy, and theology were interrelated disciplines. Modern psychology has attempted to divorce the heritage and connection between faith and the helping tradition. As a result, the majority of training programs and graduate degrees acclimated to a model of separation between the medical and spiritual aspects of care.
The origin of the word “psychology” literally means “the study of hurting souls.” We believe it is wise to include all aspects of soul care in the counseling process. Our Creator gave all human beings a body, mind, and spirit. Our approach includes this comprehensive view of humanity.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles to overcoming the cultural biases against clinical faith integration?
Dr. Mears: Many of those pursuing the field of psychology are being educated with a secular worldview. Recruiting more Christians into
the field is essential. Then, we need to help these young clinicians overcome an education that likely reduced comprehensive soul care
to a view of human nature that engages only the psychological and negates the spiritual. We’re currently developing formalized training to
help our clinicians develop expertise around the comprehensive care of souls and how to properly integrate evidence-based counseling
strategies with a Christ-centered worldview.
Another obstacle is gathering the data that proves better outcomes from this comprehensive approach. Secular psychologists (and even some Christians) might look down on our approach to care as more spiritual and less-than-effective mental health care. Documented outcomes will help us refute this view of our work
Q: What is CFS doing to overcome these obstacles?
Dr. Mears: For much of the history of Christian counseling, practitioners of care have integrated their faith with counseling techniques without a formalized manner of delivery. This led to eclectic practices that are hard to define and even more challenging to replicate or measure for research purposes. CFS is determined to have a manualized delivery of spiritually integrated treatment. We are examining all of our client interaction – from the diagnostic assessment and treatment planning, to the techniques used in session, to data collection during and after the treatment process. The documentation and data will not only help us prove positive outcomes; it will also help us adjust and improve treatment methods.
Q: Spiritual matters are personal. How can CFS measure outcomes?
Dr. Mears: Gathering data on progress of the soul and mind is difficult. There is no measure for the work of the Holy Spirit – only evidences
in behavior and client self-reporting can be gathered and quantified. Furthermore, our clinicians are busy giving soul care and it’s difficult
to carve out time to collect data. Yet it is essential that we do so. We want to overcome the bias that remains in the field of clinical
psychology against the Christian faith and its effectiveness within clinical intervention. There is a growing body of research to confront
this bias. We want to add to these findings, so that we can be salt and light to the world of mental health.
By engaging in this unique integration initiative, CFS hopes to demonstrate that Christ-centered therapy models should be available to those who prefer them, and that we have a team of highly qualified providers delivering that service with consistency.
BUILDING MOMENTUM FOR THE CFS APPROACH
Within the last several decades, many clinical studies have been done on the integration of evidence-based therapy practices with Christian
counseling. The results suggest that “spiritually integrated therapies are at least as effective, if not more effective, in reducing depression and
anxiety than is traditional, nonreligious therapy for religious clients” (Pearce, M. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Christians with Depression, 2016).
The challenge for Christian clinicians, according to Dr. Mears, is making documentation of outcomes a priority. “Especially at this time of mental health crisis, it can seem less than dutiful to divert resources from soul care into research and data collection,” he says. “Meanwhile, the world continues to tempt us all to move away from or soften our Christian approach.
“The investment we make in faith-informed work at CFS is a commitment to quality treatment and to an approach that properly and consistently submits to the healing power of the Gospel.”
Clinical Director of Faith Integration
Dr. Mears joined Christian Family Solutions in 2011. He has served as clinical director for the state of Minnesota and was named a Senior Clinical Director in 2021. Later that year, Dr. Mears accepted the position of Clinical Director of Faith Integration for all of CFS. In this role, he guides the process of defining the appropriate and ethical integration of clinical mental health treatment with Biblical principles. He will also shape CFS training and professional development for more than 100 counselors and support staff in six states.
Dr. Mears received his PsyD in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University-Twin Cities, an MA degree in Counseling Psychology from Bethel University and his undergraduate degree in Psychology from Bethany Lutheran College. Prior to joining Christian Family Solutions, Dr. Mears completed his doctoral internship at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, specializing in crisis intervention and aggression reduction interventions. Dr. Mears also has five years of experience working as an in-home therapist with adolescents and their families.