Who is the best counselor for your child?

This week I have read a lot of blog posts that have to do with who and what kind of counseling would be best for those who are depressed and anxious. One writer allowed that someone skilled in Cognitive Behavior Therapy would be best for those who struggle. The writer also stated that a non-Christian CBT therapist might be better than many biblical counselors in dealing with anxiety and depression. Enough people have disagreed with that idea that I do no need to reply except to say that I disagree on all kinds of levels. CBT is not the secular equivalent of Biblical counseling.

This does bring me to a question that I do want to consider. Who would be the best counselor for your child if he or she were struggling with anxiety or worry? Children do have many things they can worry about today. I suppose some might say that experienced professional practitioners of CBT could be the best answer. But research that I read this week says something different.

In a study that looked at how well parents might be able to be counselors for their own children, it appears that parents may make the best counselors for lots of reasons.[i] The study done at the University of Reading in the U.K. looked at who counseled children with anxiety. Of the 194 children in the study, a third were placed on a waiting list and received no counseling during the study. A second group received counseling from their parents who were told how to do the counseling in face to face sessions and over the phone. The third group received counseling from their parents who were instructed with fewer face to face and phone sessions. The counseling to be used was a modified form of CBT that parents could learn.

The results should be an encouragement to parents! They won the contest. 50% of children who were counseled by their parents following instruction from the counselor were cured of their anxiety. Coming in second was the group who received less instruction but counseling the same way. 39% of those children were freed from their anxiety.  In the control group who received no counseling at all 25% had ceased to be anxious.

There are lots of lessons here. At least 1 in 4 anxious children will come to grip with their problem if nothing is done. But, if their parents counsel them twice as many or 50% will benefit.  The author of the article noted that parent directed therapy was much less expensive and appeared to be very effective. The important lesson is that parents can and do make a huge difference in the lives of their children and appear to be able to counsel their kids when equipped to do it.

I am not the least surprised by this. I have been involved in helping adults and children who struggle with anxiety for nearly thirty years now. It has been my observation that parents can and should be a child’s best counselor. Mothers and Fathers are the only people on earth who are given the primary task of raising, discipling, and yes, counseling children. We have the privilege of introducing them to the grace of our sovereign God who loves us and them. We are tasked by God with sharing the solutions of scripture to the struggles of worry and fear.

Once again science tells us something that common sense and our Bibles have told us. We get to show our children the same Jesus who said, “Come unto me…and I will give you rest.” Parents who are equipped with the scriptures can graciously help their children learn about a Savior who tells us that we do not need to worry when we trust Him.

[i] Parents as Co-therapists for Anxiety. Peter M Yellowlees, MBBS, MD. Medscape Psychiatry Jan 23,2014

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