Support Resources for Hurting People
Tony Cooke

I recently attended a breakfast for Tulsa area ministers hosted by a local Psychiatric clinic and hospital. The presentation that morning was done by Tim Peterson, an outstanding brother who has deep Christian roots and excellent professional training.

When I was on staff as an associate pastor, we found it to be a great help to have relationships with various Christian counselors in our community, and we often made referrals to individuals we believed could receive help from highly trained professionals who respected and supported their Christian values.

One of Tim’s statements this past week reminded me of the need for the love, care, and support that churches provide. He stated:

A study in the United States in April 2020 found that 13.6 percent of respondents reported severe psychological distress. That’s a whopping 250 percent increase compared to 2018, where only 3.9 percent reported this level of woe.

Of course, April of 2020 was early in the coronavirus situation, but Tim proceeded to share that he believes the figure would be just as high now or has perhaps even increased.

In his excellent book, How to Be A People Helper, Gary Collins shares the following indicators that let you know when it is good to make a referral.

1. Persons believe (without any basis in reality) that others are attempting to harm them, assault them sexually, or influence them in strange ways.

2. They have delusions of grandeur about themselves.

3. They show abrupt changes in their typical patterns of behavior.

4. They hallucinate, hearing nonexistent sounds or voices, or seeing nonexistent persons or things.

5. They have rigid, bizarre ideas or fears that cannot be influenced by logic.

6. They engage in repetitious patterns of compulsive actions or obsessive thoughts.

7. They are disoriented (unaware of time, place, or personal identity).

8. They are depressed to the point of near-stupor or are strangely elated and/or aggressive.

9. They withdraw into their inner world, losing interest in normal activities.

Dr. Dale Doty offers additional thoughts along these lines in his article, When Should I Refer for Counseling.

I felt very fortunate in Tulsa in that we had a number of excellent Christian counselors, and I not only made referrals when I felt it was appropriate, but I was also able to take advantage of many of the “continuing education” events and programs they made available for area pastors.

If you don’t have those kinds of resources in your communities, you may be able to locate good local counselors using one of the following websites: – The American Association of Christian Counselors (Find a Counselor) – Christian Association of Psychological Studies (Directory) – Focus on the Family (Get Help / Find a Counselor) – Psychology Today (Find a Therapist)[1]

Remember, if you do make a referral, you are not abdicating your pastoral relationship with that individual. You can and should continue to pray for them, encourage them, etc. A good shepherd cares for his sheep, but he also knows when a skilled veterinarian might be able to help a wounded sheep through some specific training and expertise.

[1] This organization is not distinctly Christian, but in the counselor profiles, some therapists may indicate that theirs is a faith-based practice.