Mental health is nothing to play with.
You can’t just decide you are a professional. Therapists go to school and train for years to be able to help their patients.
But Redditor homer-dyssey encountered an issue with his brother’s amateur counseling gig. So he turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for moral judgment.
“AITA for exposing my brother’s ‘counseling’ business?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“I’m changing up some details for privacy.”
“I (33M) have a half-brother named Rob (40M). We’re not especially close, as Rob is very religious and I’m agnostic.”
“He’s one of those people who tends to push his beliefs on others, and even though I’d be happy to agree to disagree about Christianity, he can’t accept my view.”
“To give context, Rob is estranged from both his daughters (21 and 17F), and he’s barely close with his son (19M). He runs a very structured household, with no alcohol, no PG-13 movies, and daily family bible study.”
“I’m not saying those things are bad, just that I can see why young adults wouldn’t want to live in that environment.”
“Well, Rob has started to offer Christ-based family and marriage counseling at his church. He’s semi-retired due to investments, but he’s also an associate pastor (to his credit, he volunteers).”
OP’s brother-in-law thinks he has it all figured out.
“The problem is that he holds himself as this model of a Christian family man, but his own kids don’t talk to him.”
“When his daughter Kira was getting bullied horribly in high school, he just said he was asking the Holy Spirit to give her the gift of discernment in her friendships.”
“My nephew had a pink shirt in his teens, and Rob burned it in the trash pit because he thinks men wearing pink is a perversion. I don’t trust the quality of ‘counseling’ he’d provide.”
“My neighbor goes to Rob’s church, and her daughter Anya is really struggling with self-esteem and shyness. My neighbor was telling me that she heard about Rob and wondered if he’d have an open appointment for Anya.”
“I said he probably would, but I wouldn’t trust the quality of his advice, especially for a vulnerable teenager.”
“When my neighbor asked why, I told her Rob is estranged from his kids.”
“She had to run after that, but apparently she spread the rumor all around their church. Rob called me feeling genuinely hurt, and he said he knew it was me because I live next door to Anya and her mom.”
“AITA? I wasn’t trying to be malicious.”
Redditors gave their opinions on the situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors agreed OP was not the a**hole.
“THANK YOU. Unlicensed pastoral counselors have done and still do tremendous damage. I say that as a believing Christian.”
“NTA at all.” ~ TheBlueManatee
“Also, the job title ‘counselor’ is legally protected in some areas. He’s not only harming people, he may be breaking the law.” ~ apathyontheeast
“If he’s calling him self a ‘pastoral counselor’ or ‘spiritual counselor’ which he likely is, it’s probably okay. If he advertised himself as a psychological counselor or used the word ‘therapist,’ it would be dodgy and maybe illegal. But he probably isn’t.” ~ ChikaDeeJay
“Yeah, that makes sense. But OP says this guy is a pastor which means he’s allowed to offer ‘spiritual counseling,’ which technically should be helping people make choices that line up with their religious beliefs, but I think a lot of them like to pretend they’re psych counselors, and don’t stop anyone else from thinking that either.” ~ ChikaDeeJay
“I’m a pastor. I have a book on pastoral counseling. One of the first things it says is don’t do what you’re not qualified for.”
“My ‘training’ on counseling was a twelve-week course crammed into five sessions over three weeks. I don’t do extended counseling because guess what? I’m not qualified. I’m willing to listen, look at what scriptures say, pray, and see if we can connect with someone more qualified.”
“Unfortunately, many church people expect pastors to be qualified to do every single type of counseling there is, all for free because that’s part of our job. And many pastors have bought into that, or can’t set the proper boundaries.”
“My thought is, I’m not qualified to give you advice about your heart condition; how am I qualified to give advice about cognitive behavioral therapy?” ~ Labby84
Pastors are not therapists.
“Thank you for being so careful & responsible with your congregation! As a licensed therapist (& a Christian) I unfortunately see a large number of clients who were further damaged by religious ‘counseling’ before they made their way to me, usually years later…” ~ pizza1sgr8
“I mean, to be fair, I think a lot of people attribute their struggles to anything other than psychological disorders… so they go to a church pastor for help, truly believing that the Bible can offer them a way forward, when really they just have anxiety or depression or whatever… if you don’t grow up in an environment where mental health is discussed, how would you even know what anxiety looked like?”
“So I don’t think it’s always parishioners trying to get mental health care from a religious leader, I think it’s often people trying to get religious help from a religious leader, not knowing that’s not what they actually need.”
“And there are just as many pastors out there willing to use that misunderstanding to their advantage as there are parishioners who know the difference and just want free help.” ~ OrindaSarnia
“One thing I like about my current Parish is that they are open about mental health issues. In too many places I have seen these treated as spiritual failings, or just ignored.”
“I will help people with their religious issues, but for medical (including mental health) issues I refer them to medical people. You know, those who have the training to deal with such things.”
“I don’t try to treat cancer or diabetes either.”
“Sadly, there is still such a stigma in society around mental health issues. Which results in people wanting to call their problems by any other name, and so they don’t get the proper help.” ~ RevKyriel
If you are struggling with mental health issues, make sure you talk to a qualified professional.