Crucible Encounters

This two part article conceptualizes my thoughts about the importance of the respectful integration of spirituality with psychology, in the counseling hour.

It is a paradign created from my Doctoral Dissertation, and is rooted in the American Psychological Associations’s Division 43 (Family Psychology/Ecological Model), as it recognizes that intraindividual factors, interpersonal dynamics and environmental issues impact the person, and should be considered in treating the whole person, and the systems (s)he lives in.  These systems that we all live in, (Micro-[Individual], Meso-[Family, School, Religion], Exo-[Community, Culture, Society] and Macrosystems [Global]), and the Family Psychology paradigm, are welcomed in the Christian academic community, as recognition and attention are given to the reciprocal impact of these vital life areas in counseling.

The Crucible Encounter (Part I)

For many of us, the notion of subjecting ourselves to some type of excruciating and painful process is the last thing we would consider engaging in willingly.  Even at the age of 53 (2014), I’m not particularly fond of the idea of having my Physician or Dentist poke, prod, squeeze, puncture, pull or apply pressure to any part of my body.  Mentally, I’m just not up for it, and sometimes I dread the days leading up to the appointment.  Intrestingly, I know that upon leaving their office, I am in a better physical state (with great relief mentally) than when I arrived, largely due to allowing the professional to practice his or her expertise with me, their patient.  Usually, it is not as bad as I conceptualized, and upon leaving, I certainly do enjoy either hearing, or knowing what I have to work on, in order to receive a clean bill of health.

Perhaps the way I envision going to the Physician is the way that some may envision engaging in the psychotherapeutic process with a counselor.  Days before a scheduled session, some may wonder if the Therapist “will be sensitive to this particularly painful part of my life I am disclosing” or “will he be judgmental and provide a ‘simplistic’ remedy for this area of my life that I have struggled with for decades?”  Certainly we know that sensitive areas will be discussed in the therapy hour, but if you are like me, you would like to leave that time knowing and feeling like help, and healing is on the horizon, and is visible.

I like to describe therapy as the engagement in a crucible encounter.  A crucible is a vessel used for melting materials at high temperatures, and the origin of the word is the Latin word “crux” or “cross.”  We also derive our English word “excruciate” from crux as well.  Typically, when a material enters a crucible, it is altered, changed and transformed into a different state or outcome than when it entered the crucible.

You may be thinking about now, that there is not much to like about melting at high temperatures, engaging in an excruciating process, coupled with all of the process that respectfully occurred with the Cross.  You’re right.  There is a lot of pain associated with the changing of mindsets, behaviors and with the transformation and growth of the heart.  And yet I would remind you that you are not alone in the life-altering, crucible process.  Let me share what I mean about this.

The English word “Therapist” comes from the Greek word, “Therapon,” translated in the New Testament as “healing” (Matthew 10: 1, 8).  This word and process suggests that as a result of the care, attention, and help that is rendered in the therapeutic and crucible encounter, that healing is one of the outcomes:  The Therapon (Therapist), provides the therapia (therapy), and the result is therapeuo (therapeutic). What is most important and underlies this healing opportunity is the fact that salient spiritual ingredients are in, and at work, in the lives of the Therapist, and in the life of the participants who seek assistance.  Both bring measures of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, patience, kindness, self-control…) to this crucible process, and it is usually Christ’s transparent, yet powerful energy that effects the change and altering process.  Although the process of change is excruciating, there is hope knowing that the person that I am when I leave the crucible encounter is not ther person I was previously before I entered the encounter.  I’ll say more about how the crucible encounter impacts our humanity in the next section.

The Crucible Encounter (Part II)

Earlier I shared how I liken the therapeutic process to entering a crucible, and as a result of entering the crucible with the Therapist, and with the power of Christ present, the participant leaves the encounter very different, and in a changed and transformed state than when he or she entered the process.  In this section, I want to specifically and practically elaborate on how this occurs in the crucible encounter, as other salient “ingredients” are identified in this change process.  They are identified in an encounter that Jesus had with a person in Luke 10:25-28.

In this passage, Jesus was asked the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus directed the man to consider the devotion of his whole life to God, eventually replying to him, “Do this and you will live.”  The interesting thing is the word “live” infers that we “live as one recovering from an illness,” which, for some, may speak to the life condition where change, healing and growth is desired, regarding the life challenges that have been encountered.  Greater still, Jesus identifies 7 Core Areas of our life (Spiritual, Cognitive, Emotional, Biological, Sexual, Relational, and Environmental), that represent the whole and totality of our being, as well as how we interact with the world.  What I hear in Jesus’ response, is that He encourages us, to examine how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors and experiences in these 7 Core Areas could be purposefully and powerfully effected by the edifying touch of the Holy Spirit, and addressed thoroughly in a “crucible relationship” with a trusted other (our Therapist, Psychiatrist and other, important, but safe people in our lives).

Take a look at the 7 Core Areas.  To love (“agapao“) God means we are to “cherish, honor, favor, respect, accept, relish, prize, esteem and be devoted to” His process of seeing these areas developed to their fullest, not only for us to give ourselves the chance to see change occur, but also to enter into a process of beginning to live beyond our current and challenging circumstances.  Like a good Physician would assess and dignose how all parts of the body are functioning, God would have us to critically examine these areas of our lives, in order to gain insight, and to respond regarding what personal and relational adjustments we need to make in order to begin, or continue a process of change and growth in our lives.

Practically, this means that with my Therapist, I pull out the magnifying glass and examine my thoughts, feelings and behavior about God, faith, morals and empowerment, as well as how I may need to challenge personal thought processes, or, learn how to “restructure” them, and replace negative thoughts with different or positive ones.  I may need to consider how I could de-intensify emotionally charged encounters, or learn how to ask for what I need from others, while learning to tolerate that I (and God), are ultimately responsible for my emotional well being.  Along with this, I examine my sexuality, and uncover what unnecessary “baggage” I need to discard, as I move on in my life journey toward healthier sexual behavior, and discover how the other six core areas of my being affect and shape this personal yet powerful part of who I am.  All of these core areas are to be examined in totality, due to the fact each area impacts the other areas, and if health and healing is to be experienced, the whole of the person is to be explored and impacted in the crucible.

I suggest that by entering into the crucible encounter, and by allowing this process of growth to occur, we give ourselves the opportunity to experience healing in our life experiences today (Matthew 6:34; it’s all we have anyway), but also, for tomorrow (Jeremiah 29:11).  In addition, by allowing Christ, through the Holy Spirit to teach, guide, empower, motivate, lead, comfort, change, cleanse and heal us in the crucible, we position ourselves to reclaim and demonstrate focused and passionate living that our Lord intends for us to experience in these core areas of our being.  As you explore the “crux of the matter,” know that I will work for your success; to experience change, healing and growth – Dr. Ken McGill

Dr. Ken McGill
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
2800 Dallas North Parkway, Suite 120
Plano, Texas 75093
Voice: 972. 505. 6144
Email: drkenmcgill@live.com
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