Belief Therapy

As A Christian Therapeutic Treatment Modality Dr. Paul Carlin, who was a Scripturologist not a psychologist, introduced Belief Therapy to the public in November 1997. The modality was developed during his 20 years of restorative justice ministries in the Texas Prison System. He used the prisons as his laboratory and prisoners as his subjects. Carlin claims his basic premise can be traced to both the Old and New Testaments, that teach, “People do what they do because they believe what they believe,” i.e., “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) This modality utilized many of the characteristics of other styles of therapy but its distinctive quality is that it is founded on the truth of the Word of God, the Christian Bible.

A large number of professionals in mental health disciplines agree with Dr. Carlin’s axiom. Their references are framed in psychological terminology, but carry the same basic meaning. For example, Dr. Maxie C. Maultsby, Jr., says in his book, Rational Behavior Therapy, “That belief makes obvious the main therapeutic strategy in RBT: Getting P-Cs to recognize and replace their sincere, but irrational, opinions with rational ones. (RBT, pg. 18) One of the most common causes of emotional distress is that people both think what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t think, all the while believing every word of it. (RBT, pg. 4)” Belief Therapy interoperates “irrational” as the lies people believe and “rational” as the truth. (2 Timothy 2:18; James 5:19-20)

A Synopsis Of Belief Therapy

Belief Therapy is a Biblical, faith-based, Scripturodynamic, Christian, cognitive analytical process based on Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy with spiritual dynamics added. Belief Therapy rests upon the axiom that core beliefs are the gates through which thoughts originate, emotions are formed and behaviors are ultimately acted out. BT places the role of beliefs as the “sine qua non” of human addiction. According to the model, certain beliefs (lies people believe) drive and maintain even the addictive process. BT is a lie versus truth modality. With BT, knowing and appropriating the truth will progressively (and sometimes immediately) make a person free from any bondage, i.e., “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) “And if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Belief Therapy points out that in dealing with false beliefs and/or half-truths, Jesus often corrected thinking errors by saying, “You have heard it said by them of old times, but I say unto you.” (Matthew 5, 6 & 7)

Belief Therapy is ineffective without bringing the power of God and the Scriptures into the treatment process. Jesus said to the most religious people of His day, “You are wrong not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29) To leave these two essentials out of the treatment process makes healing incomplete.

In Belief Therapy the heart is emphasized as the center, the core of psychospiritual life. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) In some of His harshest teachings Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, and in doing so he picked up the theme of the heart as central to human personality. “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:18-19; Mark 7:1-23)

The heart represents the ego or the person. Thus the heart is the one center in man to which God turns, in which the spiritual life is rooted, and which determines moral conduct. The heart is the source of motives, the seat of passions, and the spring of conscience. This concept incorporates what now is meant by cognitive, effective and volitional elements of personality. The divine distinction is made between the “head” and the “heart” even in the salvation experience: “That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

The heart is the seat not only of emotion but also of the will and thought; all three spiritual activities converge in the heart. With the term “mind” (nous; disnoia in the Grk) we find the same emphasis. The total person is always in view. In Deuteronomy 6:5 God says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” There was no technical word in the Hebrew language for the mind, so we have the word “strength.” The Hebrew word for “heart” is pronounced “ne-fesh,” which means “the self” or man’s vitality, the very essence of the person. Out front, preceding cognition, even driving cognition, is the presence of conscious- ness. Belief Therapy views consciousness as the spirit of man. It is where man believes.

In repeating this commandment, Jesus says in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind [disnoia].” Loving God with all “your mind” implies the whole personality is to be committed to an intimate and personal relationship with God.

One central element of Belief Therapy is the development of a positive self-concept grounded in God’s unconditional, electing love in Jesus Christ. With a Biblical perspective of self-concept a person is released from the burden of having to generate feelings of self-worth based on performance. Since a Christian, i.e., a believer in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, need not be a slave to ego-enhancing behavior, he/she can be free to be unselfish and to manifest virtues such as faith, integrity, knowledge, patience, self-control, God-consciousness, kindness, love, sacrifice, obedience and humility. But without a healthy self-acceptance the practice of these values can easily become a neurotic striving to gain God’s approval. Belief Therapy identifies this “striving” condition as a symptom of Positional Identity Disorder (PID), i.e., trying to become who you already are. It is the position of BT that a Christian’s identity is “in Christ” and that “being” is more important than doing. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Christians will never gain a healthy self-concept until they are sure about who they are “in Christ.” Positional truth is essential for one to become emotionally and spiritually mature.

In consideration of a healthy, Scripture-based self-concept, BT teaches that “according as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3) Based on this and other related passages, BT would emphasize “not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

A person’s spiritual, moral and emotional health depends upon his “belief that comes from the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 3:7; Hebrews 10:26; John 8:32), walking in the truth (2 John 4), and obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22).

Belief Therapy is, therefore, a Christian, faith-based approach to treatment. The process can be used as a single treatment modality or it may be used as an additive or complementary program with other approaches to treatment. Based on the DSM IV V Code (V62.89), Religious or Spiritual Problems, which states, “This category can be used when the focus of clinical attention is a religious or spiritual problem,” using BT as an additive or complement to traditional treatment would be clinically acceptable.

The 12 Axioms of Belief Therapy

1. Man was created to see things from God’s perspective. God-like thinking was necessary for the dominion management Creator God gave to man. (Gen. 2:15)

2. People do what they do because they believe what they believe. (Prov. 23:7; Mark 7:6-23) The source of destructive consequent behavior is our belief system.

3. Jesus established the Belief Therapy system in the book of Matthew chapters 5, 6& 7, when He said, “You have heard it said ….. but I say unto you.” He exposed a lie, half-truth or godless tradition and replaced it with the truth.

4. A lie is as powerful as the truth if you believe it. A person is made free from the bondage of a lie when he/she replaces the lie with the truth. (John 8:31-36)

5. Man is a sinner by nature, by choice and by practice. Eve chose to believe Satan’s lie. (Gen. 3:1-13; Romans 3:23)

6. God is always right. When human viewpoint is in conflict with Divine viewpoint, God is always right. The Bible is Belief Therapy’s body of truth. (Isa. 55: 7-9; 2 Peter 1:3)

7. Belief is the most powerful healing value known to man. (Luke 18:27)

8. The mind is the battlefield. (Rom. 12:1-2)

9. Positional truth is the fundamental principle essential to a constructive, healthy and godly personal identity. A healthy self-concept of who we are “in Christ” is necessary for a healthy self-worth concept. Positional Identity Disorder, trying to become who you already are, is the Christian’s most common disorder. (Col. 2:9; Col. 3:1-4; Romans 6)

10. All addiction is identified in the Bible as bondage. (Rom. 1:21-23; Rom. 6:14-18)

11. Life-controlling problems have a spiritual root regardless of a possible organic disorder. (John 9:1-7)

12. In the presence of cognitive dissonance, a person must perform an emotional by-pass procedure and act upon the truth whether he/she feel like it or not. (James 1:8)

The Role of The Belief Therapist

The Belief Therapist, unless he/she is a licensed professional, is a paraprofessional personal human development therapon. The Belief Therapist uses this distinctive mark to announce his/her association with Belief Therapy and to distinguish themselves from others who are in the faith-based counseling field.

The task of the Belief Therapist is to act as a discernotician, therapon, educator, Scripturologist and technical consultant who assesses maladaptive cognitive processes (lies people believe) and works with the Christian client to design learning experiences that will replace the lies he/she is believing with the truth of God’s Word and the behavioral and affective patterns with which they correlate. For the Belief Therapist, listening must therefore be below the surface. Listening includes spiritual discernment. (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 5:14)

The Belief Therapist is to emphasize the primacy of agape love and the need to develop a warm, genuine and emphatic relationship with the client that is collaborative. (John 13:34-35; Galatians 5:13; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 4:9)

The Belief Therapist must deal Scripturally and more adequately with the past, especially unresolved developmental issues or childhood experiences that are affecting their present pain, with the judicious use of prayer for healing. (Philippians 3:13; James 5:13-16)

The Belief Therapist must also pay special attention to the meaning of spiritual, experiential and mystical aspects of faith and life and not overemphasize the rationalistic dimension. (Matthew 17:14-21; Hebrews 11:1-3)

The Belief Therapist should always be sensitive to the possibility of demonic involvement in some cases. (Ephesians 6:12)

The Belief Therapist should use Biblical truth and not relativistic, empirically oriented values in conducting belief restructuring to change problematic thinking, darkened emotions and godless, negative, maladaptive behavior. (Romans 12:1-2)

The Belief Therapist also emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in processing inner healing, cognitive, behavioral and emotional change. (John 14:17; John 16:13)

The Belief Therapist may use only those techniques that are consistent with Biblical truth, morality and ethics and not simplistically use whatever techniques are perceived to work. (John 14:16; Matthew 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 2:6-7; 2 Tim. 3;16)

The Belief Therapist may utilize rigorous outcome research methodology before making definitive conclusions about the superiority (not just the general effectiveness) of Belief Therapy. (Galatians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:21)

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