04 November 2010

Group psychotherapy at a WalMart price-point

On the 28th of August I had the opportunity to attend a conference at the University of Saint Thomas, "Religion, Mental Health, and the Search for Meaning: Bridging the Gaps". I already made one (metaphysics) post out of my notes on the conference. This was much easier than making a psychology post. I am reminded of an Irish proverb about a guy who is asked if he would like some water in his whiskey and replies, "When I drinks water, I drinks water, and when I drinks whiskey, I drinks whiskey."

Psychology is formally atheistic, you see. They have professional standards and practice boards and ethics norms and there is no evidence for God so what could any psychology committee conceivably do with such an idea? So there is a category error and logic fallacy for the psychologists involved in making such a conference. There were a couple interesting comments sprinkled through the psychology part of the conference, but mostly it was futile struggle.

The single most interesting point in this regard to me was in a conversation during a break with a stranger. We were discussing one of the points which the theology professor discussed in the morning presentation: Joel Osteen's Lakeview Church. The wikipedia page says this is the largest church in the country. Their current facility used to be the sports arena that the Houston Rockets basketball team played in before the new and improved and larger Toyota Center. Osteen is also a television star with his own shows and is an author of best-selling books.

The theology professor sees all this as a point of ridicule. Osteen's religion could be described as Christianity stripped of all theological complications. If Catholocism is a fancy French pastry, Osteen's religion is a Hostess twinkie. Osteen does not go into the twisted labyrinths of original sin, the trinity, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, Job, the Parable of ten talents, gnashing of teeth, nothing that would require years of detailed study and careful contemplation to get to the bottom of it. The theology professor sees a religion devoid of content. Joel Osteen sees himself as promoting a religion devoid of confusing and unnecessary detail. God is good. The world is beautiful. Do not trouble yourself and be grateful and be happy.

It turns out the stranger I met and spoke with during the conference break was a member of the Lakewood Church. We had a short but animated discussion of the theology professor's ridicule and my opinion on the matter. The stranger was a psychotherapist. (The conference organizers provided Texas Continuing Education credit which the state licensing board requires therapists to accrue to maintain their practice license--almost everybody at the conference was a professional therapist.) I used a metaphor which my psychotherapist partner liked greatly. I said, "if they sold group psychotherapy in a carton in the pharmacy section at WalMart, it would bear a strong resemblence to what goes on at Joel Osteen's Lakeview Church".

I did not explain, but I feel fairly certain he knew exactly what I was talking about. What would go into this hypothetical carton of group psychotherapy they might sell in the pharmacy section of WalMart?

1.) Your psycho quality of life and your mental health hygeine are mainly influenced by the quality of your relationships.

2.) Be thankful for your friends and relatives and express this to them.

3.) Be generous to your friends and relatives.

4.) Ask your friends and relatives for help when you need it--they will usually be glad to help you and sorry when they cannot.

5.) That is about it. If you have more energy for mental health hygeine maintenence you can fill in with Golden Rule and Ten Commandments and meditation (or prayer).

$19.95 at WalMart or the Lakeview Church and totally free here on my blog!

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.