When I was in college, I don't think I asked the right questions about what it meant to be a clinical psychologist. I pursued psychology for a host of reasons, I suppose. The desire to figure myself out, insightful and caring faculty, or perhaps a draw to understand people may have been the genesis of the decision. Whatever the reasons, I found myself proceeding in a stepwise fashion from bachelor's to master's to doctorate, all with the intended goal of helping people, but without the needed exercise of introspection. I think I lacked the reasoning required for such self-examination at the time. In particular, I prematurely concluded that the goals of psychology and faith were similar. What I failed to process was that although they both deal with soul care on some level, their methods may be diametrically opposed.
So now I sit, ensconced in my career as a neuropsychologist, pondering. The methods of neuropsychology are different from psychotherapy and are, in many ways, easier to reconcile with faith. Yet, when I work with patients where there is not a clear organic process, spiritual issues often surface. How I deal with those issues as a psychologist is frequently quite different from how I would deal with them as a Christian and therein lies the rub.
I contacted 2 former advisors, Christian psychologists themselves, to seek guidance. The first, my dissertation advisor, directed me to a web resource, which essentially said, the goals of cognitive therapy and Christianity are not contradictory, yet failed to address the issues I struggle with. Next, I sought counsel from my undergraduate mentor as well, and the conversation was much more cerebral and esoteric, as might be expected from someone who studies the psychology of wisdom. I think his perspective is that of an evangelical (I'm not sure he would still describe himself that way) whose systems of thought have morphed over time, such that he is both more reserved and more confident about both his theology and his psychology. In other words, he seems confident in not knowing. He cautioned me against accepting counsel from people who are sure of the truth.
Needless to say, that leaves me in a place of uncertainty regarding the intersection between my faith and my career. I pray for truth. I pray that regardless of the counsel I receive from others, God reveals Himself. I pray for His patience with me and patience with myself. I pray that God provides wisdom to my unsettled soul. I pray that God helps me to ask the right questions even if, for the rest of my life, I never come to know the answers to them.
if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;