Floyd Godfrey, PhD


Forms of Denial and Mental Health: Overcoming Barriers in Christian Culture

Floyd Godfrey, PhD

Understanding Denial in Christian Contexts

In Christian circles, mental health often becomes entangled with spiritual practices, sometimes leading to significant forms of denial that prevent individuals from seeking professional help for their struggles. Several forms of denial—minimization, rationalization, intellectualizing, blaming, and ignoring—are not just psychological defenses but also cultural phenomena that have profound implications on the well-being of believers.

Minimization: Underestimating the Problem

Minimization involves downplaying the severity of one's issues, often perceived as mere spiritual shortcomings that can be overcome with more prayer or faith. This view can lead to serious conditions being overlooked or untreated, as the sufferer might believe that acknowledging a mental health problem indicates a lack of faith or spiritual failure.

Rationalization: Justifying Inaction

Rationalization allows individuals to justify their lack of seeking help by aligning their suffering with divine purpose or will. This form of denial manifests in beliefs such as “God is testing me” or “This is my cross to bear,” which can prevent individuals from acknowledging the need for professional intervention.

Intellectualizing: The Trap of Overthinking

Intellectualizing involves detaching from the emotional aspect of one's struggles by focusing excessively on theological or biblical explanations. While theological reflection is vital in Christian life, over-intellectualizing can serve as a barrier to addressing the emotional and psychological roots of one's distress.

Blaming: Misplaced Accountability

Blaming others or external circumstances for personal struggles can be particularly prevalent in close-knit church communities where personal issues might be publicly scrutinized. This can lead to a cycle where the true underlying mental health issues are never addressed, as the individual feels victimized by their environment rather than empowered to seek help.

Ignoring: The Silence of Dismissal

Perhaps the most common form of denial, ignoring the issue altogether, is prevalent in environments where mental health is stigmatized. The fear of stigma can lead many to suffer in silence rather than risk the potential social repercussions within their church community.

Encouragement for Help

Overcoming these forms of denial requires a compassionate understanding that mental health issues are not a reflection of one's spiritual worth or fervor. It is essential for church leaders and the wider Christian community to foster an environment where seeking help is seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Pastors, priests, and church volunteers are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between spiritual support and professional health care, encouraging those suffering to seek the comprehensive help they need.

In embracing both our spiritual beliefs and the advancements in mental health care, we can offer a more holistic approach to healing and well-being within the Christian community. Recovery is not just possible but is a testament to the strength and resilience of our faith in action.

Floyd Godfrey, PhD is a Board Certified Christian Counselor and has facilitated groups within different churches and denominations over the past 30 years. He worked as a licensed counselor for 23 years and provided supervision and training for other counselors as they worked toward independent licensure. You can read more about Floyd Godfrey, PhD at www.FloydGodfrey.com.


Fill Out Form
Would you like to speak with Floyd Godfrey, PhD?