Archive for June, 2019

Prayer: Ever Had These Questions of Intent, Expectation, and Effect?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

Prayers have been an interesting topic for me over many years. Since I have five years of theological studies, in addition to the five more for my doctorate in Counseling Psychology, I have a thorough background to look at this topic. What are the spiritual and psychological effects of prayer? My Socratic gene continues to ask hard questions to evoke enhanced rational thinking and living.

I am moved to address this topic because of my current cancer condition and the response of many people who have offered prayers on my behalf. An overwhelming number of prayerful love and support have come my way! Cards, phone calls, emails, and social media have sent the message of “I am praying for you”. I am truly humbled and grateful for such solace.

Respected Reader, if you are one of those persons who is praying for someone, what does that mean? Your intent. Certainly it means you care and want the best for that person. Beyond that what is your expectation? Does God need a certain number of prayers for “him” to intercede and heal? If God doesn’t heal, no “miracle” occurs. Does that mean that God didn’t get enough prayers? Or just doesn’t care?

While growing up in my Catholic “bubble” I learned that there are two major types of prayer. One is praise, or worship. Does an all powerful omnipotent God need to be praised? If so, God is not omnipotent. So, why the worship? Trying to get on God’s good side?

The prayer of petition is when people ask for, beg, God to intercede and grant the requests. Does your God receive all these petitions and choose to act on some, and not on others? A theological conundrum perhaps.

If your prayer is not answered, are you one of those who says it is not necessary for us mere mortals to understand the ways of God? “It is all a part of God’s divine plan.” “Not for us to question.” “God needed another angel.” Are Children’s deaths, tornado wipe outs, ugly diseases causing pain and heartbreak to individuals and families really a part of the God of love’s plan?

I write this not from a place of criticism or negativity, rather of wonderment. Basically, what I am asking you, Respected Reader, is what do you mean when you say “I am praying for you”? What is your expectation – belief?

It feels good to say to someone, “I am praying for you”.  Best wishes offered. And, it feels good to be thought of and prayed for. People care. Value in this.

All in all I am grateful for your prayers as well as those who express their support in different words such as “sending healing energy”, “sending positive vibes your way”, or the simple “I love you!” Keep ‘em comin’!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Couples Therapy: Why, When, How, With Whom

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

As significant part of my practice involves couples therapy. It is an aspect that I enjoy, especially if I can meet with a couple before one or the other persons checks out, gives up. While I do divorce mediation also, I would prefer to meet with a couple early on if it has the potential to be a good relationship. It is not easy for two people who have chosen to be a couple to live “happily ever after” on an everyday basis. “Stuff” happens that make couples attack or retreat from each other. Emotional distances arise and make it difficult for a couple to connect. Yet, too often couples do not utilize this marriage saving vehicle, or they wait too late.

WHY do couples need marriage counseling? If a couple has difficulty communicating, making joint decisions, making love,  agreeing on financial issues, parenting together, etc… they would be wise to seek marital counseling. Many issues may exist that trigger anger, fear, sadness, or guilt. An objective voice needs to be introduced to such situations.

WHEN should couples seek marriage counseling? Earlier than they do! Most often couples begin such counseling, if they do at all, later than they should. Much damage has already been done to the relationship. Most typical is that a wife will suggest it and the husband will initially resist and maybe relent later. Sometimes a spouse will not agree to go to counseling.  I ask the willing party to come and see me so that I can empathize, support, and create a strategy to get the reluctant spouse to enter into the counseling process.

HOW does couple counseling work? There are different therapeutic approaches. I share mine. A couple comes in to meet with me and shares each of their unique perspectives as to what is wrong in the relationship. Of course, the problems mostly exist because of the other person! This can be a very heated part of the process. I ask each person to be respectful in the way they present and react to the various accusations. At the end of the initial session I give extensive “homework” for them to do and return to me. Next I meet with each individual separately to help me understand each person’s brain wiring and previous relationship related experiences. Next I meet with them together for the purpose of developing a “game plan”. To make the “game plan” work a few things need to happen. First, and very important, is for each person to own his or her mistakes, ask for and receive forgiveness. Next is a commitment by each to do certain things, refrain from others, while starting to grow closer through better communication. We then meet with some agreed upon regularity to address accountability.



WITH WHOM should couples seek counseling? A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is required here. They are trained in a particular way that they can have the most significant impact on a couple. There are many “counselor” types who have good intentions but lack the necessary training to maximally assist couples under duress. The old adage certainly applies here: “You get what you pay for”.

Respected Reader, I would be interested to be “in your head” when you finish this reading. Does it apply to you and your marriage? Anyone you know that might benefit from being reminded that quality marriage counseling is available? Will you be cutting out this article and giving it to anyone, i.e. spouse, child, friend?

The quality of your marriage affects you in so many ways. It is a major source of happiness or depression. Choose well!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates