Let’s start by calling out the elephant in the room. What on earth is psychology and why is it relevant for you? If you live in a non-western country, you might have never really heard anything about psychology, let alone met a psychologist. For others, the first idea that comes to mind might be an inpatient psychiatric ward with wild-eyed people hearing voices and doing strange things. Or you might imagine a couch with a patient staring at the ceiling and a therapist with thick-framed glasses sitting on a chair next to him scribbling on a notepad. Whatever your first association may be, there is probably a decent chance that the second thought that comes to mind is, “Not for me!”
There are deep-rooted stigmas surrounding problems with mental health. Many of them are driven by the fear of something disturbing and unknown. You might have seen it in a family member who abused alcohol or in a friend who committed suicide. If you are honest you might have wrestled with it yourself – that time of paralyzing depression, those disturbing eruptions of rage, those secret eating binges.
Like some Christian believers you might also wonder, “What do we need psychologists for? Isn’t the Gospel of Christ a sufficient remedy for emotional distress and problematic behaviors?” Sure enough, there were no psychologists in the early church, and Jesus expelled demons rather than prescribing medication. And yet, you might also find yourself mystified why congregations of well-meaning followers of Christ erupt in hateful conflict, or why devoted pastors have affairs or end up in burnout. Wherever you may stand, I encourage you to approach this course with an open mind and a readiness to perhaps be surprised what there is to learn from that seemingly unholy Samaritan of psychology.