Common Questions and Answers
Concerning Edward Hersh and Counseling Ministry
What is your mission?
To provide a safe, confidential, and supportive environment for growing personally, spiritually, and relationally.
Based on your training and experience, what type of situation(s) and person(s) do you believe you can help the most?
I enjoy working with both individuals and couples. I have experience working with people struggling with various addictions, depression and anxiety, eating disorders, loss and grief, trauma, crisis of faith, gender issues, marriage issues and other relationship problems.
I have also had in-depth training and experience in healing prayer ministry working with people overcoming emotional woundedness caused by serious trauma, abuse, grief and severe loss (including post abortion grief).
I have been able to help a number of growing and hurting church leaders, pastors, and missionaries. Some face burnout while others are in the lonely place of needing to be strong for other people while not feeling they have anyone with whom to share their deep personal struggles. These individuals often have no one in whom to confide when they feel betrayed by those they are trying so hard to serve. Mediating solutions between conflicting parties facing serious differences is also an area I am able to address.
What special areas of experience or background do you bring to the counseling process?
My years of life experience is probably one of the greatest assets I bring to the counseling arena. As a husband of one wife since 1980 and the father of three natural born children and one adopted child, I have experienced joys and sorrows in relating to people in family life, employment and other social contexts. Having been raised in a Christian family and having been in leadership roles for many years, I have experienced many realities common to church life. In the 90's I received a great amount of personal healing through the Elijah House teaching with John and Paula Sandford. I answered the call to counseling ministry by first getting a formal degree, an MA from Regent University. I went on to complete a Doctorate from Trinity Theological Seminary with a concentration in biblical counseling and conflict management.
I completed a three year long dissertation project on the topic of forgiveness. I authored a book (based on the research material) called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart. The themes discussed in this book are central to inner person change and the core of growing personally, spiritually, and relationally.
I have supported pastors and missionaries for counseling in church settings. I have worked alongside medical doctors to provide faith-based mental health and addictions treatment in a clinical setting. My wife Stephanie and I operate Blue Rock Bed and Breakfast. A significant part of my professional counseling work is in the nonclinical BnB setting with my wife involved as well.
In addition, I have been faced with the challenges of daily overcoming a permanent physical disability. Severely sight-impaired since birth, I cannot participate in certain activities many take for granted. A positive outcome of consistently enduring trying circumstances is a closer identification with other people's pain and suffering. I experience a deeper level of understanding and empathy for my clients' experiences, than I would had I not been forced to grapple so intensely with the weakness of my own human condition.
What is your general approach to counseling?
Everyone can benefit from counseling at one time or another in their life. Seeking help in dealing with life's difficult circumstances does not make one a failure or mentally ill. Counseling should not be something of which to be ashamed or afraid. The more desirous one is of freeing himself or herself from the burdens of their heart, the more useful they can become to others in the world around them.
Counseling is simply a process whereby the counselor helps the counselee walk through some basic steps of evaluating events in their life. These steps include, to first discover the real source of the difficulty (which may not always be the problem on the surface), then look at various options for dealing with the difficulty, and then walk the path of change to an outcome of freedom. When left to our own human nature, we often become very good at hiding and disguising our deepest motivations (even from our own consciousness), we convince ourselves we are doing great when we really are not, and consequently become stuck in patterns and behaviors which trap us and destroy our peace.
I view my role as a counselor as that similar to an optician. My aim is to help the counselee look at situations through different lenses, scopes and magnifiers. Cloudy or blurred images can be brought into focus with the help of visual aids. By altering perception, a new perspective is attainable. And with a new perspective, change is achievable. My aim is not necessarily to provide answers but to help guide the way to new avenues where satisfactory answers can be found. My perspective is a Christian world-view.
Does counseling always make things better?
You've heard the phrase, "no man is an island." An individual who changes his or her beliefs and actions is naturally going to effect change on those around him. His family, friends and co-workers may or may not respond positively to the change. Most times the "'system" or sphere in which a person lives, may also need to change. For example, one individual in a family who makes an adjustment of behavior, may require other individuals in the family to make adjustments as well. Other family members may not be ready or willing to make necessary adjustments. Thus it may sometimes appear as though things for an individual are moving in reverse while in fact things are moving forward for that person. Change in a good direction can be, by nature, painful and uncomfortable. Transformational healing will always eventually make things better.
What if counseling hasn't worked?
The best way I can answer this is to quote a story printed in Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work: 101 Stories of Courage, Compassion, and Creativity in the Workplace, c1996, edited by Jack Canfield et. al. on p51.
"Thank You for Believing Me Well"
"The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes." Marcel Proust
"As a young social worker in a New York City psychiatric clinic, I was asked to see Roz, a 20-year-old woman who had been referred to us from another psychiatric facility. It was an unusual referral in that no information was received ahead of her first appointment. I was told to "play it by ear," and to figure out what her problems were and what she needed.
Without a diagnosis to go on, I saw Roz as an unhappy, misunderstood young woman who hadn't been listened to in her earlier therapy. Her family situation was unpleasant. I didn't see her as disturbed, but rather as lonely and misunderstood. She responded so positively to being heard. I worked with her to start a life worth living- to find a job, a satisfying place to live and new relationships. We hit it off well, and she started making important changes in her life right away.
The records from the previous psychiatric facility arrived a month after Roz and I began our successful work together. To my complete surprise, her records were several inches thick, describing a number of psychiatric hospitalizations. Her diagnosis was "paranoid schizophrenic," with a comment on her being "hopeless."
That had not been my experience with Roz at all. I decided to forget those pieces of paper. I never treated her as if she had that "hopeless" diagnosis. (It was a lesson for me in questioning the value and certainty of diagnoses.) I did find out about the horrors for Roz of those hospitalizations, of being drugged, isolated and abused. I also learned a lot from her about surviving such traumatic circumstances.
First Roz found a job, then a place to live away from her difficult family. vAfter several months of working together, she introduced me to her husband-to-be, a successful businessman who adored her.
When we completed our therapy, Roz gave me the gift of a silver bookmark and a note that said, "Thank you for believing me well."
I have carried that note with me and I will for the rest of my life, to remind me of the stand I take for people, thanks to one brave woman's triumph over a "hopeless" diagnosis."
Are you a licensed professional counselor (LPC)?
My title is not LPC, but I am a Board Certified Christian Counselor (BCCC), through the Board of Christian Professional and Pastoral Counselors (PCPPC). I am also an ordained minister credentialed through HarvestNet International. I maintain memberships in the Ammerican Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and the Christian Association of Psychological Studies (CAPS).
What makes you different from a state certified practitioner?
Although my training and methodology is professional, it does not involve a purely clinical approach. I do not diagnose mental illness, for example, and I do not perform psychological examination and assessment. For these types of services I would need to refer you to an alternate practitioner. I do however, accept counselees who have previously been formally diagnosed or are currently seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist.
A major difference involves payment for services. Without state certification, I cannot accept third party insurance company payment arrangements. However, what I charge is as much as 75% lower than the hourly fee for most clinical mental health services.
Besides a much lower cost, another advantage of non-clinical, professional pastoral counseling is the absence of the need to label or diagnose a condition in order to receive treatment. In my opinion, labeling sometimes has the tendency to complicate the recovery process as demonstrated in the example above in the answer to the previous question. However, I welcome the opportunity to work alongside a medical treatment model.
What ethical standards govern your practices?
I actively seek to maintain the highest ethical standards according to the Scriptures, the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), and where the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines apply. I make every effort to pursue the highest level of integrity and honesty in my personal life and with others. I maintain accountability relationships with pastors and professionals.
In counseling sessions, consent must be obtained from the counselee before engaging in counseling techniques. Confidentiality must be honored in the strictest way possible in order to build trust and allow for the greatest growth and change to take place. Confidentiality may be breached in things the law may require, such as the imminent threat to human life and child abuse.
What is your ultimate goal in the treatment of individuals?
The Westminster Confession of Faith Shorter Catechism says the chief aim of man is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." When the first sin was introduced into the world by Adam and Eve, it left its curse on every person born into the human race until the end of time. Each of us is born with a distorted view of God and our fellow man. We are by nature selfish creatures. Although our loving God accepts us as we are, our selfishness can create some enormous problems when trying to relate to a God and to other human beings who tend to be selfish also.
Our goal should be to become more God-oriented in our beliefs, motivations, and behaviors. Therefore the ultimate goal is to help a person gain a clearer and more accurate picture of who God really is. At first, this may seem like a ridiculously high and lofty goal. I am not saying we should ignore immediate issues at hand, but gaining God's perspective (outside of ourselves) on these issues will make all the difference. God's love is limitless, and His mercy is selfless.
How would you describe your theoretical base (the way you approach
Each person is a unique expression of God's creative design. No single approach can be applied to every individual with the same results. Therefore, I would consider myself eclectic in approach, drawing from cognitive, experiential and other methods as needed. All method are based on Christian values.
How does your Christian faith express itself in methodology?
In God's original design, we were created to be "whole" in body, mind and spirit. Because of our fallen sinful nature we are no longer whole or complete. In fact, the Bible says we are spiritually dead in our transgressions and sins. Since we are spirit-beings, we need God's Spirit to breathe life into our spirit. So, first, God is the source of wholeness for our entire being. Any methodology must line up with God's standards.
Our behavior springs from one of two basic modes of operation -- mind or heart. Problems arise when our motivations are improperly balanced between the thinking and feeling modes. Focusing too much on cognitive solutions results in fruitless striving and self-effort. Focusing too much on inner feelings and desires results in trying to satisfy those desires with counterfeit affections. So, secondly, to maintain balance, methodology must address both mind and heart.
Man has a soul to bring these two together. It is the Spirit of God living within us that reveals areas of thinking and feeling which are out of alignment with God's plan and purpose. Counseling involves adjusting the belief system to more accurately reflect God's truth. It also involves working through feelings and emotions which may be blocking or choking the truth.
Our belief system is shaped in our earliest years of childhood. An abusive father may consistently tell his daughter, for example, that she is worthless and no good. She grows up believing this, and not even aware of what she is doing, she seeks and marries a husband just like her father. She comes for counseling because the situation in her marriage becomes more difficult to handle. She may be very successful in her career and have many credentials to prove to her mind that she is not worthless and no good, but her heart is surreptitiously seeking the 'no good' experience (because that is what she knows and feels 'comfortable' with). This person, in my belief, needs more than cognitive therapy to change her thinking processes, but she also needs a change in her heart to heal the past experiences which are causing the emotional pain in her present circumstances. To receive genuine freedom, this may perhaps require forgiveness of her father (not excusing what he did) and perhaps some other Christian interventions which are not possible in her own strength, but only with the help of God in her life.
What role does your Christian faith play in the counseling process?
Everything! I do not force Christianity (or anything for that matter) on anyone. However, my faith in Christ as the redeemer of my naturally sinful condition, translates into a personal relationship with God which carries through all aspects of my life. I love my God because he first loved me. I love and care for my counselee because God first loves and deeply cares for him or her.
Prayer invites God's authority and power into the process, therefore I pray and welcome the counselee to pray when this is acceptable to him or her. The Bible is the written word through which God speaks to us, so at times I also use the Bible in the process. The Bible also provides truth which is practical and applicable to circumstances we face in life.
What causes change and growth in individuals?
Relating to a personal God. Only God can deeply change, grow, redeem, restore, recover and heal. As a counselor, my work is minimal in comparison to God's work in a person's life. I view myself as a facilitator. Anything I have to give in the counseling process, is something I have already received from God.
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." For change and growth to take place, we must first welcome it as a way of life. The process of replacing old patterns with new ways of thinking and acting, will continue as long as we are alive.
What is your view of non-Christian or so-called secular counseling?
I suppose the word incomplete would describe it. Most of nonChristian-based counseling focuses on gaining insight into problems and adjusting negative behavior patterns. I'm certainly not opposed to gaining deeper understanding and changing behavior for the good. However, because counseling without God at the center may not address what I believe to be the core issues in life, gaining knowledge and changing external appearances becomes limited in effectiveness. Psychology without theology, in my opinion, merely identifies the problems without providing lasting solutions. Much progress in the right direction may be possible, but the spiritual void cannot be filled without inviting God into the process.
I welcome any opportunities to work with professionals who may not agree with this opinion. If I can assist with the spiritual aspects of a client's health or offer services in a religiously congruent manner with the client's beliefs, I am glad to do so.
Note: The remaining questions center around specifics of Christian beliefs. If this topic does not interest you, you need to read no further.
Should Christians only consult Christian counselors?
I believe that a Christian seeking help with a problem should first seek, and ideally find, the help he or she needs within the Church (as opposed to seeking and finding help outside of the church). I believe a trained professional counselor like myself is equipped to serve most of the types of needs that arise. Counseling is more of a 'soul shepherding' ministry than a mental health service. Certainly there are some cases that need a higher degree of professional help and referrals should be made in these cases. However, pastors and church leaders, in my opinion, should be seeking resources as much as possible in the 'soul care' category when looking for help. I believe as our world becomes more desperate because of a greater quantity and intensity of need, this will become an issue of larger scope as people look to the Church for solutions. It is my desire to be available to assist with this 'soul care' ministry.
What is your definition of a Christian?
One who trusts in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of
eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 10:9,10).
What faith confessions do you hold?
Matthew 22:37-40 "Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The Westminster Confession of Faith is an excellent doctrinal statement.
What is your church background?
At birth my parents were attending a small nondenominational church. During my childhood we attended several others like it and in my early teens we became involved at an Assembly of God church in Shrewsbury, PA. After college my wife Stephanie and I became involved as founding members with a new church in Lancaster, PA called Lancaster Covenant Church (LCC). LCC is a New Testament government style church which we were involved with about thirteen years. We have been involved with the Vineyard church. First in Virginia Beach, VA for about two and a half years and a new church plant in Lancaster, PA. I have a seminary degree from a school with Reformed theological views. My theology and experience is very broad. We are currently members of a non-denominational church in the City of Lancaster.
How would you describe your relationship with God?
My heart yearns for an ever deeper relationship to experience more of the love of the Father, the obedience of His Son, and the Power of His Spirit. My desire is for more intimacy with the Father. I wish to be more like Christ, experiencing His love and sharing it with others. I also wish to walk a more Holy Spirit empowered life.
Theological/ Personal convictions:
Forgiveness is a gift. Forgiveness is at the heart of transformation and sanctification. Christ forgiving us gives us the power to forgive others. Forgiving our offender releases God's supernatural power to work peace into the situation. Forgiveness does not mean sweeping offenses under the rug (so to speak), but openly acknowledging the need for Christ's work on the Cross to accomplish forgiveness in the deepest part of our heart. Unforgiveness towards God, ourselves, or another person (1 or more of these 3) feeds into the root cause of almost every relational issue we face.
God is a God of community. Healing is all about relationship; relationship to God and relationship to other people. It is in relationship that a person is hurt, therefore, it is in relationship he or she is healed. Often it is the closest relationship in a person's life which wounds him or her in the deepest way. Depending on the degree of woundedness, sometimes a person may need more than the support and encouragement of a counselor to pull through the struggles.
As a counselor, I realize that I am only one of a number of resources which must be available to a counselee for long term growth and health. Whenever possible, I welcome working with a pastor, church leader or prayer partner as a team to help a counselee. As a male counselor, I am sensitive not to allow an unhealthy emotional attachment with a female counselee to develop.
There are depths in our heart that can only be accessed through brokenness. Brokenness is not being sad about how bad things are (or could be), but it is an awareness of an awesome God's presence in the midst of life's deepest valley(s). Isaiah 66:2 says that God esteems "the humble and contrite in spirit." In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul says, "for when I am weak, then I am strong." God's strength is perfected in human weakness and brokenness before him. Even when we do everything right according to 'the Book' things may not always go our way or even the 'right' way. God is still sovereign; nothing escapes his notice; and justice is in his hands. A broken heart is a heart that knows this truth experientially.
Our goal should not be to erase history. The events of the past cannot be changed, but our perspective on the events can change. In the book called Transformation of the Inner Man by John and Paula Sandford on page 11 they write, "Christian healing comes then not by making a broken thing good enough to work, but by delivering us from the power of that broken thing so that it can no longer rule us, and by teaching us to trust his righteousness to shine in and through that very thing."
I do believe in absolute truth. God's truth is the only absolute truth.
Men and women are created equal, but not the same (with equal worth but not fulfilling the same function). There are unique characteristics of maleness and femaleness.
In Ephesians 5:21-33 husbands and wives are described in two separate categories, but both commanded to submit 'to one another.' The husband's role is designed for headship, but headship in the sense that he is leading the way in his example of submitting to Christ and being like Christ (humble, least, last, poor, not using force, laying down his life, not lording it over and loving). A wife's role is described as submitting to Christ in this way also and to encourage her husband and be a helpmeet. A husband's role is to put his wife first in all things (above career, ministry and all other relationships) and the wife's role is to put her husband first in the same way.
Sex is a gift from God and God has given us guidelines for sexual intercourse. Premarital, extramarital, and same-sex sexual relationships are all outside of these guidelines. “Safe sex” is reserved for the covenant of monogamous marriage relationship. The only safe sex is chaste sex. I like the word chastity (as opposed to abstinence) because it reinforces God's design for sexual relations in the covenant of marriage.
God hates divorce. Reconciliation is always the goal. Adultery and abandonment (or abuse) are the only biblical grounds for divorce, but divorce should be considered only after all possibilities for reconciliation have been exhausted in these cases also. When physical harm is occurring (abuse), separation is allowable. Otherwise separation is not advised.
Scripture permits remarriage after divorce if an unbelieving spouse committed adultery or abandoned the believing spouse. For divorce outside of these cases, remarriage should not be considered. By all means, the counselee's issues which contributed to the divorce should be explored and dealt with. Then reconciliation should be pursued.
The sanctity of life is violated when the life of a pre-born child is aborted. I believe that life begins at conception. I also believe that the beginning and end of life should be in God's hand and not man's. An abortion-minded counselee should be educated on the many options available for giving the baby life and for receiving help to handle the situation with dignity for everyone involved. A person who may have aborted a child in the past should be unconditionally accepted and helped to understand God's wealth of forgiveness available for the receiving.
Note: If you have a question related to counseling ministry which was not addressed by the topics above you can email it to me at Edward.firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to answer it for you.
Edward Hersh earned his M.A. in Human Service Counseling from Regent University School of Psychology and Counseling in 2001. Ed completed a Doctor of Religious Studies (DRS) program in 2010 at Trinity Seminary. The concentration was in Biblical Counseling and Conflict Management. Edward received the Outstanding Student Award in his program of study at Regent University. Ed has completed both basic and advanced level training in TheoPhostic and Elijah House healing prayer ministry.
Dr. Hersh and his wife Stephanie (married since 1980) are parents of four adult children and have been active in various community organizations and active in local church ministry in various capacities throughout their lives. Together they have been active in the pro-life movement, having counseled women in all stages of choosing alternatives to abortion, including post-abortion counseling. Together they co-founded and directed a ministry to encourage youth to choose chastity.
Vocationally, after 17 years in software development, Ed transitioned into instructing blind and visually impaired persons in the use of adaptive computer technology. Since 1999, Ed has expanded the pastoral counseling ministry. He authored a book, trains people in transformational healing, and works with pastors and missionaries in their churches and on the field. He blogs regularly at: http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com .
Ed and his family operate Blue Rock Bed and Breakfast at 72 Blue Rock Rd., Millersville, PA http://bluerockbnb.com . More about the pastoral counseling and healing ministry is at: http://healing.bluerockbnb.com