Overcoming Religious Trauma: Connecting Faith & Mental Wellness

Show Notes

I recently had an enlightening chat with trauma and spirituality expert Tina Smith. As someone who has struggled to reconcile my faith with past hurts, I was intrigued to hear her thoughts. Tina shared so many nuggets of wisdom, like how we tend to view mental illness and sin as mutually exclusive. But it’s often our unhealed wounds that lead us into behaviors the Bible defines as sinful. Powerful stuff! She also talked about the neuroscience confirming our need for connection to heal. Even introverts like me need community! Lastly, Tina offered guidance for overcoming religious trauma and finding specialists who can help. I’d love to hear your takeaways too. What resonated with you most? Does anyone have additional resources for religious trauma support? Let me know in the comments!

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Tina’s Links:

Website: http://www.tjscounselling.ca

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tjscounselling/

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TIMESTAMPS:

00:00:00 – Launching a Podcast 

00:00:46 – Trauma and Spirituality 

00:02:32 – Career in Mental Health 

00:05:29 – Integrating Neuroscience and Christianity 

00:09:35 – Challenges in the Church 

00:16:22 – Establishing a Relationship with Jesus 

00:17:21 – Distinguishing Struggle, Mental Illness, and Sin 

00:19:36 – Understanding the Fullness of Depression and Anxiety 

00:23:19 – Accountability and Healing 

00:28:49 – Renewing Minds in Love 

00:32:51 – Overcoming Relationship Trauma 

00:35:22 – Seeking Support for Micro Steps 

00:38:17 – Taking Micro Steps 

00:43:46 – Addressing Religious Trauma 

00:46:30 – Finding Help for Religious Trauma 

00:48:38 – Outreach and Connection to Therapists 

00:49:17 – Accessing Support and Resources 

00:50:29 – Referrals and Connections 

00:51:09 – Contact Information and Book Availability 

00:52:21 – Conclusion and Gratitude

#SpiritualityandHealing

#FaithfullyEngaged

#FindingHopeAfterTrauma

#TraumaTherapy

Transcript:

00:00:09 – Johnny Sanders
Do you enjoy listening to podcasts and think, man, I would like to make my own podcast. This is where I found myself last year, and I have learned a lot about what to do and a lot about what not to do. I’m offering consulting services to help you launch your podcast, especially if you’re looking to make a more christian or conservative based podcast. Find out more information@faithfullyengaged.com I have a link down in the description below if you would like help on getting your podcast started. Well, welcome back, everyone, to faithfully engaged today. My guest knows quite a bit about two things that we don’t always associate with each other, which is trauma and spirituality. And I’m really excited to have this conversation because I think this is something that particularly those on more the christian side, we need to have some better, deeper discussions about this. So, Tina, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, and introduce yourself to the audience?

00:01:13 – Tina Smith
Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for having me. So, of course, everybody knows my name. I’m Tina Smith. I am a registered social worker and psychotherapist, and I’m from Ontario, the province of Ontario, Canada. I am a director of two organizations, actually. I have a private practice named Tina J. Smith and associates counseling and psychotherapy. And then I also have founded a new not for profit charitable organization called Sila Treatment center, which is providing subsidized mental health treatment for people who can’t typically afford more of the private care model, which is insurance and benefits. So I operate that. I’ve been working in this field since 1997, so it’s been quite some time. And I have published my first book, which I’m always excited to be able to share a little bit more about that as well. So that’s who I am.

00:02:12 – Johnny Sanders
Awesome. Well, I wanted to start just a little bit with your career and kind of mental health in general. So I talk often on my podcast here that I’m a licensed professional counselor, and I always like to hear people’s story, kind of what led you into mental health to begin with. So how did that happen?

00:02:34 – Tina Smith
Oh, I love that think. Okay, so I have this story when I was a kid, and honestly, Johnny, I went and I discovered it a few years ago when I was in high school. You know, when we all have to go through high school and we’re trying to figure out, hey, what do we want to do for a living? I knew for probably since I was a little girl that I just wanted to help people, and I had no clue what that looked like I knew I wanted to help people. So, of course, as we’re all kind of navigating those experiences, I volunteered when I was a kid in seniors homes and worked and volunteered in my Sunday school and at my church, and I just continued to try and figure out what that looked like. So in high school, I knew that I wanted to go off to be a social worker. I didn’t understand the expansive area of social work. So as I just kind of continued, the beginning of my career actually was working with what we would call youth in conflict with the law. So anybody who was charged with a criminal offense as a young person. So I actually started my career there, working in the community and in custody facilities. So I was working with a lot of kids who came from tons of trauma. And then it just continued to grow, working with our child protection agency, children’s aid society here in Canada, gaining experience, and it just continued to increase. And I think my biggest desire, and this is where, of course, I’ve landed now, is I believed in the ability of people to change and heal and transform. And when you work in what I would say, the not for profit industry, it’s a very tricky spot to work in because the funds are limited. And I often say it’s more bandage solutions or bandage approaches to healing, and people are often disillusioned by that. And so, honestly, I went into this field in more of a treatment, counseling, psychotherapy place because I really believe, and the science is out there confirming that we can heal as long as we put the work into it, there’s lots we can do to change. So that’s where I am now. It’s been quite a journey to get to this place, though, for sure.

00:04:57 – Johnny Sanders
Great. No, I think it’s always interesting to hear people’s stories because we all come from it in a different perspective. Yeah. This kind of leads well into kind of one of the first questions I wanted to ask you, bringing the spirituality component into this, how do you feel? Like scripture, the Bible, really, just Christianity as a whole, and neuroscience, how do you feel like those two can intertwine together?

00:05:27 – Tina Smith
Oh, that’s such a great question. I think as Christians, we have often ignored the fact of our created design. Right. So many of us, we either feel like we have to pick one camp or the other. There’s a sense that we can’t integrate. And so over the years, as I’ve continued to study and look at research based methods in treatment, I started to see this overlap in neuroscience. And as Christians, when we study the word, and of course, we forget, in the very beginning, the scriptures talk about how we are created in the image of God. And then I always ask these big questions. I can’t help but ask questions such as, okay, if we’re created in the image of God, and if we have a body that can heal itself, we also must been given a brain that can do the very same thing. So I started just digging into the neuroscience research and started to discover terms like, we know neuroplasticity and looking at our nervous system. And I started to unfold scriptures that talk about freedom and healing and setting the captives free and really understanding what that looks like. And that’s where I’ve come to discover there is such a congruency between the neuroscience research and the Bible that we literally could flip it on top of each other. And what the word of God says is being proven by neural. You know, I read this quote, Johnny, years ago, and it said science actually just glorifies God. And I thought that was so profound, because in my mind, when I see the work that we’re doing using neuroscience, that we’re not moving away from the Bible, we’re actually affirming it. And I don’t know how I couldn’t do the work that I do without integrating both of those, because they are in sync with each other. So I’ve seen more change in people’s lives by integrating neuroscience and the word of God.

00:07:35 – Johnny Sanders
Your quote that you mentioned there, I’d mentioned this on a previous podcast episode, my undergrad, I went to Oklahoma Baptist University, and one of their big, I don’t know, mission statements or something like that is all truth is God’s truth. And what you were saying there really fits into that truth. It doesn’t matter what aspect of life it’s in. It doesn’t have to be just a pure religious study. God made it. God is truth. So I think you’re in. That really shows, yeah, God’s beautiful design in our brains even, is seen throughout that research, as well.

00:08:24 – Tina Smith
Yeah. I always say when I work with clients, particularly because I don’t just work with christians, I work with in the non christian community, too. But I often tell christians that when they experience change or they experience something that transforms their life, and I’m using science, I always say, have we really underestimated God’s design, that for many years, we’ve kind of do I say complacency? But I think it’s hard to have moved beyond that if we haven’t understand our human design. And I think neuroscience has almost allowed people or challenged people, that we can’t just stay as we are, that we actually have neuroscience setbacks, that we can’t just. We actually can confirm that we can go so much further in our healing journey than we used to think. Right. So I can’t imagine at this point, as any counselor or therapist, because we’ve got so much more gains to make with the research that’s out there now around neuroscience.

00:09:28 – Johnny Sanders
Bringing this into the church itself. How do you feel? Like the church at times has maybe struggled with helping others and hasn’t really fit their role very well.

00:09:48 – Tina Smith
My experience has been where the church, and I don’t want to say that there’s been an intentionality. I truly just think the church, in the lack of understanding or the lack of education, is that they have done things that, again, not intentionally harmed people. Where my experience with many clients over the years has been the concept that if I just prayed more, if I read the Bible more, then I should see healing in my life. And I have seen more harm come from that. Rather than saying, yes, many of our clients are actually doing those very things. They’re spending time praying, they’re spending time reading their words. And that what the church has ended up doing, often unintentionally, because I think it’s just a lack of information, is they’ve ended up harming people in the church without understanding there’s more to our existence. And that’s where I’ve started to invest in. We forget that the word of God says that we’re spirit, soul, and body. We don’t operate just in the spirit. We have a soul and we have a body that actually is where most of our pain and our hurt stands. But the church hasn’t really understand the fullness of our nature. And again, maybe it’s just taking people asking the right questions to invest more time into understanding that. But I think the church needs to be more informed and educated, and they need more tools and strategies. And I would also add that maybe there’s a consideration that it’s okay for the church to consider that there’s other professionals that have this training, that they can actually be introduced into churches more. Because I truly believe that. I love what pastors are doing, but I believe in, mean, where we’re heading. We really need to understand as a church, as the body of Christ, we need to work together. And if that means bringing in professionals or even referring outside of a church, that that’s okay, that we can still work with pastors, but there might be more information or to bring someone in to do education and to do some training to help the church understand more about people so that people have a voice as well.

00:12:03 – Johnny Sanders
This is going to be an overly generalized question, so I don’t expect you to have the answer for everything. But for general, let’s say you’re consulting with a pastor and they’re like, hey, I want to know more about neuroscience and all this stuff and when to refer out. What would your advice be for maybe a church leader, maybe not even a pastor, but Sunday school leader or something, of when would be the time to maybe look at referring out for somebody that’s dealing with something over their head?

00:12:37 – Tina Smith
Yeah, I mean, that’s such a great question. I would say when they start hearing patterns and say, maybe they’ve suggested, I think just speaking practically, is that, say, a pastor keeps hearing the same story over and over. Many pastors have said to me, Tina, sometimes my congregants come to me about the same things, and it’s almost like they’re stuck. And I would say that’s one of the indicators. If they keep hearing the same pattern, the same stuck moments, that that might be the time and place not to continue to almost repeat yourself as a know, why are you not doing this? Or why are you not reading this? Maybe this is a time that I need to reach out and access a referral support for someone, because my experience is nobody wants to stay stuck. My experience is most people don’t want to stay in a hurt position. They just are often doing what’s familiar to them. And pastors may not understand that maybe there’s something more going on beneath the surface that I don’t actually have an understanding to. It is in that moment that I need to reach out. I would even say that, because I do couples therapy, too, is that sometimes there’s so much more going in the couple’s life, and it could be unresolved trauma that as they’re doing marriage counseling, there might be stuck moments in a relationship that a pastor might have to recognize. Is there something in two individuals that’s converging, that they need more specialized help? So it is stuck points, it is patterns. Even if someone came and said, I have a diagnosis, that sounds pretty. If they’ve seen a psychiatrist or a family doctor and has been presented with a substantial diagnosis, I would say that those are those moments that they should be reaching out to someone who has the ability to work with someone who clearly has a diagnosis, or if there’s concerns around that.

00:14:32 – Johnny Sanders
I think that’s a good answer. There trying to find those broad themes there.

00:14:39 – Tina Smith
Yeah.

00:14:41 – Johnny Sanders
I work often with clients, so I do some work just in kind of a broad, more secular field. And then I have my own specific christian counseling practice and in my own private practice, if they’re coming and they want the christian perspective, we may start there. Like, maybe you aren’t praying enough. Maybe you aren’t reading your scripture.

00:15:03 – Tina Smith
Absolutely.

00:15:04 – Johnny Sanders
That could be there. But, yeah, that doesn’t always solve it all. In effect, what’s interesting, when we dive deeper into that, that’s really not even what scripture is saying either. If it was as simple as just me reading this passage and I just get over everything.

00:15:28 – Tina Smith
That would be amazing. That’s exactly it. Exactly. Well, and it’s funny you said that because how many people come to us and say, I just want to get better overnight, or I just wish I was perfect, and ultimately is, we wouldn’t need Jesus if we could all reach that right where we’ve attained everything. We are now at the cusp of perfection and we’re completely set free. I said, then what is the point of the gospel? So I think we need to put things in perspective as know, Johnny, I love that you did say that, because, you know, we do need to help people understand as christians, we first need to go to the source, which is Jesus. We need to be praying. We need to be going to the word of God. And of course, we need to all speak into that and consider that. I think there’s two sides to that. For those that are doing that, what’s missing, and for those that aren’t doing that, that can be missing. And learning to create and establish a relationship with Jesus is first and foremost. And then we can assess what continues to be reoccurring. And where are those stuck points and patterns in your life?

00:16:46 – Johnny Sanders
This kind of gets me into another rather broad issue here of kind of the difference between maybe just a struggle that I’m having in life. We all have issues that we have to deal with as opposed to a mental illness, like a diagnosis. And I’ll even throw a different category in there, especially in the christian realm of sin. So how can I know if I’m sinning? I’m just going through something or this is a mental illness? Do you have any kind of guidance for us apart from that?

00:17:25 – Tina Smith
Yeah, I think that is so tricky and very complicated because mental illness in and itself can lead us to making choices that result in sin. So I think what I would tell you, it gets really messy, because if we think about someone who has depression in isolation, we know that depression has symptoms of great sadness or despair, but what is in the context of that is depression in isolation. You cannot see depression in isolation, right. So when I work with clients, you’ll often hear stories of, no one understands me. I’m so angry at my spouse, man. I feel bitter about what my parents have done to me in the past. I had a mom or a dad who was also depressed, and I can’t believe this is the way I was raised. And so as you begin to break down the story of depression, it’s not the depression or the attributes of that. It’s what is the story within depression, and that’s where it gets entangled. Right. So when we talk about sin is that we really make it surface level. If we only look at depression, we’re not really understanding the fullness of depression. And I work from understanding how our past fuels a lot of our presenting issues of today. And so a lot of times when you work with trauma or attachment, if we only work at the surface line, if someone comes in with depression or an anxiety disorder, whether it’s post traumatic stress disorder or any of those things, I always tell when I train my therapist. I have a team here. I always say therapists need to become the best historian of your client’s life, because when you become a good historian, what you hear is the stories in the narratives of the past that are often unresolved, which kind of fuel or give depression and anxiety a voice, right. But when we start to heal the story of the past, what we see is depression begins to dissipate. Anxiety begins to dissipate. So then the question of sin is, if we only look at the present day issue of depression, then we can all go around and say, well, I have no sin. I just have mental illness. But that’s where it’s tricky. We have to ask, what are we doing in our diagnosis that could actually be sinful? If I have post traumatic stress disorder and I’m always frightened or I’m scared, am I actually getting angry at someone all the time? Am I vengeful? Am I bitter? Am I resentful? Because we know that as christians, we typically only look at what we would call the big sins, right? As a church, we’re not very good at talking about the little things, like holding on to bitterness. We don’t actually identify gossip as sin. So dare I talk about, like, we’re not just looking at idolatry or sexual sins or any of that. We need to really search our own hearts around those things that, as christians, that we actually are doing within the confounds of our diagnosis. And that’s where it gets really wrapped and entangled. And I would say the christian community says, but I have depression, so how is that a sin? Well, it’s not necessarily depression. That is. It’s what are you doing when you are depressed that opens that door. So that’s where I would challenge the christian community.

00:21:00 – Johnny Sanders
I love the way that you really presented that. I think that’s something that as christians, and honestly, just society in general, starts to become a little more engrossed in depressed language and anxiety and things like that. It’s not like these are new terms, but they’re certainly being understood a little bit on a deeper level, as all things in life that can be entrapped in sin, even good things of understanding what depression anxiety is, we can use that as a crutch of, yeah, I suffer for depression, so that’s not my fault. And I love how you can use that. Send language in there. Yeah, you feeling depressed in and of itself. That’s not the issue. But you can’t just use that to say or do whatever you want. You can manipulate even a struggle you didn’t bring in on yourself. We have a good way of humans to use situations for evil all the time.

00:22:11 – Tina Smith
Oh, my good. We are so good at that. And I think my challenge all the time is that as christians, if our mental illness is the crutch or is holding us back, but yet the scripture says we’re to remain in the vine. We have the gardener who is here to prune us. And what are we being pruned of? Anything that does not grow the fruits of the spirit. So then I have to take, my diagnosis doesn’t matter what it is, and I have to flip it on its head and say, does this reflect, I’m compelled to be pruned and to grow the fruits of the spirit. So if my diagnosis does not reflect a sanctified life of growing and pruning, then I have to say, is there something? Because if I know who God is, right, his character doesn’t change, and I’m created in his image. There’s got to be so much more for me that says that here’s the fruits of the spirit. This is my template. This is my blueprint, so to speak. These are the things that I’m always growing towards. And it’s going to take us until we go to be with the Lord. But this is what I’m working towards. So that almost holds us accountable to saying, I can’t just fall back on my depression as my crutch because I’m actually compelled by this blueprint on who I’m supposed to become. So then it actually means I need to get help. I need to get support. I need to go to my pastor. I need to go see a therapist. I need to do something. Because it’s not that we want to blame people because people go through hurt and there’s harm in this world, but I really want to challenge people to say yes, in spite of the hurt and the pain you’ve gone through, is that as a Christian, we’re still compelled by the word of God to continue to move forward and to be sanctified, to walk and continue to be challenged to heal, because if we don’t, those fruits of the spirit aren’t going to grow. And if they’re not growing, then we’re stuck and we’re paralyzed. Yeah, that’s my challenge.

00:24:16 – Johnny Sanders
I love it, and it’s a challenge. And it’s one where we’re not perfect at. No, it’s kind of a human condition that we tend to yoyo on issues and previous, it was probably more like, hey, mental illness doesn’t exist. Just get over it and move on. We don’t want that. But then we go on the other end, and just now we pacify, and we don’t want that either. We want to recognize, but move forward. And that leads me into on your book, I think just that the title of this fits well of renewing our minds in love. Just tell us a little bit about the book. And started just with the title. I love that title. What does that mean? To renew our minds in love.

00:25:11 – Tina Smith
Yeah. Okay. Johnny. I for years had seen the one most substantial antidote to everybody’s healing is if we look at the source of where people are hurting, where they actually get stuck. I started to notice this pattern, and I think, as I say, everybody’s like, oh, yeah, that’s true. We can go through natural disasters in this world, and they’re hard. Like, whether it’s a house fire, a tornado, or hurricane, and they are hard if we lose things. But my experience in the work I’ve done is when a person harms another person, I can have someone work through a house fire or hurricane or something where that loss is created. But it takes such a long time to work through pain and wounding that’s created by another person, specifically parents. And not that any parent intentionally goes out to hurt their child. But I would say the most difficult thing for people to heal from is experiences in those relationships, which then continues to compound their relationships thereafter. And so what I started to realize is we look at attachment research, we know that is foundational to our healing, then we add trauma onto it. And then if we have trauma in our attachment relationships, that just adds a whole other layer. And as I continued to identify the research and continue to grow in that area, I started to then look at the word of God. So here is the word of God. We were created, designed in relationship with God. His fundamental reason he designed and created us was to love us, to be in relationship with us. That is foundationally who we are to him. And because we couldn’t do it, he gave us his son first because he loved us. And it’s through Jesus in that restoration and the redemption of the cross that is all based on relationship. So when we look at the science behind relationship, and then we take the foundation of our existence around as christians, it is about love and relationship. And we look at the Bible, how many times love is throughout the word of God. And then we look at the research around relationship and what love is. How do we renew our mind without relationship? The foundation of our healing, the antidote to our healing, the renewal of our mind can only happen when we’re connected to another person. And we know that that’s why therapy works. Therapy doesn’t work because I’ve got some specialized training. Sure, that’s helpful, but I believe the stat is like 80% of what we do as therapists is based on the relationship. That alone is what allows people to heal. So we can’t forget if that stat is there. We understand that God created us and designed us because he first loved us and wanted relationship. He gives us a son, that’s relationship. We heal in relation because we’re harmed in relationship. Therefore, we can’t actually heal our mind or our brain without doing. The key ingredient that actually brings healing is relationship through love. So that’s where the title came from, was taking all of that research, understanding the word of God, and understanding that we actually, actually have to be in relationship with people to experience true fullness and wholeness of our healing.

00:28:49 – Johnny Sanders
I love that so much.

00:28:52 – Tina Smith
I give him that fall.

00:28:56 – Johnny Sanders
Something I see often. Now, some of this is a cultural thing. So I’m in Oklahoma and our part of the country here, pretty self sufficient. We don’t have a ton of big cities, lots of country people around farms and things like that. So there’s a lot of independence. And Mike, I don’t think that all independence is a bad thing, but we take that to an extreme end of independence. Like, I don’t need anybody. It’s just me, myself, and I. It doesn’t work. You may think that it works, but it doesn’t.

00:29:44 – Tina Smith
No, that’s right.

00:29:46 – Johnny Sanders
All the time with clients, particularly those that are dealing with depression, say, look, one of the first things you have to do is you have to be around people.

00:29:56 – Tina Smith
Yes, right.

00:29:58 – Johnny Sanders
I’ll even start with them and say, maybe you don’t even go out with a bunch of friends tonight, but go to a coffee shop and there’d be people around. Go to a park and there’s people around. That’s at least a start. I want us to be around friends, but we’re relational creatures, and I’m as introvert as it comes. I love nights alone. I love just being with my family. But absolutely, I need those times out with people. We’re relational people, and we throw in the theology there. God is a relational God. How can we be better if we don’t have relationships? I think you’ve lined out the answers. You can.

00:30:45 – Tina Smith
You can’t. And I would say that one of our assessment tools to know how people are doing is how much they isolate themselves. And I always tell people, we are actually not born or created or designed in any way to be isolated. So what is happening that we are now resorting to isolation? And oftentimes, all of a sudden, it opens people’s understandings. Like, oh, I isolate because I’m afraid to get hurt. I isolate because every time I put myselves out there, someone looks at me strange, or I end up getting rejected again, or you begin to hear the story of, it is just easier to be on my own. I’m like, well, what’s happening in that? It seems easier, but it’s actually not what people want. No one wants to be isolated. Everybody wants to be seen, and everybody wants to be heard. And I always tell people, you know, the greatest two fears of people’s lives? Every human doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what culture you’re from is. No one wants to be rejected or abandoned. And so if you have any of those experiences in your childhood, even if you can’t remember them, that felt sense of rejection. Abandonment is enough to cause someone to choose isolation, because that is the worst human experience and feeling out of anything we could ever experience. And so, of course, we go into self preservation very quickly.

00:32:12 – Johnny Sanders
This leads into another thing that I talk often with clients that have had some type of abandonment, whether they’re a kid, I know with a breakup or something that, yeah, we don’t just make these decisions just because, yeah, I feel like being lonely. There’s that self preservation there. I’ll use language sometimes of like, your brain was really trying to protect you when you were hurt. That’s a good thing. But now you’re not in that situation, so it’s not so healthy anymore. So people that find themselves in that, whether childhood trauma, breakup, or whatever’s going on in their life, what’s kind of your advice or guide for people to get back in the game and to form relationships again?

00:33:07 – Tina Smith
Yeah, and I think that’s tricky. So if I’ve given recommendations, it’s often, what is the thing that you can do that you kind of feel safe doing? And for some people it might be, I might be okay to go to a movie by myself just to be around a group of people, but I can’t see myself engaging and interacting and communicating and sharing things of myself. I’m like, okay, so let’s just begin with doing things on your own. But you’re in a group of setting where there’s groups of people, and maybe your next step is you smile at someone, or maybe it’s those micro steps towards reengaging because no one is, I’m never going to say to someone, okay, so I want you to join a group at your church, and I want you to sit down in a circle and I want you to share everything about yourself. I don’t know that I would do that. I think that’s where we had to be fair with people. And I always say we had to meet people where they’re at. We can’t make people do things that is so beyond where they’re at. We’re just going to set them up to fail, which then reinforces and perpetuates their fear. So it’s like, what can we do today? And for some people it is simple as that. For some people it’s like, oh, maybe I could text someone more often. Like I have this friend, they reach out to me every now and then. I don’t often respond. I feel bad, I feel guilt, which of course only heightens self preservation, because now you’ve got guilt and you’ve got shame. But they might be willing to reach out and text and that might be enough. So I always say start micro and move towards that direction. I think the only other thing I would add is even in those micro things that someone can’t do, and let’s say it’s for someone, they’re not in therapy or they’re not getting help. If even those micro things are really hard, I would say that’s an indicator for you that you might need support because there might be something blocking you from being able to engage in some of those micro things. And I always tell people, because I know there’s probably a big part of you that really wants to be able to do those things, but it feels like there’s something there that’s holding you back. And if that something there that’s holding you back might be something that you could go and get help for. It might get you to the place that I know that you really want to get to, but seems really hard and scary because that’s often what it is. It’s fear, right? It’s just overwhelming fear and I don’t want people to be scared and afraid. So what can we do to at least start working towards that?

00:35:46 – Johnny Sanders
I really like that again because we don’t have to overcomplicate this. I hear that so often, not even just with my clients, just people in general, that I have to go to this next big thing if I’m going to start working out. I got to go to the gym for an hour, five days a week. Oh my goodness. Can you go for a walk more often? Go to the movie, break it down? But do something. We have to be.

00:36:25 – Tina Smith
Do something. You got to set one tiny goal and then eventually you’ll get to the next stage, I think oftentimes. I mean, isn’t it funny though, Johnny, we all look at these pictures and I always use exercise as a good example. We look at the pictures of someone who’s like tons of muscles and we’re like, oh man, I wish I look like that. And I’m like, okay. But I can guarantee that person has probably been working out for years and has been spending a lot of time with a lot of intentionality. And that’s the same reference point for everything. Everything we want to do has to take one small step. So I remember someone telling me this story and I thought it was brilliant. They said, okay. I knew what my goal was. I wanted to be in shape, but I knew I’ve never gone to the gym my entire life. And I knew getting up every morning to go to the gym was just not going to happen for me. So I decided that three days of the week, I’m going to get in my car and I’m going to drive by the gym. And that’s all I did for like three to six months. And I’m like, that’s all you did was gone in my car and I just drove by the gym. That was the micro moment. That was enough to say because after three months of doing that, I started to pack a gym bag and I put my gym bag in my car, and then I started to be intentional with taking my gym bag. I didn’t go into the gym yet. I just took my gym bag now. And then it ended up meaning that that person now was entering the gym because they’ve now gone by the gym with intentionality. They took their gym bag, still didn’t go, and now they’re entering the gym, and now they’re in fantastic shape. But it took all of those little micro things to set something to the point that they can look back and say, yeah, it might have seemed strange to everybody for me to do that. I just knew what my limitations were. And that’s okay as long as there’s something that you’re doing towards that goal.

00:38:17 – Johnny Sanders
I think that’s just a fantastic example because didn’t even step foot in the gym, but was on that path, on.

00:38:29 – Tina Smith
The path, did not step into the gym. And I can imagine that people are like, that is the weirdest thing to do. You’re not even going to the gym. You’re just driving by and the person’s like, yeah, but this is what I can do right now. And at the end of the day, they achieved the goal that they were working towards. And I think that’s what we have to support people in. If family or friends are seeing these things, I think us as family and friends who see someone just doing these tiny little things, we need to come around people and encourage them, even if it doesn’t make sense to us.

00:39:06 – Johnny Sanders
That’s a big piece there, too. I wasn’t even really thinking on that side of things. But I do get the sense that there’s a lot of people that are frustrated, scared, confused when they see a family member that’s just struggling and they don’t know how to help them that support that encouragement at times, especially if they’re reaching out accountability of, hey, you told me you were going to the gym, but you didn’t. What’s up? And doing that in loving ways can really be helpful to people that are trying to make some changes.

00:39:46 – Tina Smith
I agree. Absolutely. And I think rather than making someone feel guilt or you said you were doing this, but what’s up? You’re not really doing this, or are you doing okay today? Like, I noticed you didn’t do the thing that you wanted to do. Are you okay? I think sometimes we forget approach is everything. It’s not nestling. Holding accountability is good. I often talk to family and friends or just people. It’s not that your intention is wrong. It’s like, how did you approach that person? Our language, our tone, our behavior can often cause someone to stumble. And I think we need to all be mindful about how we speak to someone as they’re struggling and trying to move forward in their life. Supportive language does a lot of things for people.

00:40:35 – Johnny Sanders
This brings me into probably the last topic that I wanted to cover with you of bringing back in, really the spiritual side of things with loss and hurt. I know a lot of people have experienced church hurt, just some type of religious trauma. How can people navigate that and heal from a church related trauma or issue?

00:41:06 – Tina Smith
Johnny, I absolutely love this topic because years ago I was brought into a particular community, a denomination, and I started to see tons of spiritual abuse and religious trauma. My greatest concern was this, is that not only were they leaving church, but they started to question God to the point of the existence of God. And I thought, my goodness, as a church, if we are causing so much pain that people end up getting to that place of questioning the existence of God, we as a church, we as the body of Christ, we need to do something very different. So I would say if someone is experiencing that, I would first say people in a church. What I see with religious trauma is that it often happens because of something in their own childhood that ends up showing up as a form of control and manipulation and shows up in abuse that ends up being traumatic. I have often heard where stories were talking about religious trauma. I have never not heard some generational story of abuse that has then ended up becoming religion, has become a use or a way to assert their own suffering story. So it ends up becoming control and abusive not because it’s about the religion or because it’s about the Bible. It just becomes a weapon because of someone’s own unresolved issues in their past, in their childhood. So if we can one understand that there is a story way before religious trauma, that if it’s a leader in the church that’s resorting to that type of control or abuse in any way, is that there’s something there. It’s not because God got it wrong. As humans, we get it wrong. It’s then if someone has experienced that and they’re actually wondering and they’re concerned, is this religious trauma? I would say, and encourage everyone to reach outside of your church to get help. What I’ve noticed is anybody who’s really experienced that type of, whether it’s spiritual abuse or religious trauma, is that within the church, it feels very scary. And they’re often not able to access that type of help in their church. And I would really challenge anyone is to find someone who understands spiritual abuse and religious trauma to reach outside to a specialized trauma therapist. Because what the church doesn’t understand is that type of trauma doesn’t look any different on the brain, as if someone was physically abused, sexually abused, domestic violence, it looks the exact same on the brain. And I think because we’re starting to understand religious trauma, that it actually, if we were to do an MRI and actually see where the different parts of the brain are lit up, we’re understanding that post traumatic stress disorder from religious trauma is a real thing. And so we need to access more support. And the church has to change. God doesn’t have to change. That’s not what he has ever anticipated. And I would say there’s a rise, but I would also say that we’re becoming more educated, informed, informed about how this is actually a thing in our churches. And people actually need intensive therapy to be able to, because it reaches so far. And this is the pattern and theme is that God is used almost as a way to keep people in line and out of anything in this world. You can escape God, right? If they’re using any type of religious or spiritual abuse. If I’m in my home and I do something wrong, I’m going to get the wrath of God and he’s going to come down and punish me. And that type of mentality, you can’t escape that. At least if you were in a domestic violence situation, you could go to a women’s shelter. You could go to a shelter of somebody you can’t escape. And that’s the harm, is that people are feeling so overwhelmed. And we as the church, we need to do better than that, and we need to really reflect the heart of Christ. I mean, the Bible says if you know the son, you know the father, they’re the same spirit, right? And so as a church, if we don’t understand what religious trauma looks like or how spiritual abuse is actually causing harm to people, what that looks like, and then going to the next step and saying, oh, my goodness, if I’ve ever been a part of that, I need to openly apologize to people. And those who’ve been under that harm do need to access help.

00:46:04 – Johnny Sanders
On that last piece of access help. I know you mentioned getting somebody that specialized in trauma, things like that. Do you have any recommended resources or things that somebody that’s been involved in a religious trauma situation, like how they can reach out for help in a situation like that.

00:46:30 – Tina Smith
I would say that when we look at, if I can just talk specifically about models of care, because then it would mean that they would find someone within this. We know that religious trauma, we can’t talk our way out of trauma, right. We can’t use that part of our brain to help fix what’s going on. Because even with religious trauma, it’s so messy and it’s so confusing that when we try to use our thinking brain to try and fix it, it actually makes it really messy. So when I encourage people to look for help, I’m really challenging people to consider that you got to look for things that we would consider somatic type therapies, because trauma is often, it is held in our body, it’s in our nervous system, and it’s a different part of our brain. We need to work with therapists that understand those therapies, like EMDR, somatic experiencing, whether it’s sensory processing, those type of models that really get in behind the trauma to help process through it. So then if someone’s looking for someone, I would say they need to research someone that has that type of training. I know my practice. We spend a lot of time helping people. We are foundationally attachment and trauma based therapy because we believe in getting to the roots of all of our suffering. And I would say in general, that’s what I would encourage people to do, is to look for therapists trained in those type of models, particularly within, with trauma and attachment.

00:48:02 – Johnny Sanders
No, I think that’s good because it’s important for people to kind of have some ideas. I mean, obviously, you’re not going to know every single therapist and every single person’s hometown, but some ideas of how they can direct themselves to find some help. And also, again, for people that maybe have a family member that’s dealing with religious trauma or any other type of traumas of different places, that we can maybe direct them to get them some help.

00:48:38 – Tina Smith
Yeah. And I mean, for those that are in our area in Ontario, Canada, they can certainly reach out to us. I would even suggest that if people are not in our area or connected somewhere else, that we would certainly be happy to look and help people be connected to a therapist. So people can google us. You just have to Google Tina J. Smith and associates counseling and psychotherapy. They can check out our not for profit organization, which is Sila Treatment center. So. S-E-L-A-H. Even if you google those, it’s going to come up. And on even our website, people can text us and the texting information is right on that website. You can use the email contact form. Our email is on that website as well. And I think the biggest thing I can do also for people is if they connect to us and they’re like, hey, I’m in this location. Do you know someone that’s local? They could certainly reach out to us and we can help connect them to people. And I think that’s probably the best resource is just to be able to help connect people to the right person. And then I always say, you got to try two or three sessions to know if it’s a good connection. I always add that piece.

00:49:55 – Johnny Sanders
Yeah, I love that. That’s actually one of my favorite things to do when I have people that are out of state or something that want to connect with me. I really enjoy searching out for those referrals and finding people that fit for them. Most counselors are that way. I’m not going to say I don’t know every counselor, everybody that’s involved in that, but typically we have ways to connect with different people.

00:50:27 – Tina Smith
Yeah, we have ways, don’t we? And I will go from one person to the next until I find, like, okay, I found you someone. I know that we’re all on servers and different connection groups and stuff like that. So sometimes for people, if they say, do you know someone in this area? I know my groups. I’m a part of that. If they really want someone in person, then I can go on those groups and say, I’m looking for a therapist that has this belief, is trained in this. Do you know of anybody? And I mean, that’s what’s great about our circles. So I’m happy to be that resource for people.

00:51:02 – Johnny Sanders
Excellent. Well, we’re kind of on the topic of being able to be in touch with you. How can people be in touch with you after the show? And also, where can they pick your book up at?

00:51:18 – Tina Smith
Yeah, so people can reach out. I can leave everybody my email, which sometimes can be tricky to hear, but it’s my first name, so Tina and then the at sign and then tjs counseling. And because I’m in Canada, it’s two L’s, not one l, and then it’s ca. So Tina, at TJscounseling CA, you can access that on our website as well, which is ww dot tJscounseling, two L’s, ca again, you can google Tina J. Smith and associates counseling and psychotherapy and then my book, you can access that on Amazon. It’s right there to purchase. It’s both on Amazon.com and Amazon Ca. And then, of course, it’s called renewing our mind in love.

00:52:09 – Johnny Sanders
Excellent. Well, I’ll have all that information linked down in the show notes as well, so you guys can check that out. And Tina, it was absolutely great getting to chat with you on here.

00:52:19 – Tina Smith
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It was nice chatting with you, too.00:52:24 – Johnny Sanders
Absolutely. And thank you to everybody that tuned in today. And I’ll catch you on the next.