Cessel Boyd AKA as “CJ” is a dear friend of mine who like me, is a mental health professional. She is a wonderful Christian counselor and author who is resourceful and kind. She has a gift of counseling people through challenges while using the word of God to help them find their purpose and inner strength. You can’t go wrong having Cessel as your counselor and partnering with her in this journey called life. I was beyond pleased to interview her and share the nuggets she has on mental wellness and how to thrive despite your challenges.
Cessel, thank you for taking time out your busy schedule to talk all things mental health. How do you think counseling has changed since the pandemic and have you seen an increased demand for Christian counseling?
Thank you, Kira, for allowing me this opportunity to have this conversation. I would say counseling has changed due to more therapists are offering virtual appointments and therapy is more accessible. The requests for therapy as a whole increased due to fear of the unknown (COVID) isolation (quarantine) and adjusting to a new way of life.
Tell me what a typical counseling session with you looks like and how you incorporate Christianity into counseling?
Typically, a client requests counseling due to a chief problem or concern. We discuss the chief concern and what ways the client would like to see improvement. I provide psychoeducation on how the client can use their core beliefs to accomplish the desired goals. Clients are taught how to use their core beliefs to challenge cognitive distortions. For example, Isaiah 54:17 says “no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. If a person believes the bible, this scripture can be very powerful in challenging fear-based thought patterns. Focusing on God’s protection can help to reprogram negative thoughts. There is scripture that addresses everything that we encounter.
How is Christian counseling different than pastoral counseling?
Most pastors are not licensed mental health professionals, so their support is limited. Pastors are not able to provide mental health counseling. I provide mental health counseling from a Christian worldview. I utilize Christ centered tools and resources in order to deliver mental health services. I am not an ordained pastor/minister.
I love your book “Jesus cares about your anxiety” and how you use examples of how Jesus experienced anxiety at difficult times during his life. How does anxiety show up for most and what are some things that one can do to combat anxiety?
Most experience anxiety due to cognitive distortions regarding “the worst-case scenario”. The anxiety is triggered by constant worry, “what if” thinking and expecting bad things to happen. Anxiety sufferers tend to think the worst of people, environments, and situations. Not really focusing on what is actually focusing on the facts and reality but the negative picture they have painted in their mind. Developing a lifestyle of mindfulness (present centered, what is actually happening), affirming oneself and expressing gratitude. Learning how to challenge cognitive distortions is key.
I know you had some mental health struggles in your own life. Can you tell us more about that and how you were able to pull through?
Yes, about 15 years ago I had a severe depressive episode, attempted suicide, and ended up in the hospital. I started therapy, medication, and utilized my Christian core beliefs to overcome my depression. I incorporated daily gratitude and affirmations into my lifestyle. I used biblical scriptures to challenge cognitive distortions about self-worth. I actually do what I encourage my clients to do. I spend as much time as possible outdoors when the weather is good. I approached my healing from a wholistic perspective (mind, body, and spirit) and it just became a lifestyle.
What is your biggest challenge being a therapist?
I would say that the biggest challenge is managing the business aspects of being an entrepreneur/practice owner. Serving clients is my passion and isn’t difficult. Building, managing, and growing a business is a different story, LOL.
Your biggest triumph?
My biggest triumph is being told that I saved someone’s life. A client disclosed that prior to starting therapy with me she wanted to end her life. I’m grateful to God that I was able to help her heal.
What population do you work with? Couples? Singles? Children? How do you address people with varying needs?
I personally work with adults and couples. I have therapists on staff who work with children. What I have learned is that if you can help a person reprogram their thought patterns, everything else falls into place. Our thoughts trigger our emotions, and our emotions trigger unhealthy behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on reprogramming those cognitive distortions. Positive thoughts lead to positive emotions and positive actions. I ask the client which concern they would like to address first, and we work on all the desired goal.
How do you feel the healthcare system is doing when it comes to meeting the needs of the mentally ill?
I believe the “Psychology Compact” will be instrumental in the mental healthcare gap. Therapist having the ability to provide services to clients who live in other states where services are limited, will increase the accessibility of mental healthcare.
When it comes to the stigmatism of psychiatric medication, how do you tackle this through Christian counseling?
Providing psychoeducation about chemical imbalances has been helpful. Just like people take medication for hypertension that is not induced by diet. This is hypertension that is hereditary, which cannot be resolved by diet or exercise. We would encourage the person to take their medication in order to regulate their blood pressure and save their life. Taking psychotropic medication is no different. Christians also believe that God is the creator of all things, that means the science necessary for making medicine.
Your Instagram series “Keep your foot on the devil’s neck” is very inspiring. Can you tell those who haven’t seen it more about it and how you came up with the idea?
Well, it has been a fun way of presenting practical mental health tips. I have really enjoyed creating the videos. When we think of any adversary, if we have our foot on the neck, we are in a powerful position, we’re winning the battle. I was inspired to start the daily posts because I wanted to share some of the tools that I present during therapy sessions. It’s my way of reaching more people.
Since we are on the subject of social media, how can people find you if they want to learn more about you and the services you offer:
@cjboydchristiancounseling (on Facebook and Instagram)
For anyone struggling with mental health and not knowing where to turn, what is the very first step (outside of counseling) they can do to help themselves?
It’s important that they know they are not alone. We are all struggling with something, and it is okay to ask for help. All of us have had difficult times in which we needed help for something and as long as we live, we will need the help of others. It would be abnormal if we never needed help for anything. The second thing would be to tell someone safe, someone who has demonstrated care and concern for them. Breaking the silence and telling someone is critical. For an individual struggling with mental health, it is important to start therapy as soon as possible and consult their primary care doctor as well.
Thank you Cessel for an enlightening interview. You are truly an inspiration to all who may be struggling with mental health and losing hope. You are a model of someone in mental health recovery that has now turned their struggle into purpose. I am grateful to hear about your journey as I’m sure all of our readers were as well.
And to my readers…I have one more exciting interview coming up for you. This powerhouse I call “the anchor” helps small businesses like Cessel’s get off the ground. Don’t miss out on this interview later on this month.
After that interview posts, that will conclude our People That Inspire series. I hope you have enjoyed it and I promise to continue to blog and provide you with insight into mental health and developmental issues.
See you soon!