A Model for Treating
on the Mount
A Bit More about...
Dr. James G. Friesen
If life is a journey, then we are all right in the middle of one. Here are some snapshots that illuminate a few stretches of my journey.
While my education was underway, the school years seemed as though they would never end, yet now it seems they were so brief. Even if we never cease to learn, the seeds planted while in school may some day flourish. Here are the places where my seeds were planted.
Fresno found me receiving two degrees. First came a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and in Religion from Fresno Pacific University, and I included a year of study in Germany. What a challenge, but what a privilege it was to study in the German language and to live in a German dormitory, while at a German University. Back in America I worked for a few months in a Psychiatric Hospital, and knew right away that this is the profession for me. I soon pursued a Master’s degree in Psychology from California State University Fresno.
Then it was off to Pasadena, for a Master’s degree in Theology and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Fuller Theological Seminary Graduate School of Psychology. Those Pasadena years filled me with a certainty that when we seek answers we will find more questions. The psychological, theological and interpersonal worlds never cease to beg for more study. There is too much to learn in a lifetime. We must be satisfied to love discovery, and to learn about what God’s light is revealing in each of those areas.
Following two years of internship training in Child Guidance Clinics, I continued my work in the Pasadena Child Guidance Clinic for two post-doctoral years. Upon gaining my license as a psychologist, the doors opened up for me to join the Shepherd’s House Counseling staff, where I served from 1981 to 2001. After the Van Nuys Branch of Shepherd’s House closed, I continued my clinical work, writing and speaking, all of which were spurred along at Shepherd’s House.
It seems God provides an abundance of areas to study. Following my Child and Family Therapy training, I was led to work with Spiritual Warfare (SW), Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It seems that each of these areas needs extensive training, and can easily become controversial. Even so, SW, DID, SRA and PTSD share something quite profound – they involve serious human suffering. It takes the grace of God to find resolution for suffering. Even if help is not guaranteed, God’s intent is to bring people out of suffering, so they can live more richly and in His presence. Getting familiar with suffering, and with God’s sovereign way of helping people through it, has been a career-long learning curve. Perhaps teaching about what I have learned, will spur others along, so they will surpass me.
As I was beginning to lead seminars about my research and discoveries in treating MPD, people said that my approach needed to be written down – “Write a book, Jim.” My response was, “Well, I can’t do that.” There were numerous contrary reasons. But a few months later, I got a computer and began the work. Three years later, the book was released -- Uncovering the Mystery of MPD It became a best seller. With over 50,000 in print, it is still in production.
To personalize the real-life experiences and to bring out how God intervenes in people’s behalf, it was decided to write More Than Survivors: Conversations with Multiple Personality Clients. This series of interviews has also taken off, selling over 20,000.
It was my belief, right from the start, that readers would understand and accept people’s accounts of the abuse that led them to develop MPD and PSTD. After all, it is very clear that traumas lead to these disorders, so when we find them, it must follow that there have been traumas. A hurdle presented itself, with the founding of the “False Memory Syndrome Foundation.” Their premise was that it is counselors who, somehow, trick clients into believing they have undergone particular traumas. I was shocked out of my gourd, and had to write a rebuttal – The Truth about False Memory Syndrome. This book is out of print, but it has come to pass in the clinical field, that the whole notion about “false memories” is nonsense. There is no such thing as a false memory. Minds do not work that way, and neither do counselors.
By the end of last century, four other members of the Shepherd’s House staff and I were busily conferring about what we were learning. We decided to put it into book form, and I was chosen as the scribe. What emerged was much more than any one person would be able to assemble. Combining our lessons and contributions, we called it The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. I must say, at this point, that practically everything I do in the clinical setting has been learned since I completed my education. It is certainly true that nothing fromThe Life Model is a re-hash from someone’s school work. This is a volume that was born out of people’s suffering and out of their triumphs. I was honored to learn from these amazing Christian clinicians.
From well before the closing of Van Nuys’ Shepherd’s House, I was deeply interested in “The Sermon on the Mount.” Writing about it and re-translating it eventually took me to the big question: “Is there a way to derive counseling principles from that sermon?” That question becomes big because if counseling principles are there, they will define “Christian Counseling”. All of us in the field will then need to line up our approach to counseling with that sermon. Now, a decade later, the book is ready. A Far Better Life: Spiritual and Psychological Insights from Jesus’ Teaching examines the sermon and presents three counseling principles. This is the bridge from Jesus to my office. It is what I do every day, and the book describes how it works. It is on the one hand, a book to be discussed in growth group settings, and it is a book to be examined by those who seek an approach to counseling that is distinctively Christian.
Seminars and Classes
Starting in1987, there have been too many seminars to list, well over 100. I have been invited as a featured speaker to conferences in more than twenty states in the USA, two provinces in Canada, two cities in South Africa, two provinces in Australia, and presented five seminars in six days in Beijing. I have also been on television a few times, interviewed on the radio over 120 times, and I frequently consult with therapists about difficult cases. I have worked intensively with many traumatized people, so my experience for these presentations is broad-based. I have immersed myself in learning about trauma recovery and dissociation, and have come to be considered an expert. The seminar presentations have had various titles. The material is always up-dated, so that the seminars can stay current. Seminars typically touch on psychological and spiritual dimensions of treatment, with an emphasis on extending the treatment to include the client’s family and friends. Audiences often include a mix of beginning and advanced counselors, so comments are tailored to address listeners at all stages of experience.
Here is a brief excerpt from a thank you letter, following a seminar presented in February, 2009. “The presentation was clear, insightful and inspiring. Feedback has been positive. Your forthright Christian stance and your emphasis on prayer was refreshing. While some may wonder about such a forthright Christian approach, others, such as myself, can only applaud you for bringing distinctive Christian values to bear on the counseling process.”