Christopher Doyle is PHC's newest counselor. After seeing much suffering and brokenness in his own life, he hopes to bring Christ's healing into the lives of PHC students.
Below is a transcript of his interview with The Herald; questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
TH: Tell us about yourself!
CD: I’m married to Sherry, the voice teacher here at PHC, and am a father. I’m also a licensed counselor. I worked in the White House in the 2008 Bush Administration, and came down here after getting my degree at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. I bounced around the political sphere but I didn’t feel like that’s where God wanted me. While I was working in behavioral health research, I felt like God was calling me to become a counselor. That was kind of scary because I didn’t think I was the professional counselor type. But the impetus for going into counseling was God’s healing in my life by bringing me out of homosexuality, healing me from sexual abuse, and helping me understand the roots of trauma I experienced in my own life. God can heal us and make us whole; counseling was a really good avenue for me to help other people. That obedience led me to go to graduate school at Liberty University. After that, I immediately started working with men who experience sexual brokenness or relationship problems. I am a director of a nonprofit called the Institute for Healthy Families. A couple years ago I started a new counseling practice called Northern Virginia Christian Counseling in Manassas.
TH: How’d you come to PHC?
CD: This was an interesting opportunity. My wife Sherry had been talking to President Jack Haye this spring, and she told him that I was a counselor. A few months later when, [PHC’s] counselor left, they shot me an email saying, “Are you interested in the position?” I hadn’t really thought about it, but since we’re building a house in Purcellville, I felt like it was a great way to invest in the community and in Patrick Henry College.
TH: Do you exclusively counsel those dealing with sexual brokenness and relational issues?
CD: I deal with everything. My specialty is trauma. In my opinion, anxiety, depression, and sexual relational problems are rooted in major and minor trauma. Most people think of trauma as a big-time experience, such as sexual abuse. But not necessarily. Every time you leave your room every day, your brain experiences a small amount of trauma. We often encounter things that are hurtful, wounding, and aren’t what God wants us to encounter. A lot of these things we experience as trauma happen because sin exists in the world. When we have unhealed trauma in our life, from minor to major trauma, that creates symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and all sorts of emotional disorders. So in my counseling, I help clients heal from trauma in multiple ways, including talk-therapy and reprocessing trauma.
TH: What’s the connection between Christianity and mental health?
CD: Christians sometimes over-spiritualize things. I like to say that often it’s an emotional issue with spiritual implications. When we can’t understand the emotions and feelings that we have based on a variety of experiences, that has spiritual implications in our relationships with God, others, and ourselves. Christians can’t reach their full maturity without reaching emotional maturity; those two go hand in hand. By dealing with our emotional issues, we can have a better relationship with God, others, and ourselves.
TH: What is your favorite part of counseling; what makes you keep doing it every day?
CD: One of my favorite things is to help people come to healing from past issues. I really enjoy helping people make connections from their trauma and their current behavior and feelings and helping them to realize that they’re not bound to their past; if they heal, they can be freer in the present. Christ came to set us free; in order to realize that freedom, we have to know who we are in Christ and what happened in our past that keeps us from being our true selves in Him.
TH: What is your least favorite thing about being a counselor?
CD: Dealing with resistance, or a person that is not open to trying to grow or work on themselves. We experience resistance in a personal way in ourselves each day by choosing to do the right thing or to sin. When we can understand the resistance in our own lives, it makes it easier to work through it. When clients don’t want to see their own resistance, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. You can’t make someone grow. You can’t make someone change or heal; they’ve got to want to do that themselves. Sometimes the resistance in clients not to want to look at themselves can be really tough. But I like the challenge; I’m pretty good at motivating clients and helping them find something that motivates them to heal.
TH: Let’s say I’m a random PHC students who sees there’s a new counselor; how would I know I needed counseling?
CD: My wife would say, “Chris says everyone needs counseling.” And while I do agree with that, if you can’t talk about your problems or issues with the people around you and feel safe and/or you’re having a hard time working through those issues with people, you might want to try counseling. It’s not just about giving advice; we help clients find the blind spots in their lives and help them find ways to work through them. Whenever you’re having relational struggles with people or friends, we often experience blind spots that keep us from getting in the way of the relationship we want.
TH: If you could say one thing to PHC students, what would you say?
CD: I’m so excited to be part of this community. We are blessed to serve here. I would challenge the students of PHC to look at your emotional health and challenge yourselves to think, Is there anything in my spiritual life that’s being weighed down by my lack of emotional health in any area? Are there any emotional blind spots I need to confront or get help with? I think people in this community are very focused on spiritual health; but emotional health is also very important, and they have to go hand in hand.
Reporting courtesy of PHC's The Herald.