Group Discussion Guide: Counseling Against Shame

Lesson 1 — What is the Mind?

  1. As Curt reminds us here, that the mind is embodied. Our minds emerge from our brains, but they are not reducible to our brains.  

    • How would you characterize the mind’s relationship to the body?  

    • Curt notes that the very first thing a patient brings to a clinician is actually their body. How does the knowledge that the mind is embodied impact your practice? To put it another way: what can you learn about the state of a patient’s mind by being attentive to their body?  

  2. We may think of ourselves as independent centers of consciousness, but as Curt explains here, the neuro-biological data tell a different story about how the human mind works. Our minds literally cannot exist independently, and that’s because they are relational.  

    • In your experience as a clinician, how have you seen the negative effects of a malformed understanding of the self as an autonomous subject independent from other people?  

    • How might the knowledge that our minds are relational inform your practice of counseling?  

  3. The mind is characterized by dynamic movement. As Curt explains by way of a typical interaction with a teenager, it is never true that we are thinking about nothing. Our minds are always at work, never static but always in motion.  

    • The mind is a process, which suggests that we’re never finished products, but always moving—whether toward order or disorder. In the 4th century, Augustine of Hippo described the human spirit as a “scattered self,” constantly threatened with disorder. In your experience, what does a “scattered self,” a mind moving toward disintegration, look like?  

    • Think about your specific area of practice. How would you define “mental health” in your context? What does it look like for you to help patients move toward a state of integration?  

  4. “We are breath, and we are dirt,” as Curt puts it. “And if you take either one of those away we stop being human.”  

    • The Bible teaches that human beings are the only creatures that exist at the intersection of the physical and the spiritual. How does this unique understanding of human existence inform your practice? 

  5. Since human beings are physical and spiritual creatures, we can experience mental distress for multiple reasons, some physical and some spiritual. In your practice, what are some of the ways that you treat the whole person?