Editors Note: G. Sheldon Martin shares insights about how to use gospel principles to reduce anxious thoughts and feelings in an interview on “The Good Word” Podcast.
G. Sheldon Martin is a seminary teacher and a licensed mental health counselor. With a master’s degree in mental health counseling, he specializes in the areas of parenting, marriage, anxiety, depression, pornography addiction, and struggling teens. Martin is the author of "Be Still: Using Gospel Principles to Lower Anxiety."
Q: As a therapist, do you get anxiety before a client comes into the office, almost like a musician going on stage or an actor before a scene?
G. Sheldon Martin: I think at first (my anxiety) was definitely higher than it is now. There is a healthy level (of anxiety) considering the importance of what a therapist does with someone coming to you in a difficult time.
Q: You specialize in family counseling areas, but also anxiety, depression, pornography addiction, and other really difficult if not gloomy conditions. Is going to work like attending a funeral? Does it ever get to you personally?
Martin: It can. One piece of advice I give is “If you are willing to take your clients' success, then be prepared to take their failures.” The key is to offer tools for the individual and ultimately the responsibility lies with the patient and they need to be working harder than I am. Any therapist will tell you if you get an individual who is unwilling to change, to put into practice the things you are talking about, the change just won't occur.
Q: One of the dangers of using the gospel as a therapeutic supplement is that if the therapy doesn't take, people can take it to be a commentary on the gospel rather than the therapy. How did you approach this concern with your book?
Martin: The more I learn about psychology, some things fit and some things don't. A cognitive behavioral therapist is one who helps someone identify an irrational or distorted thought and replace it. The approach I am taking is (engaging) the person to come up with a thought that they are going to replace their distorted thought with. What more powerful thought can anyone come up with than the truths that are found in the gospel.
Q: So many people suffer with depression. Are depression and anxiety related? Or in other words, if a person is suffering with depression would your book also offer content to help them with those issues as well?
Martin: In the mental health field we'll often call those two cousins. Often if someone is at clinical levels of anxiety in their life, they also have levels of depression in their life. They come so close together. The process to work through anxiety is very similar to the process to work through depression. So yes, the book can help those with depression as well.
Q: Is it realistic for people reading this book to be “cured” of anxiety after reading and applying the principles, or is that an unrealistic expectation?
Martin: I think that is an unrealistic expectation for anyone. I become very skeptical of individuals who will claim “do these things and your anxiety will be cured.” Many times we have some of these struggles throughout all of our mortal life. The key is to learn how to manage those things.
Nick Galieti is a writer, documentarian, freelance record producer and sound engineer. He is the host of a bi-weekly podcast for LDS writers, The Good Word.