Paul Crolley is from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and while he current lives in Atlanta, Georgia, the beach will always be home. He served his mission in Torreon, Mexico and still tries to use his Spanish every day. He has a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Counseling. Work experience includes traditional individual and group counseling with current employment providing crisis intervention services. He has held various leadership and teaching callings within the church and has enjoyed every one for the learning experience they were. Find him on Twitter at @pbcrolley.
A great interest of mine is psychology, how the mind works, and why we do the things that we do. I studied psychology in undergrad and then went on to get a masters degree in counseling. One of the aspects of this field of study that I have really enjoyed is how psychological principles can be applied to leadership practice in the church.
One particular counseling technique that is well known but has varying degrees of usefulness is dream interpretation. Personally, I adhere to the camp that states that dreams are just dreams and there is no deeper meaning (except those that are given by the Lord which is a completely different topic). That does not mean they are not useful though.
There is a technique though where a therapist can have the client describe their dream and say what they think it means. The idea here is to not really pay much attention to the content of dream but rather focus on what the patient thinks it means. The counselor can then analyze the patient’s interpretation to get more insight into their mindset and perspectives. Many key struggles or issues may present themselves.
With that in mind, I was reading the June 2013 issue of the Ensign magazine and came across something interesting. There is an excerpt from a BYU-Hawaii address by Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy on how to improve personal prayers. He said the following:
Our personal prayers are a barometer of our spiritual strength and an indicator of our spiritual well-being. I have learned as a father, priesthood leader, and mission president that listening carefully to another’s prayers can reveal much about his or her relationship with God.
Here we have the same principle being applied that is used by many mental health professionals when interpreting dreams. We take what is being shared and use it as a means to gain further insight into a person’s thought process. So with the prayer example, someone whose prayer includes rote statements or a focus on them instead of the Lord’s will can indicate much about the spirituality.
I served with an Elders Quorum President who also applied this technique during Personal Priesthood Interviews (PPI’s). He would ask the following question: What revelation have you received recently for you or your family? If the person struggled with the answer it was a possible indication that they were not attuned to the spirit and may have been neglecting prayer and/or study.
When I conduct PPI’s I also employ this technique. Using the spirit as a guide, I invite the person to share their testimony with me about a particular topic. What they share, how they share, and what is felt can be very indicative of their level of conviction about that particular topic. Areas of focus may come to light so that moving forward assistance can be concentrated there.
Elder Pearson’s insight about the role prayer plays with this is an excellent tool that is less invasive than direct questions during a PPI. A bishop, Relief Society president, or any church leader or family member can attentively listen to another person’s prayer and have the spirit guide them in gaining insight into that person’s mindset and current spiritual state.