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| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin, dmarrin@thesuntimesnews.com |

The Shepherd and the Shrink: Dr. Matt Hook (L), Senior Pastor of Dexter United Methodist Church with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Marty Fletcher of Renew Hope Counseling

Do spirituality and psychology have anything in common? Or, as has been commonly thought, are they at opposite ends of the spectrum? If we favor one, must the other be excluded? It’s easy to feel tugged between the two.

However, as conflicting as the two disciplines can sometimes seem, there is a psychologist and pastor in Dexter who believe the two approaches to the human condition have much in common and can be brought together to work in powerful ways for our wellbeing.

Meet The Shepherd and the Shrink: Psychologist Dr. Marty Fletcher of Renew Hope Counseling in Dexter and Dr. Matt Hook Senior Pastor of Dexter United Methodist Church. The two have teamed up for a podcast (“The Shepherd and the Shrink”) where psychology meets spirituality.

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I caught up with the two just before the taping of their inaugural podcast which releases today, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2020.

“The idea for The Shepherd and the Shrink is that we’re going to bring psychology together with spirituality and dig deep into both of those so people can make lifestyle changes,” says Marty. “It will also bring to light the community’s mental health crisis.”

“We have a mental health crisis right now,” he continues. “While our culture is prospering in material goods and lifestyle, and although these material measures are improving, our mental health is getting worse and worse. We have a 30% increase in suicides since the year 2000. Other data points show that we have a spiritual crisis of meaning. Anxiety disorders are up almost 20% and depression also keeps going up.”

‘Spirituality’ is one of those ambiguous terms that take on different meanings depending on who you’re talking to. It can range from a reference to all things unexplained by science to cloaked language for ‘you should go to church.’ The term is used across a broad spectrum of contexts.

“In my mind, spirituality means connectedness, not a religion,” explains Matt. “I can go out on a starry night, look up at the sky, and feel ‘wow’ with a connectedness to the universe. That’s spiritual. When we’re specifically talking Christian spirituality, it is connectedness with God through Jesus Christ.”

The seeds for The Shepherd and the Shrink were planted six years ago when the duo met. Marty, the clinical psychologist got into a conversation with Matt, the spiritual Christian pastor, and the two quickly developed a friendship with open and candid conversations. What they discovered was that psychology and spirituality were not separate disciplines in the sense that in choosing one you must exclude the other. Over the course of a few years, the two came to understand that psychology and spirituality were two components of a person’s overall wholeness, and one couldn’t be treated without addressing the other.

“What was amazing to me was to hear (Marty) describe how psychology repeats what is already in the Bible,” says Matt. “For those of us who grew up Christian and aren’t so sure about the faith versus science thing, this was such amazing news to realize it’s not either/or.”

“Integrating psychology and Christian spirituality can be very reassuring,” says Marty without skipping a beat. “People are longing for the transcendent right now. You can see it by the movement into things like UFO shows, New Age type practices, and even zombies. Sadly, Christianity has seemed to have lost a lot of its mysticism and spirituality. Christians need to return back to the transcendent nature and life-changing transformation of Christianity, not just give it lip-service and then go about your life.”

The purpose of the podcast is simple: The two men want to help people.

“We are in a crisis of loneliness at epidemic proportions,” says Matt. “We’re told it is worse than heart disease that comes from smoking two packs a day. Loneliness is that devastating for people.”

“I believe that there’s a real need for this type of thing,” adds Marty. “Eighty percent of people who need treatment for mental health won’t get it mainly because of the stigma. This podcast is mental health help that is not stigmatizing.”

I sat in on the first taping of The Shepherd and the Shrink podcast upstairs in the Red Brick. Owner Pete Landrum has also jumped on board with the cause by donating the space to be converted into a makeshift studio.

Marty and Matt conversed easily and freely. It was obvious they have had many conversations with each other already as well as several in front of the DUMC congregation on Sunday mornings.

The Shepherd and the Shrink can be followed on their Facebook page.

Here is Episode #1 from The Shepherd and the Shrink

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