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Mental health and the Great Commission

By Kate Azumah

For Dr. Prince C. Oteng-Boateng, running a mental health practice and doing missions are seamless; whether he is preaching at the pulpit or sitting across from a client, it’s all ministry.

“I was first introduced to missions when I joined the Ghana Evangelism Committee after graduating from the university. I was appointed as a Missions Research Officer and served on the lead team that organized the Ghana National Church survey, a research project that assessed the extent of the evangelization of unreached people groups in Ghana.“

In 1993, soon after completing the National Church Survey, Dr. Prince was awarded a scholarship to study at a seminary in South Korea. Upon graduating, he joined  a para-church organization and led evangelistic efforts targeted at youth and young adults in Seoul. Additionally, he helped plant two churches in Chinhae and Koje Island (in the southern part of Korea), and led one of them until 2001. After relocating to Seoul, when the pastor’s position became vacant at the Seoul Union Church, the congregation voted unanimously to endorse him as their new pastor. He served for 13 years before eventually emigrating to Canada.

Mental health practice

“My journey as a mental health professional started after completing my Master of Divinity programme. I wanted to make a direct impact in the lives and well-being of people, so I pursued another Masters in Christian Counselling and finally a PhD in Counselling Psychology. After arriving in Canada and working for a while, I enrolled in a post-doctoral study in clinical neuropsychology.”

During his time in Korea, Dr. Prince started a private counselling practice serving the needs of the expatriate community and the US military. He explains, “Rather than working for people, I wanted to run my own practice and make my own decisions in ways that aligned with my values and principles as a Christian.” His practice continues in Calgary, Alberta, Canada as the founder and CEO of Innovative Counselling Solutions, Inc.

Although most of his clients are non-believers, Dr. Prince does not deny them service nor impose his faith on them. He testifies, “By the Lord’s grace, I have seen many successes including marriages restored, lives transformed, and relationships healed.” Sometimes when clients cannot afford his services, he offers them a reduced rate, on a sliding scale, or pro bono.  He admits that taking time to rest and recuperate is crucial but can be challenging due to the increasing demand of psychological and counselling services.

Integrated ministry

In addition to his practice, Dr. Prince is an associate staff with the Worldwide Discipleship Association (WDA), and serves as the country director for Ghana and Canada. The WDA operates a disciple-building ministry (Cornerstone) and a restorative ministry, Restoring Your Heart (RYH) that addresses emotional and relational healing as part of the discipleship process. Given the Ghana Evangelism Committee’s (GEC) pivotal role in the evangelization of Ghana and beyond, Dr. Prince led the effort to create an ongoing partnership between WDA and GEC. Once every year, he leads conferences and training to equip lay leaders and pastors with skills to build emotionally healthy and mature disciples who can also train others.

“I perceive my mental health profession as a fulfillment of my vocation within the Kingdom of God. The Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” emphasizes the need for evangelism and discipleship.  Jesus demonstrated that emotional and relational healing were part of his ministry when He read a summary of His mission in Luke 4:1718: bringing good news to the poor, to captives, to the blind, and the oppressed. These are exactly some of the issues people with mental illness struggle with today; and Jesus, our great mental health therapist was concerned about them. Mental health should therefore be seen as central to the Church’s mission.”

Dr. Prince observes a dearth of African mental health professionals who can understand and integrate aspects of African culture to address the needs of people. This presents a ripe opportunity for trained counsellors and therapists in the Church to step in the gap with God’s healing for people’s hearts and minds as part of a holistic Gospel. Dr. Prince C. Oteng-Boateng is doing his bit. May many more professionals respond to the need in the harvest fields near and far.

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