A Profound Understanding Leads to Counseling Practice
Alumnus Eric Williams' path to becoming a social worker unfolded through an awareness of knowing. It was a gradual and profound understanding through his deepening faith, a favorite professor/mentor at UST and a job with youth and families. These “lessons” brought him to purposeful work counseling local professionals and their families who are struggling with infidelity via affairs, paying for sex or pornography.
Jesus was a Social Worker
Williams, a Houstonian, was born and raised Catholic and came to UST as a college sophomore to earn his undergraduate degree in Political Science in 2000. For him, religion was familiar, but during his time as a student at UST, he noted, “I was becoming deeply spiritual, and my philosophy courses and mentee relationship with Philosophy Associate Professor Ted Rebard helped nurture that for me."
Williams said that he became attuned to the sanctity of life and the human person.
"Our need for love and connection with people and our creator is hardwired into us,” he explained. (However, sustaining those needs can be difficult for us at times.)
Williams took several jobs out of college, but a position counseling youth and families galvanized his desire to pursue counseling as his life's work.
While earning a Master's in Social Work from the University of Tennessee in 2008, he realized that social work was parallel to the life of Christ. "Jesus was a social worker, who reached out to the marginalized, traumatized and spiritually sick to empower them to stabilize themselves through truth and help from God."
Discouraged Discourse on Sexuality by Society
In his early career, Williams treated substance abuse and quickly learned that his clients (mostly male patients) had sexual behavior and experiences they were keeping secret that were co-occurring and kept them from staying sober. "They were ashamed and unable to see it as related to their substance problem," he said. "Also, there were only a few male therapists in Houston who specialized in this issue—most of the therapists were women. The decision was easy to choose my life's work."
At Williams Center for Healing located in Montrose, Williams said he treats "… people who grew up in a culture and religion(s) that have directly or indirectly discouraged open expression and discourse about sexuality. Sex is not bad, and if your family does not discuss sex early and give you tools to use it well, it can easily become distorted. Historically speaking, we have done more to educate kids about driving cars than we have to educate them about their bodies, sexuality and courtship."
Sexual Behavior as Coping Strategy
Williams explains that sex addiction is the term therapists use to describe sexual behavior that has turned into a coping strategy instead of a shared emotional/intimate encounter. "It is sex used selfishly and secretly (even if it is with other people)," he said.
However, the work Williams offers extends much further than stopping sexual acting out. "That is the easy part,” he said, “and the hard part is helping people come to terms with two things:
“The behavior, addiction or not, has stunted my emotional and relational growth. So, I need to figure out what I am avoiding, own up to it and address the consequences.
“My problem has hurt and may even traumatize the people I love the most (spouse and children). How to help their loved ones work through the impact of the betrayal while learning, for the first time, to be an emotionally safe person for their family.
"In general," Williams said, "most people are using pornography or paying for sex to escape their reality. Reality is tough to stay engaged with 'all the time.' So, we find ways to escape (alcohol, drugs, video games, food, gambling and sex). We can become dependent on our escape. Stopping is hard but learning how to work through our fear or the reality of our difficult lives requires help. The longer we escape reality, the harder it is to face our reality," he said.
Unwinding and Staying the Course through Courageous Action
The healing journey is long and winding. "It takes A LOT of courage to admit you have a problem," Williams said. "By problem, I mean they have tried to change on their own and have not been successful. It is humbling, and yes, people often feel shame during this process. Instead of viewing our struggle as a behavioral shortcoming, which we can fix, we feel like we have failed as a person. That causes us to feel shame, which keeps us quiet, worsening the problem. So it takes a lot of courage to break that cycle."
To learn more about Eric Williams’ counseling work that fosters life-changing and lasting personal growth, go to www.williamscenterforhealing.com.