Review of Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by McMinn
In chapters 1 and 2 McMinn explains how one integrates, psychology, theology and spirituality into counseling: the key is to have a spiritual character that reflects the values and principles of Christianity from the inside-out. This is the bedrock for the integration of psychology and theology that follows. Psychology and theology can serve as the framework for the counselor; the spirituality of the counselor must be the animating force that keeps the framework together, relevant, and purposeful. As spirituality is something that one develops over time, it is not something that can be acquired through schoolit is not one receives credentials for developing in the same way one receives a degree in Psychology or Theology.
The next most important point is that the field of mental health is not always going to embrace the Christian perspectivebut the Christian counselor must stand firm in the faith and insist on the goals of Christian counseling, even in the face of atheistic psychology. For instance, the atheist psychologist Albert Ellis insisted for years that religion did more harm than good in psychology and moreover that it was really the root of all problems; but as Christian counselors held firm, the research gradually began to back them up: it showed that religion actually was beneficial to people. Even Ellis himself had to admit after a while that the Bible could be a good self-help book, as McMinn (2012) points out. What this shows is that the Christian counselor should not give up on spirituality and theology just because people in the field do not see their value. The Christian counselor sees their value and knows their power, and that is what he must bring to clients.
Chapters 3 through 8 focus on prayer, Scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemptionall elements of developing ones spirituality. The approach to each of these topics is rooted in common sense. For instance, with prayer, McMinn (2012) points out that prayer is a common experience, with 90% Americans reporting that they pray. If this is something that 9 out of every 10 people do and feel is important in their lives, why would one leave it out of counselingbecause one is trying to be politically correct? One is not there to gingerly avoid stepping on toes; one is there to counsel and to integrate psychology, theology and spirituality togetherno apologies. Prayer should enter into the equation because it is a practical part of life and an important one.
The same goes for applying Scripture, talking about confession, sin, forgiveness and the need that all have for redemption. These are the basic elements of life that often get swept under the rug in a materialistic, atheistic society. But McMinn (2012) argues that one must not shy away from them or, at the same time, be too eager to assert them; everything should come about as organically as possible because it the client is the one whose mind, body and soul are the focus. Sometimes clients may need some education, and sometimes they may need some support, and sometimes they may need some direction. The counselor must be able to judge each case individually. Ultimately, however, it is about aligning the clients will and the counselors will with Gods will. That is where the ultimate happiness is going to be found. Whether one is engaging in silent prayer, or bringing Scriptural understanding into sessions, it will only matter if the will of God is the ultimate aim.
One important point that is made early on is the idea that a lot of people seeking counseling are not looking for a specific technique but rather for a relationship with someone who has a set of values that they can respect. This resonated with me because I have found that in my life, my values have had two effects on people when they become known: they either cause people to want to avoid me (because I do not reflect their own values but rather the opposite) or they cause people to want to be around me (because they respect my values). A Christian counselor is not going to have appeal to everyone; some people will outright reject him. But others will want to come or at least try because they will have the sense that here is a counselor who stands for something, who believes in something, who has a sense of something that might be important.
That is why Christian counseling can be so helpful: it provides an integration of insights that matterpsychological insight, spiritual insight and theological insight. All of these have value; all of these can helpbut not everyone is going to get it. The reality is that the bond that the client seeks, however, is going to be one that is both professional and personal, and the counselor has to understand and appreciate that while maintaining a professional standard but simultaneously becoming a personal friend.
What I found unique about McMinns approach was its no-nonsense dealing with the topic. There was no beating around the bush, hemming and hawing, or making excuses. It was simple, honest, straight-forward and direct. It was clear in that these things matterspirituality, theology, prayer: they matter because they are real and people know they are real.
Three points I found that were unique in this book were, first, that the counselor must be willing to blend the professional and personal roles; that, second, technique and Christianity should be inherently alignednot slapped together unthinkingly; and, third, that Scripture is more relevant than scientific prooffor if one were waiting on scientific proof in the form of a scholarly article published on the benefits of prayer in counseling, one might be waiting a long time; but in the meanwhile there is a client who needs help and Scripture has already shown the power of prayerso have at it. The first point is unique because most books do not touch this controversial topic; the second is unique because it elevates the role of Christianity rather than subjugating it in counseling; and the third is unique because it insists on the reality and truth of religion as a way to healing.
I will probably provide my services in a hospital. Five important concepts from McMinn that I will apply are: first, be Christ-like; second, be real; third, understand each case uniquely; fourth, do not view religion and spirituality as though it were incidentalit is not; it is everything; and fifth, bring that knowledge to the fore and let the client decide. These are the most important concepts because they get at the core of what it means to counsel effectively and to heal holistically. Christ did not refuse Himself to those who sought His help. He became a brother to them even as He healed them and even as He kept a distance, recognizing that He was leading the way for others to follow. The counselor has to adopt a similar stance. In my own experience, I have often felt that as well. People who have wanted to be around me have seen me as something of a leader, which has meant that I must be firm and abide by the principles I believe in. The counselor has to be rooted in a strong spirituality as well, which is the other main point that McMinn makes: the spirit must be reflected from the inside of the counselor to the outside, through and through.
McMinn, M. R. (2012).Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling.
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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