23 Mar 2015
Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling written by Mark R. McMinn teaches Christian counselors the importance of Spirituality in the counseling office. Throughout the book McMinn provides deep insight on the integration of the three concepts; the author provides concrete cases that allow the reader to grasp the information by applying the scenarios to the text. To better equip Christian Counselors he uses cognitive therapy from a Christian perspective as foundation for his work. He stresses the importance of building an effective therapeutic relationship between the counselor and the client in order for therapy to be successful. McMinn uses a variety of religious interventions to establish psychological and spiritual health. Throughout the chapters he elaborates on the use of prayer, scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption in the counseling practice. McMinn discusses the positive effects as well as negative side effects of the use of prayer. He states that "the counselor's level of spiritual maturity will provide an upper limit for the potential impact of prayer in counseling (McMinn, 1996, p.87). McMinn highlights the power of Scripture and outlines the specific effects it may have on the client. McMinn summarizes the chapter by noting "Our knowledge of God, self and Scripture are all interrelated, but our capacity to understand any one of these elements will add to our ability to understand the others (McMinn, 1996, p.124)." McMinn's study of the nature of sin and its role in the counseling practice is also very thorough. As he notes, "generally psychologists have been uninterested in sin, preferring to ignore it or to discuss the effects of the concept of sin (McMinn, 1996, p. 161)." Such an attitude has negative consequences, as in most cases sin can be a reason of depression, feeling of guilt and other negative feelings. He proposes the Christian counselor to understand sin from a theological and spiritual perspective. As he states, such a change can add necessary depth to the work of a counselor and encourage his clients to grow spiritually. Describing the historical references of confession as a sacrament of penance, McMinn underlines the necessity to understand its role and importance in the work of a Christian Therapist. Confession requires humility, which requires us to look at ourselves honestly and recognize both our strengths and weaknesses. Confession closely deals with forgiveness, which is a very popular topic among counselors. The author attracts readers' attention to the fact that Christian understanding of forgiveness may differ from the ways that non-Christian counselors understand forgiveness. Christian forgiveness is not a simple emotional relief; however, McMinn stated that "our capacity to forgive one another depends on our capacity to understand both our need for forgiveness and God's gracious gift of forgiveness (McMinn, 1996, p.235)." McMinn's final chapter on redemption sums up the previous topics prayer, scripture, sin, confession, and forgiveness. Redemption is a process of being freed from sin and being restored back unto God. As McMinn finalizes the book with this chapter he sums up redemption by saying "the wonder of redemption is that we are brought back into a relationship with God (McMinn, 1996, p.265)." Finally once we experience redemption, our old ways of thinking are brought as one with God.
After reading this story I am reminded of a demonstration given by my former pastor. Leading up to this demonstration my uncle Jesse had been beaten unrecognizably by gang members in Charlotte, NC. My uncle, raised in the church, had a calling on his life from a very young age and refused to accept his calling. He had been running for years and through those years he was often referred to Jonah, but one night changed all of that for my uncle. I can still remember visiting him in the ICU at Carolina Hospital in Charlotte and afraid to look at the hideous swellings upon his face. His eyes were swollen to the size of golf balls and stitches had been applied to various parts of his face it was a horrible sight to see. After his release he was given shelter by my pastor and started attending the church. The demonstration given by my pastor showed the church what sin can do to a person. I remember hearing my pastor pray and my uncle confessing all his sins while standing at the altar. The pastor preached a heavy sermon that taught me how important the confessions of sins were in seeking forgiveness from God. I have learned that God is a God of second chances and he will grant us forgiveness if and when we are ready to confess with our mouths. The moral of the story my pastor pointed out was that God was a redeemer and therefore gave second chances to his sons and daughters.
McMinn did an excellent job covering the aspects of integrating psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling. While the book offers insightful ways to look at different situations that may happen in the Christian counseling office there is one thing that bothered me most. If most types of prayer has not been researched how is the counselor supposed to define clear and ethical guidelines for the use of prayer in counseling? I believe that prayer forms an intimate relationship between God and the individual; therefore prayer should not be used in the therapy sessions especially if further research is needed. Prayer I do believe is an effective tool that can be used in therapy but should be used outside the counseling sessions gradually as the client feels comfort and the need for seeking God's presence on his or her own. This is a good book and should be read by all Christian counselors. It is essential in helping to expand their knowledge on the basis of integrating psychology, theology, and spirituality. The case studies are helpful in learning both positive and negative ways to approach similar situations met in the counseling sessions. McMinn did a great job elaborating on the different themes prayer, scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption. The uses of the themes were successful in teaching the confused counselor how to integrate their spirituality into the therapy session. Overall the book is a positive guide for new and old counselors to use as basis of understanding how each of the themes can have a powerful impact on a client's progress.
This was an outstanding book and it taught me valuable instructions on multitasking as a counselor. McMinn stated that "the most effective Christian counselors are able to process several ideas simultaneously (McMinn, 1996, p. 269)." It is important for a counselor to be able to successfully integrate psychology, theology and spirituality in the counseling sessions to effectively treat the problems of their clients. I personally will take what I learned and continue to read and enhance my understanding of the different concepts so that I may learn to use them wisely. Reading this book enlightened me with so much information that I can easily share with a friend to enhance their knowledge of Christian counselors. I would first make it known to them that as a Christian counselor we are set apart from other psychologists in that we put God at the forefront of our lives and therapy sessions. Being a Christian psychologist comes with many challenges and we have to constantly refine our relationship with God and acknowledge him as the "All knowing God" because that's who we ultimately seek direction from. Learning how to integrate the use of prayer and scripture with Christian clients we have to recognize the negative side effects that can come of prayer or scriptural interventions. I will continue to keep God first in my life allowing him to speak to me, lead me, and guide me as an instrument to help others. I can only better myself after reading this book and take what I learned to become the multitasking counselor.
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