In the book, “Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling”, author Mark McMinn gives the reader information on how these three entities can work together in Christian counseling. McMinn offers several ways in which this can be done including the use of prayer, Scripture, confession, forgiveness, the effects of sin, and redemption in counseling sessions. Through narration of counseling vignettes displaying different results, from different approaches demonstrates for the reader integration. There are very many counselors in different walks in their faith and McMinn helps to explore this area for future and practicing clinicians. 4 MAT Review McMinn
Mark McMinn authored the book entitled; “Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling” introduces the reader to his concept of integration of these three entities. McMinn separates spirituality and defines why it is unlike psychology and theology, he states, “We can become more with less competent in the spiritual disciplines, training ourselves to experience God more fully, but we can never be spiritually competent.” (2011, p. 11). This is an interesting observation since Christians are always growing but can sometimes become stagnant in their growth and in their walk with Christ. It was also pointed out that spiritual training is not done in the classroom, it is not in a curriculum, and thus harder to measure from someone other than the participant.
McMinn wants to empower the reader to explore their own Christian faith and how it can be incorporated successfully into therapy sessions with their clients. By educating the reader on a sense of a healthy self, he explores how prayer can be effective in sessions and also provides different methods for implementation. He stresses the importance of prayer and what it means at different times in relation to a counseling session he states, “We pray as we breathe, inhaling the wisdom of God’s presence in this moment, exhaling a frantic need to have the perfect words or exact technique to “fix” our clients.” (2011, p. 109). This was one of the ways the author describes the use of prayer in counseling and how it also aides the counselor.
Exploring further into the use of Scripture in counseling sessions the author establishes the connection of support in different counseling models. Forgiveness was also another topic the author addresses noting, “Rather, my goal is to raise pertinent issues and make recommendations for Christian counselors to consider so that each unique counseling situation can be carefully evaluated and a psychologically and spiritually sensitive manner.” (McMinn, 2011, p. 250). McMinn additionally provides five steps in assessing before considering introduction of forgiveness in a therapeutic session.
He does this by debunking misinformation, and other related concepts that are not true in the use of forgiveness in therapy. By tying together the topics of prayer, scripture, confession, forgiveness, and redemption the goal as McMinn puts it, “If not how we understand the relationship between psychology and theology but how we practically use the Christian faith in our counseling. Change brings challenge and Christian counselors they several significant challenges as they bring religion into the counseling offices.” (p. 26)
In McMinn’s book, he uses a chapter to discuss forgiveness which reminded me of a client I had long ago. This client had suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from various family members. I remember this client disclosing horrible, horrible abuse and still having nightmares, at times hallucinations of the offenders, and fits of rage. At this point in my career I was co-counseling, and was just beginning to understand the impact forgiveness can have in physical health and emotional health. My problem was I didn’t realize how the client wanted to please me and in doing so I believe I prolonged this client’s understanding of forgiveness and what it should have meant with the client and not me. This client was Christian and from my estimation now looking back was just beginning their walk with Christ and not on the same maturity level that I was at that time in my walk
At that time I knew how forgiveness first and foremost is obedience to God, and secondly how it can set you free from so many emotional problems, McMinn said, “Forgiveness, in its theological and spiritual context, is profound, life-giving, and transforming. When we remove the religious context and think of forgiveness only as a clinical technique, we risk losing the essence of forgiveness.” (2011, p. 254) After reading this chapter it made me re-live an area in which I was not fully equipped to help client maneuver their way through. This particular chapter has allowed me to see how vital forgiveness is in a therapeutic session, and how it must be used carefully. It is made me aware of how important my Christianity is to forgiveness, but also to assess the level my client is currently on before beginning a session on forgiveness.
Truthfully, there was not much about this book that gave me pause to say “this bothers me”. Although, I did have a few questions but not necessarily pertaining to the author’s writing of the book, but more so some information of other resources cited. For example, the author stated, “Though Maslow would not agree that the Christian faith can help lead people to emotional health, his reports of the characteristics and desires of help the people who have moved beyond preoccupation with self he called them self actualizers are remarkably similar to the fruit of the Spirit described by apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23.” (McMinn, 2011, p. 52). This was interesting, but this student thought as the author had previously pointed out how you can build on something that’s faulty. It appeared as though Maslow’s disagreement with the Christian faith was unfounded, but he built his own concept of self-similar to Christian values.
There was a statement from McMinn which did cause this student question if there was a direct answer. McMinn stated, “However, this view perpetuates the problem mentioned earlier, that Christianized form of therapy can be built on flawed, misleading, and damaging worldview assumptions.” (2011, p. 25). The question this student was left with was is there any therapy that can agree with Christian beliefs without being built on a flawed worldview? The author gave this student of reason to pause when thinking about the different types of therapy that are currently used in counseling. Due to different statistics, success rates, and general practice it seems as a counselor you go with what works.
However, McMinn has given this reader a different view on how therapy for the counselor should be perceived with the integration of psychology, theology, and spirituality. It is not enough simply to use of therapy because statistically it has been proven to be successful. If certain theories in which some therapies are based are in direct opposition of godly counsel in this would need to be viewed more cautiously by the counselor.
Action steps this student can take as a result of what has been learned, specifically in regards to prayer would be as follows: if a client desires to pray this student asked the client that comfort level in regards to pray aloud, silently or together. Further, learning pauses in a session can be a prime opportunity to pray silently for the client and guidance from God. McMinn stated, “Praying during pauses in conversation is often the way not only to keep a spiritual focus in counseling but also to keep from impulsively filling the silence with unnecessary words.” (2011, p. 83). Another action step this student will be taking as a result of a lesson learned, researching theories and books which may be in opposition to Christian beliefs. This student’s understanding of integration of psychology and Christianity are vital in be effective in helping God’s people.
For example, the book “The Courage to Heal” is used in many areas of sexual abuse. This student was unaware of the author’s understanding of forgiveness and how the client is directed not to forgive the perpetrator of the abuse. If the client is Christian and this student is the counselor gave a homework assignment from this book regarding forgiveness this would create a problem. It is very important to understand, read fully, and research information which may be incorporated into a counseling session. It is not enough to use a therapy technique or intervention because it is popular or has been proven effective. Steps must be taken to ensure therapy and techniques are in line with God and His will.
McMinn, M. (2011). Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling (p. 254). Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers.
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