The book entitled Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark McMinn is an essential reading for anyone interested in the most effective and efficient means of integrating theology and psychology. Although successful integration of these two fields is often claimed to be an impossible task, books and authors like the ones under consideration prove otherwise and contribute to endeavors of Christian counselors aimed at popularizing simultaneous application of theological as well as psychological concepts and principles in their practice.
At the beginning of the book, the author explicitly states the main purpose of writing the book and determines the primary target audience: “This is a book for those wanting to investigate the frontier of intra-disciplinary integration” (McMinn, 1996, p. 9). Hence, within the framework of this task, the book discusses some aspects of integration of psychology and theology, as well as emphasizing common challenges encountered by Christian counselors in the process. The author supposes that theological and biblical foundations are important for successful integration of the disciplines, but at the same time spirituality is also essential. The book explores several key theological themes relating to integration, including prayer, scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption (McMinn, 1996). According to the author, prayer becomes an effective and useful tool when employed appropriately during counseling, but the problem is that most contemporary students lack training and knowledge about theology and spirituality or may even tend to misuse prayer (McMinn, 1996). Therefore, he emphasizes the importance of studying different models of how prayer can be incorporated and provides a brief discussion of risks associated with each model. Another tool that the author suggests using is scripture that should guide counselors in choosing the counseling theory they are going to put into practice. Hence, Christian counselors should ensure that the counseling theory they choose and accompanying methods together with techniques are compliant with the scripture and are not inconsistent (McMinn, 1996).
In turn, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption are factors that impact clients both psychologically and spiritually. For instance, sin is simultaneously a personal and universal problem while counseling should be aimed at confronting it in the client’s life (McMinn, 1996). Confession is hence a way of coping with sin while therapy may be deemed to be a sort of confession for the client. Moreover, the counselor is tasked with making the client take responsibility for sin and confess it as in such a way he/she comes to forgiveness. Therefore, forgiveness and redemption may be regarded as final phases of the therapy. Forgiveness should come with humility rather than being a way to excuse other people’s actions or see the world with moral superiority (McMinn, 1996). Finally, “redemption is closely related to confession and forgiveness” and Christian counselors should assist their clients with reaching this final stage through confessing their sins and forgiving themselves and others (McMinn, 1996, p. 251). Overall, healing of spiritual and psychological wounds is a long and complicated process, but it can be facilitated and enhanced if counselors integrate the core principles of Christianity discussed in detail in the book under consideration.
Frankly speaking, I was once a skeptic in terms of how psychology and theology could be properly integrated. Of course, theoretically I realized that this task could be successfully accomplished through the use of various techniques and methods discussed in detail by prominent authors and counselors. However, deep down in my mind I wondered “if the church could help solve all psychological problems, then people would not need psychologists, but the reality shows that it is not like that”. This was several years ago and I have radically changed my opinion. Reading and analyzing books like the one by McMinn have made me doubt my past skeptic thoughts and realize that some theological practices can really be integrated into counseling and make the latter more effective. I have been impressed by McMinn’s statement that therapy is a sort of confession as it is really so. I cannot say that all my doubts have instantly disappeared, but learning more and more about Christian counseling and reading about all the benefits it offers to clients have made me constantly challenge my previous assumptions and I am now in the process of reconsidering my views on this issue.
Overall, the book under consideration seems to be an extremely useful and valuable source of information for would-be Christian counselors who strive to successfully integrate psychology and theology. The author is logical and thorough in the way he presents information and explores the practical application of several key religious principles in counseling. One of the most significant parts of the book concerns discussion of how counseling practice should comply with the scripture. The problem of most contemporary students is that they take everything they are taught for granted, but they should perceive theories they learn in a thoughtful way. The author convincingly proves that prayer, confession, sin, and other discussed principles can and should be integrated into counseling. However, the author seems to overly use references to Dallas Willard and other supporters of contemplative spirituality, which is a quite controversial issue. The matter is that contemplative spirituality does not have any support in the scripture, which is why it can hardly be employed in Christian counseling. Hence, references to it contradict one of the underlying premises of the book.
This book has been thought-provoking for me as it has made me further reconsider some of my views mentioned above. Withal, I plan to use McMinn’s ideas both in my professional and personal lives. In terms of my personal life, I realize that I lack spiritual discipline and I cannot become a truly successful Christian counselor without remedying this fault. Concerning my professional life, I need to consider how to reconcile my theoretical background with the scripture, as well as how to incorporate prayer and other essential theological principles into my practice. I realize that this is a complicated task, but I should do that if I want to render high-quality professional services of a Christian counselor to clients in the future.
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