Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling
McMinn’s book Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling reflects on the basic Christian principles to be used in counseling; the author supports his ideas with the results of science and cognitive psychology research. His work can be divided into two thematic blocks, which strive to explain the main provisions of counseling and basic concepts that should be utilized by a consultant. On the whole, the main idea of this book is that the appropriate use of prayer and Scripture has no worse therapeutic effect than other types of psychotherapeutic practice because they focus on the patient’s spiritual state.
The author begins by mentioning the fact that Christian counseling is different from other psychological practices since it presupposes the use of religion as the key to one’s successful therapy. For many psychologists and scholars, this approach is not scientific; thus, the task of any consultant is to persuade people that the use of Christian ethics can have a positive result on the treatment of mental illnesses, “Religion and religious values have become a frequent topic of discussion for many counselors in recent years, and most counselors have thought a great deal about the confusion their clients face in choosing a good therapist” (McMinn, 2011, p. 4). In this regard, McMinn stresses that the therapist should build productive therapeutic relationships with the client in order to communicate with his or her soul effectively.
Most importantly, the primary condition is the Christian faith; therefore, the fundamental difference between other approaches is that a Christian counselor works with a certain level of spiritual maturity. Hence, McMinn explains mental illness in terms of spiritual disbelief and loss, where the counselor needs to set the client on the path to salvation. It is important that the author provides vivid examples that help one understand how it is possible to integrate the foundations of the Christian faith into holistic treatment.
The second part explores the main concepts of the spiritual part: prayer, Scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption. The third chapter is about prayer, which helps to cure one’s disease via the right therapeutic connection. Moreover, the counselor must be involved in the prayer together with the patient; thus, McMinn encourages the possibility of common prayer at the office. On the other hand, he emphasizes that the counselor’s task is to explain to the client the correct use of the prayer because only in this case, the method will have a positive effect. In general, he discusses both positive and negative effects of prayer, which depend on “the counselor’s level of spiritual maturity” (McMinn, 2011, p. 87).
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In the fourth chapter, McMinn analyzes the Scripture as the basis for spiritual counseling. It means that the consultant should know the Bible in order to provide appropriate advice for different occasions. In general, McMinn is convinced that the Scripture has great psychotherapeutic power, so it is directly related to the Christian treatment, “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, 2011, p. 124).
In the fifth chapter, McMinn also considers the nature of sin as the basis for the therapy; the approach is unusual for psychotherapy. He notes that psychologists do not only ignore the nature of the sin but also fail to analyze its negative consequences for the patient (McMinn, 2011, p. 161). However, for the author, it is the cause of many neuroses and depression, which need to be treated with prayer, as well. The consultant’s task is to find the right way for one’s sins and mental illness and encourages one to grow up spiritually.
In the sixth chapter, the author looks at the phenomenon of confession, which requires humility from the client. Here, the basic idea is that the counselor should be honest with the client; such an attitude prompts the latter to trust the first and follow the process of treatment. At the same time, the confession is closely related to the forgiveness that is addressed in the seventh chapter; these parts are closely interconnected. According to McMinn, Christian treatment is impossible without forgiveness, which differs from the secular approach. Christian forgiveness is not a simple emotional catharsis but a serious awareness of one’s spirituality as “God’s gracious gift” (McMinn, 2011, p. 235).
The eighth chapter focuses on redemption as the final stage of the Christian treatment, which summarizes all previous stages. In fact, redemption is the client’s release from sins and receiving God’s mercy. The author convinces that the wonder of redemption is that the client units with God in the revelation of the prayer and Scripture. As a result, all previous actions and thoughts are correlated with God, who is changing the client’s life and his or her spiritual world permanently.
I was personally impressed by the fact that sin was named a part of the mental illness; thus, the counselor should understand it according to the Christian discourse. The author does not only refer to sin but also supports his ideas with modern scientific achievements in psychotherapy. I consider that it is difficult to understand the nature of the sin for every client, so the counselor’s task is also to help one with this mental drifting. In this case, the counselor is closer to the priest in the practice of confession, which is also an element of such treatment. On the other hand, modern psychotherapy does not differ from confession; however, it interprets the approach differently. I feel that the essence of the Christian confession means the liberation from one’s sins and receiving God’s acceptance; however, it cannot be an unconscious act. I believe that every person needs such a confession, although one cannot do it because of the fear of condemnation, shame, or other subjective reasons. Therefore, Christian counseling is qualitatively different from other types of psychotherapy since it offers a dialogue between two believers.
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Accordingly, the most unique thing in McMinn’s approach is that he constantly balances between Christian concepts and scientific ideas, perfectly combining them in a single theory. Hence, the most helpful thing is that he provides different examples that show how one or another concept works. It shows that counseling is not only a theory but also a serious practice that requires an exclusive understanding of people and, what is more important, personal spiritual growth. In particular, I have realized that Christian counseling is a complicated process in terms of forgiveness because the client needs to understand what God forgives and releases.
Therefore, McMinn’s ideas about sin, atonement, and forgiveness are the most important ideas for counseling, although they cannot always be implemented. I think that redemption is more relevant to priests, who have the authority and greater convergence with God than counselors. Instead, McMinn offers an individual long-term approach that is closer to therapy than to confession in terms of Christianity and the Scripture. Moreover, I also doubt whether every client is ready to worship at the counselor’s office despite being used to do it at home or in the temple. Therefore, McMinn’s desire to put the Christian canon into the secular sector is innovative, but not always realistic.
I would like to work in the church counseling center because it is the closest environment for the implementation of McMinn’s concepts. Moreover, this place promotes both secular and sacred work, which corresponds to the ideas of this book. Accordingly, the following concepts are the most relevant to my vision of counseling: sin, confession, understanding, the Scripture, and prayer. This arrangement also corresponds to the type of counseling that I want to utilize in the future. For me, it is significant to listen to the patients in accordance with one’s understanding of sins, and then compare it with the Scripture. However, it is also important to understand one’s mental problem through prayer, which logically completes the counseling process. At the same time, I would avoid forgiveness and redemption since they mostly relate to the priest’s practice of confession; thus, it is difficult for me to realize these principles to the full. Despite this fact, the most difficult challenge is to start a sincere and honest conversation with the person. Therefore, I should ask for advice or confession in order to be fully open to counseling.
In conclusion, Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling is a good example of how to implement the fundamental Christian concepts in practice, according to the patient’s mental illness as a part of the spiritual weakness. The author states that the proper use of prayer and Scripture can purify one’s soul from sin, which is the cause of most psychological illnesses. Thus, the counselor should feel and understand the client’s spiritual state in order to create conditions for effective communication and, what is more important, redemption as the final stage of the consultation.