Discipleship Counseling Essay

Pages: 5 (1568 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

¶ … discipleship counseling,' a philosophy of counseling articulated by Neil T. Anderson in his 2003 book of the same name. Discipleship counseling does not purport to replace traditional counseling relationships with church doctrine. Rather, it seeks to re-conceptualize the relationship between client and counselor in a Christian fashion, so that Christian principles along with psychological healing are reinforced in therapy and provide the ultimate tool of spiritual healing. Counseling can be a conduit to Christ -- counseling and Christianity should not be posited as 'either/or' alternatives.

Religion and psychology have often been viewed as incompatible. However, Christian counseling attempts to integrate the two in a meaningful fashion, so that clients are healed from their personal traumas while they become spiritually reborn in their connection to Christ. According to Dr. Neil T. Anderson's (2003) Discipleship counseling, God is the unspoken presence within every counseling relationship. The counselor does not have to consciously and constantly invoke God, and may choose not to do so because of the immediate needs or personality of the patient. But the sense that there is a higher power that is bigger than the self is always present. The therapist must realize that he or she is not God and do the work of the creator -- he is merely a facilitator, she is merely a guide (Anderson 2003: 98). Through an integrated approach to religion and counseling, the client can let go of past bitterness, heal ancestral relationships, and become a new person in Christ.

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Anderson likens the human psyche to a computer that has been designed to be used in a particular way by its creators. God created human beings to function optimally in a particular fashion, and to arrogantly try to govern one's life differently means things will not work, and misery is the result (Anderson 2003: 99). Anderson stresses that responsibility is a two-way street -- humans have responsibilities in the universe to God, just as God has the responsibility to take care of humans. Anderson cites the example of the child who pulls the covers over his head and asks God to take care of everything, or of the married couple who asks God to make an exception for them, just this once. God does not merely give things to us, He asks things of us as well, and if he were to make exceptions and alter the nature of the universe, He would no longer be God (Anderson 2003: 100). Counseling is necessary to make clients more proactive actors in their lives.

Discipleship counseling is a blend of the assumptions of psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, and Christianity. Ultimately the techniques of counseling are used to bring the patients to Christ. For example, the notion of repression is common within Freudian psychoanalysis -- through free association, the individual excavates his or her subconscious to be free of unproductive life patterns (Baker 1997). For Anderson, overcoming repression is a crucial step on the path to the divine, not just to personal healing. As well as understanding of the self, counseling brings greater understanding of the relationship of human being to God.

Overcoming bitterness

Bitterness can be inevitable when old memories are dredged upon the therapeutic relationship. In American culture in particular, forgiveness and vulnerability is seen as a weakness, being forgiving is associated with being taken advantage of and revenge is seen as a positive thing (Anderson 2003: 253). However, in the Bible, it is stressed that only God can forgive, not humanity. Bitterness against humanity is common -- even normal. Anderson admits that from being a counselor he is still shocked by what human beings can do to one another.

Forgiveness of human beings, says Anderson, is not forgetting. It is not letting people off the hook, but letting go of self-destroying bitterness and letting people know they are on God's hook instead. Forgiveness ends the cycle of abuse: "he hurt me so I will hurt him -- or hurt others." Forgiveness is freedom (Anderson 2003: 262). Letting go of the idea that we have the right to blame others is freeing. Anderson offers a balanced approach -- he refuses to accept the idea that some people are not in the right emotional place to forgive, but on the other hand he rejects the idea that forgiveness is automatic and not a process that may require some guidance and soul-searching Anderson 2003: (266). The two views are in many ways equally counterproductive -- when told that they must forgive absolutely and immediately by their Church, many people gravitate to the opposite extreme and say forgiveness is impossible and too idealistic. Anderson says that forgiveness must be coupled with the rehabilitation of the counselee, and the acknowledgement of the damage done by the abuse.

Not all of the difficulties that are addressed in the counseling relationship are abusive, however. Some patients with relatively normal childhoods may experience distress because they were encouraged to hide, rather than reveal their emotions. Encouraging clients to feel emotional openness is an important aspect of healing and progress. Anderson also stresses that forgiveness is not making excuses -- such as saying 'my father couldn't help himself, he had a difficult childhood' (Anderson 2003: 273). Forgiveness does not mean not acknowledging the pain, or denying it. Counselors themselves can acknowledge the pain -- they can empathize without stoking the fires of bitterness.

If a client has hurt someone else, he or she must go to that person first. If the client needs to forgive someone, first go to God. Forgiveness is spiritual healing of the self, not a capitulation to the other. A client cannot be reconciled with someone who refuses to accept forgiveness and the offered reconciliation -- once again, there is a mutual exchange that must take place, and a responsibility that is incumbent upon the other individual to make a meaningful gesture (Anderson 2003: 277). Finally, bitterness against God is also possible, such as when people believe that God has not answered a prayer or allowed them to be hurt. Rather than being shocked by such bitterness, the Christian counselor can acknowledge the emotion and help the client reframe his anger in a more productive and empowering fashion.

The distinctly Christian aspect of Anderson's counseling is his stress upon the fact that the counselee is now reborn, and there is a dichotomy between the old self, lacking in self-esteem, versus the new self that has accepted a new life in Christ. This sense of rebirth is more extreme than traditional conceptions of the self in counseling, which tend to see a progression rather than create sharp divides between old and new selves.

Overcoming ancestral sins

The concept of ancestral sins, as articulated by Anderson, is not a theory along the lines of the Jungian collective unconscious, whereby there is a common repository of ideas that resonates within all members of the human community, but instead is more of a collective sense of how negative life patterns occur and re-occur throughout generations of a family. No one inherits his or her parents' sins, but patients can be more vulnerable to sin because of their personal experiences within the context of a dysfunctional family. There are no 'genetic' reasons, Anderson believes, that negative emotional and interpersonal habits continue, but it can be difficult to unlearn what was taught in the past. At times, this may be a difficult process in the counseling relationship, as the client may need to distance him or herself from family members that are hurtful, so he or she can heal.

This notion of overcoming ancestral sins is reinforced in the tales of the Bible, which present the Israelites overcoming the sins and misguided notions of their ancestors. Counselors can find comfort and solace in their familial conflicts, understanding that they… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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