Integration of Psychology and Theology Term Paper

Pages: 11 (2975 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

¶ … theology and psychology in Christian counseling and then establishes the benefits of combining these two disparate studies and practices. Following this determination, the paper presents ways in which Christian counselors may use these findings in order to better their practices and better heal their patients.

The paper relies on the most recent research possible, but also relies on works that are as ancient as Freud's. The final goal is a positive linkage of the texts of psychology and the biblical scriptures in the preparation of a Christian counselor's successful healing plan.

Christian Counseling: Why Integrating Psychology And Theology Results In A More Positive Patient Experience

Introduction

Time Magazine famously created its April 8, 1966 cover to read in big bold red letters: "Is God Dead?" With that resounding question, Time quite consciously brought to the forefront a question necessitated by the writings and teaching of the new theologians: What role does God play in our society, if any?

With sciences such as psychology and psychiatry taking the forefront, the value of religion has increasingly been called into question as a means of healing for a patient struggling with depression. However, just recently, Christian counseling has entered the mainstream yet again as a viable means of treatment - this paper examines the reasons for this revival, so to speak, and details =why Christian counseling is supportable both biblically and psychologically; and concludes by listing ways in which psychology and theology may be integrated into a Christian counselor's life work.

Findings

Researcher Pamela Paul believes that the necessity of Christian counseling - the combination of theology and psychology - is illustrated perfectly in this example: "The 45-year-old public relations consultant had become obsessed with work, driving herself to toil long hours at the expense of her social life -- all to make everyone else happy. But Herrod herself was miserable. Her family had recently relocated to Boston from the West Palm Beach area, where Herrod remained; she felt lonely and isolated. She was exhausted and rundown. "No matter how hard I worked, nothing ever seemed good enough," Herrod recalls.

Until she started seeing Laverna Cullom, a social worker who delivers therapy with a Christian frame of reference, openly discussing God and the Bible. "I wanted to see someone who would understand that I believe in the power of prayer and that I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in me," Herrod explains. "And who wouldn't think I was crazy or insane if I told her so." (Paul, 2005)

Indeed, not only could the Christian counselor understand the patient's outlook and point-of-view, she also gave the patient scriptural guidance. Specifically, the counselor showed Herrod exactly how misinterpreting the Bible may have mutated into her unhappiness.

In the situation in which Herrod had sought to "turn the other cheek," the counselor noted that "Jesus was no pushover." Now, after two years of weekly sessions, Herrod is amazed by the new balance in her life and by how much happier she is. "I'm excited about the future now," she commented. (Paul, 2005) mainstream non-theological counselor, of course, would not have at all the background to counsel Herrod on the biblical issues she was facing - certainly a non-theological counselor could not speak particular to various interpretations of the Bible and Jesus' role and work on Earth.

Research indicates that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have grasped for the healing associated with Christian counseling. Like Herrod, these Americans are flocking to counseling that incorporates a spiritual or religious element, most often of the Christian variety. Over the last decade, in fact, faith-based therapies -- from pastoral counseling to ecumenical Christian counseling to fundamentalist Bible -- based treatment have absolutely rocketed in popularity, according to Paul's research. (Paul. 2005)

As evidence, the American Association of Christian Counselors has grown from 15,000 members in 1999 to 50,000 today. Specialized services are also thriving: It is becoming increasingly easy to find Christian-based eating disorder treatment centers or Christian life coaches. (Paul, 2005)

As Paul writes in her recent research, "Faith-based counselors vary in amount of religious training and psychological expertise. They differ in how much religion they incorporate into their practices and in the populations they serve. Some aim to holistically integrate mind, body and spirit for people of all faiths. Others seek to apply Scripture rather than social science to the resolution of human problems. But all of them, and especially the burgeoning evangelicals, reflect a growing divide in America. According to Harold Koenig, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, "They're turning away from mainstream cultural institutions to create their own therapeutic solutions to the stresses of modern living." (Paul, 2005)

America is built on the foundation of separation of church and state, but in that separation, it acknowledges the immense power of church in the equation. One viewpoint on the rise in Christian counseling practices in America is brought to us by John Portmann, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville: It may be that the rise in Christian counseling is "a way for religion to regain the role it lost to doctors and therapists in the mid-20th century. After all, religion has always been about suffering." (Paul, 2005)

But whether patients are looking to defeat depression, ameliorate anxiety or most often in Christian counseling sessions, deal with a family issue, the patients may prefer faith-based counseling simply because it occurs in a language that fits them and their culture most snugly.

All counseling, whether Christian or otherwise, deals with the same problem, the two represent two different paths. In general, a faith-based counseler favors a short-term approache. (Paul, 2005) Indeed, today's Christian and pastoral counselors are amenable to using psychopharmacology and other medical interventions, but in practice they usually do so through referral and avoid prescribing drugs for problems such as anxiety or depression. Several techniques usually associated with secular psychotherapy -- cognitive and behavioral techniques, for instance -- are also implemented in Christian counseling sessions. And people look to Christian counselors to solve the same personal and interpersonal problems.

There's a growing awareness in the counseling field and in seminaries that Christianity and spirituality in general are integral to a person's well-being," commented Paula Baylor, a Christian counselor and graduate advisor at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, a school that trains faith-based counselors. "We're trying to integrate cognitive, psychodynamic and psychoanalytical practices with a Christian perspective." (Paul, 2005)

As a result, today's wide array of counseling finds theology and psychology incredibly interlinked. Sigmund Freud, human history's most famous anarchist, famously viewed religion as a pathology, and religious Americans, particularly fundamentalist Christians, have forever viewed the science and medicine of psychotherapy suspect as a hallmark of secular America. "Historically, psychology and psychotherapy have been alienated from religion," observed Scott Richards, professor of counseling psychology at Brigham Young University and author of books on spiritual strategies for psychotherapy. (Paul, 2005)

Not only was Freud antireligious, but the behaviorists who came afterward were extremely eager to avoid religion in order to establish psychology as a respected science," Richards argued. As a direct result, psychotherapists waxed cautious not to bring up any hint of religion in their sessions. As time marched on, however, the values of psychotherapy have made inroads into religious as well as secular culture.

Paul writes in her 2005 research, "Observant Americans may feel most comfortable seeking help outside the traditional psychological profession because mental health professionals tend to be less religious than the general population. Nearly three-fourths of Americans say their whole approach to life is based on religion. But only 32% of psychiatrists, 33% of clinical psychologists and 46% of clinical social workers feel the same. The majority of traditional counselor training programs have no courses dealing with spiritual matters." (Paul, 2005)

However, despite the data Paul presents, several recent studies demonstrate that patients would rather choose counselors who agree with their religious beliefs and support, instead of calling into question, their faith and belief structures.

In fact, religious patients are most frequently in the position of lamenting that their secular therapists see their faith as a problem or a symptom, rather than as a conviction to be respected and incorporated into the therapeutic dialogue, a deep-seeded concern that is especially pronounced among the elderly and twentysomethings. (Paul, 2005)

According to Paul's research, a nationwide survey by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) indicates that, "83% of Americans believe their spiritual faith and religious beliefs are closely tied to their state of mental and emotional health. Three-fourths say it's important for them to see a professional counselor who integrates their values and beliefs into the counseling process. More people said they would prefer to see a religious counselor (29%) than a psychiatrist (27), psychologist (17) or family doctor (13)." (Paul, 2005)

It should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the relevant research that women are much… [END OF PREVIEW]

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