Book Review: Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn (2011
Book Review: Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn (2011)
I reviewed the book Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn (2011). In the book, he describes the association between theology, spirituality, and psychology and how they are integrated in the counseling environment. Chapter one describes Jill who is a Christian and is suffering from depression and feelings of overwhelming guilt. She is looking for a counselor that is who is most suited for her needs. McMinn describes that Jill contacts three different types of counselors and he describes the differences between the three. He also goes on to describe that in Jill’s search she finds it daunting trying to find a spiritually sensitive counselor. Throughout the book he describes scenarios and how the counselor reacted the situation. He gives positive and challenging feedback in regards to each scenario. Per McMinn (2011) many counselors struggle with knowing how and when to integrate religion and spirituality into their session with clients (pg.4). “Christian counseling is more complex than other forms of counseling because our goals are multifaceted” (McMinn, 2011, pg.39).
McMinn goes on to explain six challenges counselors face with interdisciplinary integration. The first challenge being that Christian counselors are having to stretch themselves from interdisciplinary integration: psychology and theology to interdisciplinary integration that includes psychology, theology, and spiritual formation (McMinn, 2011). Due to the lack of spiritual competence many counselors are challenged to find training. Per McMinn (2011), spirituality is not considered a credential because it is a relationship between God and the counselor and typically it is not offered in a classroom setting, but is found during private time and devotion (pg. 11). The second challenge is trying to identify what is professional or personal spirituality distinction. McMinn explains that in many professional ethic codes an individual can decipher between professional and personal, but with spirituality it is difficult to separate one from the other. McMinn’s feels that it shouldn’t matter because counseling isn’t one size fit all. He explained that in a recent journal article two psychologists described that Christian counselors who were versed in not only theology and counseling theories, but also who had strong Christian characteristics, were the most prepared to aid their clients. One of the challenges he discussed was Christian counselor’s sometime fail to realize that mental health doesn’t always come from predisposed behaviors. McMinn explains that people need more of a Christian worldview. Spirituality within the counselor and client relationship can start the emotional healing process if client is honest with themselves and admit that they are troubled and not just “ok”. In closing Chapter 1 McMinn states he is fearful of interdisciplinary integration because it is more than a skill set, it is having a profound relationship with Christ. He feels that if it is only a ‘set of tools’ then anyone can become a Christian Counselor.
In Chapter two McMinn describes that most of the maps that are used in Christian counseling are for mental health. McMinn states, “We need a map for spiritual growth” (McMinn, 2011). McMinn illustrates a simple map, which is illustrated throughout the book, to explain religious and spiritual challenges and intervention (McMinn, 2011). McMinn goes on to describe the pattern of human behavior. He describes three discussion points, 1.) Self-sufficiency- we choose to be loving and caring to one another; 2.) Brokenness-the consequence of being overtly independent; 3.) Healing Relationship – the pain/brokenness pulls one into a closer relationship with God (McMinn, 2011).
McMinn also discusses the problems with the theoretical map. Again, he describes that counseling is not a one size fit all practice. Due to the vagueness of the map it can cause other problems for the client. He describes a more comprehensive map that includes self-awareness, the need for God, and a healing relationship with God. He also describes the challenges that can happen if the counselor does not create a healthy balance during the counseling process. McMinn describes the need for psychological, spiritual health and spiritual formation as the foundation to spiritual intervention. The author describes prayer, scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption throughout the remaining of the book to give insight into the different types of religious interventions.
McMinn describes prayer as a good thing that can be misused (McMinn, 2011, pg.90). He explains that different types of prayer that can be used during or outside of the session. It is important to receive permission from the client prior. He ranks the types of prayer in regards to the lowest misuse factor to the highest. Of course, the prayer with the least amount if risk is praying for the client outside of the session and the type with the most risk is routine in-session prayer. Prayer can be quite beneficial with helping one redirect their attention towards God. It can also create challenges in individuals who lack trust for their counselor. For prayer to be a success in the session the counselor should be spiritually disciplined and mature in the word of Christ.
Using scripture is session can be quite helpful. Many Christian and non-Christion counselors use the Bible is sessions, almost like a self-help book (McMinn, 2011). It is important to assess the clients’ level of scripture that can be used during the session. It does come with its set of challenges. McMinn feels that scripture can be interpreted different depending on if the person is aware of self-need or not. The counselor must have knowledge of scripture and know when and where to introduce it into the session, to make sure not alienate the client.
McMinn discussed confronting sin. He states that as a Christian counselor one should confront sin, but not with every client. He describes using a silence, pondering, questing, and direct approach (McMinn, 2011). He explains that silence from the counselor allows the client to reassess their own feelings. Pondering allows the counselor to restate what the client just said for the client to rethink their choices. Questioning is another way to confront sin with a client by asking power statements it provokes greater thought in regards to the clients’ choices (McMinn, 2011). One of the more riskier ways to confront sin is directly. This can either promote healthier choices or can damage the counselor client relationship. In other times not confronting the sin can be helpful, depending on other deep seated issues that the client might be exhibiting.
McMinn (2011), describes that all people want forgiveness and to confess (pg.220). The integration of confession is more about the humility and the perspective of the therapist. He also describes that confession is also about the relationship the client has with God.
While reading Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn (2011) many portions of the reading stood out. I like how he had scenarios for each intervention and he offered different approaches to each of them. I also was intrigued by his explanation of accurate sense of self. He described this as someone who is aware of who they are. If someone is aware of who they are they exhibit a greater emotional relationship with their counselor. I liked the different types of prayer and the risk factors. McMinn explains that prayer can be helpful in counseling, but the counselor should be cautious of misuse. I liked the idea of devotional-meditation assignments. This stood out to me in regards to clients who are spiritual who might have thoughts of being forsaken by God. I also understood that this praying style cannot be used on all clients. Mediation can also be used to help with imagery for high stress/ anxious patients.
I also learned that in-session prayer should not be used regularly. This stood out to me, because I would think it would be expected from a Christian counselor. McMinn express that if the counselor prays in every session it will take away the intimacy out of prayer. Forgiveness was another aspect of religion intervention that I was moved by, because I knew it was practiced in some sessions, but I was surprised by the opposition. I feel that forgiveness will allow the victim to free themselves of the bondage of the predator. Some therapist felt that forgiveness was done out of a false sense of moral obligation (McMinn, 2011, pg. 252).
Overall I found Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn (2011) to be a great book for the Christian counselor to help with integration. The scenarios were helpful and the of treatment he gave of the different counselor’s and their responses. The book was themed throughout which made it easy to read; however, some of the book was his thoughts and had little research to back it. I do like that the book was originally written in 1996 and in 2011 he updated it. Some of the most helpful parts was the “Facing the Challenges” aspect of each chapter. It educated me on some of the issues that can happen while assisting clients with spiritual formation. The “Psychological and Spiritual Health”, section offered lots of insight on how the Christian counselor can integrate the two. I felt that this stood out to me because McMinn (2011) illustrated maps that would help the Christian counselor treat individuals with these concerns or issues.
I currently work for a local Community College, as a Success Coach. I assist students with work/life balance, organization, study skills, and several other resources. I coach my students through lives little hiccups. In my current work setting I do discuss God and his grace with my students. I first assess the students religious background. After forming a bond and I feel comfortable I discuss God’s belief for us all and how he is leading our steps.
McMinn’s book will be helpful to me when I have students that are Christian and do not have a issue with referencing spirituality in the session. The first concept I will incorporate is prayer and scripture in the session. I will take care not to misuse the two. I will help my students that suffer from test anxiety to mediate both Christian and non- Christian. Secondly, the “What if This Happened” section of the book was perceptive it gave me insight on real- life scenarios. Thirdly, the six challenges that he discussed in each intervention will help me with integrating psychology, theology, and spiritual formation. His expertise will help me with noticing and avoiding challenges while using integration in my counseling session. Fourth concept was although he offered challenges to the integration success he also gave positive aspects. For example in the prayer section he describes the importance of prayer, but he also describes to not misuse it in session. The last concept that I will use is the prayer concept. He described different types of prayer and the risk of each prayer. I will use this in my current position to my students who I feel will benefit from it the most.
Some challenges I might endure as I integrate psychology, theology, and spirituality is knowing when and how to offer prayer and scripture to my clients. I will also need to study the Bible and be able to offer assistance that my clients need without reciting the same scriptures. I do not want to come across as someone who uses prayer as repetition.
McMinn, M.R. (2011). Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling (Rev.ed). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.