Mark McMinn’s Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian counseling

Filed in Uncategorized by on November 14, 2009 0 Comments

 

I had to read and write an abstract about this book for one of my counseling courses at Liberty University. I really enjoyed the book and found it so helpful that I thought I would share the abstract here for others interested in Christian counseling, or simply helping people out of Christian love. This was a great book and I highly recommend it.

 

McMinn, M. R. (1996). Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling.

Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

McMinn wrote this book not to be a model of integration of psychology, theology and spirituality, but rather a practical, yet not comprehensive guide about how to integrate Christian faith into counseling. The bible includes not only the word of God for all people at all times, but also a personal living word for each person. Therefore, our goal as Christian counselors is to be a conduit through which God’s word can become personal for our clients. We should use scriptures in order to help the client develop a healthy sense of self, a healthy sense of need, and to develop healing relationships. Perhaps where scripture is most important is in the lives of Christian counselors. If we are not immersed in the word we will not be able to shine biblical light into the lives of our clients. In order to help our clients we must first be living out the word of the bible in our own lives.

McMinn suggests four forms of client confrontation: silence, pondering, questioning, and direct censure. Silence is relatively gentle, and involves the counselor not directly giving approval or disapproval. With this the counselor must be careful of an affirming head nod or small verbal acknowledgment can be seen as approval (p. 138). Pondering, sometimes called the “Columbo technique,” is also relatively gentle. For this technique the counselor gently leads the client “toward a more complete understanding of conscience” to help the client “uncover and explore her feelings” (p. 139). Questioning involves asking specific open ended questions to the client to access her values of right and wrong. “Though this is more confrontive than either of the first two examples, it respects the client’s right to articulate her own values of right and wrong” (p. 140). Direct censure “should be considered only when there is a high level of trust established in the therapeutic relationship” (p. 140). This is the most extreme form and while it can lead to quick changes, it can also be the most damaging. Direct censure elevates “the counselor’s values to a position above the client’s values” (p. 140). It should be used rarely and carefully. McMinn encourages with all of these forms of confrontation to use empathy with the client so that “the counselor is not exercising power over the client but standing alongside as a joint pilgrim in the spiritual life” (p. 151).

McMinn points part of the effectiveness of counseling lies in its confessional nature. This part of people’s lives used to belong to the church, however, in a changing and fallen world, people are now reaching out to counselors for help with confession. McMinn advises, “When counselors respond in a caring, nonjudgmental way, clients feel relief” (p. 165). There is a rhythm to confession where “a person recognizes and admits need and is then drawn into a healing relationship through the understanding or absolving words of a priest or counselor” (p. 168). Though Protestants believe confession is personal between the individual and God, requiring no intercessor, such as a priest, there is merit to be considered in the Roman Catholic view of confession and penance. Too often people have a “carelessness toward sin: ‘Oh well, I will always be forgiven’” (p. 175). McMinn advises confession requires confrontation of sin and penance helps to acknowledge the severity of sin. Through the sacrament of penance, “the burden of guilt is lifted as forgiveness is granted” (p. 175). McMinn quotes Deitrich Bonhoeffer, who warns about what he calls cheap grace: “no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin” (p. 182). There is a difference in coming out of the counseling session with a profound realization “I am forgiven,” verses simply “I am okay,” which can occur when the severity of sin and the need for God’s grace is not recognized.

Forgiveness is a gift from God. Unlike our naturally healing physical bodies, for interpersonal healing to occur there must be deliberate and conscious effort. Forgiveness involves more than pure willpower and is truly displayed when it involves “reflection of insight and character transformation” (p. 215). It requires “humble submission to the one who continually forgives us” (p. 215). It is an act of empathy where one person says to the other, “I may not have done exactly what you did, but I am also capable of doing evil. Just as I need forgiveness, so I forgive you” (p.216).

McMinn explains “Redemption means the act of buying back, or recovering by paying a price” (p. 241). Redemption is much like how years ago green stamps which could be exchanged for merchandise turned worthless paper into a powerful purchasing tool. “In the spiritual and interpersonal realms, redemption means that humans, broken and battered by life’s trials, have value and meaning restored to their lives” (p. 241). Spiritual redemption is “a one-time work fulfilled in Christ’s atonement” (p. 252). It is the process by which God brings us closer to Him, helping to save us from the addictions to the “pleasures of sin” (p. 252). Redemption comes through humility where we realize our need for God’s grace.


Monica Kennedy is a graduate student in the
Professional Counseling program at Liberty University; a program which integrates psychology and Christianity to provide holistic care for individuals throughout the life cycle. Her goal as a Licensed Professional Counselor is to provide hope to clients for yesterday, today, and the future. Monica is a student member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), serves as an online student representative for Liberty University’s AACC Student Leadership Team, and is the Leader of the AACC at LU Online Service Team.

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