by Jay A. Spalding
Richmont/Henegar Counseling Center was founded as a Christian counseling center. The Center seeks to hire trained counselors and psychologists who profess a Christian faith and practice in their lives. These professionals (licensed or near license eligible), when interviewed, are asked to explain how they integrate their Christian faith and their practice of counseling or psychology. Though each therapist responds differently they all agree that psychology and counseling theory and methodology is useful when compatible with the Biblical truths of our faith. From this point of agreement, therapists vary in the type and amount of explicit integration they do in their practices.
We attempt to be careful to not “push” our clients toward Christian principles and to obtain consent to speak freely of these things in session. I always explain the Christian roots of the counseling center and my own Christian commitment for my client’s information during the “informed consent” process in the first session. Also, I ask for the client’s faith history at that time. I have found during 30 years of practice in Chattanooga that well over 95% of the people I have seen want a Christian oriented approach to their counseling, including some who don’t currently claim to be believers. Needless to say I have experienced ample freedom in the vast majority of cases to use not only psychological technique, but also Biblical principles in the counseling office.
This I believe is as it should be because the psychological and spiritual domains overlap a great deal. Counseling psychology from this perspective is perhaps best referred to as “soul care” which involves working with individuals lives in the context of their faith and faith communities.
Some of the assumptions and principles that I consider to be essential:
- It is incumbent to make every effort to provide therapeutic help that promotes the best interests of one’s clients.
- What is good for the soul of mankind, spiritually is good for him/her psychologically as well.
- Psychology provides tools for helping people cope. Among these are how to communicate, reframe experience and perspective, set and achieve goals, be more able to use one’s volition, diminish bondage to fear, learn how to relax oneself, be able to process life controlling dramatic events-diminishing their overwhelming nature and control, and many other things.
- Psychology as a science and a tool is useful when found compatible with the truths given by the creator.
- What is true, right, and wrong is determined by the creator and not by popular moray or personal preference. It is communicated to humans through His bible.
- Humans perceive or experience “truth” as an approximation of the objective truth, which is held in the mind and perceptions of the creator.
- Humans function best intrapersonally and interpersonally when they intensely pursue a path that is illuminated by the creator’s truths.
- Humans also find themselves in the best of conditions when they humbly attempt to love the creator as well as others and themselves with the deepest aspects of their beings, their minds, their souls, and their strength.
- It is a healthy thing to make it a point to frequently seek to learn and meditate on the creator’s truths.
- Forgiveness is a principle demonstrated to us and taught to us by the creator, which when applied to human relationships contributes powerfully to the healing process.
- Also, we learn from the creator that humbly confessing ones wrong thinking and doing to the creator and to others leads to forgiveness, a clean conscience and soul, and improved trusting relationships with others.
- We’re also told to discuss our troubles and faults with one another, to rejoice and to grieve with each other. Along with this we are to lovingly correct one another. These principles work marvelously together in the service of healing when used in individual and group therapy contexts.
- It is good for humans to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of excellence, and worthy of praise. When people attempt to do this consciously over time they experience a more peaceful inner being.
- Humans are instructed by the creator to be honest with themselves, God, and others. When people give themselves permission to deceive, they open themselves up to bigger and longer lasting problems (ie. Infidelity, addictions, relational breakdown, criminal behavior, and many other types of trouble ). Shutting down a runaway problem of lying can go a long way toward improving relationships and stopping an addiction.
- When facing extreme difficulty (eg. with physical health, mental health, relationship, finances, abuses, etc.) Is often better not to focus on finding all the elusive causes and to work on focusing on the Lord who is there, who is a loving, the ruler over all that is made (seen and unseen worlds), and is sovereign over all of the affairs of one’s life. This focus quiets the soul and promotes endurance.
- The Creator tells us to seek His godly wisdom rather than to rely on ” earthly or worldly” wisdom. This idea is taught many places in the Bible, especially the book of proverbs. Worldly wisdom typically encourages the pursuit of sensory gratification, dominance, self over others, discord,material wealth, power, and prestige. Godly wisdom begins with the healthy fear of God, the pursuit of Him and his ways and finding satisfaction in humble, faithful, truthful, just, mutually giving relationships and fair dealings with the less fortunate. Mental health as well as spiritual health is enhanced by finding this kind of contentment through the pursuit of God’s wisdom.
- The Creator revealed a plan of reconciling mankind and all of creation to himself through his son. This broad healing picture provides a model and path that when learned and followed enhances the reconciliation of broken relationships.
- When facing the end of one’s days it is invaluable to have confidence in the above ideas and the knowledge of joining the creator in a good and everlasting place.
These principles and many others are brought to us by the creator and distilled from the inspired words of the Bible.
In conclusion, I find it imperative to share the light of the gospel with all who are interested and willing to seek after God. I find that the varieties of light from this “good news” enhances almost every counseling situation.
Jay A. Spalding
MA pastoral psychology, PhD counseling psychology
Mental health service provider
Licensed psychologist, TN and GA