New Counseling Paradigm Focusing on Scripture and Family
New Directions for Christian Counseling:
A Focus on Scripture and Family
This paper will focus on presenting a new counseling paradigm which synthesizes the power of the Bible by combining a variety of elements from assorted counseling theories with the inherent goal of maximizing client outcomes. This framework is useful as it mixes the intrinsic nature and needs of man along with the defining psychological elements which contribute to forming his mental health function or dysfunction. Once this model has been discussed, the work then discusses the details of effective counseling intervention. In short, this paper puts forward a counseling paradigm which focuses on the vital role of the client and their motivations in producing their own mental health. The Christian counselor can help clients arrive at the best psychological outcome through utilizing various established counseling models with Scripture, allowing a desire for God's wisdom and positive change to promote overall health.
Philosophical Assumptions and Key Concepts
As human beings, religion is at the core of our existence. Therefore the effective counselor must recognize the critical value of integrating belief in their work. In recent years, the scholarly field of clinical counseling has gradually recognized the need to be more inclusive in recognizing the religious and spiritual factors which shape clients' lives. Evidence can be found in the American Psychological Association recent decision to include religious identity as a key element of human psychology (Wolf, 2001). Stemming from this official endorsement, the motivation for combining counseling with religion has grown within a model of objective rationalism (i.e. controlling one's volatile thoughts) and the hope of addressing the underlying psychological issues the client is struggling with. This general style of counseling combines the Rational Emotive Behavior Theory, Behavior Theory, Cognitive Theory, and Existential Theory. Furthermore, this paradigm addresses the value rational thinking within a religious framework. "Rational Emotive Behavior Theory can be summarized in one sentence by Ellis's paraphrase of Epictetus, the stoic philosopher; 'It's never the events that happen that make us disturbed, but our view of them'" (Murdock, 2009). The way one colors past events and one's own identity has a powerful influence in the manner in which one lives in the world. Beyond this, the utility of managing one's ideas is critical in how dynamic situations are handled by clients. The Christian nature of this approach can be witnessed in the Bible, where being in control of one's thoughts is possible through God, in 2 Corinthians 10:5 "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (New American Standard Bible).
One further element of this paradigm is that it follows the objectives of Behavioral Theory where, "what needs to be changed, then, is the underlying cause, not the symptom. If you don't treat the cause, you get more symptoms, perhaps different ones, but symptoms just the same; this process is called symptom substitution" (Murdock, 2009). It is critical to understand that for a major psychological problem to be effectively addressed a counselor must help a client heal their own thinking processes. Despite Cognitive theory establishing its technique via the Darwinian theory of evolution, it does have value in asserting that "…it recognizes that a critical aspect of human existence is the creation of meaning from experiences" (Murdock, 2009). In summary, it is critical that human beings derive life meaning through their past experiences. Existential Theory can be also of use in this situation as this theory argues that, "Meaning is inherent in each individual - each individual has an ultimate, true calling -- and it is the task of the individual to discover it" (Murdock, 2009). Though Existential Theory does not argue for a role for God in counseling, a greater purpose in life is recognized. In Jeremiah 29:11 it is clear that God has calling for the individual that follows Him, "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" (New American Standard Bible). All of these theories can be used by the modern Christian counselor as they help man achieve greater purpose through the recognition that one's thoughts must be effectively controlled to ultimately allow him to reach his goal of fulfilling his life's purpose.
Model of Personality
In evaluating various perspectives on the nature of man and how he develops throughout life, it is critical to look at a patient's past, present and future goals to evaluate the manner to best direct their counseling. Under Behavioral Theory, a significant focus is directed towards "…understanding reinforcement contingencies operative in an individual's past," which then "makes it possible to implement different contingencies in the present and, thus, to change behavior" (Murdock, 2009). This implementation is vital as most behaviors are acquired from childhooh and it is therapeutic for the client to recognize the origin of these pathological behaviors in order to make a transition to a healthier thought process. Another theory, Rational Emotive Behavior Theory "…postulates that humans are a product of both inherited influences and environmental teaching" (Murdock, 2009). This model asserts that a number of behaviors are inborn but that does mean that they cannot be changed. Also of importance this theory, provides an effective spectrum that allows certain behaviors to be learned and therefore be amenable to counter-learning through counseling. Similarly, Cognitive Theory argues that, "Based on the amounts of positive and negative experiences we have, we develop corresponding views of ourselves and the world" (Murdock, 2009). Synthesizing these various models, it ca be stated that counseling has a firm understanding of how an individual's psychology matures and becomes an individual. Yet, Existential Theory posits the most insightful statement, when it argues, "They would contend that each individual has the choice, on a moment-to-moment basis, to determine who they are" (Murdock, 2009). This is most in line with Biblical teaching when in James 1:2-5 it is written "consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (New American Standard Bible). In short, as Christians, it is essential that all believers have a relationship with Christ and seek God's wisdom. It is the moment-to-moment choices that most affect who the individual is and if God is a part of those choices then we will be more like Him with every choice made. Man is ultimately made up of his genetic inheritance, learned behaviors, the nature where he was raised and his life experience. According to Christian counseling, it is these myriad factors which make each person unique in the eyes of God.
Model of Health
This paper puts forwards a model of health combines an assortment of theories and mixes it with the Bible to develop a model of health. According to Existential Theory, a person enjoying good health is an authentic person. The concept of health connotates that the individual is true to themselves and do not suffer from anxiety or guilt. The truth of this perspective can be seen in Philippians 4:5 where the Bible says "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (New American Standard Bible).
According to Behavioral Theory, the value of flexibility and adaptability in the face of life stressors is emphasized. The focus is put on acquiring behaviors which aid the client get by in life. The Bible presents this model in a variant fashion by arguing that individuals must seek the guidance of their peers and the Bible in learning the healthiest behaviors. This can be seen in Proverbs 1:3-5, "To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel" (New American Standard Bible). Another theory with value is the Rational Emotive Behavior Theory which argues for a rational approach to behavior. The theory argues that it is critical for the healthy client to take responsibility for their actions and thoughts. "Decision is the authentic act of existence. The subject is free and responsible. Decision is something only subjects may perform, and therefore something for which they must assume complete responsibility. The intention here is to secure the independence of subjects from forces and contexts external to themselves in order to…