Christian counseling has become an important treatment modality for a growing number of health care practitioners and patients across the country in recent years. Introduced during the early 1980s, Christian counseling advocates integrating religious practices and beliefs founded on religious traditions with psychotherapeutic techniques to provide an optimal approach to helping people cope with a wide range of personal problems and family issues. The purpose of this study is to provide a critical and systematic review of the relevant literature in general and Gary R. Collins's book, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide (2007) in particular, concerning the origins and trends in Christian counseling and how this approach can be used to provide the timely and essential interventions that can help people better cope with personal and family problems. A summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues are presented in the study's conclusion.
Table of Contents
1.0 Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Statement of the Problem
1.2 Purpose of the Study
1.3 Importance of the Study
1.4 Rationale of the Study
2.0 Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature
2.1 Origins of Christian Counseling
2.2 Recent and Current Trends in Christian Counseling
3.0 Chapter 3: Methodology
3.1 Description of the Study Approach
3.2 Data-gathering Method and Database of Study
4.0 Chapter 4: Data Analysis
5.0 Chapter 5: Summary and Conclusions
Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide
1.0 Chapter One: Introduction
The evangelical Christian community has developed an approach to counseling that has been described as "Christian counseling" (Lartey, 2003, p. 106). A growing number of practitioners have recognized the value of integrating the heart of Christian counseling, the Holy Bible, with psychological approaches in their counseling practice (Lartey, 2003). In this regard, Lartey emphasizes that, "Indeed, evangelical Christian counselors seek to base their counsel on a particular reading and interpretation of the Bible that is based on an experience of salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ" (2003, p. 107). The personal experiences and faith of Christian counselors represent the fundamental interpretive and theological perspective that is applied to the enormous range of problems that are a concomitant of modern life (Lartey, 2003). According to Collins (2007), "Counseling attempts to provide encouragement and guidance for those who are facing losses, decisions, or disappointments. Counseling can stimulate personality growth and development" (p. 36).
The primary differences between evangelical Christian counselors and conventional counselors concerns the extent to which Christian counselors are prepared to apply "secular" psychological knowledge with respect to their doctrinal and biblical framework (Lartey, 2003). Views in this area exist along a continuum with one end being represented by Jay E. Adams (1970) who maintains that there is no need for any psychology at all for Christian counseling to be effective. At the other end of the continuum is Gary R. Collins, a practicing Christian counselor with a PhD in clinical psychology from Purdue University (Lartey, 2003). In this regard, Collins believes that a rebuilding of psychology is needed for Christian counseling that builds on the theistic premise that "God exists and is the source of all truth" (1977, p. 118). Moreover, Collins has written extensively on "Christian counseling," including his seminal work, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide (2007) and is a founding editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Marriage and Family: A Christian Journal (Clinton, 2003) and frequent contributor to the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (Allison, 2006). In addition, Collins has been a major source of teaching and practice in this area (Lartey, 2003). In sum, Christian counseling is:
. . . A solidly biblical approach to counseling, one which draws from secular psychology without betraying its Scriptural premise, one which realistically faces the deep (and not so deep) problems of people and honestly evaluates its success in dealing with them, and, most importantly, one which clings passionately and unswervingly to belief in an inerrant Bible and an all-sufficient Christ" (Lartey, 2003, p. 106).
Taken together, the perspective adopted by Collins and like-minded practitioners represents an important aspect of Christian counseling wherein there is a commitment to using secular psychology in combination with the scriptures to provide a holistic approach to counseling that is not otherwise available (Lartey, 2003). Although Christian counseling has been used to good effect in a broad range of counseling settings, but there are some considerations that must be taken into account to maximize its effectiveness, an issue that directly relates to the problem of interest to this study which is discussed further below.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Despite a growing body of research in the area of Christian counseling, there remains a dearth of knowledge among the Christian community concerning the optimal approach to helping people to deal with their personal problems (Meadors, 2012). In this regard, Meadors points out that, "Some believe that Christians should submit only to biblical counseling, while others support psychological counseling so long as it is integrated with the Scriptures" (2012, p. 2). Moreover, there has been a growing recognition that spirituality is an important component for effective mental health practice (West, 2004). Indeed, fully 50% of mental health professionals identify with some type of religious affiliation, and these practitioners subscribe to the belief personal prayer is valuable and spirituality is personally relevant (Weld & Ericksen, 2007).
Consequently, a number of mental health counselors regard spirituality as an important part of everyone's well-being, especially the well-being of their clients (Meador, 2012). As Weld and Ericksen emphasize, "In fact, prayer is the most frequently used spiritual intervention by Christian counselors. Even practitioners working in secular settings regularly incorporate prayer into their practices in some way" (2007, p. 328). Although the majority of practitioners that subscribe to these tenets believe it is inappropriate to pray with a client, most of them feel that praying for a client is appropriate (Weld & Ericksen, 2007). In addition, an overwhelming majority of counseling clients feel it is important to have their spirituality or religion incorporated in the counseling context due in part to the fact that most (80%) of Americans believe in God and the efficacy of prayer (Weld & Ericksen, 2007). In this regard, Weld and Ericksen emphasize that, "Christian clients expect prayer to be included in Christian counseling. Because sensitivity to clients' expectations helps build the therapeutic alliance, which in turn contributes to positive outcomes, methods for including prayer in counseling with some clients need to be examined" (2007, p. 329). To this end, this study examines these methods as described below.
1.2 Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study was to provide a critical and systematic review of the relevant literature in general and Gary R. Collins's book, Christian Counseling in particular, concerning the origins and trends in Christian counseling and how this approach can be used to provide the timely and essential interventions needed by people in time of need.
1.3 Importance of Study
Living in the 21st century can be daunting, and many people find themselves at a loss concerning how to respond and cope with the exigencies of life. For instance, Collins (2007) reports that, "People come with marriage problems, crises, depression, interpersonal conflicts, and other problems" (p. 64). Therefore, identifying opportunities to help people with their personal problems by drawing on the Holy Bible and secular psychotherapeutic interventions represents a timely and valuable enterprise. As Clinton and Hawkins point out, "This is a new and exciting day in Christian counseling, a ministry and profession expanding in both worldwide influence and membership" (2011, p. 141). Likewise, according to Narramore (1960):
Every Christian worker should consider the emphasis he places on counseling. He should keep in mind that God in intensely interested in the individual. In Jesus' ministry here on earth, He manifested His interest in individuals. . . . In a jostling street procession, Jesus looked up and spotted a man sitting in the branches of a tree. He ordered the man to come down. Then Jesus left the throng and went with Zacchaeus to his home so that He could personally discuss this man's needs" (emphasis author's). (p. 13)
In fact, spirituality and the importance of faith-based counseling are increasingly being regarded as the fifth force in mental health care (Koenig, 2004). Indeed, Clinton and Sibcy stress that, "When people seek mental health services, they often start with a pastor, priest, or rabbi, and, regardless of the context, they usually want their faith addressed as part of the therapeutic process" (2012, p. 142). Moreover, a growing number of religious leaders are recognizing that psychological training is a prerequisite for effective counseling for serious emotional and behavioral disorders (Meadors, 2012).
1.4 Rationale of Study
Given the strong belief in the need to incorporate spiritual and religious aspects into counseling, it just makes good sense to approach the process thoughtfully. Fortunately, there is an abundance of guidance in the Scriptures as well as from researchers that have focused on this issue in recent years. For instance, according to Narramore (1960), "Someone has said that people are not born in bunches and we usually do…