Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark McMinn is a book that reflects the professional experience and the wisdom of the author as both a teacher and practitioner. Combining the Scripture with the context within which counseling takes place in a rather complicated assignment that requires a scholar to be well-versed in both the spiritual component of being and the psychological awareness of individuals. According to the writer, the most complex task for a counselor is understanding how to find a balance between logic and spirituality and not having to choose one over the other when addressing the mental health needs of their clients.
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In the first part of the book, Chapter 1, “Religion in the counseling office” and Chapter 2, “Toward psychological and spiritual health,” the author builds a foundation for his philosophical framework that will be used throughout the rest of the work. In the first chapter, McMinn describes a scenario of a patient with severe mental health issues and the variety of approaches that she encountered when interacting with different counselors. While one may reject the spiritual considerations of the patient in need of mental health care, the other will be utterly dismissive of the scientific and effective theories of counseling (McMinn, 2011). Therefore, there is a high need to integrate both perspectives into counseling based on the needs of a patient and his or her values or beliefs. In the second chapter, the author delves deeper into the minutia of spiritual counseling as a means of achieving psychological well-being and personal growth. The author makes an effort to explain why the spiritual component of healing is important for individuals: through establishing a positive connection with God, a person can develop a good relationship with oneself and others.
The second part of the book, Chapters 3 through 8, deals with such topics as prayer, Scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption, all of which are imperative for furthering the understanding of counseling as related to Christian beliefs and values. For a counselor to have a positive influence on the well-being of a patient, it is imperative for him or her to build trust with their clients with the help of patience and the ability to respond effectively to the arising issues and concerns (McMinn, 2011). Therefore, there will never be a “one-size-fits-all” approach to spiritual counseling as every person is different in their relationships with spirituality and experiences different stages of life, and it is the job of a counselor to find what is right to do.
The concepts of confession and forgiveness stand out from McMinn’s (2011) as they bear personal meaning. According to the author, establishing a healing relationship between a counselor and the patient is possible through honesty and the sharing of the deepest concerns and opinions from which a patient wants to break free. As mentioned in Proverbs 28:13, “whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Therefore, confession can be used as a viable tool that counselors may use to help patients overcome past trauma or guilt, thus paving the way toward forgiveness and healing.
In the past, I have always considered confession as a sign of weakness and resisted it, which, ultimately, lead to a downward emotional spiral and a spiritual struggle. The envy of other success fueled my inner doubts and anger, and not being able to confess jealousy and the negative emotions that it brings made me weak and unforgiving of personal failures. Each time I stumbled, I reminded myself of what others have accomplished and how insignificant I was compared to them. After having a conversation with my preacher, I was convinced that a confession would bring the healing that I desperately needed. As I confessed my struggles, the first steps toward forgiveness were made. As a Christian duty, I found it imperative to ask for forgiveness from the Lord in order to move forward with personal forgiveness. From the counseling perspective, it may become challenging to introduce the concept of forgiveness without being forceful with their clients (McMinn, 2011). However, both topics of confession and forgiveness must be embedded in the counseling practice as a means to facilitate personal and spiritual development.
The approach that McMinn (2011) took in his book is unique in the sense of the need to find a balance between scholarly discourse and spirituality in counseling. What is essential is that the book contains numerous examples and hypothetical scenarios involving patients facing different life dilemmas. The purpose of the book was to show that counselors do not need to choose between secular and spiritual practice; instead, they should adapt to what their clients need and expect from counseling, encouraging them to be open and not critical. Another unique idea put forth by the author is that counselors get confused too when it comes to religious values in the office. McMinn (2011) proposes that the integration of Christian beliefs and counseling techniques becomes highly practical, and finding out what works for some clients and what does not is a matter of practice and personal reflection. Finally, the author raises a question as to who relevant ethical standards should be defined in order to apply them to the understanding and confrontation of sin. The principle of doing no harm should be placed at the forefront to ensure that whatever a counselor does, he or she should do what is best for the client.
In the future, I am planning to work with vulnerable individuals, such as representatives of the low socioeconomic background, people struggling with substance abuse and addiction, as well as the elderly. It is important that within such a setting, the counseling approach combines the best practices from evidence-based counseling with holistic spiritual practicees that fit the needs of clients. It may be useful to incorporate such principles described by McMinn (2011) as prayer, sin, confession, forgiveness, and spiritual health. From a counseling standpoint, prayer can be used as one of the tools to facilitate devotional reflection and meditation (McMinn, 2011). The understanding of sin is necessary for pinpointing the reasons behind clients’ mental suffering while confession will open opportunities for healing and self-discovery. With the help of forgiveness, the clients can attain a redemptive capacity that they can use in their life when overcoming the negative thoughts about sinful acts. Overall, McMinn’s (2011) advise is greatly important for the future practice because it calls for all Christian counselors worldwide to work together toward the improvement of the population’s not only mental but also spiritual well-being.
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McMinn, M. R. (2011). Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling (Rev. ed.). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House. ISBN: 9780842352529.