In my last post, I discussed the importance of evaluating the next “great” counseling method or technique with a good dose of suspicion. What is the author (or disciple) trying to sell us? Why? What is the basis of their model?
However, I do not want you to think that we ought to dispatch every counseling intervention with a snooty once-over. Rather, I want you to immediately follow-up your suspicion with an opening of your mind!
Step Two: Read with an Open Mind
Even the shakiest of ideas, models and techniques provide opportunities for us to grow. No matter our wisdom and intellect, we will always see life (reality) from a particular vantage point. Every human vantage point contains bias. This is why we should read outside our own disciplines and family groups. I especially encourage readers to listen to their loudest critics. They will have a point or two that we ought to take to heart.
So, find the originators of the model or technique you want to explore (often, original authors praise their ideas a bit less than their disciples do). As you read, ask these questions,
- What does this author observe about their world, the way it works (or doesn’t)?
- How do they envision the purpose and goal of life?
- What human problems are most significant to them?
- What solutions do they seek? What techniques or interventions are most prominent?
While you may disagree with their interpretations (save that for a later step), work hard to view the world through their eyes. Can you see what they see? You want to make this effort because you recognize you do not see the world entirely as it is. You see in part. Your humility here will help raise to your mind questions that you mint not thought were all that important.
Let me give you an example. In my first semester at Wheaton College (PsyD program) fresh out of the biblical counseling world of CCEF, I wrote a paper for Stanton Jones defending/critiquing a model of biblical counseling. At the end of the paper, Dr. Jones asked me to conduct a thought experiment,
Would [this] model urge medical research forward? After all, if worship is our primary end, and we can give glory to God with a serene death, why try to eradicate disease? If suffering is a human trial that gives us opportunity to glorify, should the concrete contributions to the suffering be addressed? I know this can be answered, but oh the subtleness of emphasis!
I have to tell you that these words were powerful to me at the time (and still are!). He knew I would say, “of course we should eradicate suffering.” But, in promoting the human end of enjoying God, even in suffering, I had emphasized suffering well to the point of de-emphasizing concrete helps that often come through psychological and medical research.
The goal of step two is to challenge our own assumptions to see if they need tweaking. Once we have concluded exploring the observations of the model builder, next we move to evaluating interpretations and assumptions.