We come to the concluding chapter of Mark McMinn’s and Clark Campbell’s Integrative Psychotherapybook. They remind us that it was their endeavor to detail their model of integration, psychotherapy, and Christian approach. By integration they meant that they wanted to thoughtfully integrate a variety of psychological theories (as opposed to mindless or even pragmatic eclecticism) as well as their theological views of persons. Their version of integration is best defined, so they say, by the term theoretical integrationism (TI). “[TI] occurs when a person begins with a particular theoretical starting point and then extends the theoretical base by incorporating one or more additional theories” (p. 386). What is the heart of the IP model found in this book? McMinn started with CBT and CT and has incorporated relational approaches more likely found in dynamic models of therapy. Campbell is reported to have begun with interpersonal and family models and incorporated and practiced CT. I would suggest that CT is the heart of the IP model with relational and interpersonal understandings of persons included. I would suggest that there is little evidence of family models in this book.
The authors make brief mention of their theological integration in this chapter. They admit that they take a rather narrow view of Imago Dei and apply that to personhood and psychotherapy by looking at the image of God through the lens of functionality, structure, and relationship.
IP attempts to address life both at the level of symptom reduction AND transformation. The authors recognize that many things lead to transformation–not just therapy. However,
“Psychotherapy is only one means of transformation, but in today’s society it has become an important and ubiquitous one. Even within the church there appears to be a strong and growing interest in counseling and psychotherapeutic ministries, though suspicions about psychology persist in many congregations and denominations. Church-based counseling ministries are now commonplace, most pastors and church leaders have a referral network of therapists in their community, seminaries offer courses and degrees in counseling, and support groups and peer-counseling ministries are being established in many churches. This trend is encouraging insofar as it helps the church care for whole persons as Jesus ministered to the spiritual, physical, relational and emotional needs he saw in others” (p. 388).
Notice the word, “insofar” in the previous sentence. The authors see increased chance for harm if we “conflate” psychotherapy and the church. They are concerned about two problems: (a) making the gospel about us (self-actualization) instead of Jesus work, and (b) having untrained and undertrained individuals offering therapeutic help and so causing harm to vulnerable people. They do not want to see the Church compromised by becoming therapeutic nor do they want to see the profession of counseling dumbed down by removing the professional, academic, and scientific groundings.
Finally, they end the book by listing 6 ways their IP model is comprehensive: (a) includes both psychology and christianity, (b) consider multiple domains of persons, (c) multiple dimensions of therapy, (d) includes both scientific and relational approaches, (e) christocentric, and (f) usable with both christian and nonchristian clients.
So, now that we have concluded their book, what do you think? Did it make you more interested in viewing therapy through the symptom, schema, and relationship lenses? Did their model seem usable in your context? Were their Christian foundations necessary, or said differently, how did their Christian beliefs change how they function with clients? Would a Christian therapist who loves Jesus but sees their work as being a relational cognitive therapist act any differently? I’m curious if you have a reaction.
Some of my reactions:
1. This is probably the best Christian integrative book I have read. They work harder in this book to make sure that they acknowledge the all-too-common superficial use of Christian beliefs in building a model of care. They also display much humility and do not want the church to water down the Gospel. Therapy isn’t everything for them. Christianity is trump, in their eyes.
2. There is almost no negativity directed at any other model. Most of us use other models as foils for why what we do is better. I congratulate them on being able to map out a model without attacking others. When they do point out weaknesses, it is in their perception of the limits of cognitive therapy.
3. The book is now in need of a follow-up that more deeply illustrates case material. What does IP look like in an extended case study. I would love to see that as a follow-up text. What they did provide were little snippets that had a lot of realism to them. I just want more. Here’s one little question. Does Scripture only come into play at the symptom level of change? It seems to by the way they write and don’t write about Scripture. Does Scripture have anything to do with transformation and experience? Scripture is not merely a cognitive or intellectual enterprise (though we often use it this way).
4. I might quibble with them on their Christology, though I found their positions not quite clear and so may not differ as much as I think. Christ’s death and resurrection IS the power for change (2 Cor. 5:16f). His life does inspire us but we cannot love others merely because of his life. I think they might agree with this, but I’m left with confusion as to where they stand here.
5. As expected, this is a text for therapy trainees. It sets out boundaries for the profession. Lay and church leaders can learn from this model, say the authors, but ought to be careful not to function as a professional. Even though I am a professional and I have found in teaching counselors that it takes character, the Holy Spirit, skill acquisition, and much practice to be a wise counselor, I am always a bit troubled by the boundary setting. It seems we are trying to protect our own domain. I do think there are wise counselors who never had any academic psychological training. It may not be common, but let’s remember that pastoral care has been helping people long before clinical psychology developed into a discipline. I would have liked to see a bit more work in informing the reader (a psychology trainee) about the dangers in trying to function like a spiritual shepherd.
6. I’m in concert with their model as it functions in session. We are conduit for reconciliation. Therefor our working relationships matter almost as much as our words and interventions. When we can reduce symptoms of suffering, we should. But, we also recognize the insidious nature of sin in our lives and must seek transformation of our minds and experiences in submitting them to reality as seen through God’s eyes.
For those interested in Mark McMinn’s further work, you might check out his new book on sin, Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling (IVP, 2008). It is also written for the counseling practitioner.