McMinn, Mark R. Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality In Christian Counseling. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996.
Dr. Mark McMinn compiles an excellent resource for those who have chosen the path of Christian counseling. It focuses primarily on two important aspects of the Christian counseling field : in counseling sessions and life outside of counseling sessions – namely the counselor’s task and the counselor’s life.
He starts his book with a brief section – written with James Wilhoit – that talks about religion in the Counseling office. It informs the counselor of the importance of utilizing the Christian faith in counseling not focusing on the relationship between psychology and theology. It states the challenges that religion brings in counseling sessions and how to handle and address those challenges.
In the section, Toward Psychological and Spiritual Health, McMinn directs his focus to the different characteristics of a person’s life. He suggests that Christian counseling strengthens three areas of a person’s life: sense of self, an awareness of human need and limitations, and confiding interpersonal relationships with God and others.
Each chapter is outlined in a very teachable format. The chapters have sections to address the challenges the counselor faces, psychological and spiritual health focus points, and also expected results by each foundational element of counseling – psychological, theological, and spiritual.
The majority of McMinn’s book is devoted to the most important elements of a Christian’s life – prayer, scripture, sin, confession, forgiveness, and redemption - that are the foundational constructs of the Christian counselor’s method of treating his client’s.
The third chapter focuses on prayer. Prayer is common to every person’s experience. It, in itself, is more than a method used in counseling, but it is the primary element of growth in the counselor and counselee. If a counselor is to utilize prayer, he must understand how it is used and when it is used. He must also realize that true effectiveness of prayer is achieved by having a healthy prayer life of his own.
Chapter four states the importance of scripture in counseling and how it should be incorporated in the sessions. Scripture should be used in accordance to the spiritual, psychological, and emotional state of the client. To be truly effective in counseling it must not only be used in the session, but also in individual – counselor and counselee – lives as well.
Sin is the topic of discussion in chapter five. The topic of sin must be handled with the utmost care. Sin should only be discussed if the counselor and client have a healthy definition of sin. Sin is a major cause for many problems in a person’s life, but it should be approached in humble and empathic ways to encourage healing rather than guilt and shame. It should be discussed only in the effort of changing the inner life not behavior.
McMinn discusses confession in his sixth chapter. Confession is the doorway to humility and compassion. Confession causes one to recognize his sin and dependence on God for true change. As a Christian counselor, one should carefully urge confession in order that forgiveness can take place- which is discussed in chapter seven.
Forgiveness is addressed by Dr. McMinn – with the help of Katheryn Meek – in hopes of regaining a healthy relationship with self, others, and God. The Christian counselor uses this method to bring about a healthy sense of self. Forgiveness is an important step that brings about psychological, emotional, and spiritual relief in one’s life.
The last chapter deals with redemption. Redemption is what all Christians – counselors or not – should focus their ministerial efforts. To understand redemption, you must have a grasp of all the other topics addressed in this book. Redemption is the sole objective for counseling and the counselor must first recognize his redemption before he is urged to be a vessel to redeem someone else.
McMinn’s work concludes with urging the counselor to be able to use all that he has learned – simultaneously – to aid in treating a client. He is to be in balance from theological teachings to psychological training. It will not be an easy task, but dependence on God for empowerment and direction will aid in a successful effort.
Concrete responses: Get vulnerable!
This book brought to the fore of my mind many instances in which I can relate these principles of counseling. I’ve never attended any formal counseling sessions, but I have had many counseling sessions with pastors – when I was younger and even recently. In the church setting, prayer is most always used to start any session, but – in my experience – it seemed to be direct and forceful to the point of making me feel less spiritual than I already felt. I believe that prayer not only should be carefully considered in the formal counseling session, but also in the religious settings as well. The new convert, in my opinion – is in some ways like the clients discussed in the book. Early in my Christian walk, I was counseled by a former pastor who instead of using prayer to build me up and ask for God’s direction and instruction, he used his prayer to tell me what I was doing wrong and how I was contributing to my problems. The method nearly drove me away from the church. It took a lot for me to be vulnerable enough to confide in him concerning my problems, but to feel judged by his approach to prayer caused me to stray away from that particular church. So prayer is something that should be used appropriately and correctly, because if not used correctly, it can harm rather than help.
There weren’t many questions that came to mind concerning McMinn’s work. He covers many bases helpful in integration of the different facets psychology, theology, and spirituality such as human nature, prayer, scripture, and the other topics. However, as good as the book was, I have some questions pertaining to teen counseling. A teenager is probably the hardest person to counsel when it comes to psychological and spiritual issues. How does one present these principles to a teenager who has questions about abstinence from sex? This is a hard subject to deal with, especially when they believe that everybody is doing it even their Christian friends.
Not only that, children are also difficult to reach. Children are harder because of the many voices that dominate the day. How does this approach help a child – who needs direction and counseling – when they are dominated by the video game arena and voices that speak antithetical to the counselors. What techniques are best for a child who has an attention deficit? Is there an age limit for those in need of counseling? It does seem that these methods suggested by McMinn are able to help adults, but it does not say much, if anything, about the adolescent.
This book is an excellent resource for counseling for those who need guidance in incorporating spiritual disciplines in a secularly dominated society. The only way this will be instrumental in counseling is to refer to its teaching and allow the Holy Spirit to make it conducive and acceptable in the counseling session. I would suggest that all pastor’s purchase a copy of this book. It will not only be helpful in counseling, but it will also be helpful in preaching a redemptive message.
Many Christian counselors can use this resource to reach a level of maturity that will translate into true healing and redemption. In addition, the Christian Counselor would be hard pressed not to add this book to his library. The biggest change in my life – as pertaining to this book – is how I will approach counseling session from this point on. Each person is different personality wise. So in order to reach different people, different methods must be employed. There is not a sessional blueprint written in stone; each session evolves into a different method according to the positive or negative response of the previous session. This fact was very important to the way I will approach each person from this moment on. This work by McMinn truly shined a light of truth on my life and my ministry.
Andre L. Powell Sr. 201120 Spring 2011 PACO 506-B01 LUO