[All Website Links were last reviewed 2/23/2018]
Note: In order to satisfactorily complete Meaning-Making Forums 1-4, remain closely connected to this handout, required readings, lectures, and previous learning activities. For future reference, journal on this handout as you engage subject matter.
All of readings and learning activities in PACO 500 attempt to increase people-helping competency. As a supporting lecture note, this resource provides a rationale for using SbStPC along with an overview of its counseling process and skills for developing related competencies.
· Thoughtfully engage this website as we consider core competencies needed in people-helping moments: The Competent Christian Counselor
1. In what ways does a solution-based, short-term strategy become a value-added to a student-minister’s counseling experience?
· SbStPC uses a collaborative methodology to align with God’s intentions (Kollar, 2011, p. 57). In the process of understanding the problem/issue affecting the care-seeker’s life, the student-counselor will come to realize that s/he is not the game-changer. It is the collaborative identification (i.e., the counselor, counselee, Word of God, and Wonderful Counselor) in this approach that empowers “relocation” (i.e., a purposeful, collaborative process of moving from where one is to where one needs to be under the dominion and direction of a well-defined guiding purpose statement; Rice, 2005).
· In no fashion is a problem or issue ignored or minimized; in fact, just the opposite is true. Problem description requires teamwork. Kollar (2011) identifies the action of problem description, goal formulation, and vision clarification as a co-creative methodology between the Holy Spirit, counselor, and counselee (p. 57).
· In the first phase of the counseling process, the student-counselor is prompted to actively listen to the Holy Spirit and counselee. This timely partnership enhances the counselor’s ability to understand the problem being described; that is, to “get” what it is, when it most often and least often occurs, and how it threatens who or what is important to the care-seeker.
· When a problem is satisfactorily understood, a goal/solution can be collaboratively developed and a describable–repeatable plan of action engaged to move out and away from the problem.
· The SbStPC process does not assume the care-seeker can move toward the goal alone. Upon finding the keys to solution, effort is made to identify and secure partners to support care-seeker’s forward progress.
· Unlike problem-focused approaches which require more time, SbStPC manages the counseling process effectively and efficiently with its brief (e.g., 3–5 sessions), time-limited (e.g., 50–90-minute time frame per session), focused (e.g., identifiable phases within the counseling process; see “Hawkins Analysis Grid” and “Core Competency Two: Developing Your Style to Connect with People” – Ch.3 in Dr. Younce’s dissertation below) boundaries.
· SbStPC challenges the student-minister to rethink existing paradigms and to value each care-seeker as a fellow image-bearer. This reflection often cultivates the essential interpersonal skills (i.e., empathetic, considerate, authentic) to flex with a care-seeker’s fallen-ness without compromising truth and grace.
· As with any effective people-helping strategy, a significant emphasis is placed on interpersonal skill development. SbStPC learning activities provide students with language to discuss what makes them tick and become ticked off. Gaining language to describe human behavior, along with corresponding people-helping skills, facilitates rapport building and cultivates a context for change.
· SbStPC challenges each student-minister to operate under the authority of the Word of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, within a community of accountability for the purpose of intentionally pursing the imitation of Christ and moving others toward faith in and imitation of Christ.
· Take this discussion further and review a fellow Liberty University student’s doctoral dissertation which captured much of SbStPC’s competency based approach:
The Significance of Developing Core Counseling Competencies in Pastoral Care Ministry
2. Are we to assume that similar theoretical monikers such as solution-focused brief therapy and Kollar’s (2011) solution-focused pastoral counseling are just different names for this course’s Solution-Based, Short-term Pastoral Counseling?
Not at all! Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is a secular theory which primarily houses solution-focused and brief therapy approaches, both of which aresecular theories. The use of “solution-based” rather than “solution-focused” permits us to move away from a “one theory serves all” orientation and meaningfully develop an eclectic (i.e., wise integration of contributions from other theories such as cognitive behavioral therapy, rational emotive behavioral therapy, strategic therapy, etc.; see Kollar’s ch. 18 discussion of theories and tasking) and biblically responsible counseling approach that goes beyond Kollar’s primary focus on behavior.
The goal of Solution-Based, Short-term Pastoral Counseling (SbStPC) seeks to resource the helping relationship under the dominion and direction of a guiding purpose–being and becoming more like Christ in every relational context. This approach is soundly informed by the Word of God, conspicuously enriched by truth, grace, mercy, and assertive wisdom, empowered by the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and effectively managed within a faith-based community of accountability.
SbStPC addresses the needs of the whole person and acknowledges our profoundly fallen human condition. Additionally, it asserts that the ultimate source of profound change/healing is the redemptive work of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Correspondingly, as commentary is received from various disciplines, all material is carefully sifted and sorted through a biblical lens. Therefore, it is essential to understand that PACO 500 uses a Solution-Based, Short-term Pastoral Counseling process rather than a solution-focused process.
3. What are the distinctive features in our SbStPC strategy?
Markers useful for locating one’s self within the fluidity of the counseling session are identified as distinctive features: purpose, goal, chief aim, role/responsibility, behavioral position, and guiding assumptions.
· Phase One Purpose: Get the Care-seeker’s Present Story (Session One)
· Goal: Problem description
· Chief Aim: Listen Well
· Role/responsibility: Counselor builds rapport/demonstrates fit (i.e., via attentive listening, counselor identifies with and validates concerns)>Counselee talks>Counselor actively listens for Counselee’s description/understanding of life with the problem
· Behavioral Positions: attending, blaming, or willing
· Guiding Assumption(s)?
· Memorize Kollar’s Guiding Assumptions. Just like with Scripture, the Holy Spirit can bring these truth-based principles to mind at just the right time (Jn. 14:26).
· Consider this Pastoral Counselor’s dilemma: Careseeker is awfulizing and seems stuck in a going nowhere cycle. What do I need to remember? “God is already active in the counselee” and “Finding exceptions help create solutions” (Kollar, 2011, p. 62–67). The careseeker is so stuck s/he cannot see God’s previous involvement. I need to look for clues of God’s involvement. Finding exceptions to the problem will likely reveal a coping skill that has been overlooked.
· Key Insight to Remember: Until you are invited into the Care-seeker’s world and commit to counseling, you must remain in Phase One. If you are invited, do make sure that you can commit and have the assurance that you are fit and able to do good and no harm. If there is any doubt, it would be wise to refer to another people helper. Counselee remains in Phase One as long as s/he is in attending position. A blamer can move forward but will be a “lamer” until a realistic perspective can be gained. Once a truth-based reality can be developed, the lamer will become a gamer and move toward responsibility and the willing position.
· Phase Two Purpose: Develop the Care-seeker’s Preferred Story/Solution (Session Two)
· Goal: Goal formulation
· Chief Aim: Collaborate well
· Role/responsibility: Counselor builds rapport/demonstrates fit (i.e., via attentive listening, counselor identifies with and validates concerns)>Counselee sets the direction and Counselor tacks with counselee’s process and collaboratively tests counselee’s notions for reality/do-ability
· Behavioral position: must achieve a willing position
· Guiding Assumption(s)?
· Memorize Kollar’s Guiding Assumptions. Just like with Scripture, the Holy Spirit can bring these truth-based principles to mind at just the right time (Jn. 14:26).
· Key Insight to Remember: Counselee is not in a willing position and ready to move into Phase 3 until a goal has been satisfactorily described and developed. The Miracle Question is a timely collaborative tool to cultivate a forward look with life without the problem.
· Preferred Story/Solution is shaped by the Common Sense Test: Counselor will foster solution-based perspectives when focused on Kollar’s (2011/1997) basic tenets:
Tenet One – “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
Tenet Two – “Once you know what works, do more of it!”
Tenet Three – “If it’s not working, do something different!” (pp. 82–84)
· Phase Three Purpose: Clarify and Execute Action Plan (Session Three)
· Goal: Vision (i.e., goal) Clarification
· Chief Aim: Execute well
· Role/Responsibility: Counselor builds rapport/demonstrates fit (i.e., via attentive listening, counselor identifies with and validates concerns)>Counselor and Counselee actively participate in building hope and supporting forward progress
· Behavioral position: forward progress requires a willing position to be maintained
· Guiding Assumption(s)?
· Memorize Kollar’s Guiding Assumptions. Just like with Scripture, the Holy Spirit can bring these truth-based principles to mind at just the right time (Jn. 14:26).
· Key Insight to Remember: Small concrete steps lead to small changes which eventually generate bigger changes. As forward progress is achieved, consolidate it with supportive feedback. Be prepared to use the supportive feedback technique as well as other SbStPC core skills when the sameness of life is encountered, resistance is experienced or expressed, and relapse is likely. It would be wise to collaboratively think about supporting the change process with accountability. This notion may become part of tasking after the break.
· Helping Strategy must pass the Common Sense Test: Counselor will cultivate a solution-based paradigm when focused on Kollar’s (2011/1997) basic tenets:
Tenet One – “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
Tenet Two – “Once you know what works, do more of it!”
Tenet Three – “If it’s not working, do something different!” (pp. 82–84)
· Phase Four Purpose: Connect Care-seeker to Community (Session Four)
· Goal: Consolidate and Support Change
· Chief Aim: Connect well
· Role/Responsibility: Counselee commits to a community of accountability directed at preferred story during & after the process of dishabituation of unhealthy patterns and re-habituation of healthy patterns. Counselor reinforces commitment to change through supportive feedback and by arranging accountability through pastoral care and small group ministries in soul-care context.
· Behavioral position: willingness and forward progress are maintained through meaningful support
· Guiding Assumption(s)?
· Key Insight to Remember: Be proactive with efforts to successfully disengage. If you prepare ahead of time to meaningfully connect with responsible community, s/he will likely maintain forward progress.
How will you evaluate a “successful disengagement” from the counseling scenario? If the counselee comments more on what he was able to accomplish with the resources provided, rather than you, then s/he is probably moving out and away from the problem with a high level of ownership. However, as you disengage, do not disconnect as pastoral care will continue to be needed to maintain forward progress.
· Accountability must continue to reinforce the Common Sense Test: Appreciative helpers/hopers need to foster solution-based perspective and practice Kollar’s (2011/1997) basic tenets:
Tenet One – “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
Tenet Two – “Once you know what works, do more of it!”
Tenet Three – “If it’s not working, do something different!” (pp. 82–84)
4. Do we have to create our own guiding assumptions or can we adopt/adapt Kollar’s Guiding Assumptions?
It would be wise to start with Kollar’s nine guiding assumptions (ch. 7). To create an appreciation for each assumption, write a brief explanation describing what it means to you. A pertinent example would help anchor the assumption as well. Consider Kollar’s discussion of remaining in agreement with the intent of the Holy Spirit. Assumptions are part of our SbStPC methodology for co-creating perspectives, solutions, and strategies in session with the Holy Spirit, counselor, and counselee (Kollar, 2011, p. 57).
Other assumptions to consider from Competent Christian Counseling (2002, p. 351)
1. All people are created in the image of God and, as his image bearers, have infinite value and worth.
2. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
3. For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16, WEB).
4. The most effective pastoral counseling takes into account the whole person: body, soul, and spirit.
5. Different approaches can be helpful with different kinds of people struggling with different kinds of problems.
6. People have various strengths and resources to help them solve their problems.
7. Small changes are all that are necessary. Small changes lead to large changes. A change in one part of a system usually leads to a change in other parts of the system.
8. Problems are solved; people are not cured.
9. Change is inevitable, growth is optional
5. In what ways might we apply insights from Clinton & Hawkins’ Quick Reference Guide in the SbStPC structure?
Look at the section labeled “Using the Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling” (pp. 10-11).
Phase One: Getting the Present Story (Consider: Prayer Starter; Portraits; Definitions & Key Thoughts; Assessment)
Phase Two: Developing the Preferred Story (Consider: Prayer Starter; Assessment; Wise Counsel; Biblical Insights)
Phase Three: Clarifying and Executing the Action Plan (Consider: Prayer Starter; Wise Counsel; Action Steps; Biblical Insights; Recommended Resources)
Phase Four: Consolidating and Supporting Change (Consider repeating Phase Three application)
6. What are the key skills most often associated with SbStPC?
In addition to insights gleaned from Nichols’ Masterpiece (2017), Petersen’s (2015) Why Don’t We Listen Better? and Kollar’s (2011) Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling, consider the following web resources.
The Art of Triage and Referral:
Become a Better Listener: Active Listening:
Active Listening Example:
Listening skills – paraphrasing examples:
In addition to Kollar’s (2011) tracking questions (chs. 10, 11), feedback process (chs. 12, 13), always be mindful of the counseling mnemonic: MECStat (i.e., Miracle Question; Exceptions to the problem; Coping skills; Scaling questions; the supportive feedback break – time-out, affirmation, tasking). This memory device will highlight Kollar’s presentation of core techniques (ch. 15: Not Knowing & Yes Set; Miracle Question; Scaling; Exceptions; Compliments; the Break).
Solution Based Techniques foster Forward Progress:
A fun view of ABCDE and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_frDwckrys
A Christian perspective on Mental Health: Dr. Adrian Rogers 5 Steps to Mental Health
A Christian perspective on changing your thinking: Taking Control of our Thoughts – Charles Stanley
7. Will we use David Benner’s (2003) Strategic Pastoral Counseling stages (i.e., Encounter, Engagement, and Disengagement) in our SbStPC structure?
No. The expectation is to use the four phases presented in this course; however, Benner’s three stages offer additional description to our four-phase structure.
· Phase One: Getting the Care-seeker’s Present Story or Portrait (Session 1: Encounter)
[possible disengagement if referral is needed]
· Phase Two: Developing the Care-seeker’s Preferred Story/Solution (Session 2: Engagement)
· Phase Three: Clarifying and Executing Action Plan (Session 3: Engagement)
· Phase Four: Connecting Care-seeker to Community (Final Session: Disengagement
Page 8 of 8
LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DEVELOPING CORE COUNSELING COMPETENCIES IN
PASTORAL CARE MINISTRY
A thesis project submitted to
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree
DOCTOR OF MINISTRY
Craig L. Younce
December 2, 2011
LIBERTY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
THESIS PROJECT APPROVAL SHEET
MENTOR: Dr. Charlie Davidson
READER: Dr. Rod Dempsey
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DEVELOPING CORE COUNSELING COMPETENCIES IN
PASTORAL CARE MINISTRY
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012
Mentor: Dr. Charlie Davidson
The purpose of this thesis project is to present the importance of developing four
specific core competencies in the area of pastoral counseling. It is problematic that most
pastors have received minimal or no training in counseling resulting in inadequate
therapy when parishioners seek pastoral counseling during times of crisis. The material
presented in this thesis project enables pastoral care givers to become proficient
counselors through a series of learning objectives, best practices, critical tasks, and
accomplished practices directed toward improving counseling competencies in the area of
personal, marriage, and family counseling. Additionally, this project addresses the
problem of pornography, and proposes a blueprint to be implemented in developing a
church program that would assist men in overcoming addictions to pornography.
Abstract length: 121 words.
This thesis is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Terri.
Her sacrifice, love, patience, and encouragement gave me the strength to persevere.
She enabled my dream to become a reality!
“A man’s greatest treasure is his wife — she is a gift from the LORD.”
Proverbs 18:22 CEV
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CONVEYING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CORE COUNSELING COMPETENCIES IN
THE CONTEXT OF PASTORAL CARE ……………………………………………………………. 1
Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1
Statement of the Problem …………………………………………………………………………………… 3
Statement of Limitations ……………………………………………………………………………………. 6
Definitions ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8
Biblical and Theoretical Basis ……………………………………………………………………………. 11
Statement of Methodology …………………………………………………………………………………. 16
Review of the Literature ……………………………………………………………………………………. 20
CORE COMPETENCY ONE: KNOWING YOURSELF TO GUIDE OTHERS ………. 35
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 35
The Importance of Self-Awareness …………………………………………………………………….. 38
Learning Objective One: Unfolding Your Life as You Know It …………………………….. 41
Learning Objective Two: Unfolding Your Life As You Want It to Be …………………….. 59
Learning Objective Three: Unfolding Your Plan for Change …………………………………. 62
Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 72
CORE COMPETENCY TWO: DEVELOPING YOUR STYLE TO CONNECT WITH
PEOPLE ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 73
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 73
Best Practice One: Integrating the Bible into the Counseling Model ………………………. 75
Best Practice Two: Proper Relational Style & Safety …………………………………………… 83
Best Practice Three: The Counseling Setting and Culture ……………………………………… 95
Best Practice Four: Solution-Based Brief Pastoral Counseling ……………………………….. 97
CORE COMPETENCY THREE: CONSTRUCTING YOUR STRATEGY TO MEND
The Spiritual Implications …………………………………………………………………………………..101
The Evolution of Psychology into the Twenty-First Century …………………………………..102
Family Systems Therapy …………………………………………………………………………………….105
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) ………………………………………………………117
Attribution Theory …………………………………………………………………………………………….120
Cognitive Behavior Therapy ……………………………………………………………………………….121
Contextual Family Therapy ………………………………………………………………………………..124
Emotionally Focused Therapy …………………………………………………………………………….125
Solution Focused Brief Therapy ………………………………………………………………………….127
CORE COMPETENCY FOUR: BUILDING YOUR PLAN TO REPAIR
Accomplished Practice One: Embracing a Strong Theistic Psychotherapy ………………133
Accomplished Practice Two: Mastering Christian Integrative Psychotherapy ………….139
APPENDIX A: SEMINARY RESEARCH STUDY ………………………………………………147
APPENDIX B: STRUCTURING YOUR CHURCH TO RESTORE MEN ……………..151
CONVEYING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CORE COUNSELING
COMPETENCIES IN THE CONTEXT OF PASTORAL CARE
Pastoral counseling opportunities are divine appointments with individual
members of the church community. James Dittes, former Yale University Professor of
Psychology of Religion, penned his reflections on the matter of pastoral counseling with
However casual the person is while waiting around after a committee meeting or
in crossing your path after church, however brazen, professional, or apologetic
one is in claiming your time, however confident or pompous the person has
always come across to you, when you hear the phrase, “Can I talk to you?” or a
similar statement, it should be taken as the self-disclosure of a tormented person
who feels unable to cope. It is possibly a cry for help more desperate than it
sounds because it is a confession, to some degree, of personal deficiency and
The pastor is very often the initial crisis counselor sought out by people under the
influence of a church ministry. Counseling sessions may occur formally in the church
office; but, they also transpire naturally throughout the daily itinerary of the pastor as he
or she interfaces with members of the congregation. Wayne Oates referred to this
pastoral dynamic in the following manner, “You, as a pastor, move from one crisis to
another with those whom you shepherd. In a single day, you may visit the mother of a
newborn baby, give guidance to a person who is becoming a Christian, talk with high
1 James E. Dittes, Pastoral Counseling, the Basics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press,
school or college graduates about their life work, unite a couple in marriage, comfort a
person who is bereaved, call upon someone who is confronting a serious operation, and
listen to the last words of a patient who is dying. 2
Christian pastors throughout history and in all places have ministered to the
presence of personal problems of their parishioners. J. R. Beck wrote, “We have not
always labeled this important pastoral function as counseling; but, this function has
always existed as a vital expression of ministry for undershepherds caring for their sheep
in the name of the great Shepherd.” 3 Influenced the past one-hundred years by the
discipline of psychology and the past fifty years by counseling, parishioners have grown
accustomed to counseling as an expected component of pastoral care. Therefore, inherent
in the call of “shepherding a flock” is the necessity to be a competent and skilled
Most pastors grasp the significance of the pulpit ministry; but, some have not
fully comprehended the weight of the counseling aspect. Clyde Narramore once stated,
“It has been said that a minister who does not place a strong emphasis on counseling is
only half a minister.” 4 Preaching is a wonderful blessing; however, it may not always
meet a church member’s specific need. For example, a young woman is concerned about
a matter standing in the way of marriage, but does not get the particular help she needs
from the weekly sermon. Another young man is wrestling with homosexual feelings and
knows unless his situation improves he is likely to have serious trouble; however, the
2 Wayne Oates, The Christian Pastor, 3
rd ed. (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1982), 17.
3 J. R. Beck, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling, 2
nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Books, 1999), 834-835.
4 Clyde Narramore, The Psychology of Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1960), 11.
sermon is miles away from his personal issues.
Every pastor should keep in mind that God is very much interested in the
individual person. Jesus manifested this during His earthly ministry. Even though Jesus
was pressed by the multitudes, He visibly expressed His interest in individuals and was
prepared to meet them at their specific point of need. Jesus called His disciples one by
one; He met Nicodemus alone to discuss the things of God. He sat by a well and
explained to a Samaritan woman how she could truly quench her thirst with the Living
Water. During a bustling street procession, Jesus looked up into a tree and spotted a man
sitting on a branch, then left the crowd and went to the man’s home to personally discuss
his spiritual needs. Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd stated that He left the ninety and
nine to help one poor wandering sheep. Therefore, like Jesus, pastors must be well
equipped to deal with individuals at their precise point of crisis.
Statement of the Problem
The project, The Significance of Developing Core Counseling Competencies in
Pastoral Care Ministry, focuses on the development of core counseling competencies
essential in the area of pastoral care ministry. Howard Clinebell, in his textbook Basic
Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, proposed that for clergy “it is important to
obtain the best available supervised training in counseling, both academic and clinical,
not only to avoid doing harm but to maximize one’s abilities as an instrument of
healing.” 5 The problem is most pastors have not experienced such training. Some of the
fault may lie in the shadow cast on counseling by Jay Adam’s nouthetic movement; as a
5 Howard Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 2
nd ed. (Nashville, TN:
Abingdon Press, 1984), 49.
result, pastors are hesitant to embrace the discipline of counseling apart from sola
scriptura. The proponents of the biblical counseling movement thwart the use of
psychology and psychotherapy, except in special circumstances. One could also blame
the readiness of pastors to outsource their counseling responsibilities to counseling
ministries, professional counselors, and counseling centers. However, most of the fault
must be placed on the lack of pastoral counseling instruction provided in the Master of
Divinity Degree programs of American Seminaries. Clinebell would go on to express
that it is the competent pastoral counselor who will experience the privilege of guiding
people on their inner journey toward wholeness. The minister, who has paid the price of
disciplined study and training leading to competency, will experience the wonderful
amazement and joy that comes with the realization one has been an instrument through
which the Holy Spirit has brought healing and growth to another human being. 6
After examining Master of Divinity degree curricula from a significant number
and diverse selection of theological seminaries in the United States, this writer observed
that students trained for pastoral ministry in these programs received minimal education
in the discipline of counseling. The seminaries evaluated by this author, offered few, if
any, compulsory classes or required minimal credit hours in the field of counseling. The
Master of Divinity degree is considered by most institutions to be the only approved first
master’s degree for students preparing for a pastoral or preaching ministry, as well as any
other ministry largely comprised of biblical teaching, 7 and is generally considered the
degree required for ordination by most mainline denominations. Yet, most seminaries
6 Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 49.
7 Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary Catalog, Master of Divinity, http://www.swbts.edu/
catalog /page.cfm?id=32&open=3_area (accessed, July 18, 2011).
neglected an emphasis on pastoral care, which is a key component of pastoral ministry.
An examination of the data queried showed that required counseling courses in
the Master of Divinity degrees surveyed by this writer only constituted 2.1 percent of
institutional curricula. The information confirmed that the theological seminaries
analyzed by this author offered less than one required counseling course, .76 percent, per
Master of Divinity program; and, nearly one third, 32 percent, of the seminaries
researched did not offer any required counseling classes in their Master of Divinity
programs. Furthermore, the nature of most of the counseling classes offered, as part of
the curriculum, was introductory rather than specialized.
Think about it, on any given Sunday what do pastors in America see as they look
out over their congregations? They may see a husband who admitted his wife to a mental
hospital the week before, a young wife deeply depressed by the tragic death of her
husband, a couple who recently learned that their child has leukemia, an alcoholic
wrestling with his addiction, a husband and wife struggling to overcome the agony of
alienation in their marriage, a high school boy whose girlfriend is pregnant, an
ambulatory paranoid women who did not responded to psychiatric treatment, a man
facing surgery for a suspected malignancy, a man anticipating with near terror the
emptiness he fears mandatory retirement will bring to his life, and the crisis list could go
on and on. Howard Clinebell proposed, “Such people often trust the very fabric of their
lives to the counseling skills of their minister. Frequently , the pastor is the only person
they allow to enter their private hells;” 8 yet the reality is, in their desperate need, people
will open their hearts to the pastor whether or not the pastor possesses the required
8 Clinebell, Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 47.
counseling skills. Wayne Oates made the point that pastors do not enjoy the freedom of
deciding whether or not to counsel when he stated, “The choice is not between
counseling and not counseling, but between counseling in a disciplined and skilled way
and counseling in an undisciplined and unskilled way.” 9 The problem is many who
pastor churches, lack significant training in one of the most important aspects of ministry,
Statement of Limitations
The field of counseling is a broad discipline with multiple areas of focus, each
requiring unique competencies; however, for the purposes of this project, only four
specific core counseling competencies were proposed and developed. After extensive
reading on the topic of pastoral counseling, this writer asserts these four core counseling
competencies undergird the genre of counseling referred to as “Pastoral Counseling.”
However, because psychology is progressive and constantly changing, one must approach
pastoral counseling as a life-long learning experience, constantly expanding one’s
knowledge of the discipline. The four core counseling competencies unique to this
project are limited to the following:
1. Knowing yourself to guide people
2. Developing your style to connect with people
3. Constructing your strategy to mend marriages
4. Building your plan to repair families
A supplemental section has been included as an appendix to this project pertaining to
9 Wayne Oates, An Introduction to Pastoral Counseling (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1959),
“structuring your church to restore men.”
Another limitation of this project relates to use of the Master of Divinity degree as
a guideline for determining lack of training in pastoral care ministry. This author is
aware that many pastors shepherd churches across America without possessing the
Master of Divinity degree. Nevertheless, the Master of Divinity degree was selected
because it is considered by most seminaries, educational institutions, and traditional
denominations to be the minimum professional degree required for ordination.
Traditional denominations primarily refer to the Anglican, Congregational, Episcopal,
Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan denominations. The Master of Divinity
degree is also the preferred professional degree for both military and civilian chaplaincy.
It should also be noted that the Master of Divinity degrees assessed were general Master
of Divinity degrees or Master of Divinity degrees with a concentration in pastoral
ministries; and, the research did not include Master of Divinity degrees with
specializations in counseling or chaplaincy as these concentrations naturally required a
significant number of counseling courses. Information about the Master of Divinity
degrees was compiled from current online catalogues posted before July, 2011. The
collection of data was for the purpose of establishing the following information, the
percentage of curriculum committed to counseling education and the number of
counseling courses offered per Master of Divinity degree.
A further limitation of this project pertains to the selection of American
theological seminaries used in this writer’s query of information about the Master of
Divinity degrees. Although there are hundreds of excellent theological seminaries in the
United States, it was necessary to select a diverse grouping of religious educational
institutions in order to achieve an accurate representation of facts for this research. Two
limiting criteria were implemented in the selection process of theological seminaries
reviewed for this project. The first criterion took into consideration the reputation of the
theological institutions selected. In other words, whether sectarian or nonsectarian, these
religious educational institutions were considered the “flagship seminaries” for those
groups which support them. The second condition weighed the need for denominational
diversity in the research data.
An added limitation relevant to this project deals with the definition of pastoral
counseling. Pastoral counseling may be viewed as distinct category of counseling subject
to state or national licensure; or, it may be perceived as the counseling component of
pastoral ministry. This project limits the definition to the latter.
A final limitation of this project concerns the nature in which the core counseling
competencies are presented. The competencies are addressed and presented topically and
are not presented in the form of detailed curriculum.
The following terms are relevant to this thesis project and will be used repeatedly
throughout. The definitions applied to these terms were influenced by this writer’s
research from multiple sources, the American Psychological Association Dictionary of
and the Dictionary of Counseling. 11
10 APA Dictionary of Psychology (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007).
Donald A. Biggs, Dictionary of Counseling (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994).
Best practice is a term that has experienced “translational drift” over the years. A
best practice, for the purposes of this project, is a technique or methodology that through
experience and research has proven to reliably lead to a desired result. A commitment to
using the best practices in any field is a commitment to using all the knowledge and
technology at one’s disposal to ensure success. Best practices offer a set of guidelines,
ethics, or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent course of action.
Clients for the purposes of this project are members of a church community or
parish receiving pastoral care in the context of pastoral counseling. The term client and
parishioner are often used interchangeably throughout this thesis project.
Competencies are identified behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that
directly and positively impact the success of pastoral counselors and their clients.
Competencies can be objectively measured, enhanced, and improved through coaching
and learning opportunities. The identified core competencies are applicable to basic
Counseling, generally speaking, is a non-medical discipline in which the goals are
to facilitate and quicken personality growth and development for the purpose of helping
persons modify life patterns with which they have become increasingly unhappy; and, to
provide camaraderie and wisdom for persons facing the inevitable losses and
disappointments in life. Counseling is a systematic approach to problem solving that
focuses on helping clients deal with their presenting problems.
Interventions are actions taken on the part of a counselor to deal with the issues
and problems of a client/parishioner. The selection of the intervention is guided by the
nature of the problem, the orientation of the pastoral counselor, the setting, and the
willingness of the client to proceed with the treatment.
Pastor is an ordained minister serving the body of Christ either locally or at large.
It is the assumption of this author that pastors are those who have received ordination by
a church or denomination that has tested the theological acumen of the individual in
addition to significant biblical and theological training manifested in the form of
Pastoral Counseling is a reparative function needed when the growth of persons is
seriously jeopardized or blocked by crisis. Pastoral counseling occurs when the
counselor and counselee focus their relationship upon the relationship of God for the
process of restoration. God becomes the third person in the relationship; and, instead of
being simply dialogue, a trialogue is formed. People need pastoral care throughout their
lives, but usually need pastoral counseling during a severe crisis. According to the
American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology, a pastoral counselor is
one who has received advanced training in one or several of the behavioral sciences in
addition to religious training, theological training, or both.
Psychotherapy is a form of psychological treatment for problems of an emotional
or spiritual nature in which a trained person deliberately establishes a professional
relationship with a client for the purpose of removing, modifying, or retarding existing
symptoms of mediating disturbing patterns of behavior, and of promoting positive
personality growth and development.
Biblical and Theoretical Basis
Master’s Seminary president and noted preacher, John MacArthur, declared,
“Counseling, particularly counseling that employs and applies God’s Word, is a
necessary duty of Christian life and fellowship.” 12
Since apostolic times, counseling has
been a natural function of corporate spiritual life. The Bible commands believers to
“admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14) 13
; “encourage one another” (Heb. 3:13); “comfort
one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18); “build up one another” (1 Thess. 5:11);
“confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16). Along with
these commands is the biblical assumption of preparedness. The Apostle Peter
encouraged his readers to “always be ready to explain” their hope “in a gentle and
respectful way” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NLT); therefore, effective Christ-centered counseling,
on any level, is never to be approached in a haphazard manner.
12 John MacArthur, Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson,
All scriptures presented in this writer’s thesis project, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the
English Standard Version of the Bible.
The great Baptist minister, W. A. Criswell, once said, “Someday, sometimes,
somewhere, every one of us will desperately need the presence and prayers of the
preacher. He is God’s man to show the right way or give us strength to follow what we
ought to do.” 14
Criswell considered it a tremendous opportunity to minister as a
shepherd-counselor to the needs of the people of God. Jay Adams considered pastoral
counseling a significant part of the sum of the whole pastoral activity when he stated,
“Pastoral counseling is special, but not a separate area of pastoral activity; indeed,
biblically it is close to the heart of shepherding. It involves the extension of help to the
wandering, torn, defeated, dispirited sheep who need the restoring mentioned in Psalm
23:3 (‘He restoreth my soul’).” 15
When a minister neglects the ministry of counseling,
other crucial areas of the ministry suffers, such as preaching. When a pastor is not
involved in the lives of the people, the pastor loses touch with the difficulties and the
thought processes and habits that lead to problems; as a result, the sheep will not be
properly prepared for spiritual warfare. 16
Pastors are individuals who have the privilege
of leading the way by responding to the words of the Apostle Paul, “Now we who are
strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength” (Rom. 15:1), and the
occasion to fulfill the law of Christ by carrying the burdens of others (Gal. 6:2 NLT).
Because of the significance of pastoral counseling, the pastor of the church congregation
should be extremely well prepared to counsel. Paul advised his protégé, Timothy, “Be
prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage
14 W.A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guide for Pastors (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1980), 273.
Jay E. Adams, Shepherding God’s Flock (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House,
MacArthur, Counseling; How to Counsel Biblically, 234.
your people with good teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2 NLT).
Already established in the introduction to this thesis project is the inherent
responsibility of pastors to counsel as part of one’s call to shepherd a flock. The problem
posed in this thesis project is, in the area of counseling, many ministers lack suitable
training and education partly due to the fact that they received only minimal course
instruction and field training in counseling from their seminary educations. An informal
scrutiny, by this writer, of lower theological institutional curriculum, such as Bible
College and other undergraduate degrees, yielded similar results to that of the seminary
research. It is the recommendation of this author that, in addition to proper theological
training for the purpose of becoming competent pastoral care givers, pastors should
develop four core counseling competencies that are foundational to the discipline of
pastoral counseling. Ideally, these core competencies could be delivered in an academic
venue, and more specifically, as a required part of all Master of Divinity degree
programs, no matter what the specialization or concentration may be.
The theoretical element of this project is based on the notion that the goal of
pastoral counseling is holistic healing. The scriptural basis for this approach is
demonstrated by our Lord in Mark’s gospel account of the life of Christ. Jesus, seeing
the faith of a paralyzed man and the four men who had just lowered him through the roof
of the crowded home where He was preaching, said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins
are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) and then proceeded to heal the man from his physical affliction
(Mark 2:11). In spite of the theological debate surrounding the healing event, the young
man got up, took his mat, and confidently walked out in full view of all of them (Mark
2:12). This young man had been spiritually healed through the forgiveness of his sins,
physically mended and no longer paralyzed, and theologically restored being convinced
that Jesus Christ was God and had the authority to forgive his personal sins.
From a holistic counseling perspective, the effectual pastoral counselor offers
help psychologically, theologically, and spiritually. The pastoral counselor is
professionally able to participate fully in a psychological treatment relationship. At the
same time, the pastoral counselor identifies with and reflects on emotions within the
counseling relationship, the pastoral care giver is also evaluating and assessing from
outside the counseling relationship. The pastoral counselor is noticing facial expressions,
non-verbal gestures, voice tone, and styles of relating. Mastering this type of
psychological practice requires education, instruction, and cultural sensitivity.
Additionally, the pastoral counselor considers the theological perspectives that connect to
the assorted tasks of counseling. Historical and systematic theology, biblical
understanding, as well as Christian tradition are respected and deemed to be key elements
of pastoral counseling. In order to accomplish these goals, one must have a basic
working knowledge of the God’s Word, Christian history, and theological systems.
Furthermore, the pastoral counselor is concerned with understanding the spiritual life of
the client. Mark McMinn expressed the pastor’s concern for the spiritual life of the client
in this manner,
How are the clients’ problems related to spiritual development? When is a
problem simply a behavioral habit to be eliminated or reshaped; and, when is a
problem a reflection of deep, inner yearnings for intimacy with God and others?
How can a treatment relationship be crafted to foster qualities of humility and
insight? When, if ever, should prayer or scripture memory be used in counseling
or prescribed to a client? 17
These questions are rarely considered by most mental health therapists; but, pastoral
17 Mark R. McMinn, Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling (Carol
Stream, IL: Tydale House Publishers, 1996), 270.
counselors regularly encounter questions such as these. To address these issues, one
must be a trained and skilled spiritual practitioner.
The theoretical premise of this thesis project based on the importance of
counseling in the Word of God, the significance of the role of pastoral counseling within
the context of pastoral care, and the impact of holistic healing on one’s spiritual
wellbeing is that the pastor must develop and master the following core competencies in
order to effectively fulfill the role of pastoral counselor. First, in order to astutely guide
others, one must know one’s self within the spectrum of one’s personality, personal
spirituality and theological worldview. This is achieved through a variety of primary
“learning objectives.” Second, one ought to develop a relational style action plan in order
to connect with individual clients. This is attained by implementing specific “best
practices” into one’s manner of counseling. Third, one should master the “critical task”
of constructing the appropriate counseling strategies for the purpose of providing a
holistic healing process for couples. Fourth, it is necessary for the pastoral counselor to
be proficient in two explicit “accomplished practices” connected with treating distressed
families and bringing stabilization into the lives of clients affected by emergency and
nonemergency calamity. Finally, the pastoral counselor will be capable of forming group
treatment therapies for men desiring to overcome pornography, one of the strongest and
most addictive behaviors having a negative impact on the church in today’s culture.
Developing a program for restoration is a crucial goal in this problematic area. Mastering
these significant core counseling competencies enables the pastoral counselor to
confidently face the biblical responsibility to “be prepared whether the time is favorable
or not” in order to “patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good
teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2 NLT) both from the pulpit and in the areas of individual and family
Statement of Methodology
This thesis project provides a viable solution addressing the problem of a lack of
counseling training in the area of pastoral counseling in the following manner:
This project will present “learning objectives” designed to assist the pastoral
counselor in the area of self-awareness, a critical component enabling one to
This project will establish “best practices” for developing the pastoral
counselor’s relational style with clients.
This project will deal with the “critical task” of developing a strategic
approach to couples’ counseling.
This project will recommend two “accomplished practices” for counseling
families in distress.
This project will address the problem of men and internet pornography as well
as propose a group therapy design to be implemented in developing a church
program assisting people in overcoming addictions to internet pornography.
The breakdown of the chapters is as follows:
Chapter One – Conveying the Significance of Core Counseling Competencies in the
Context of Pastoral Care
Chapter one introduces the importance of pastoral counseling and the necessity
for pastors to master five core counseling competencies that are central to this area of
pastoral ministry. Chapter one also states the problem addressed by this thesis project,
affirms the limitations of the thesis project, and delineate definitions that are relevant to
this thesis project. Additionally, chapter one presents the methodology by which the
stated problem will be solved and reviews literature pertinent to research for this thesis
Chapter Two – Knowing Yourself to Guide People
Chapter Two presents core competency number one, “Knowing Yourself to Guide
People,” and is delineated through three personal learning objectives for the pastoral
counselor. The first learning objective unfolds one’s life as it is understood in the present
and poses the reflective question, “who am I right now and how did I get here?” In
addition to personal analysis and reflection, three diagnostic tools were used to support
this portion of the thesis project, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Uniquely You
Professional/Leader Profile diagnostic tool, and the Adjective Checklist ACL diagnostic.
The second learning objective unfolds one’s life as one desires it to be. One’s preferred
life story considers areas in the life of the pastor that need improvement or change. The
third learning objective establishes a plan for change which involves creating master
goals that include the analysis of present realities, the shaping of preferences, structuring
for change, and setting up support and accountability.
Chapter Three – Developing Your Style to Connect with People
Chapter Three discusses core competency number two, “Developing Your Style
to Connect with People,” and is allocated through three “best practices” established for
pastoral counselors engaging individual clients in today’s church. These “best practices”
include learning concepts, skills, and resources necessary to effectively, ethically and
safely approach parishioners within the context of pastoral counseling. In order to master
these “best practices,” pastoral care-givers must address the following critical issues:
First, the pastoral counselor must judge the importance of integrating the Bible into the
counseling model. Second, the pastoral counselor will consider the proper relational style
for creating a context of change and relocation as well as constructing an ethical and safe
environment for counseling. Third, the pastoral therapist resolves to address the
counseling setting, bearing in mind matters of cultural diversity and how one will
influence change within that context. Finally, pastoral counselors are to be astute
strategist especially in the area of Solution-Based Brief Pastoral Counseling (SBBFC).
Chapter Four – Constructing Your Strategy to Mend Marriages
Chapter Four, addresses core competency number three, “Constructing Your
Strategy to Mend Marriages,” and is described as the critical task of developing a
strategic approach to counseling couples. Core competency number three presents many
of the prevailing psychological theories that have formed the basis for strategic therapies
used in couples’ and marriage counseling today. It is important that pastoral counselors
recognize not only the significance of providing spiritual help for their clients, but also
the ability to corroborate appropriate psychological therapies for the purpose of achieving
the holistic wellbeing of the couples being counseled. The information presented in this
chapter discusses the major tenets and techniques associated with an eclectic group of
family theories for the purpose of exposing a cross section of relevant psychological
therapies for implementation when counseling couples in distress. This chapter assumes
that pastoral counselors are already astute in the techniques of spiritual counseling,
therefore, directing most of its information toward the area of Psychology. The collected
facts will provide information to assist pastoral counselors in partnering spiritual and
psychological issues through the basic knowledge of these selected therapies.
Chapter Five – Building Your Plan to Repair Families
Chapter Five speaks to core competency number four, “Building Your Plan to
Repair Families” by recommending two accomplished practices for counseling families
in distress. Accomplished practice one is “embracing a theological foundation”
supporting the psychotherapy provided by the pastoral caretaker in times of crisis.
Accomplished practice two encompasses “mastering Christian Integrative
Psychotherapy,” a combination of relational and cognitive therapy as a primary
therapeutic tool. This integrative approach fits extremely well with the Christian
worldview of most pastoral caregivers.
Appendix B – Structuring Your Church to Restore Men
Appendix B covers “Structuring Your Church to Restore Men,” and addresses the
problem of men and internet pornography as well as a plan for developing a church
program assisting people in overcoming addictions to internet pornography. Because of
the shameful stigma attached to this condition, churches tend to shy away from
constructing a biblical healing process in this critical need area. The information
presented in this chapter unfolds a threefold reparative plan for pastoral counselors of
churches that desire to accept responsibility and exhibit compassion to men who struggle
with the issue of pornography.
Review of the Literature
Books and journals from experts in the fields of pastoral counseling and Christian
counseling are an important component of the process of gathering information and proof
for this thesis project. Examining expert contributions from various authorities on this
topic provided this writer with a well-rounded point of view on the five core counseling
competencies presented in this project. The following is a review of the key literature
beneficial to this thesis project:
A Pastor’s Guide to Interpersonal Communication by Blake J. Neff
A Pastor’s Guide to Interpersonal Communication, the Other Six Days was a
tremendous resource addressing the issue of personal dialogue. This book provided
insight and expert training needed by pastors for those personal one-on-one conversations
pastoral counselors can expect. Neff’s work explored the dynamics of communication
and detailed the communication tools available to communicators. This book
comprehensively analyzed a variety of topics including perception, self-disclosure, verbal
and nonverbal messages, listening, stages of relational development, power assertiveness
and dominance, conflict management, forgiveness, persuasion, dual relationships,
pastoral family communication, and how to develop a communications model. 18
The information in this thesis project presents Jesus as the ultimate authority in
counseling. It is noteworthy that the prophet Isaiah was inspired by the Holy Spirit to
18 Blake J. Neff, A Pastor’s Guide to Interpersonal Communication (New York, NY: Routledge
Taylor and Francis Group, 2006).
present our Savior, Jesus Christ, as the “Wonderful Counselor” (Isa. 9:6). Jesus is the
highest and ultimate authority to whom one may turn for counsel; and, His Word is the
well from which one may draw godly wisdom. One of the magnificent aspects of
Christ’s perfect sufficiency is the superb counsel and great wisdom He supplies through
His Word in our times of despair, confusion, fear, anxiety, and sorrow. One of the
primary purposes of the pastoral counselor is to expose the counselee to the healing and
encouraging truths of God’s Word. All scriptures presented in this author’s thesis
project, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The material in thesis project proclaims the Bible as the infallible rule of faith and
practice for counseling. The Bible is God’s written revelation to man; therefore, the
sixty-six books of the Bible, given by the Holy Spirit, constitute the plenary Word of
God. The Word of God is an objective, propositional revelation verbally inspired in
every word, absolutely inerrant in the original documents, infallible, and God-breathed.
As the Apostle Paul stated, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of
God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, the
Bible constitutes the only infallible rule of faith and practice. God spoke in His written
Word by a process of dual authorship. That is to say, the Holy Spirit administered the
human authors; and through their individual personalities and different styles of writing,
they composed and recorded God’s Word to man without error. The Bible is the ultimate
tool for pastoral counseling.
2 Corinthians 8:10 and Acts 5:38-39
All components of this thesis project maintain that wise pastoral counseling is
based on spiritual maturity and knowledge. The Apostle Paul’s statement, “Here is my
advice” (2 Cor. 8:10 NLT), provides Christian counselors with a biblical example of one
giving preferred counsel based on maturity, knowledge, and guidance from the Holy
Spirit. The same tone of mature deliberation is presented in the book of Acts as the
Jewish leader, Gamaliel, advised the Sanhedrin regarding Jesus’ followers and stated, “So
my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these
things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will
not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God”
(Acts 5:38-39 NLT). The Bible values wise counsel based on spiritual maturity and
1Thessalonians 2:11-12 and Romans 12:8
The ideas proposed in thesis project uphold the notion that pastoral counseling
and encouragement are synonymous. One of the inherent responsibilities of pastoral
counseling is encouragement. Biblical encouragement in its purest and simplest
definition means to come alongside someone as a helper. The Apostle Paul reminded
believers in Thessalonica of his caring and helpful pastoral actions with these words, “For
you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and
encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1Thess. 2:11-12).
Encouragement strengthens and calls out renewed commitment. Typically, believers are
encouraged to some godly course of action. The purpose of encouragement is that one
may be strengthened for rehabilitated faith and obedience. How wonderful then is the
spiritual gift of encouragement (Rom. 12:8)! As pastoral counselors exercise the spiritual
gift of encouragement, counselees are strengthened and enabled to experience positive
spiritual growth and victorious Christian living.
Colossians 4:6, 1 Peter 3:15, and James 3:1
The concepts presented in this thesis advocate contemplative speech. God’s
Word says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may
know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6), thus reminding pastoral
counselors that the gracious demeanor with which one extends counsel is as vital as the
advice one gives. The example of salt provides two notable concepts; not only does salt
add flavor, it also prevents corruption. Therefore, salt metaphorically symbolizes the
importance of tactful, yet confronting, advice if necessary. The Apostle Peter enhances
the importance of the counselor’s dialogue when he states, “But in your hearts, honor
Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks
you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15), indicating the critical nature of
training and preparation for those who intend to help others with hopeful and helpful
advice. Preparation will aid the counselor’s speech in the areas of “gentleness and
respect.” The pastoral counselor’s speech is always pensively presented in the tension
addressed in the book of James which says, “Not many of you should become teachers,
my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”
1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 10:23, Romans 14:21, and 1 Corinthians 8:13
The ideals brought forth in thesis project show that pastoral counseling is not
always subjected to expediency and pragmatism. In other words, although a method,
intervention, or technique may be ethically permitted for a pastoral counselor to practice,
it may not be to the client’s spiritual benefit. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian
believers, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12);
and, “All things are lawful, but not all things build up” (1 Cor. 10:23). Pastoral
counselors must be extremely careful not to “allow the end to justify the means;” and as a
result, cause weaker brothers or sisters in the faith to stumble, or worse, to fall into sin. It
is better to follow the biblical principle stated in Romans 14:21 (CNT), “The right thing
to do is to keep from eating meat, drinking wine, or doing anything else that will make
other believers fall.” As the proverbial statement says, “It is better to err on the side of
caution,” “lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor. 8:13).
Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 24:6 and Proverbs 24:15
All parts of this thesis project grasp the importance of counselors in dispensing
godly advice and direction. The book of Proverbs is a valuable collection of God’s
wisdom for His people. The spiritual, ethical, psychological, intellectual, physical,
marital, social, and professional areas of our lives are addressed in this book of wisdom.
The practical advice delineated in the book of Proverbs is that the way of wisdom is
respect for God, doing right, and using common sense to develop life patterns that will
bring joy, harmony, and accomplishment in all areas of life. The book of Proverbs
recognizes that counselors are an integral part of staying the course toward these goals.
The writer of Proverbs reminds the reader of the importance of counselors when it says,
“Where there is no guidance, the people fall” (Prov. 11:14) and “by wise guidance you
can wage your war” (Prov. 24:6). How many persons, couples, and families are waging
war against numerous issues; yet, the book of Proverbs says the benefits of counselors are
safety and victory (Prov. 11:14, 24:6). The book of Proverbs posits the idea that one
often needs wisdom to be pointed in the right direction and to give confidence that one is
empowered in the movement toward good goals. The book of Proverbs reminds one that
it is “a wise man that listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15).
The views asserted in thesis project comprehend the importance of peer friendship
in the area of pastoral counseling. One of the most recognized passages of scripture is
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). This proverbial truth
reminds every pastoral counselor of the need to debrief with a friend or peer. It would be
a recommended practice that pastoral counselors enlist a personal mentor or colleague for
the purposes of debriefing, encouragement, and personal support.
Christian Counseling Today (Journal)
Contributions from a variety of articles examined in various issues of Christian
Counseling Today have influenced numerous portions of this thesis project. For example,
Stephen Arterburn’s, “Your Cheating Heart: Men and Pornography” inspired much of
what was written in chapter six which addressed the topic of men and internet
pornography. Below is a sample excerpt from that article.
Just as drug professionals are familiar with drug content, drug paraphernalia, and
drug delivery systems, those familiar with pornography implement the internet
more and more as the preferred delivery system for their virtual sexual “fix.” The
internet has allowed men, with ease and anonymity, to become deeply involved
with this sinister sin. Sadly, virtual pornography has become the “drug of choice”
among conservative Christian men as well. 19
This writer is extremely grateful to the American Association of Christian Counselors for
distributing such a high quality counseling journal with a wide variety of perspectives.
Hoped-Focused Marriage Counseling by Dr. Everett L. Worthington
Dr. Everett L. Worthington’s work, Hoped- Focused Marriage Counseling, was
helpful in constructing the critical task of developing a strategic approach for counseling
couples presented in chapter four of this thesis project. This book proved to be a
comprehensive and tightly organized theory of Christian marriage counseling based on
promoting hope and teaching couples a strategy to build love, faith, and work into their
relationships within the parameter of a sufficient, yet limited number of therapeutic
sessions. Dr. Worthington proposed a concise, well-organized, and powerful approach to
helping couples in distress. His approach flexibly and eclectically drew from
interventions originally developed within disparate theoretical frameworks. The author
integrated, under a unifying strategy for marriage, interventions drawn from other
approaches as well as his own interventions. These interventions focused on fostering
hope in partners, the therapist’s allegiance to the principles of scripture, and the work of
the Holy Spirit in helping couples handle problems. Hope-focused marriage counseling
is an evidenced-based Christian approach to counseling couples with a genuinely brief
Stephen Arterburn, “Your Cheating Heart: Men and Pornography,” Christian Counseling
Today, 14.1 (2006): 12.
and flexible system that extracts from both theology and psychology. 20
How People Grow by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Two key assumptions supporting this thesis project are the integration of biblical
counseling with psychology and the connection of spiritual growth to psychological
catharsis. One of the books helpful in assimilating these two notions in the fabric of this
thesis project is How People Grow – What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth by
Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The authors supported the previously mentioned
concepts by presenting the holistic impact of spiritual growth on relationship problems,
emotional problems, and all other problems of life. Cloud and Townsend rejected the
notion that one set of solutions exists for spiritual life issues and another for real-life
issues. This book detailed how the Word of God and spiritual life speak to the process in
which people grow out of their problems. The overarching goal of the research presented
in this book is to get people back into a proper relationship with God. However, in
addition to the primary goal of the book are the ideals of reconciling people to each other
and reconciling people to the ways of holiness and pure living. Spiritual growth is not
only coming back into a relationship with God and each other, not just about pursuing a
pure life; it is also about coming back to the life that God created people to live, a life of
deep relationship, fulfilling work, celebration, and a life that now provides satisfaction
and solves problems. 21
20 Everett L. Worthington Jr., Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2005).
Henry Cloud, and John Townsend, How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal
Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2004).
How to Solve the People Puzzle by Dr. Mels Carbonell
How to Solve the People Puzzle: Understanding Personality Patterns presented
the value of profiling and assessing the personality patterns of people according to the
DISC model of human behavior. The DISC model of human behavior was first
introduced by William Marston in 1928 and segregated basic human behavior into four
quadrants, which often explained why people do what they do. In 1977, Dr. John Geier,
chairman of the Human Behavior Science Department at the University of Minnesota,
designed the first paper assessment which identified a person’s DISC personality type
using a business and personal perspective. After studying under Dr. Geier and Dr. Frank
Wichern, staff psychologist at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Carbonell designed his
unique combination of personality and faith-based profiles. The comprehension of
various human behavior patterns and combinations of human behavior shapes within the
DISC model provided profiling rationale for the actions of people within the
circumference of relational environments. According to Dr. Carbonell, insight from this
information can make the difference between right and wrong responses, and the best or
worst behavior in any situation. In his book, Dr. Carbonell profiled various combinations
of personality patterns through the grid of two different but identical graphs. “Graph
One,” was designed to describe specific personality types from a public perspective; and,
“Graph Two” discussed particular personality types when individuals were either in their
home environments or in settings among friends and relatives. Dr. Carbonell concluded
that when individuals were either in public or private environments, they tended to have
different relational expectations. The purpose of Dr. Carbonell’s book was to assist the
reader in developing controlled responses in one’s behavior when dealing with other
people. Dr. Carbonell concluded, “We cannot control what others say and do, but we can
affect their responses by how we say and do things.” Therefore, since behavior is the
greatest cause for our happiness and hurts, it only stands to reason that one focus on
improving one’s relationships. 22
Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott
The Parrott’s book Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts was an important
source in constructing the critical task of developing a strategic approach to counseling
couples outlined in chapter three of this project. According to the authors, every couple
marrying today is at risk. More than two-hundred thousand new marriages each year end
prior to the second anniversary. The truth is most engaged couples prepare more for their
wedding day than they do for their marriage. What would the impact be if the same
amount of time, money, and energy spent on the ceremony was invested in the marriage?
Because of significant marriage research, more is known today about building a
successful marriage than ever before. For instance, it has been proven that happily
married couples have healthy expectations of marriage, realistic concepts of love,
positive attitudes and outlooks toward life, the ability to communicate their feelings, an
understanding and acceptance of their gender differences, the ability to make decisions
and settle arguments, and a common spiritual foundation and goal. The previous list
forms the basis of the seven questions posed by the authors in this work. This book was
based on the notion that marriage does not have to be a gamble. Most couples tend to
mistakenly blame the wrong things for breakups and marital dissatisfaction; therefore, the
22 Mels Carbonell, How to Solve the People Puzzle: Understanding Personality Patterns (Blue
Ridge, GA: Uniquely You Resources, 2008), 303.
Parrott’s directed their book toward the genuine causes of marital conflict. The authors
discovered that learning to live “happily ever after” is “less a mystery than the mastery of
certain skills.” The book was well-rounded and appropriate for those people who are
single or dating, in committed relationships, contemplating marriage, or already
established in marriage. 23
Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling by Charles Allen Kollar
Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling was influential to this author as Kollar
presented the significance of developing a positive, affirmative, and effective short-term
counseling model. In recent years, many pastoral counselors have embraced several
forms of brief counseling therapies; however, Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling is a
specific form of brief therapy that is motivated by a clear and firm agenda with which
solution-focused pastoral counselors move quickly in the very first session of counseling,
directing the counselee’s focus onto resolutions rather than allowing continued focus on
problems. One of the unique features of Kollar’s model is that it avoids the difficulty of
permitting a problem to become an identifying feature of someone’s personality, i.e. “He
is an alcoholic” instead of “He struggles with alcoholism.”
The Counsel of Heaven and Earth by Ian Jones
Ian Jones’s book, The Counsel of Heaven and Earth, also provided valuable
insight into incorporating the components of integrating biblical counseling with
psychotherapy, and connecting spiritual growth to psychological catharsis. According to
Jones, biblically based counselors need a clear understanding of the question and
23 Les Parrott and L. Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (Grand Rapids, MI:
commitment to the call of God upon their lives. In this book, the author stressed that a
full and complete understanding of human nature and our world, necessary for an
effective biblical counseling ministry, cannot be understood outside the revelation of
God. Comparatively, all secular counseling theories have a fundamental flaw. The
common denominator of secular counseling is that the individual and society is at the
center of all change. Secular counseling has a tendency to focus on the horizontal
dimension of relationships but ignores the divine or vertical aspect. As Jones stated,
“The motivation for change and the behavioral drives originate somewhere on a
continuum between individual freedom to choose and social or biological pressure to
Therefore, the implication attached to the secular theories derived from this
notion are that counseling must address the self by addressing personal awareness or by
reprogramming the cognitive or behavioral dimensions; or, it must reorder the social and
biological forces that shape a person’s world. In contrast, Jones drew from the example
of God’s efforts in Genesis to reconcile and restore Adam and Eve and proposed three
dimensions that must be addressed in Christian counseling – one’s location in
relationship to self, to others, and to God. Biblical Christian counselors are to recognize
the importance of finding a counselee’s spiritual, psychological, and social location.
Driven by Christ’s example and compelled to compassion by the Great Commandment,
Ian Jones encouraged biblical counselors to address the issue of location and lostness, and
to develop a process to help a person who has wandered off track find the path home. In
this book, Jones placed a high value on the spiritual condition of the counselor.
24 Ian F. Jones, The Counsel of Heaven and Earth: Foundations for Biblical Christian Counseling (Nashville, TN: B &H Publishing Group, 2006), 24.
The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg
John Ortberg’s, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, was a valuable resource for
establishing the learning objectives in chapter two of this thesis project. Ortberg’s book
provided a practical guide for accomplishing the goal of genuine spiritual transformation.
The book described the means for authentic Christianity through the application of ten
specific spiritual disciplines. In many ways, the book reflected Dallas Willard’s classic
work on discipleship, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes
Lives; however, in this writer’s opinion, Ortberg’s sensible and matter-of-fact approach
to the topic brought forward a contemporary relevance for the purposes of this project.
Ortberg perceived the sad cry of the human race to be an overwhelming contentment with
the status quo, the tendency to say, “I am what I am.” Ortberg pointed out, one was
originally called to be the person that God had in mind when originally designed by the
Heavenly Father; therefore, there existed a struggle between disappointment and hope
that could only be satisfied through some sort of process of life transformation. Ortberg
concluded the desire for transformation lies deep in every human heart, which is why
people entered therapy, joined health clubs, assimilated into recovery groups, read self-
help books, attended motivational seminars, and made New Year’s resolutions.
According to the author, the possibility of transformation provides the essence of hope.
Ortberg constructed his book upon the premise that Jesus brought a message that was
significantly more than simply conforming to a religious subculture; rather, He brought a
message that spoke to the deepest longings of the human heart to be transformed into
“new creatures.” Ortberg articulated that the goal for every Christian life is to be
conformed and molded into the exact image of Christ. 25
The Skilled Helper by Gerard Egan
Gerard Eagan’s book, The Skilled Helper: A Problem Management Approach to
Helping provided the framework for the three learning objectives that are part of the first
core competency in this thesis project. Egan is Emeritus Professor of Psychology and
Organizational Studies at Loyola University of Chicago and is a leading expert in the
areas of communication, counseling, business and organization effectiveness,
management development, leadership, the management of innovation and change, and
organization politics and culture. Eagan’s book, The Skilled Helper, outlines what
counselors can do to assist clients as they develop an action plan leading to valued
outcomes while being guided by a counselor through three progressive stages of
assistance. This classic book provides a working model that helps one know what to do
during client interactions, and proved to be extremely beneficial to this thesis project. 26
Other Influential Books
In the past forty years, a counseling revolution occurred. Evangelicals are now
impactful in the field of counseling as they are presently writing about counseling
procedures and counselor education. They have written best sellers and have founded
thriving graduate programs and counseling centers. However, two distinct schools of
thought emerged in the counseling revolution. One group developed in the footsteps of
Dr. Clyde Narramore and was influenced along the lines of Fuller Seminary’s Graduate
25 John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
26 Gerard Egan, The Skilled Helper, 5
th ed. (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company,
School of Psychology. The core philosophy of this counseling approach is that wise
counseling requires evangelical faith be carefully integrated with the theories, therapeutic
methods, and professional roles of modern psychology. 27
The other group developed in
the footsteps of Jay Adams and along the lines of the Christian Counseling and
Educational Foundation’s pastoral training at Westminster Seminary. This school of
thought proposes that wise counseling recognizes biblical mandates and the development
of a comprehensive pastoral theology that is distinct from prevailing cultural paradigms. 28
In order to approach this thesis project with a well-rounded philosophy of pastoral
counseling from both points of view, this author found the following classic textbooks
books very helpful:
Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling by Howard Clinebell, Abingdon Press, 1984
Care for the Soul, edited by Mark McMinn and Timothy Phillips, Inter Varsity
Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams, Zondervan, 1986
Introduction to Biblical Counseling by John MacArthur, W Publishing Group,
The Psychology of Counseling by Clyde Narramore, Zondervan, 1960
27 Mark McMinn and Timothy Phillips, Care for the Soul (Downers Grove, ILL: Inter Varsity
Press, 2001), 25.
CORE COMPETENCY ONE
KNOWING YOURSELF TO GUIDE OTHERS
A significant portion of core competency number one was inspired by and crafted
from material presented by Dr. Ron Hawkins and Dr. Dwight Rice in the course, The
Growth and Development of the Contemporary Ministry, offered as part of the Doctor of
Ministry Program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. During this course, the Doctor
of Ministry students, including this writer, were required to personally utilize a number of
assessment tools and to practice a number of defined methods of introspection for the
purpose of developing keen self- awareness in order to enhance competency in the area of
pastoral care and counseling. As a result of this author’s personal experience with the
components presented as “Core Competency One, Knowing Yourself to Guide People,”
information from this author’s assessments and evaluations has been contributed to
support the presentation of significant core competency number one.
Over fifty years ago, the esteemed pioneer of pastoral counseling, Clyde
Narramore, wrote these still relevant words,
People sometimes ask, “What is the most important thing in counseling?” The
answer is, “The Counselor.” Naturally the counselor’s techniques are very
important. He should also have an understanding of human behavior and
knowledge of bibliography as well as sources of referral at his command. But the
most important element in counseling is the counselor himself. Counseling is, in
a sense, a projection of the counselor. You have heard the comment, “We rub off
on people.” This is especially true in counseling. The counselee subtly learns to
consider problems in the same way as does the counselor. As time is spent
together, the counselee is greatly influenced.” 1
The previous quotation reflects the significance of the pastoral counselor’s personal
impact on the counselee in the arena of counseling. Therefore, one must have a keen
perspective of self and one must comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of one’s
temperament in order to assist and lead clients through the process of counseling. No one
should be better qualified to counsel than one called to pastoral ministry. The minister
has accurate insight into human nature and knows that true wisdom and understanding
emanates from God. The pastor personally understands that it is through God’s Word
that the answers to life’s problems are found. Also, one who shepherds realizes the
significance of the powerful resource of prayer. To be a good counselor, the minister
must be the right kind of person consistently growing in the grace and knowledge of
one’s Lord and Savior, constantly developing an attractive personality that radiates Jesus
Christ. The purpose of this core competency is to provide the pastoral counselor a self-
evaluation instrument that can be initially implemented and regularly tweaked throughout
one’s counseling ministry because personal spiritual growth is such a critical component
of being competent to counsel.
It has often been said that one cannot successfully lead someone where one has
not already gone, or at least has been willing to go. Therefore, it is befitting for the
pastoral counselor to work on changing and improving one’s self before trying to
1 Clyde Narramore, The Psychology of Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960), 18.
improve others. That is why John Maxwell proposed, “As a leader, the first person I
need to lead is me. The first person I should try to change is me. My standards of
excellence should be higher for myself than those I set for others. To remain a credible
leader, I must always work first, hardest, and longest on changing myself. This is neither
easy nor natural, but it is essential. 2 Christian Psychologist Eric Scalise said, “Only a
leader who has followed well knows how to lead others well… Connecting with clients
becomes possible because one has walked in their shoes.” 3 Competent leadership
through counseling requires an understanding of the world in which clients live. Echoing
this line of thinking, Dr. Melvin C. Blanchette, an expert in the field of pastoral
There is indeed a commonality among those who share the human condition.
Growth begins only when one accepts his or her unique starting point and that the
greatest struggle in life is not with outside forces but with inside feelings which
must be brought to awareness, understood, and hopefully worked through to
insight and acceptance; once we have come to such a point in our personal lives,
our professional activities as psychologists, pastoral counselors, social workers, or
mental health professionals will certainly afford us greater happiness, and better
care to our clients. 4
Therefore, the pastor who is competent to lead others through counseling must be
emotionally, physically, and spiritually centered by securely affirming both inwardly and
outwardly one’s personal identity.
Pastoral counselors, by virtue of their position in ministry, are automatically
thrust into the position of leadership and influence. Ministers lead church worshipers
2 John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007),
3 Eric Scalise, “Leadership Gold – Nuggets Mined From John Maxwell,” Christian Counseling
Today, 17, no. 4 (2011): 41-43.
4 Melvin C. Blanchette, “Personal and Professional Growth Through Psychological Testing,” in
Pastoral Counseling 2 nd
ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1991), 113.
corporately, they lead church staffs administratively, they lead congregations spiritually,
and they lead parishioners exemplarily. Leadership at its most basic level is about
influence; and, leading parishioners within the relational context of pastoral counseling is
no exception to this rule. Because people do what people see, more often than not, the
pastoral counselor will be trusted to authenticate client goals on the basis of personal
practice and experience. As Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Nothing is more
confusing than people who give good advice but set a bad example.” 5 When people trust
each other, incredible results are accomplished; however, when a lack of trust exists, a
relationship becomes dysfunctional. Trust is a function of two characteristics; one is
competence and the other is character. The pastoral caregiver must have the requisite
abilities to be effective in the practice of pastoral help; but, ultimately it is about
character. When ministers who counsel are authentic, humble, courageous, and
effectively self-managed, people will listen.
The Importance of Self-Awareness
Competencies are identified behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that
directly and positively impact the success of pastoral counselors. This author proposes
that four significant core competencies are basic to the endeavor of appropriating credible
pastoral care within the forum of pastoral counseling. The first of these significant core
counseling competencies deals with the value of self-awareness as it relates to one’s skill
to properly evaluate and assess the condition and needs of clients.
5 Norman Vincent Peale, quoted in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 161.
Self-awareness benefits the pastoral counselor in numerous ways. To name just a
few: It unlocks one’s understanding to the role of emotion in healthy and unhealthy
approaches to counseling. It opens the door to the development of personal skills
required for maintaining a healthy relational lifestyle. It promotes the discussion of one’s
inner private world for the development of successful counseling strategies. Self-
awareness identifies the strengths and weaknesses that one brings personally to the
counseling context; and, it assists one in understanding how one’s present counseling
context fits with one’s relational style. 6 Therefore, this writer proposes, within the
context of core competency number one, three specific learning objectives, for the
purpose of promoting self-awareness. The first learning objective directs the pastoral
counselor toward unfolding one’s current life story by asking the pastoral counselor to
develop a personal profile, and to then address the following questions, “who am I right
now,” “how did I get here,” “where am I now,” followed by the composition of an overall
conclusive summary. The second learning objective focuses on unfolding life as one
wishes it to be. The ideal story considers areas in the life of the pastor that need
improvement or change. The third learning objective unfolds a plan for change, which
involves creating master goals that include the analysis of present realities, the shaping of
preferences, structuring for change, and setting up support and accountability. These
learning objectives were greatly influenced by “the skilled helper model” originally
presented by Gerard Eagan in his textbook, The Skilled Helper. 7 Eagan’s “helping
model,” the centerpiece of his book, moves clients through three stages: one’s current
6 Carl Rogers and Barry Stevens, Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human, a New Trend
in Psychology (Lafayette, CA: Real People Press, 1967), 85-101.
7 Gerard Egan, The Skilled Helper, 5
th ed. (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company,
scenario, one’s preferred scenario, and one’s strategy for achieving the preferred
scenario. Self-awareness can, and does, enable personal and professional growth in the
life and ministry of the pastoral counselor that can be translated into effective counseling
techniques. It is important for the pastoral counselor to be aware of one’s own needs,
wounds, brokenness, and vulnerability as the unique struggle of another person is
discovered through assessment and evaluation.
Before beginning the three learning objectives of this core competency, the
pastoral counselor must consider two prerequisites. First, the pastoral counselor should
receive course instruction in the importance of implementing assessment tools in one’s
counseling context as well as training in administering and analyzing assessments of a
variety of instruments available to the field of Christian counseling. Second, the
following suggested reading list ought to be completed before commencing to learning
Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships by Larry Crabb 8
A Pastor’s Guide to Interpersonal Communication by Blake Neff 9
The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg 10
Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene
8 Larry Crabb, Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships (Nashville, TN: Thomas
Nelson Publishers, 2004).
9 B. J. Neff, A Pastor’s Guide to Interpersonal Communication (New York, NY: The Hayworth
Pastoral Press, 2006).
John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids,
MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006).
Learning Objective One: Unfolding Your Life as You Know It
Part A: The Personal Profile
The overall method for accomplishing the learning objectives associated with core
competency number one is journaling; therefore, the pastoral counselor must construct a
written document reflecting one’s personal profile within the present life story. The
initial component of unfolding one’s current life, the personal profile, should include four
elements. First, the profile should reflect on the pastoral counselor’s marriage and family
status. Second, it ought to contain the minister’s present ministry context. Third, it must
explain what drives the minister. Finally, it is necessary for the profile to consider the
overarching goal in the life of the pastoral counselor. The length of the personal profile
should be approximately four-hundred words and not exceed five-hundred words. As
previously stated in the introduction to core competency number one and because this
part of the thesis project deals with self-awareness, this author has provided personal
samples to demonstrate the three learning objectives.
Sample: This Writer’s “Personal Profile”
It is the heartfelt desire of this writer to daily pursue the personal objective of
being a committed follower of Jesus Christ. This author has been married to Terri
Younce, his high school sweetheart, for thirty-seven years. Terri is the Administrative
Coordinator for the Department of Education and Behavioral Studies at Palm Beach
Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida where this author and his wife have
lived for the past thirteen years. This writer and his wife have three adult children, Tara,
Craig (Butch), and Sara. Tara is married to Jeremiah Cody Smith; and, they have one
child, Olivia Grace Janelle. Tara is an adjunct Professor of Education and Arts and
Sciences at Palm Beach Atlantic University; and, Cody is a licensed mental health
therapist who supervises child services counselors for the organization Boys and Girls
Town of America. Butch is a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences who is a medical research
for Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; Butch also is an adjunct Professor of
Biology at Valencia State College. He is married to Amy, an exceptional student
education teacher in the Orlando, Florida public school system. Sara is married to Adam
Boyd. Sara is a kindergarten five schoolteacher; she is also an enrichment teacher of
dance and theatre at a prestigious private school. Sara has studied with Howard Gardener
at Harvard University. She is also a private dance instructor and gives music lessons as
well. Adam is retail manager and is completing his master’s degree at Southern
Seminary. This writer is the Pastor of Palms West Community Church in West Palm
Beach, Florida where this writer’s family, with the exception of Butch and Amy, are a
vital part of his church ministry.
The information presented above is an important part of this author’s present story
because it is the culmination of what has driven this author’s life for the past thirty-eight
years. This writer’s life priorities respectively revolve around this writer’s love and
commitment for God, his love and commitment for his wife, his love and commitment for
his family, and his love and commitment for ministry; and, this writer believes that those
priorities are consistent with his overarching goal in life, which is to be a fully-devoted
follower of Jesus Christ. This author’s overarching goal of being a fully-devoted
follower of Christ reflects his love and obedience to his Heavenly Father, and provides an
example to others and his family of what it means to imitate Christ.
Part B: Who Am I Now?
The second element of unfolding one’s current story requires the pastoral
counselor to use self-assessment tools in order to discover the present reality about self.
At least three personality/temperament assessment instruments should be taken and the
results, as they influence the pastoral counselor’s present context, are to be recorded in a
journal. Preferably, the pastoral counselor should use the assessment tools that will
normally be implemented within the pastor’s own counseling context. After completing,
scoring, and analyzing the assessment instruments, the pastoral counselor uses
information gleaned from the evaluation tools to probe the issue of, “Who am I right
now?” At this point, the pastoral counselor constructs a written self-analysis of his
present story containing the following elements: a formal temperament diagnosis, the
benefits of one’s temperament, the limitations of one’s temperament, how one’s
temperament connects to ministry, and an overall summary of one’s temperament. This
writer found this part of the exercise to be immensely valuable in discovering one’s real-
self as opposed to one’s perception of self. Because this is the key research segment of
learning objective number one, around fifteen hundred words would be expected. For the
purpose of demonstrating this portion of learning objective one, this author personally
employed three evaluation instruments. They were the MBTI Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator instrument, the ACL Adjective Check List assessment tool, and the DISC
Personality Types and Profiles mechanism. This writer endorses five assessment tools to
choose from as part of the first learning objective connected to core competency number
The Three Hundred Sixty Degree Feedback Interview:
This assessment permits one to gain insight from the perspective of those who are
in one’s sphere of influence. This assessment is typically a human resource tool but is
quite effective and eye-opening as a self-assessment tool. It takes into consideration how
one actually interacts with others. Its purpose is to provide a means to monitor one’s
personal and professional growth. For the purpose of this learning objective, it requires
asking at least three colleagues or friends the following questions. The answers do not
have to be long, just concise and legible.
How does _____ typically interact with other people? Can you think of a
Have you ever been in a situation where you saw _____ take on new tasks or
roles? Describe this situation and what he or she did?
What has been a particularly demanding goal for _____ to achieve?
When you observe _______, which of the following pictures come to mind, a
lion, an otter, a beaver, or a golden retriever? (The following web site will
explain how these animals describe personality patterns:
Interpersonal Communication Skills Test (Abridged):
Communicating with others is an essential skill in counseling. When it comes to
communication, what one says and what one does not say are equally important. Being a
good listener is quite crucial. Robert Greenleaf once said, “Many attempts to
communicate are nullified by saying too much.” The Interpersonal Communication
Skills Test – Abridged is a simple online assessment containing ten questions and takes
approximately five minutes to complete. This assessment tool is a communication skills
index that rates one’s ability to get one’s point across in a clear, concise way as well as
listen to others and understand where they are coming from. After finishing the test, one
receives a brief personalized interpretation of one’s score that includes a graph and
information on the test topic. 12
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI):
Based on one’s individual responses, the MBTI instrument produces results to
identify which of sixteen different “personality types” best describe a person. One’s
personality type represents one’s preferences in four separate categories, with each
category composed of two opposite poles. The four categories describe key areas that
combine to form the basis of a person’s personality as follows:
Where you focus your attention — Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
The way you take in information — Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
The way you make decisions — Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
How you deal with the outer world — Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Discovery Fit and Health, “Interpersonal Communication Skills Test – Abridged,”
http://discoveryhealth.queendom.com/communication_short_access.html (accessed August 30, 2011).
One’s MBTI type is indicated by the four letters representing one’s preferences. One’s
responses to the MBTI assessment not only indicate preferences, they also indicate the
relative clarity of preferences; that is, how clear one is in expressing one’s preference for
a particular pole over its opposite. This is known as the preference clarity index, or pci.
Most people find that the MBTI results describe them quite well. 13
The MBTI instrument
is one of the most widely used assessment tools in the world.
Uniquely You: DISC Short-Professional Profiler:
The Uniquely You DISC Personality Profiles were developed by Dr. Mels
Carbonell in 1987. Dr. Carbonell was first introduced to the DISC Personality Profile
while attending Dallas Theological Seminary. Because of his burden to help churches
improve effectiveness, plus increase church growth and health, Dr. Carbonell created the
first of its kind combination Spiritual Gifts and DISC Personality Profiles. Dr. Carbonell
purposely does not refer to personality profiles as personality tests because people pass or
fail a test; rather, these DISC profiles are simple personality assessments, and no one
fails. The DISC Model of Human Behavior describes the four basic temperament types:
(Choleric) D-type, (Sanguine) I-type, (Phlegmatic) S-type, and (Melancholy) C-type.
Everyone is a blend of DISC behavior. No normal person has a bad personality; it is
what one does with one’s DISC personality that may be good or bad. Identifying one’s
DISC personality blend is vital to effective leadership and relationships. 14
Peter B. Myers and Katharine D. Myers, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Profile Sample,
https://www.cpp.com/Pdfs/smp 261001.pdf – Adobe Reader (accessed August 30, 2011).
“Uniquely You Solving the People Puzzle,” under -What is Uniquely You?
https://uniquelyyou.com/about.php (accessed September 1, 2011).
The Adjective Check List (ACL):
The Adjective Checklist (ACL) consists of three-hundred adjectives and
adjectival phrases commonly used to describe a person’s attributes. It may be
administered to an individual to elicit a self-evaluation or a characterization of someone
else; or it may be used by observers in a clinic, counseling center, research laboratory, or
in marketing research as a convenient, standardized method for recording and generating
meaning of personal attributes of clients, research subjects, products, or even cultures.
The ACL is distinctive in that the number of items checked is unspecified, so that
adjectives chosen are ones that are relevant for the person being evaluated. The variation
in selections is itself viewed as a personality variable. In addition to a score on the
number of items checked, there are twenty-three other scales, all of which the standard
scores are adjusted according to the items that are endorsed; this adjustment removes the
influence of acquiescence from the twenty-three measures. Administration time varies
from ten to fifteen minutes. 15
Sample: This Writer’s “Who Am I Now?”
Diagnostic results of this writer’s temperament:
The first diagnostic tool employed by this author was the Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator, referred to as the MBTI diagnostic tool. According to the MBTI diagnostic
tool, this writer is very clearly an “ENFP.” The “E20” indicator denotes this writer’s
extroverted desire to focus on the outer world of people and activity. That is to say, this
author directs energy and attention outward and receives energy from interacting with
“The Adjective Check List,” Mind Garden, http://www.mindgarden.com/products/acl.htm.
(accessed September 1, 2011).
people and from taking action. The “N26” marker signifies that this author is a person
that prefers intuition, that enjoys taking in information based on the big picture, and that
focuses on the relationships and connections between facts. Grasping patterns and seeing
new possibilities is what captures this writer’s attentiveness. The “F21” pointer signifies
this writer prefers to use decision making in areas of importance. There is a tendency for
this writer to place himself within situations to identify with others so that he can make
decisions based on their values about honoring people. What energizes this author is
appreciating and supporting others as he looks for qualities to praise. The goal of this
author is to create harmony and treat each person as a unique individual. The “P21”
indicator implies that this author prefers to use the perceiving process in the outer world,
and that he likes to live in a flexible spontaneous way, seeking to experience and
understand life rather than to control it. Details and final decisions seem confining to this
writer, as he prefers to stay open to new information and last-minute options. The MBTI
assessment tool indicates that this writer’s resourcefulness in adapting to the demands of
the moment is what energizes him. The high scores (see subscript numbers) indicate that
the “ENFP” preferences were very clear. 16
The second diagnostic tool that this author used to evaluate “who I am right now”
was the Uniquely You Professional/Leader Profile diagnostic tool, which this author took
in an online format. This diagnostic tool employed the DISC four temperament model of
behavior as a basic format of evaluation. Uniquely You Resources calculated the
assessments of the professional/leader profile then presented them to this writer along
with determinative explanations as a client of the organization. According to the DISC
The Myers and Briggs Foundation, MBTI Basics, http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-
personality-type/mbti-basics/ (accessed December 6, 2011).
assessment, this writer is an S24/I21/C19. The subscript numbers indicate this author’s
level within the categories on a numerical scale of one to thirty with fifteen being the
median normal. The “S” indicates that this author is passive and is a people oriented. It
points out that this writer is steady, stable, shy, security-oriented, servant-based,
submissive and a specialist. The “I” category specifies that this author is active and
people oriented as well. This category identifies this author’s temperament as inspiring,
influencing, inducing, impressing, interactive, and interested in people. The “C” category
shows that this writer also has a tendency toward being passive and task-oriented. This
means that part of this writer’s temperament is cautious, competent, calculating,
compliant, careful, and contemplative. 17
The third diagnostic that this author used to evaluate “who I am right now” was
the Adjective Checklist commonly referred to as the ACL diagnostic tool. As previously
mentioned, the ACL assessment consists of three-hundred adjectives and adjectival
phrases commonly used to describe a person’s attributes. The ACL diagnostic tool
correlates with twenty-four assessment scales. The administering of this diagnostic
assessment occurred during the intensive class at Liberty University. The testing
organization accounted for the scientific nature of the scoring that revealed the following
conclusions. This author perceives himself to be socially acceptable. In the area of
achievement, this author strives to be outstanding in pursuits of socially recognized
significance, and exhibits the trait of endurance with a willingness to persist in any task
undertaken. This writer highly regards neatness, planning, and organization. This writer
engages in attempts to understand his own behavior as well as the behavior of others.
“Uniquely You Solving the People Puzzle,” under Professional – Leadership Online Profile,
December 6, 2011).
The assessment also found this writer to be nurturing, involved in behaviors that
provide material or emotional benefits to others along with the tendency to seek and
maintain numerous personal friendships. This author also displays the propensity to act
independently of others, or of social values and expectations, as well as valuing the
novelty of experience and avoidance of routine. This writer scored above average in the
following “topical scales,” assessing a diverse set of attributes, potentialities, and role
Counseling Readiness – The willingness to accept counseling or professional
advice in regard to personal problems, psychological difficulties, and the like
Self-control – The extent to which self-control is imposed and valued
Self-confidence – Self-reliance, confidence, poise, and self-assurance
Personal Adjustment – The ability to cope with situational and interpersonal
demands, and a feeling of efficacy
Ideal Self – Strong sense of personal worth or harmony between what one is
and what one wants to be
Creative Personality – The desire to do and think differently from the norm,
and a talent for originality
The ACL assessment disclosed that in the area of ego this writer would be described as a
nurturing adult, which indicates one displays attitudes of support, stability, and
acceptance associated with the concept of a “nurturing parent,” and attitudes of
independence, objectivity, and industriousness associated with the concept of a “mature
“The Adjective Check List.”
Gerard Eagan asserted in The Skilled Helper, that the goal of reviewing one’s
current story was to identify, explore, and clarify one’s strengths and weaknesses as well
as one’s problem situations and unused opportunities. 19
Therefore, summarizing the
overall results from the three previous assessments, this author is warmly enthusiastic and
imaginative, and sees life as full of possibilities. This author makes connections between
events and information very quickly, and confidently proceeds based on the patterns that
this author sees. This author wants a lot of information from others and readily gives
appreciation and support. This author is spontaneous and flexible, often relying on this
author’s ability to improvise and on this author’s verbal fluency.
Additionally, this writer tends to be more passive than active, and has strong
people skills. This writer has both the ability to be outgoing and reserved. This writer
can be the life of the party or a spectator. This writer generally likes to influence and
interact with people, but can also withdraw and concentrate on specific projects. People
tend to like this writer’s friendliness, enthusiasm, and cordiality. There are times this
author may rub people the wrong way with a critical and fault-finding attitude.
Generally, this author is not pushy or controlling unless people try to get this author to do
things that go against this author’s plans or beliefs. This author does not always have to
be in charge, and prefers peace and harmony as well as organized environments. People
often like this author’s multifaceted flexibility, but sometimes would like this author to be
more decisive and direct.
Further, this writer prefers conventional values and lifestyles, seeking security in
the tried and true. This writer dislikes decision-making, and has a tendency toward
avoiding conflict. Interpersonally this writer is forbearing and sometimes conciliatory,
Eagan, The Skilled Helper, 22-23.
conscientious, unassuming, and patient deferring to others without loss of self-respect.
This author generally works hard to achieve the attainment of consensual goals, and is a
steadying influence on others. This author is likely to seek power, success, and tangible
accomplishments in a world free of subjective concern and worry. This is how “I am
fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Benefits of this writer’s temperament:
The significant benefits of this author’s temperament are that this author is
relational and cerebral. In other words, this author is good at caring, thinking, and
problem solving. This author tends to show strengths through friendliness and kindness.
This author is not concerned about being in charge or being the boss, and is keenly
perceptive about people. This author experiences a wide range of feelings and emotions,
which show this author to be relationally authentic. This author has exceptional insights
into the possibilities of others and eagerly gives appreciation and support. This author
feels confident in moving ahead on insights; and, this author’s enthusiasm generally
inspires people to come along because this author is warm, friendly, caring, cooperative,
Because of this writer’s temperament, life is viewed as a creative adventure full of
possibilities. This writer is discerning about the present and the future and enjoys
thinking in depth rather than doing shallow research. This writer is curious, creative,
imaginative, energetic, enthusiastic, and spontaneous. This writer tends to show
strengths through the ability to solve difficult problems. This writer is good at
understanding how people and groups work, and is persuasive and compelling in
pursuing what is important to others.
Another benefit of this author’s temperament is confidence with people skills;
therefore, this author can motivate people to success. This author has the ability to
impress a crowd with speech, demeanor, and actions. This author can also make
individuals feel comfortable and connected. This can be outgoing and reserved, as well
as both active and passive. People usually like this author, especially when thoughts and
observations are shared about a task or a problem. As long as this author stays positive,
people listen to him.
Limitations of this writer’s temperament:
Even though the benefits connected to this writer’s temperament are significant,
there are a number of weaknesses as well. This writer has a tendency to back off from
being commanding or demanding. Unless there is a question about accuracy, this writer
is not dominant or challenging. This writer is occasionally intimidated by others to do
things that this writer does not really want to do. This writer can be stubborn if asked to
do the wrong things, but will back down if what others want from this writer is not very
This author’s temperament experiences a wide range of feelings and emotions.
Often, this author needs affirmation from others. Routine, schedules, and structure drive
this author crazy. This author can turn people off with opinions. Sometimes, this author
becomes negative or critical. This author does not have to be in charge, but prefers that
leaders know where they are going and how to get there without wasting a lot of time,
expense, and energy. This author needs to improve in the area of indecisiveness and the
need to please people.
Ministry and this writer’s temperament:
There are two key areas of ministry in which this writer’s temperament plays a
critical part. The first area is how this writer relates as a leader. This writer’s leadership
style is varied and this writer’s temperament style is more personable than most other
types. This writer loves inspiring crowds and supporting individuals while mapping the
future. This writer is not usually very directing or demanding, however, can assume a
strong and dominant role when no other leader is present. Being pushy or bossy is not
this writer’s cup of tea. This writer likes creating enthusiasm through communication
skills. This writer prefers to plan and prepare to ensure a job well done.
The second area that this author’s temperament plays a critical part is in the way
this author handles conflict management. This author does well at resolving and avoiding
conflicts because of this author’s people skills. This author excels at controlling personal
thoughts and opinions unless someone demonstrates continued incompetence. This
author has a tendency to overlook the wrongdoing of close friends because of a desire for
popularity. This author is generally an astute observer and balances relationships with
dedication to the truth and open communication.
Overall summary of this writer’s temperament:
Overall, this writer’s temperament analysis reveals good leadership skills because
of this writer’s ability to relate well to most people. This writer is a good follower with
the aptitude to listen carefully and follow instructions. This writer tends to be cheerful,
submissive, and strives for perfection. This writer works hard at excellence and strives to
ensure that everyone is moving together to better accomplish the task. This writer is
usually positive, but sometimes personally struggles with moodiness and pessimism.
Part C: “How Did I Get Here?”
This part of the learning objective continues the process of personal reflection and
journaling. As the pastoral counselor constructs this portion of the personal journal, two
areas of emphasis are to be ruminated. First, the role of one’s temperament in connection
to one’s pre-conversion life experience; and second, the part one’s temperament played in
association with one’s spiritual conversion and transformation. This part of the learning
objective exposes lingering issues that may have been brought forward from pre-
conversion life that still influence one’s present life story, and scrutinize one’s present
temperament in light of the cohesion of spiritual resources that result as part of the
process of transformation. This section of learning objective one should not exceed one-
Sample: This Writer’s “How Did I Get Here?”
Pre-Conversion Life and Temperament:
Prior to conversion, this author gave in to the weaknesses of this author’s
temperament. In this author’s pre-conversion life, the foremost desire was to excel in
front of people and to inspire them. The “DISC” profile revealed that people viewed this
author as being inspirational and influential with crowds as well as individuals. This
author’s temperament profile presented this author’s ability to verbalize exceptionally,
and the aptitude to display warmth on an individual basis. People appreciated this
author’s relational influence. All of this was very important and brought this author great
self-satisfaction. Ministry was the platform chosen by this author to naturally engage the
benefits of this temperament, even though this author was not yet a true follower of
Christ. This writer employed people skills and the knack to relate in order to convince
and persuade others to engage in what was perceived to be true religious activities. In the
course of things, this writer naively neglected challenging the spiritual integrity of
authority figures. Those who were guiding this writer were theologically inerrant. As a
result of this writer’s temperament, this writer rarely spoke out against those authority
figures practicing bad theology because of their relational proximity. Because of this
writer’s non-confrontational temperament, truth from colleagues and peers was accepted
verbatim. This author struggled with worry, and on many occasions, felt torn about what
to do or to not do. This author covered inward melancholy by moving from one
enthusiastic event to another. When there was a lull in enthusiasm, true to this author’s
personality, this author became contemplative and absorbed by the problems of life.
Because this caused frustration, this author tended to use caustic and critical words with
those whom were relationally the closest. Frequently, this author let emotions take
control, verbally expressing those sentiments in a hurtful manner.
The problem was, this writer was not a true believer. Therefore, this writer was
not able to genuinely or spiritually employ his God-given temperament, nor was this
writer able to experience genuine appreciation for the benefits of this writer’s unique
personality created by God. This writer was missing the blessing of what God fashioned
this writer to be. As a result, this author felt frustrated and failed to follow through on
some important decisions. This author eventually became rebellious and shaped a non-
conforming heart. In this writer’s pre-conversion life, people skills were used for this
writer’s benefit resulting in perplexity and a double-standard lifestyle.
Transformation Because of Temperament:
A byproduct of this author’s temperament is the enjoyment of research and
thorough preparation in order to obtain tenable information and facts. This author likes
to stand out as one who knows what this author is talking about, and as one who cares for
other people’s concerns. As previously mentioned this writer enjoys thinking in depth
rather than doing shallow research. This writer is curious, creative, and imaginative.
This writer tends to show strength through the ability to solve difficult problems. As
presented in the previous section, a person with this writer’s temperament usually does
not like conflict. However, as a result of conversion and spiritual transformation, this
author will guard and defend the truth of God to the point of conflict if necessary. This
author’s temperament causes this author to be passionate about inspiring and supporting
others, while providing clear answers that solve problems. By His grace, God used the
previously mentioned aspects of this author’s temperament to bring about a spiritual, life
Many years ago, the local Christian radio station in this writer’s area began airing
a new program from California called “Grace to You.” The minister, John MacArthur,
was preaching a series entitled the “The Road to Heaven;” and, the speaker expounded on
Matthew 7:21-23, which stated,
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many
will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out
demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will
I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of
The Holy Spirit used that scripture to grip the heart of this author and render life
transformation. This moved this author to genuinely repent and receive Jesus Christ as
Lord and Savior. Since that day, this author has set out to accomplish the overarching
goal of becoming a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ and to pass that goal onto
others. Through this writer’s personality and temperament, God used three resources to
bring about a life transformation. The first resource was the Word of God, which
provided the truth that is to be believed and obeyed. The second resource was the Holy
Spirit, who clarified the truth and endowed this writer with the power to extract and enact
the principles of truth from God’s Word. The third resource was the community of faith,
the body of Christ, for the purpose of encouragement, exhortation, and accountability.
Sovereignly and graciously, God has provided this writer with the appropriate personal
and spiritual resources, which in combination with this writer’s temperament, have
brought this writer to this writer’s present station in life.
Part D: “Where Am I Now?”
Finally, after creating a personal profile, examining “who am I now,” and
investigating “how I got here,” one is ready to reveal one’s station in life at the present
moment. This section is to be a concise written wrap up of learning objective number
one, and should not exceed two-hundred words. This is to be an honest summary of
one’s present life story.
Sample: This Writer’s “Where Am I Now?”
After examining “who I am right now” and “how I got where I am,” it is fitting to
discuss spiritually where this writer is right now. With this writer’s temperament, this
writer must guard against withdrawing and becoming too contemplative about life and its
problems. This writer has entered this zone and has ended up spiritually on a plateau.
This is a concern for this writer. The Bible says, “ And we all, with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one
degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18);
this scripture states that life for the fully-devoted follower of Christ is a continual process
of transformation. Therefore, this author should be continually moving from one level of
faith to another. It is from this plateau that this author must relocate to experience the
“Shalom” that this author was created to enjoy. Having accessed this author’s personality
and temperament through three assessment devices, the MBTI, ACL, and DISC
diagnostic tools, the pragmatic results from these assessments have provided a relatively
consistent analysis describing who this author is right now and how this author got to this
place in life.
Learning Objective Two: Unfolding Your Life As You Want It to Be
As stated at the onset of this core competency, journaling is the process by which
learning objective number two is accomplished. Developing a preferred scenario helps
one identify what is wanted in terms of goals and objectives that are based on an
understanding of the problem situations and unused opportunities that are part of one’s
personal story. 20
This learning objective requires the pastoral counselor to employ a
therapeutic technique called the “miracle question.” This technique was pioneered by
Egan, The Skilled Helper, 22-23.
Steve de Shazer, an influential figure in the development of Brief Therapy, and Solution
Focused Therapy. The previously mentioned theories or hybrids of these theories are
implemented in most modern pastoral counseling contexts. These theories do not focus
on past problems, but on what clients want to achieve today and in the future. By making
conscious the many ways the client is creating their ideal future and encouraging forward
progress, pastoral counselors point clients toward goals rather than the problems that
drove them to therapy. The “miracle question” sparks images about the future by asking
one, “If you were to wake up tomorrow morning and a miracle occurred, and your
problems were gone, your world was exactly as you wanted it to be; what would that
world look like?” In other words, what is one’s preferred story, what is it that would
bring calm to one’s life? The answer to the “miracle question” opens many avenues
through which the counselor can track options for client change. Since this technique has
been proven so successful, what better question for the pastoral counselor to self-
administer for the purpose of self-awareness and establishing future goals for personal
change. After the preferred story has been developed, the pastoral counselor should
impose a time frame for initiating the desired personal changes. Around five-hundred
words should be sufficient for undertaking learning objective number two.
Sample: This Writer’s Life as I Want It to Be
After a thorough self-analysis, this writer’s preferred story is that the spiritual
disciplines of personal joy, prayer, and scripture reading would become second nature
and optimally practiced. This author’s preferred life story requires an enthusiastic
transformation in the spiritual discipline of personal joy, a positive renovation in the
spiritual discipline of prayer, and a progressive revolution in the area of how this writer
approaches the Holy Scriptures. Dallas Willard wrote, “A discipline is an activity within
our power, something we can do, which brings us to a point where we can do what we at
present cannot do by direct effort.” 21
Everything from learning a language to sports
depends upon discipline; and, the availability of discipline in the human makeup is what
makes the individual human be responsible for the kind of person one becomes. A
spiritual discipline is an activity that can help one gain power to live life as Jesus taught
and modeled it. A spiritually disciplined person is someone who can do the right thing at
the right time in the right way with the right Spirit. To this author, this is the epitome of
who Jesus really was. Rick Warren once said that the best way to study Jesus was to
study how He handled his interruptions. Jesus could do whatever was called for at any
given moment because He was fluent in the spiritual disciplines. It is this author’s
desire, as a fully-devoted follower of Christ, to achieve peak performance in ministry;
therefore, this author’s weaknesses must be strengthened in the spiritual disciplines of
joy, prayer, and scripture reading.
It is important to note what a disciplined person is not in order to appreciate the
life of a disciplined person. A disciplined person is not someone who simply exercises
spiritual disciplines just for the sake of doing them. Also, a spiritually disciplined person
is not just a highly-systematic, rigidly-scheduled, chart-making, early-rising person. This
type of person definitely would not work well with this author’s personality, which
struggles with organization and structure. Rather, a disciplined follower of Christ is one
who has the heart and insight to see another’s needs, and accepts the responsibility of
appropriately meeting those needs as if it were one’s “second nature” to do so. As John
Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Disciplines – Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul,”
Journal of Psychology and Theology 26.1 (Spring 1998): 101-109.
Ortberg stated, “A disciplined follower of Jesus is someone who discerns when laughter,
gentleness, silences, healing words, or prophetic indignation is called for, and offers it
promptly, effectively, and lovingly” 22
Over the next thirty days, this writer commits to
developing a proficiency in the spiritual disciplines: joy, prayer, reading, and meditating
on the Holy Scriptures. Improving these three areas of this writer’s life will create calm
where there has previously been an elevated level of spiritual uneasiness.
Learning Objective Three: Unfolding Your Plan for Change
Most modern pastoral counseling flows through stages. Initially, a brief
orientation occurs; the client is evaluated and assessed; the establishment of an
empathetic relationship occurs; a preferred story is created; finally, therapeutic
interventions or solution-focused master goals are presented to the client. 23
Thus far, this
has been the ebb and flow of core competency number one. The pastoral counselor
completes core competency number one by contemplating the previous “preferred story,”
and delineating master goals for positive spiritual growth and change as they align with
one’s overarching goal in life. Therefore, in the counseling context, the pastoral
counselor will lead the client through a process the pastor has already personally
experienced. Journaling learning objective three begins with revisiting the pastoral
counselors overarching goal in life; at that point, at least three master goals for change are
constructed. Each master goal is charted by presenting three components: a scrutiny of
Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 50.
Egan, The Skilled Helper, 24.
the present reality within the context of the goal, the shaping of preferences based on the
truth in the scriptures, and the proposed structure for change including a supporting
person for the purpose of accountability. Learning object three of core competency
number one should be around twenty-five hundred words.
Sample: This Writer’s Plan for Change
This writer’s overarching goal in life is to be a fully-devoted follower of Jesus
Christ by emulating the Apostle Paul’s directive to the early Christians at Ephesus to
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a
life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Eph. 5:1-2). Within the context of
this overarching goal, this writer has a passion to follow in the footsteps of Christ, to love
as Jesus loved, and to serve as Jesus served. Like the early Christians in Acts chapter
two, this writer is compelled to pursue full devotion to God in a Christ-centered
community with others who are on this same spiritual journey. This author is committed
to serving sacrificially, growing intentionally, and relating authentically to other people.
As a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ, this author is dedicated to the following:
This author is devoted to Christ as the Savior and leader of this author’s life. This author
is committed to continual development of Christ-like servanthood. This author is
committed to taking ongoing steps toward spiritual growth in this author’s relationship
with Christ. This writer is committed to pursuing Christ-honoring relationships. This
writer is committed to participating membership in full support with the vision and
leadership of a local church. Therefore, implementing the following three master goals
for change in order to achieve spiritual growth in areas of personal joy, personal prayer,
and scripture reading is consistent with the purpose of this writer’s overarching goal in
Master Goal One – An enthusiastic transformation in the spiritual discipline of joy
The analysis of this writer’s current life story as it relates to joy is that this writer
could express happiness more often rather than approaching life with an unbalanced bent
toward seriousness. In fact, this writer would like to be more joyful on a consistent basis.
It is not that there is anything in particular that this writer is unhappy about, there is just
something missing that this writer cannot quite grasp. The goal is to remove the
melancholy attitude that is sometimes a negative part of this writer’s temperament.
This author’s preferred new life story is rooted in the scripture truth that joy is a
fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and the joy of the Lord is strength (Neh. 8:10). Because joy
is strength, conversely, its absence will create weakness; and, as a fruit of the Spirit,
should not joy be a natural byproduct of salvation? So what impedes one from being
joyful? In his book, Laugh Again, Charles Swindoll proposed three common joy
inhibiters: worry, stress, and fear. Swindoll defined worry as “an inordinate anxiety
about something that may or may not occur.” According to Swindoll, stress is “intense
strain over a situation one can’t change or control,” and fear, according to Swindoll, is a
“dreadful uneasiness over danger, evil, or pain,” that magnifies our problems. This
author’s personality lends itself toward worry and stress, two of three things previously
mentioned that impede one’s capability for joy. In order to resist these “joy stealers,” one
must embrace the same confidence that Paul expressed in his letter to the Philippians.
After giving thanks for the believers (Phil 1:3-5), the Apostle Paul assured them “And I
am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (v.6).
Whatever causes worry, stress, and fear cannot ultimately keep God from continuing His
work. With this confidence, one can begin each day knowing that God is in control. One
can leave everything in His hands. 24
This writer’s structure for change will begin with the following measures to be
implemented Monday through Friday during the first week of this writer’s thirty-day
commitment to change. Monday morning, during a designated prayer time, this writer
will confess any previous melancholy attitudes and ask the Lord to open this writer’s eyes
to His goodness. This writer will memorize and repeat, throughout the day, the following
scripture, “Nehemiah said, Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to
those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the
joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10 NIV). This writer will use the previous
scripture to provide an impetus to allow the Holy Spirit to bring to mind a joyful
experience to remember, and repeat that experience to two people throughout the day.
Tuesday morning, this author will memorize and repeat, throughout the day, “A
friendly smile makes you happy…” (Proverbs 15:30 CEV), then intentionally find a
happy person to be around sometime during the day. After spending time with that
person, this author will thank them for their happiness and move on. This is important
because, every day, people who have rejected happiness in their lives and who have
become victims in their stories surround me.
Wednesday, throughout the day, this author will reflect on the following memory
verse, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the
heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). This is
Joanie Yoder, “Joy Stealers,” Our Daily Bread (February 17, 2003), http://odb.org/2003/02/17/
joy-stealers/ (accessed September 16, 2011).
officially designated “joy day.” Today this author will intentionally listen to music that
moves the soul, wear clothes that this author particularly likes, and eat food that this
author enjoys. This author will take time to experience and savor the joy. Throughout
the day, this author will offer thanks to God for His good and perfect gifts.
Thursday, all day, this author will unplug and give up television. Some fun activity will
be planned with this author’s wife for the evening. This author has taken note that it is
not coincidental that the Amish are the least depressed group of people in America.
Friday, this writer will find a time in the morning to reflect on the past week of
intentional joy. This writer will make a commitment to God to view life from a biblical
perspective; because, to a certain extent, joy flows from a certain kind of biblical
thinking. John Ortberg wrote, “Cognitive psychologists remind us that always between
the events that happen to us and our responses to them lay our beliefs or interpretations to
those events” 25
As a minister and pastoral counselor, this writer is compelled to view all
events in the light of the resurrection and the ultimate triumph of the risen Christ. This
writer’s support partner for master goal one will be his wife. This author’s resources for
this master goal will be a joke book, along with some humorous and appropriate
Master Goal Two – A positive renovation in the spiritual discipline of prayer
Prayer synchronizes with this writer’s overarching goal of imitating Christ
because prayer was demonstrated by Jesus to be an important component of serving God.
The analysis of this writer’s current story is that this writer consistently and consciously
prays spontaneously throughout each day; however, this writer needs to develop a
Ortberg, The Life You Always Wanted, 73.
designated time for specific or focused prayer. It is the sincere desire of this writer that
this writer’s prayers are significant, impactful and align with God’s will. This writer’s
concern is that spontaneous praying, even though being an admirable discipline, does not
complete this writer’s opportunity to be totally effective in the area of powerful and
The shaping preferences for this author’s new story about prayer are rooted in the
lessons and examples of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Luke presented to the church the
picture of Jesus praying, and the importance of a designated time for focused prayer
when it recorded, “Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his
disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray,” (Luke 11:1 NLT). Jesus
responded to His disciple’s request with the words, “This is how you should pray,”
emphasizing not only a structure for prayer with his words, but also the importance of
time and venue as part of the equation. This author derived two lessons from Luke’s text
on prayer. First, even though prayer is to be part of one’s daily consciousness resulting in
continuous prayers throughout one’s daily experience (I Thess. 3:10), Jesus additionally
demonstrated the importance of designating a time and place for formal prayer. Also,
Jesus’ presentation of a model for prayer, even though it is not to be verbatim and
repetitious (Matt. 6:7), highlighted an emphasis on the protocol and formality of focused
prayer. It is important to remember, more than any other activity, prayer is the concrete
expression that invites a person to a relationship with God. Dallas Willard expressed the
notion that prayer is the discipline of talking to God about what we are doing together,
and is to be, at times, a serious endeavor. 26
This author initially commits to
26 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy – Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (San Francisco,
CA: Harper Collins, 1998), 323.
implementing the following guidelines to establish a time for specific and focused prayer
each day at five in the morning for a period of thirty days.
This writer’s structure for implementing change and establishing a system of
focused prayer revolves around two criteria, the prayer itself and a review of the prayer.
This writer’s guidelines for the formal prayer are as follows: This writer realizes it is best
to choose the same time each day to have a focused time of prayer. This writer also
grasps the importance of paying attention to the setting where prayer occurs to avoid
disturbance. Jesus generally took care to find places that would be free of distractions.
Mostly, Jesus prayed outdoors in places of beauty. Mark said, “Before daybreak the next
morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35 NLT). This
writer has chosen an optimum time of day for focused prayer, and has committed to
deliberate intellectual and heart preparation before beginning to prayer. This author will
exercise the discipline of sincerely praying what is really on this author’s heart as moved
by the leading of the Holy Spirit. If this author’s mind wanders, this author will let that
be a stepping-stone for further prayer. This author will include intercessory prayer as
part of his prayer. This author will use a variety of models for focused prayers including
Jesus’ model prayer, the prayers of the Apostle Paul throughout the New Testament, and
prayers that are expressed in the Psalms.
To assist in developing a permanent pattern for focused prayer, this writer has
constructed, as a separate exercise guideline, a prayer review. To get the most out of
focused prayer, this writer will take three or four minutes, after every focused time of
prayer, to reflect on the dynamics of the prayer. This writer will follow the reflection
with a series of questions:
How did the prayer get started?
Was there an awareness of God’s presence?
During the prayer, did any parts of the prayer seem especially “alive?”
Were there times of strong convictions or emotions?
Was there recognition of moving closer to God or farther away?
Was there a sense of calling to respond to carry out some action?
This author’s support on this project will be a close personal friend from this author’s
church. This person will sign off on the prayer review sheets weekly, keep them for this
author, and return them at the end of the time period in which this author has committed
to establish his master goal for personal change.
Master Goal Three — A progressive revolution in the area of scripture reading
So much of this writer’s reading is specifically for Bible study and for sermon
preparation. It seems, even though this writer is reading large portions of the Holy
Scriptures on a daily basis, something is still missing. After reading Eugene Peterson’s
book, Eat This Book, there is a deep conviction relevant to this writer’s manner of
reading the Holy Scriptures. The element of scripture meditation and reflection is
missing from this author’s scripture reading method. As one seeking to be a fully-
devoted follower of Christ, this author is committed to reading the Bible meditatively the
next thirty days. Because of this writer’s responsibilities for sermon preparation, this
writer will still employ the Bible study format for sermon preparation; however, this
writer will schedule significant blocks of time for personal reading of the scriptures in a
The scriptural truths reframing this author’s new story for scripture reading and
the importance of meditation are rooted in the cooperative work between the
enlightenment and teaching ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the power of the
living Word of God. The Holy Spirit generates wisdom, patience, and power for change
in the core self. The Holy Spirit contributes to the restoration of the image of God in the
core self and makes Christ visible in the words and works of those who follow Him.
However, it is the revelation of truth in the scripture that activates the work of the Holy
Spirit. There is an interesting correlation between two passages of scripture. Ephesians
3:18-19 states, “Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms,
hymns and spiritual songs;” whereas, Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing
psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Being Spirit-filled and letting the Word dwell in
you, yield the same result indicating an important connection.
Because of this writer’s busy and eclectic schedule, this writer finds it best to
block out forty minutes to read and meditate on the scriptures immediately following this
writer’s time of prayer in the morning. This author has constructed a scripture reading
program in which this author will read the first thirty chapters of the Psalms, one chapter
correlating with each of the next thirty days. This author’s reading and meditating
strategy will be as follows:
1. After this writer’s time of focused prayer in the morning, this writer will read
a commentary on the Psalms relevant to the text that this writer will be
reading. That exercise will prepare this writer with some background
information about the text, which will make the reading richer for this writer.
2. Before this author engages a passage of scripture text, this author will ask God
to meet him in the text; and, this author will read the text expecting to see God
3. This writer will prepare his attitude toward reading to be subservient,
obedient, repentant, rather than simply searching for information.
4. This author will determine to concentrate and to meditate on smaller portions
of the text.
5. Through memorization, this writer will take one thought or verse personally
throughout the rest of the day.
As a result of accomplishing these three master goals, this author envisions his
life to be expressed in joy, laughter, fun, and blessing. In fact, it is exciting just to
contemplate the first week of the thirty day commitment that has been created to infuse
joy into this author’s world. This writer can also envision being close to God in
reflective focused prayer. This writer is looking forward to getting alone with God in a
quiet place and even more so, anticipating what God will say during those conversations.
Finally, this author foresees the peace that will reverberate through this author’s life as
the Holy Spirit takes the words that this author digests from the Holy Scriptures and
accelerates the transformation process in this author’s core being. This writer can
exuberantly anticipate thirty days of joy, meditative prayer, and cleansing from the Word
of God. Therefore, this writer can pledge fully to commit to administering the features of
the three master goals for spiritual growth contained in this paper.
The purpose of core competency number one is to promote self-awareness for the
purpose of knowing how to guide people through the evaluative and constructive
processes of pastoral counseling. Chris Widener subtitled his inspirational little book,
Persuading Others Begins with You, and nothing could be more accurate. For this
reason, the three learning objectives that are part of this core competency are so critical.
This competency has dealt primarily with one’s personality as it plays out through a
spiritual context; however, influencing people through pastoral counseling involves more
than self-awareness, it encompasses a life of undivided integrity, always demonstrating a
positive attitude, considering other people’s interests as more important than one’s own
interests and not settling for anything less than excellence. 27
Chris Widener, Persuading Others Begins with You (New York: Doubleday, 2008).
CORE COMPETENCY TWO
DEVELOPING YOUR STYLE TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE
It is important to understand that one’s temperament determines how one relates
to others. That is why, core competency number one, “knowing yourself to guide others”
is so important. Some pastoral counselors are dominant, directing the activities of those
whom they guide. Others are careful planners, therefore, more reserved in their
counseling behaviors. Still, others are people oriented, personally involving those whom
they counsel in their plans and actions. Additionally, some pastoral counselors are
motivational, inspiring their clients to change while others are passively assertive causing
their clients to assume the role of follower in order to accomplish goals. Andrew Seidel,
in his book, Charting a Bold Course, presented the following excellent observation about
the significance of diverse temperaments in the area of pastoral care and leadership,
What is true of us inside is expressed to others through our temperament and our
spiritual gifts as well as our strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and flaws. Our
temperament is a unique God-given part of our identity. It is the characteristic
way in which we relate to people and events or tasks. There is no “best”
temperament or spiritual gift. 1
Each temperament has its own strengths and weaknesses. Much like spiritual gifts, God
gave all the temperaments because all of them are needed. Therefore, God utilizes all
1 Andrew Seidel, Charting a Bold Course: Training Leaders for a Twenty-first Century Ministry
(Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2003), 75-76.
types of temperaments and personalities in the pastoral leaders and counselors He has
It must also be noted that the core of one’s personal identity is found in one’s
relationship to God through Jesus Christ. When one’s relationship with God has been
consciously authenticated, and the awareness of the faithfulness of God’s love and
acceptance has been established, and the security of one’s position in Christ has been
validated, one has the freedom and strength to give, serve, lead, and counsel in a godly
manner. No longer does one need to use others to fulfill personal needs.
Core competency number two, “developing your style to connect with people,”
establishes four best practices for pastoral counselors who uniquely engage clients in
today’s church. These best practices include learning concepts, skills, and resources
necessary to effectively, ethically, and safely approach parishioners within the context of
pastoral counseling. In order to master core competency number two, pastoral care-
givers must address the following best practices. First, the pastoral counselor must judge
the importance of integrating the Bible into the counseling model. Second, the pastoral
counselor must consider the proper relational style for creating a context of change and
relocation for the client, as well as construct an ethical and safe environment for
counseling. Third, the pastoral therapist must resolve to address the counseling setting,
bearing in mind matters of cultural diversity and how one will influence change within
that context. Finally, pastoral counselors must be astute strategists, especially in the area
of “Solution-Based Brief Pastoral Counseling” (SBBFC).
Best Practice One: Integrating the Bible into the Counseling Model
The Bible and Counseling
One of the most important thought processes to be considered in the area of
pastoral counseling pertains to the matter of the pastoral counselor’s modality of
treatment relevant to the patient’s spiritual and mental catharsis. Because of the spiritual
and theological nature of the pastoral position, the pastoral counselor must decide how
biblical truth, along with theories and practices of psychology will be incorporated into
the personal counseling model. In the past, Christian counselors generally embraced one
of two treatment philosophies; in one camp were the biblical integration therapists, “the
Bible and psychology” counselors; in the other camp were the nouthetic or “purely
“biblical” counselors. By the nineteen seventies, many of the integration therapists had
become enchanted with the many forms of anti-Christian psychobabble and secular
psychoanalytical theories to the degree that Christian counseling had become Christian in
name only. However, during that same era, Jay Adams orchestrated a counseling
insurgency challenging the fields of Christian counseling and pastoral care as he
trumpeted the call for Christian counselors to maintain theological orthodoxy and
adherence to the centrality of the scriptures. Adams also championed the cause of holy
living by dealing bluntly with sin and establishing biblical interventions for overcoming
evil. Adams’ strict model found limited acclaim among evangelical counselors, yet,
served the purpose of influencing the field of Christian counseling to at least reconsider
essential biblical principles as foundational.
The field of Christian counseling has come a long way from the nineteen
seventies when its theoretical development reflected secular models that were blended
with an assortment of scriptural precepts and biblical models absorbed in narrow
exegetical structures of theological terms and phrases lacking rigorous hermeneutical
examination or empirical validation. Since those days, the robust character of pastoral
and Christian counseling has yielded numerous approaches to care-giving with an
assortment of techniques and interventions. According to Tim Clinton and George
Ohlschlager, editors of the book Competent Christian Counseling, there has been a
progressive shift in the field of Christian counseling as a whole. These men recently
uncovered at least ten distinctive counseling theories or identities across the nearly fifty
thousand members of the American Association of Christian Counselors, suggesting a
broader eclectic approach to Christian counseling has evolved. 2 So, how does the
pastoral counselor, for his own purposes, evaluate the biblical legitimacy of the varied
assortment of counseling practices and theories that assert they are derived from a
Christian or biblical foundation; or, should the pastoral counselor abort the use of the
science of psychology altogether and practice Bible only techniques in counseling?
This writer asserts that pastoral counselors would do well to take their lead from
the Reformers of the sixteenth century; for them, all claims of truth and authority,
whether from philosophy, science, or church leadership, were to be placed against the
Bible and judged as beneficial according to biblical criterion. The Reformers considered
the Bible to be the ultimate authority over God’s natural revelation. They were not
alienated from the world to the extent that they discounted the beneficial elements of
secular human reason. Even though the renowned Reformers Luther and Calvin did not
seek to deny the value of secular human reason, it should be noted they did not exalt it
2 Tim Clinton and G. Ohlschlager, Competent Christian Counseling, Volume One: Foundations
and Practice of Compassionate Soul Care (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2002), 69-93.
either. For example, they did not deny that the church had authority; but, they did reject
the notion that the church’s authority should supplant the Word of God. The Reformers
realized, in the natural world, there was truth revealed that both Christians and non-
Christians could discover. But, they were clear that such truth could never lead to
salvation and ultimate spiritual healing. They comprehended the limits of natural
revelation and the mind of man to understand it; but, they did not deny the plausibility of
scientific discovery due to natural revelation. However, the Reformers did demand that
the Bible be placed in authority over all truth, all practice, and all matters of faith and
The Reformers comprehended that divine revelation had been presented to man in
two different ways, through natural revelation and special revelation. They implicitly
understood that God visibly makes Himself known through natural revelation, which is
the world He created and all of His creatures, including human beings. God has also
revealed Himself through special revelation, His Word, both incarnate in Jesus Christ and
written in the Bible. Thus, human beings learn and reason from those two realms of
revelation. Through reason, humans inquire into the natural order through a process of
study that is called science; and, humans explore the realm of special revelation through
study and illumination of the Holy Spirit, a process that is called theology. Although
truth is discovered in either sphere, theological study in the Bible is given the greatest
authority because by it one can determine the parameters of an accurate worldview and
the means to a right relationship with God. Theology can affirm what ought to be;
whereas, science can only state what is. All of that being said, particular theories and
practices from the science of psychology can be useful to the pastoral counselor; yet, they
must stand up to certain biblical criterion. Homiletically, a pastor may confer with
certain trusted commentaries derived from human reason to prepare the sermon; but, the
definitive source of validation of truth for the sermon is always the Word of God, studied
and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. In the same manner, for counseling purposes, the
pastoral counselor may approach a client problem with the help of a particular theory or
practice, again originating through human reason; but, the source of truth for genuine
soul care and theory corroboration is ultimately derived from the Bible along with help
from the Holy Spirit.
The ensuing question may be asked, “What guidelines are helpful when
determining which theories and practices of psychology are useful to the pastoral
counselor?” Harry Shields and Gary Bredfeldt, authors of Caring for Souls, presented
five practical questions helpful in guiding pastoral counselors in considering ideas drawn
from the field of psychology. First, is the proposed psychological concept directly
supported by the scriptures? Second, is the psychological notion theologically consistent
with the scriptures? Some psychology concepts are not taught explicitly in the scriptures;
yet, they are in keeping with biblical concepts and are found implicitly in the overall
teachings of God’s Word. Third, is the psychological conclusion addressed in the Bible?
It is possible that a particular psychological conclusion may not be addressed in the Bible
at all. When a psychological practice is not biblically addressed, extreme caution must be
exercised when implementing the procedure into the counseling setting. It is best to
make sure the practice is scientifically supported. Also, one must apply the biblical
principles of profitable benefit and weaker brother. In other words, although a method or
technique may be lawful for a believer to practice, it may not be to the person’s spiritual
benefit (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23); and, the pastoral counselor must be extremely careful not to
cause the weaker brother or sister in the faith to fall (Rom. 14:13-21; 1 Cor. 8:13).
Fourth, is the psychological idea denied by the scriptures? Some concepts practiced by
psychologists are blatantly in conflict with the Holy Scriptures. Finally, is the proposed
psychological theory doubtful? A number of practices may not seem to be congruent
with biblical norms. They may be derived from faulty biblical teaching and subsequently
result in ungodly actions. Therefore, when there is any doubt at all, it is best to bypass
the action in favor of prudence. 3 Asking theses five questions will assist the pastoral
counselor in determining spiritual credibility of certain theories and practices in the field
of psychology. When the Word of God is central in one’s thinking, one can appropriately
import truth from all potential sources into the area of pastoral counseling.
The Bible and the Counselor
The Bible states, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be
competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Thus, it may be
theologically assumed that the basis for truth by which everything else is appraised is the
Word of God; and, within the scriptures, there is an overabundance of information
guiding one on how to live a proper life. 4 Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in How
People Grow, go so far as to posit “the Bible stands alone as God’s only perfect guide to
3 Harry Shields and G. Bredfeldt, Caring for Souls: Counseling Under the Authority of Scripture
(Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2001), 50-52.
4 Timothy Clinton, A. Hart, and G. Ohlschlager, Caring for People God’s Way: Personal and
Emotional Issues, Addictions, Grief, and Trauma (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 53.
life and growth.” 5 Who can argue against the miracle that with over forty different
authors and over fifteen-hundred years, the Bible stands alone as a book with a
magnificently consistent set of precepts, ideas, and stories? Only divine inspiration could
achieve such a cohesive masterpiece. Since the Bible is in written form, it can be
scrutinized and checked objectively; therefore, the pastoral counselor may align with the
psalmist and confidently proclaim, “The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they
are fully trustworthy” (Ps. 119:138 NIV).
Because ultimately the Bible is the first and final authority in Christian
counseling, the pastoral counselor must become a capable biblical practitioner.
According to the journal article, The Use of Scripture in Counseling, by Eric Johnson and
Ian Jones, effective Christian counselors need to be competent in the use of the scriptures
for teaching, training, correcting, and growing in wisdom and knowledge (2 Tim. 3:16).
These two experts asserted that competency necessitates more than simply knowing the
scriptures, it also requires an awareness of hermeneutical principles of biblical
interpretation, the ability to access the counseling situation from a biblical perspective,
the application of appropriate skills and techniques found in the scriptures, an adherence
to the biblical boundaries and ethical standards that reflect a fear of God and selfless love
for the client, and an ongoing, energetic, maturing spiritual life involving such disciplines
as prayer and biblical meditation. 6
Becoming a proficient biblical practitioner also entails understanding the biblical
truth about God’s grace. Biblical truth without the proper application of God’s grace can
5 Henry Cloud and J. Townsend, How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal
Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 193.
6 Eric Johnson and I. Jones, “The Use of Scripture in Counseling,” Christian Counseling Today,
vol.16.4 (2008): 46-50.
lead to legalism and harshness in counseling. On the other hand, a lopsided perspective
pertaining to God’s grace without the proper application of biblical truth can lead to
license. The Bible states that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have
seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John
1:14), indicating that both realities are complimentary. Truth does not minimize grace, it
magnifies it. Truth provides the message, grace provides the method. Grace does not
provide freedom to sin, it provides forgiveness from sin. Grace never supersedes or
compromises truth. Grace does not replace truth, it reflects it. Pastoral counselors must
be specialist at truth-telling and grace-giving just like Jesus Christ. 7
Further, Clinton, Hart, and Ohlschlager, in Caring for People God’s Way,
proposed that the Bible provides the singular authoritative standard for both generating
and evaluating a care-giving ministry. They go on to stress that the essential traits of a
complete Christian counseling theory and practice should incorporate creation in the
image of God, the model of Jesus Christ, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Also,
the components necessary for an adequate model of personality and counseling must
include a clarification of one’s origin, one’s essential nature or the things that mankind
shares in common, one’s current condition or a diagnosis of what is basically wrong with
humanity, and a prescription for remedying one’s problems based on a sufficient
understanding of human motivation, development, and the processes of change. 8
Comparatively, secular counseling theories tend to present an incomplete picture of
human nature by placing the individual self, social forces, or biological drives at the
center of all change, and by seeking resolution of human dilemmas in some expression of
7 Johnson, Christian Counseling Today, 46-50.
8 Clinton, Caring for People God’s Way, 54.
personal or social power. Secular psychology views mankind as central while God is
relegated to a peripheral function. The pastoral counselor recognizes that all biblical
care-giving and support falls within the larger plans and purposes of God; and, Christian
counseling should begin with God and His Word.
Finally, the capable pastoral counselor will carefully consider how to
communicate the Word of God, and will allow the Spirit of God to work in His own time
within the counseling context. It is important that the pastoral counselor attempt to
convey the Word of God in a meaningful, natural way during a counseling session not
forcing theological jargon and scripture into the dialogue. Ian Jones, in The Counsel of
Heaven on Earth, believes that any assistance the pastoral counselor is able to give a
person in need can be used by God to reveal His active plan of salvation. Consequently,
the pastoral counselor’s genuine concern, commitment to the truths of the scriptures, and
openness to the Spirit of God will lead to a client’s eventual willingness to explore issues
of faith and biblical hope. 9
The goal of the pastoral counselor is to be a thoroughly biblical caregiver. If that
goal is to be achieved, one must always keep the Word of God as the sole authority in
matters of faith and practice. As Harry Shields and Gary J. Bredfeldt stated, “Without
that sure Word as our standard and rule, we would be lost on a sea of modern thought,
scientific claims, and theoretical proliferation.” 10
Pastoral counselors facilitate people in
finding their location in relationship to God, self, and others. They accept the authority
of the Bible and identify the uniqueness of human creation in the image of God. They
9 Ian Jones, The Counsel of Heaven on Earth; Foundations for Biblical Counseling (Nashville,
TN: B and H Publishing Group, 2006), 111-112.
Shields, Caring for Souls, 52.
comprehend the effects of sin and accept the redemptive program of God, while helping
people to find and follow a godly plan for healing. The pastoral counselor is greatly
influenced by “The Great Commandment” in communication and service to others, as the
counselor seeks to discover the provision and goodness of God in every situation. It is
the goal of such counselors to model the example of Christ the Savior and Master
Counselor in wisdom and understanding, in planning and power, and in the knowledge
and fear of the Lord, as they engage in the theory and practice of care giving. 11
Best Practice Two: Proper Relational Style & Safety
The Counselor’s Relational Style
What does the pastoral counselor normally bring to the counseling context?
Every pastoral counselor brings a unique relational style to the counseling
context. The relational style of the pastoral counselor is not as much about how one does
counseling but how one thinks, feels, chooses, and relates to God, self, and others. 12
Each pastoral counselor brings a distinctive blend of these thoughts, feelings, choices,
and relationships to the table, which dramatically affects the manner in which the pastoral
counselor relates to the client. For example, a pastoral counselor comes to the table with
a temperament, fixed paradigms, cultural postures, and relationship to God. There are
other traits that affect the relational style of the pastoral counselor; but, the previously
mentioned four are paramount to the purposes of this paper. Knowing one’s relational
Clinton, Caring for People God’s Way, 54.
Dwight Rice, The Counselor’s Relational Style, PowerPoint slide 2.2 – COUN 801 Intensive,
style and learning how to check and control it is critical in order to effectively enter the
world, natural attitudes, and actions in the everyday life of the counselee. This check and
control process is for the purpose of attending to or aligning with the counselee’s
thoughts, feelings, and actions. 13
As previously discussed in core competency number one, the first trait that
pastoral counselors naturally bring to the table is temperament. A keen self-awareness of
one’s unique personality traits is essential as this will directly impact communication
with counselees. For example, someone with a dominant temperament can be highly
effective because normally that person will be direct, self-assured, and get results;
however, when exaggerated, that personality can also appear to others as being
dictatorial, demanding, or sarcastic. It is this author’s opinion that the pastoral counselor
should periodically take professional self-assessments within the context of one’s present
story. There are numerous assessment tools available to accomplish this task. This
author recommends that the pastoral counselor periodically take a spiritual gift analysis
as well. There are many benefits of knowing one’s temperament such as becoming aware
of one’s strengths and weaknesses, understanding how one’s temperament is useful in
following Christ, and recognizing how it is relevant to connecting with a client.
A second element that the pastoral counselor naturally brings to the counseling
context is fixed paradigms. A paradigm is a model that serves as a pattern for something
that forms the basis of a methodology or theory; and, pastoral counselors are notorious
for locking into a favorite method, theory, therapeutic model or therapist. Ian Jones
supports this notion as he suggests that each counselor brings prior beliefs, training, and a
repertoire of gifts and techniques into the counseling encounter; also, he asserts that at the
Rice, The Counselor’s Relational Style, PowerPoint 2.3.
heart of the counseling relationship is a set of assumptions about healing and human
The problem with fixed paradigms is that having them will cause the pastoral
counselor to miss out on future possibilities because unexpected information is ignored or
twisted to fit old notions which blinds one to creative solutions.
Fixed paradigms have the power to keep one from hearing and seeing what could
happen resulting in personal limitations, causing a sort of intellectual myopia. Consider
the Swiss watchmakers. Many years ago, Swiss watches were the hallmark of excellence
throughout the world. At one time, almost eighty percent of watches sold world-wide
were made by Swiss watchmakers. Today, fewer than ten percent of watches are made
by the Swiss watchmakers; and, thousands of expert craftsman have subsequently lost
their jobs. They were blinded by the incredible achievement and success of their
antiquated fixed paradigm. Meanwhile, a Swiss technician in their midst developed
quartz technology, which was resolutely rejected by the Swiss watchmakers. With this
new concept, the technician had reached beyond the fixed paradigm that watches must
have springs and gears; however, his superiors, still blinded by their old paradigm,
refused to embrace this new apparatus. Several years later, the quartz technology was
revealed by its creator at the World Fair where it drew the interest of two companies,
Seiko and Texas Instrument, and the rest is history.
According to Charles Kollar, a proponent for “Solution-Focused Pastoral
Counseling,” many pastoral counselors within the local church have fallen into the same
trap concerning counseling; counseling must be done a certain way or it just is not
Jones, The Counsel of Heaven on Earth, 15.
Therefore, the pastoral counselor must be careful not to get stuck in certain
fixed-counseling paradigms just because it has always been done that way in the past.
A third ingredient that the pastoral counselor brings into the counseling context is
cultural posture. Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, suggested that people
respond to their surrounding culture by assuming a cultural posture that he asserted was
basically one’s attitudes toward life. He defined one’s cultural posture as one’s learned
but unconscious default position, one’s natural stance in the world. The author went on
to propose that people practice certain cultural gestures which are their responses to
particular challenges and opportunities in life. These gestures include such subjects as
condemning culture, critiquing culture, consuming culture, and copying culture. There is
nothing wrong with these cultural gestures; at times, each of these responses may be the
only appropriate response to a particular scenario. The problem comes when these
gestures become too familiar, when they become the only way one responds to culture,
when they become etched into one’s unconscious stance to the world and become
While there is much to be condemned in human culture such as violence,
lawlessness, and hate crimes, if one’s overall posture is cultural condemnation, one will
be closed off from the beauty and possibility, as well as the grace and mercy, that are
found in many other forms of culture. The pastoral counselor’s posture must be balanced
and must embrace the optimism and compassion of God. Crouch stated, “If we are
Charles Kollar, Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Publishing, 1997), 16.
Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove, IL: IVP
Books, 2008), 90-93.
known mostly for our ability to poke holes in every human project, we will probably not
be known as people who bear the hope and mercy of God.” 17
A fourth component that is brought by the pastoral counselor into the counseling
context is one’s relationship to God through Jesus Christ. Everett L. Worthington Jr.
stated, in Hope Focused Marriage Counseling, one will have the most success with
counseling and life in general to the extent that one develops a healing character. He
goes on to say that the healing character is the character of Christ bursting through one’s
personality and is manifested in one’s relationships with clients, coworkers, family
members, and peers. Christ’s character in the counselor is the result of a permanent,
loving, and committed bond with the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, Christ’s love and care
shows up in the counselor’s interactions with everyone. Christ’s love and care
demonstrated through the counselor produces faith and work, which provides the basis
for hope. 18
When the pastoral counselor relates to a client, it must be on the premise of
knowing one’s self completely, having an open mind, approaching life with a balanced
cultural posture, and permeating the counselor client relationship with one’s genuine love
for Jesus Christ.
What does a pastoral counselor need to bring to the counseling context?
A pastoral counselor should bring a greater awareness of the humanness of Christ
to the context of Christian counseling. As previously discussed in this paper, at the heart
of the counseling relationship there lies a set of assumptions about healing and human
nature. How does one describe the essential nature of human beings; who are we; are
Crouch, Culture Making, 93.
Everett L. Worthington Jr., Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy
(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005), 17.
human beings simply biological machines designed to respond to behavioral stimuli; are
humans simply reactors to external social pressures driving feelings, attitudes, and
actions? Secular counseling theories extract their foundation on variations of these
concepts. However, the Bible presents a different picture of who we are. According to
Ian Jones, human identity is unique among creation. Humans were created in the image
of God; but, sin brought separation and condemnation from God leading to physical and
spiritual death. Sin also distorted the image of the Creator in humans and made it
impossible for humans to realize their full potential in creation without a new spirit and a
new body. Sin not only resulted in disconnection from God, but, also caused dissonance
in relationships with other humans. All people have an inherited predisposition to sin as
soon as they are aware of moral actions and personal responsibility; and, the effects of sin
have continued through the generations. The only true hope for people who are dead in
their trespasses and sins is a new birth in the Holy Spirit. God alone has the power to
restore one’s relationship with Him and has cleared a path for reconciliation. A failure of
secular counseling theories lies in the ability to truly comprehend the biblical nature of
human beings, and their default reliance to social forces or individuals for the definitions
and causes of problems and the interventions for solutions. 19
Even though the fall created a separation between humanity and God, the
incarnation affirmed that human bodies are not intrinsically evil. Jesus was God and also
fully human with a physical body; for that reason, He was qualified to become the new
Adam who brings new life (2 Cor. 5:17). Because the pastoral counselor comprehends
the previously stated truth, the counselor may encourage clients with the authority that
one’s identity in Christ enables one to look at situations in an entirely new light. If one
Jones, The Counsel of Heaven on Earth, 20-21, 27.
comes to understand their humanness in view of Christ Jesus as the God-man, one will
find that all of their needs will be met in Him (Phil. 4:19); one will discover a peace that
soothes the soul and unites one in fellowship with God and with one another. Realizing
one’s identity with Christ, enables one to share the Lord’s likeness, attitudes, loving-
kindness, and encourages holy living. 20
A pastoral counselor must also bring a working knowledge of methods, styles,
and skills to the context of Christian counseling. Everett Worthington stated, “There is
no simple way to build hope.” One must match one’s methods to the client’s level of
disturbance, personal style, and willingness to accept the challenge of a rebirth of hope. 21
Charles Kollar shared that there needs to be a working knowledge of relational styles and
skills enabling the counselor to identify with and understand the counseling concerns of
the client. 22
Each pastoral care-giver has a particular style that influences every situation
that is encountered, especially the interpersonal arena of pastoral counseling; therefore,
the pastoral counselor needs to establish a common language with the counselee for
discussing issues and encouraging the client in the various contexts of life. According to
Kollar, “identifying with and understanding the concerns of the counselee demonstrates
fit, builds rapport, and encourages a willingness to change in order to experience
relocation ― a collaborative process of moving away from a problematic present into the
reality of a future without a specific problem.” 23
One demonstrates what Kollar calls fit
by connecting with the counselee and being there totally for the counselee. In the
Jones, The Counsel of Heaven on Earth, 141-142.
Worthington, Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling, 58.
Kollar, Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling, 112.
counseling process, the goal of the counselor is to walk together with the counselee as he
or she proceeds toward solutions.
A skill that is being increasingly recognized for its importance in the area of
pastoral counseling is attending to client narrative, listening to the stories patients tell
during their time in sessions. Carrie Doehring, in her work, The Practice of Pastoral
Care, encouraged pastoral caregivers to “immerse themselves in the details of the
narratives that unfold in pastoral care.” 24
She believed that narratives reveal how the
care-seeker found meaning in the midst of life. As deep stories begin to surface, they
often reveal unresolved conflicts that lead to what sociologist, Arthur Frank, referred to
as narrative wreckage. Frank reasoned that times of illness, when deeply felt emotions
are surfacing, call for stories. 25
There is a need for persons to continue narrating their
current experience even in the midst of confusion, and to connect the present with
meaningful stories from the past. 26
As Doehring detailed in her work, the existence of
narrative threads help capture the complexity of life and profound experiences of
suffering and struggle that present during times of extreme crisis. 27
According to Kollar, in the counseling process, the pastoral counselor has the
unique opportunity to enter the world of the counselee. Through attentive listening, the
pastoral counselor is able to show the counselee that he identifies with and understands
Carrie Doehring, The Practice of Pastoral Care: A Postmodern Approach (Louisville, KY:
Westminster/John Knox, 2006), 166.
Arthur Frank, The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1995), 53.
Scott D. Landis, “Practicing Discernment: Pastoral Care in Crisis Situations.” The Journal of
Pastoral Care and Counseling. Vol.64 no. 1 (2010): 2.
Doehring, The Practice of Pastoral Care, 68.
the counselee’s concerns. 28
By identifying with the counselee’s emotions, the pastoral
counselor is able to walk with the client during times of rejoicing or morning (Rom.
12:15). Further, by attending to verbal and nonverbal clues and with proper eye contact,
the pastoral counselor can let the counselee know that the pastoral counselor is with that
person through the process of relocation. With the proper methods, style, and skills in
place, the pastoral counselor has the opportunity to enter into the client’s world long
enough to co-create a solution and experience walking together with the patient out from
under the weight of the problem.
The Counselor’s Safety
There are five important considerations about personal safety that should capture
the pastoral counselor’s attention. These concerns are instituting a perpetual membership
in a professional partnership, setting personal and ethical boundaries, enlisting client
consent, allowing time for debriefing, and determining professional competency. First, a
look at connecting with professional partnerships reveals several types of products that
assist the pastoral counselor in forming a safety net around one’s self and one’s ministry.
For example, partnering with professional organizations, like the American Association of
Christian Counselors, provides accessibility to a number of professional benefits such as
a universal code of ethics, licensure, continuing education, legal advocacy, professional
liability insurance, peer written journals, and conferences. Connecting with an
organization such as AACC reduces counselor vulnerability by affirmatively exposing
pastoral counselors to professional services related to moving professional helpers toward
Kollar, Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling, 112-113.
excellence, and helping them increase their capability of more consistently securing the
best counseling outcomes.
Second, pastoral counselors should set boundaries in counseling relationships.
Boundaries help to provide safety and structure in counseling by creating a border around
the professional relationship that defines the roles and responsibilities of each member of
the therapeutic dyad. A border is a limit that promotes integrity. 29
For example, the
pastoral counselor may be confronted with the conflict of dual relationships. A dual
relationship is created whenever the role of pastoral counselor is combined with another
relationship, which could be professional (e.g., professor, supervisor, or employee) or
personal (e.g., friend, close relative, past intimate partner). Counselors generally are
advised to make every effort to avoid these types of relationships because of the potential
harm to clients.
Third, for liability protection and client protection, the pastoral counselor should
offer full disclosure for all counseling and related services that will be offered to the
client. The likelihood of attaining successful counseling outcomes is enhanced when
clients are actively involved in their therapeutic journeys, making informed decisions
throughout the process. The first decision that prospective clients must make is whether
to enter into counseling and with whom. To make this decision prudently, clients have a
right to know what counseling entails. They might have many questions and
uncertainties when they first come for counseling. Therefore, the pastoral counselor has
an ethical obligation to provide clients with a full explanation of the counseling process.
Near the beginning of the counseling process, the pastoral counselor and client should
Anne Katherine, Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin (New York: Simon & Schuster,
discuss and agree upon the following matters: the nature of and course of therapy; client
issues and goals; potential problems and reasonable alternatives to counseling; counselor
status and credentials; confidentiality and its limits; fees and financial procedures;
limitations about time and access to the counselor, including directions in emergency
situations; and procedures for resolution of disputes and misunderstandings. If the
pastoral counselor is supervised, this fact shall be disclosed and the supervisor’s name
and role indicated to the client. This disclosure also includes video or audio-taping of
client sessions, the use of supervisory and consultative help, the application of special
procedures and evaluations, and the communication of client data with other
professionals and institutions. According to the code of ethics set forth by the American
Association of Christian Counselors, pastoral caregivers and counselors should respect
the need for informed consent regarding the structure and process of counseling. The
pastoral counselor should be extremely cautious that the client has the capacity to give
consent; and after having discussed counseling together, the client reasonably
understands the nature and process of counseling; the costs, time, and work required; the
limits of counseling; and any appropriate alternatives. The client must freely give
consent to counseling without coercion or undue influence. The pastoral counselor
should also obtain consent from parents or the client’s legally authorized representative
when clients are minors, or for adults who are legally incapable of giving consent. 30
Fourth, the pastoral counselor should leave time for debriefing. Every pastoral
counselor needs to debrief with a friend or peer. The intentional, interpersonal mutual
George Ohlschlager, “The Y2004 Final Code,” American Association of Christian Counselors’
Code of Ethics, (2004): 9, http://www.aacc.net/about-us/code-of-ethics/ (accessed April 25, 2011).
support of debriefing can compensate for the draining work of pastoral counseling. 31
Debriefing can address the following aspects of the pastoral counselor’s overall mental,
physical, and spiritual state: one’s mindset and motivation, vulnerabilities and
temptations, ethical dilemmas and dangers, spiritual status, family relationships, physical
health, and professional effectiveness. In line with the proverbial biblical thinking “iron
sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17), it would be a recommended
practice that pastoral counselors enlist a personal mentor or colleague for the purposes of
debriefing, encouragement, and support.
Fifth, the pastoral counselor should continually evaluate areas of competency.
Once the pastoral counselor has completed the required training, and if necessary, is
licensed or certified to practice, the pastoral counselor is responsible for determining
personal competence. The pastoral counselor is an autonomous professional who is
granted the privilege and responsibility for monitoring personal effectiveness. It is not
easy for the pastoral counselor to determine where boundaries of competence lie. It is
important that individual limitations be recognized; however, if the pastoral counselor is
too modest about personal competencies, the scope of practice could be unnecessarily
restricted. The task for the pastoral counselor is to recognize when one is unable to serve
prospective clients due to a lack of the needed skills or knowledge; nevertheless, the
pastoral counselor must be willing to accept clients who will challenge growth and who
will stretch boundaries of competence. The American Counseling Association code of
ethics (standard C.2. d.) recommends that the pastoral counselors regularly engage in
peer consultation or participate in peer supervision groups as a means for maintaining
professional competence. Peer groups can provide objective feedback in dealing with
Rice, The Counselor’s Relational Style, PowerPoint 2.8.
counter-transference issues, information on new techniques and research, assistance in
dealing with difficult clients, and support and help in dealing with the stress and isolation
sometimes experienced by pastoral counselors. 32
Best Practice Three: The Counseling Setting and Culture
Who are you counseling?
In today’s world, it is particularly important for the pastoral counselor to develop
intercultural and generational counseling competencies. The population of the United
States is becoming increasingly diverse both generationally and culturally; and, pastoral
counselors are coming across more clients who are different from themselves. It is
increasingly recognized that the counseling theories commonly used by counselor
educators and practitioners during the twentieth century are embedded in Eurocentric
beliefs about mental health and human development. Although such theories are useful
when implemented among persons from non-Hispanic, white European backgrounds,
they often are less effective, and can even be harmful, when used among persons from
non-white, non-European groups. 33
It would be unethical for the pastoral counselor to
attempt to provide services to culturally diverse clients without appropriate training and
experience. Therefore, the pastoral counselor should strive actively to understand the
diverse cultural backgrounds of clients, and to gain skills and current knowledge in
working with diverse and special client populations. Because counseling is not a static
science, the pastoral counselor must avail oneself to continuing education for the purpose
American Counseling Association, “ACA Code of Ethics,” (2005): 9.
D. Locke, J. Myers, and E. Herr, The Handbook of Counseling (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications, 2001), 536.
of maintaining competence to practice. As previously stated, regularly engaging in peer
consultation sessions or participating in peer supervision groups can be an important
factor in maintaining competence in this area as well.
What is your Counseling Mandate?
It is recommended that the pastoral counselor create a personal counseling
mandate that establishes the current counseling paradigm in which the pastoral counselor
will function. This information centers the pastoral counselor’s mission and therapy, and
can be beneficial for pending clients as well. The personal counseling mandate should be
revisited and updated periodically. The pastoral counselor’s counseling mandate should
include the pastoral counselor’s basis for care-giving and guiding assumptions.
The basis for this writer’s care-giving is biblical Christian counseling. Biblical Christian
counseling is the dynamic process of communication between a representative of God
and a person, family, or group in need designed to achieve healing in the relationship of
that person, family, or group to God, to self, and to others. Because people are relational
beings, the process of biblical Christian counseling addresses the scope of influential
interdependent relationships and draws attention to roles, needs, and God’s calling of
service to others. It looks for progress and development toward health and wholeness in
the will of God. 34
Biblical Christian counseling is a process, a procedure or course of action
involving particular techniques and schemes. The process is not random; rather, the steps
or stages of change are carefully selected with a course, a plan, and specific goals in
mind. The process is structured within the parameters of a definite time frame; and, the
Jones, The Counsel of Heaven on Earth, 59.
counseling encounter is typically a short duration as determined by the pastoral counselor
and the person(s) in need. This distinguishes the counseling process from the perpetual
ministries of evangelism and discipleship. The value of biblical Christian counseling is
that it attempts to raise an awareness of the specifics of a counselee’s current condition
that permits the person to move from guilt to the means of forgiveness, from separation to
the possibilities of restoration of home and family, from hurt to ultimate justice, from
feelings of worthlessness to incalculable value in the Lord. 35
This author’s guiding assumptions for biblical Christian counseling are: God is
sovereign and already at work before the counseling process begins; complex problems
do not always demand complex solutions; all people are created in the image of God and
as His image bearers, have infinite worth and value; “all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God,” but hope is found in one’s choice of Jesus Christ as “all are justified freely
by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24); different
approaches can be helpful with different people; the counselee is the expert regarding his
or her problem and the best person to describe his or her preferred story; change is best
consolidated, supported, and secured under the authority of God’s Word, under the
control of the Holy Spirit, and within the community and connection offered by
responsible members and ministries. 36
Best Practice Four: Solution-Based Brief Pastoral Counseling
The “Solution-Based Brief Pastoral Counseling” approach moves the client
through four phases of therapy and is enhanced by the skill-set of the pastoral counselor.
Jones, The Counsel of Heaven on Earth, 60.
Rice, The Counselor’s Relational Style, PowerPoint 4.6.
The skill-set of the pastoral counselor includes such things as education, personality,
competencies, spirituality, biblical knowledge, ability to communicate, aptitude to listen,
capacity to observe, command of counseling sessions, awareness of limitations, and
repertoire of techniques and interventions. With an array of skills, the goal of the
pastoral counselor is to deliberately move the client through these four specific phases of
counseling in a minimal amount of counseling sessions.
Phase one asks the question, “What is the presenting story or problem?” The goal
of this phase is problem description; therefore, the counselee talks while the pastoral
counselor listens for understanding and demonstrates connection through relational style
alignment and active listening skills reflecting empathy, respect, and authenticity. The
chief aim of this phase is listening well; this is not the time to focus on assessment, but to
acquire understanding about what is happening and who and what are important to the
The second phase poses the inquiry, “What is the future preferred story or
solution look like?” During this phase, the pastoral counselor’s objective is goal
formulation; therefore, the pastoral counselor seeks to renew and maintain rapport while
anticipating an invitation to enter the care-seeker’s world. Here, the pastoral counselor
uses solution-focused questions to find out what the counselee considers the preferred
story or solution to be. During this part of the process, the pastoral counselor tests the
feasibility of the picture and generates possible ideas or alternatives if necessary. A
covert pastoral counselor’s assessment is conducted during this phase. The pastoral
counselor’s chief aim during this phase is collaborating well, and establishing a method
for tracking the client’s move toward change.
The third phase queries how the pastoral counselor and counselee will proceed
and partner toward the solution. The pastoral counselor’s goal during this phase is vision
clarification. At this point, the pastoral counselor and counselee must actively participate
together in the description and development of a strategy and solution to pursue a future
without the problematic pattern. A number of techniques or interventions such as asking
the miracle question and journaling can help with this part of the process.
The final phase addresses the issue of, “Who are the people that can best support
and secure the counselee in the process of change?” Here, the pastoral counselor’s goal
is promoting and supporting change; and, the counselee commits to a community of
accountability. During pattern dehabituation and rehabituation leading to changes
directed at the overarching goal, the pastoral counselor reinforces commitment for change
through supportive feedback, and by arranging accountability through the small-group
ministries of a local church.
It is important to note that these phases may not correlate to sessions. The
possibility exists of accomplishing all phases in one or two sessions; or, the phases may
stretch over numerous sessions. However, keep in mind that even though, in many cases,
solutions may be achieved through brief therapy, there may be cases in which the
plausibility of referral for specialization or extended treatment may be in order. It is
important to remember that pastoral counseling must be flexible and develop sensitivity
to the third ear, listening to the Holy Spirit in order to tailor counseling to each
Rice, The Counselor’s Relational Style, PowerPoint 4.14-20.
CORE COMPETENCY THREE
CONSTRUCTING YOUR STRATEGY TO MEND MARRIAGES
The concept of matrimony and even the definition of marriage progressively are
eroding toward chaos as the once revered institution of marriage continues to be a subject
of debate and controversy within American culture today. Modern American couples not
only contend with the normal tests and obstacles intrinsic to any human relationship, but
also face philosophical challenges as well as spiritual forces of darkness seeking to
rescind the biblical ideal. However, the Bible, which portrays marriage as a beautiful
metaphor of the union between Christ and His bride, the church, represents the most
dependable foundation upon which to construct a highly functional marriage. Because
confusion, dissonance, pain, misunderstanding, and hurt are unavoidable for couples,
pastoral counselors, when called upon, must have the ability to offer a solid integration of
biblical principles and counseling skills, along with the appropriate clinical therapy in
order to foster relational wholeness.
The information provided in core competency number three renders general
psychological therapeutic knowledge that directs pastoral counselors toward an area of
psychotherapy that can be correlated with spiritual applications in order to provide
homeostasis for marriages or couples in distress. Core competency number three
addresses the critical task of developing a strategic approach to counseling couples. The
information presented in core competency number three exposes the pastoral counselor to
seven of the prevailing psychological theories that have formed the basis for strategic
therapies used in couples and marriage counseling today. The goal of this information is
to provide the pastoral counselor with basic information prodding the critical task of
developing a personal strategy for counseling couples in distress. Core competency
number three assumes that pastoral counselors are already astute in the techniques of
spiritual and biblical counseling, therefore, directs most of its material toward the area of
psychology. The collected facts will provide information to assist pastoral counselors in
partnering spiritual and psychological concepts through the basic knowledge of these
selected psychological therapies.
The Spiritual Implications
Even though the primary content of core competency number three addresses the
psychological concerns that are to be integrated with biblical counseling, it is still
noteworthy to mention the spiritual implications. Similar to the tentativeness of spiritual
counselors to assimilate psychology with biblical precepts, there has been a guarded
hesitancy by psychology professionals to address spiritual issues in counseling, even
though there are many advantages.
When comparing psychological counseling with biblical counseling, one becomes
conscious that both are attempting to help the client to learn to accept self, forgive others
and self, acknowledge his or her shortcomings, accept personal responsibility, let go of
hurts and resentments, deal with guilt, and modify self-destructive patterns of thinking,
feeling, and acting. These are the issues that clients bring to counselors; and, all have
emotional, spiritual and/or religious dimensions to them. 1 A majority of Americans
reported in a poll that active religious beliefs and/or spiritual awareness are integral to
their lives. 2 The data from the poll suggests the possibility that many of these individuals
will seek counseling to resolve their deep spiritual and religious issues. The common
denominator of spirituality and counseling is human suffering; therefore, many will
initially turn to their spiritual and religious beliefs when things go wrong.
As a result, the opportunity for pastoral care and counseling in the twenty-first
century is optimal, especially in the areas of family counseling and couples’ therapy.
Therefore, it is important that pastoral counselors recognize not only the significance of
providing spiritual help for their clients, but also have the ability to corroborate
appropriate psychological therapies for the purpose of achieving the holistic wellbeing of
a client. The information presented in this paper discusses the major tenets and
techniques associated with an eclectic group of family therapies for the purpose of
exposing a cross section of relevant psychological therapies for implementation when
counseling couples or families in distress.
The Evolution of Psychology into the Twenty-First Century
When considering the presentation of various therapeutic approaches to
counseling couples in distress, one must comprehend the evolution of psychology into the
twenty-first century. Several modern trends have greatly impacted the science of
psychology in modern culture in relation to pastoral counseling. These trends must be
1 Mary Burke and J. Miranti, “The Spiritual and Religious Dimensions of Counseling,” in the
Handbook of Counseling, ed. D. Locke (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001), 607-618.
2 G. H. Gallup and R. Begilla, Jr., “More Find Religion Important,” The Washington Post, January
20, 1994, G10.
considered in order to contemporize the elements of dated theorists and open the intellect
of pastoral counselors to the notion of psychology as a rapidly evolving and progressive
The first trend impacting modern psychology has been the shift to cognitive
viewpoints. As the old millennium ended, there was a shift from behavioral perspectives
in psychology to cognitive perspectives, 3 in other words, a shift from solely empirical
sources for knowledge to an acceptance of rationality as a source for knowledge. Media
is replete with words such as intuition and faith; and, many bestselling books now place a
premium value on intuitive and spiritual thinking. As a contributing expert in the area of
the history of psychology, J.C. Brown stated, “In the first decade of the new millennium,
psychology is taking on another new look… Psychology, and in fact, all of society, is
embracing spirituality, accepting faith as a once again source of legitimate knowledge.” 4
In the view of this new cognitive openness to religion, the American Psychological
Association has allowed for a credible marriage between the values of biblically-based
counseling and the principles of psychology resulting in Division Thirty-six, “The
Society of Religious Psychology,” 5 and the acceptance of well-trained pastoral
counselors as valid practitioners.
Another trend evolving throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century that
is significantly reshaping the landscape of modern psychology is the advancement of
information technology. Internet venues and the twenty-four hour news networks have
3 C. J. Goodwin, A History of Modern Psychology (Hoboken NJ: Wiley, 2004), 172.
4 Jay C. Brown, Twenty-First Century Psychology: A Reference Handbook (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications, 2008), 21.
5 Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, http:// http://www.division36.org/
(accessed October 12, 2011).
made psychology, in all of its forms, accessible to everyone. The increased globalization
of psychology means that mental health practitioners in all fields, including pastoral care,
must now be aware of cultural issues when diagnosing and treating mental illness or
addressing interpersonal relationship issues.
An additional trend to be noted is the rapidly developing advancements in
neuroscience. These advancements are now connecting precise parts of the human brain
with specific human behaviors. Currently, MRI scans of the brain can predict some
psychological behaviors. Brown stated that neuroscience may be the avenue that will
allow psychology to finally fully advance beyond the realm of social science, where
predictors are probabilistic, and into the realm of the natural sciences, where prediction is
more of an absolute. 6 Rather than merely predicting behaviors of average individuals,
neuroscience may allow the prediction of specific behaviors of individuals.
Further, over the last decade there has been a trend toward the systemic notion
that all family members influence the aggravation or abatement of a problem, and the
movement away from individual therapy, which saddled only the client with the
responsibility for change. Several social dynamics occurred during the first half of the
twentieth century setting the stage for the emergence of systemic family counseling or
“Family Systems Therapy.” These included the child guidance movement, the
emergence of marriage counseling, research on schizophrenia within families, the
involvement of social workers with families, and studies on small group dynamics.
These and many other measures, both in society and in the field of psychotherapy,
intertwined to encourage the development of family counseling, and ultimately led to the
6 Brown, Twenty-First Century Psychology, 22.
dramatic paradigm shift toward systemic theory. This movement toward the use of
systems theory to explain family functioning was a radical departure from the traditional
linear model for behavior. 7
One more important trend is the fragmentation of psychology. The American
Psychological Association currently has fifty-six divisions, each specializing in its own
slice of psychology, and with its own specialized terminology. Each specialization is
often limited to its own research and specific schools of education and training. As
previously mentioned, the American Psychological Association now includes a society
for the psychology of religion.
Other trends, such as psychology’s usefulness and acceptance by the general
public into everyday life, its connection to the human genome, consumer behavior,
politics, industry, sports, and crime, remind one that humans are complex beings who
now live in a multifaceted world. All of these trends emphasize the importance of the
need for specialized training for pastoral counselors. Understanding certain theories of
psychology along with their corresponding interventions and therapies, in addition to
appropriate biblical counsel, can provide a holistic healing to a person or couple in
Family Systems Therapy
During the middle of the last century, four key theoretical orientations were
developed in the family systems field. Still today, these four influential therapies provide
the framework for training in marriage and couple’s counseling. These four
7 M. P. Nichols and R. C. Schwartz, Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, 3
rd ed. (Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 1995).
psychological remedies are Transgenerational Family Therapy, Structural Family
Therapy, Strategic Family Therapy, and Experiential Family Therapy. Each therapy is
connected with a particular individual who was instrumental in the conception of the
theory, and is known for demonstration of work with it. These theories all focus on
family systems and are differentiated by what the therapist emphasized when working
within the family system.
During the middle of the twentieth century, Murray Bowen began studying
families as a unit of analysis that required observation of the interaction and
interdependence between individual family members. From his studies, Bowen
developed a theory of the family emotional system and a method of therapy. The
foundation of Bowen’s theory is the concept of differentiation of self. According to
Bowen, the differentiation of self is the degree of emotional separation or autonomy a
family member has while still experiencing intimacy within the family system. Bowen
discovered that differentiation is most often affected by family stress or anxiety. When
anxiety is low, most families appear to be normal. As anxiety increases, the
dysfunctional or impaired family experiences increased tensions among relationships
interfering with normal differentiation and resulting in escalating problems. Bowen
detected that families with well-differentiated members could be stressed into
dysfunction; however, they had a flexibility of coping mechanisms and tended to recover
rapidly. This led Bowen to conclude there was a continuum from the most impaired to
optimally functioning families. Thus, all families and individuals have stressors;
however, they differ in their ability to implement healthy coping strategies.
Transgenerational Therapy puts forth the notion that the characteristic of self-
differentiation is a product of emotional development that could be grasped by the degree
of fusion between emotional and intellectual functioning. This characteristic is so
universal it can be used as a way of categorizing all people on a single continuum. At
early stages of development, and at the low extreme of the continuum, people are
dominated by automatic emotional processes and reactivity. These are people who are
easily stressed into dysfunction and have difficulty recovering. At the high end of the
continuum, intellectual functionality remains autonomous under stress. These people are
more adaptable, flexible, and independent of emotionality. They are able to better cope
with life’s stresses. 8
To further interpret family functions, several other factors are employed by
Transgenerational Therapy. One of these is the “nuclear family emotional system.”
These are the emotional patterns in a family that are replicated patterns of past
generations. Hypothetically, this is a mother who lived through The Great Depression
and taught her daughter to always prepare for the worst case scenario and to be happy
simply if things “are not that bad.” The daughter thinks her mother is wise and adopts
this way of thinking. She grows up and has a son; without realizing it, she models this
way of thinking. He may follow or reject it; and, whether he has a happy or distressed
relationship depends on the kind of partner he finds. 9
Another element to interpret family functions is triangulation. Triangulation is a
three-person configuration in an emotional system that is formed when a two-person
8 Frank B. Wichern, “Family Systems Therapy,” in Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and
Counseling, 2 nd
ed., David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 444.
9 Psychpage.com, “Bowen Family Therapy,” http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/
counseling/bowen.html (accessed May 12, 2010).
system becomes overloaded and anxious under stress, and involves a vulnerable third
person. A triangle can contain much more tension because the tension can shift around
three relationships. Often, if the tension is too high for one triangle to contain, it spreads
to a series of interlocking triangles. Spreading the tension can stabilize a system;
however, the downside is that nothing gets resolved. 10
One more component to interpret family functions is emotional cutoff. Emotional
cutoff describes people managing their unresolved emotional issues with parents,
siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact
with them. Emotional contact can be reduced by people moving away from their families
and rarely going home; or, it can be reduced by people staying in physical contact with
their families but avoiding sensitive issues. Relationships may look better if people
cutoff to manage them; but, the problems are only put into hibernation, not resolved. 11
The goal of Transgenerational Therapy is to understand the influence of
multigenerational patterns of behavior on couple’s relationships, and to gain insight into
the patterns that have affected how they now function. In other words, the aim is to
explore the influence of historic family systems on the dynamics of the present family
system. When applied to pre-marriage counseling, the goal of the therapy is to assist both
individuals in modifying their relationships with their family of origin, to achieve less
emotional reactivity and fusion, and to attain greater cognitive control of feelings and
10 Bowen Center for the Study of the Family: Georgetown Family Center, “Triangles” under
Bowen Theory, http://www.the bowencenter.org/pages/concepttri.html (accessed April 29, 2010).
The pastoral counselor should begin the process of this therapy by constructing a
genogram. A genogram is a tool that provides a visualization of three to four generations
of the family, complete with relational patterns. Application of this therapy by the
pastoral counselor is with the most differentiated family member or with the couple.
Rarely is the whole family seen in therapy; the pastoral counselor implementing this
therapy is to be calm and differentiated from the family system, and objectivity and
neutrality are of utmost importance. 12
When implicating this therapy, the pastoral
counselor assumes the role of coach or consultant, guiding each individual through
carefully planned steps of intervention. The Bowen model is growth-oriented, and
mandates exploration and change beyond the reduction of symptoms toward increased
Understanding the dynamics of each family system from which the
husband and wife originated, can be instrumental in accessing and constructing
interventions for the crisis occurring within a couple’s current family system. The
process could include redeveloping personal relationships with key family members,
repairing cutoffs, detriangling from conflicts, and changing the part played in emotionally
reactive vicious cycles. It is imperative, in this approach, that the pastoral counselor
maintains autonomy and does not become emotionally engaged or triangulated.
Structural Family Therapy
Structural Family Therapy is another therapy derived from the family systems’
schools birthed in the middle nineteen sixties. This therapy asserts that individual
symptoms are best understood in the context of family transaction patterns. Structural
12 Patricia W. Stevens, “Systems Theories,” The Handbook of Counseling, Don Locke, J. Myers
and et al. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001), 193.
Wichern, “Family Systems Therapy,” 444.
Family Therapy perceives family structure to be the invisible set of functional demands
that organizes how family members relate to one another. This structure represents the
sum of a family’s rules and procedures. Structural Family Therapy asserts that families
are arranged and organized into elementary subunits and subsystems, which regulate the
family’s day-to-day functioning. Structural Family Therapy proposes that subsystems are
an important component of family structure. The partner dyad provides the basis of
family functioning; thus, couples form the marriage subunit, parents comprise the
managerial subunit, and the children compose the sibling subunits.
Pastoral counselors applying Structural Family Therapy focus on learning clear
boundaries, on having overt role expectations and family rules, as well as determining the
family hierarchical system and the interdependent functioning of its subsystems. These
observations are critical because change in family organization or structure is necessary
in order for symptoms to be relieved. The assumption of this theory is that changes and
symptom reduction will follow change in the structure; that is, as the structure is
transformed, positions of individual members are altered and personal experience
changes, thereby creating symptom relief. 14
When employing Structural Family
Therapy, the pastoral counselor strives to change dysfunctional family transaction
patterns and to realign the family structure. The goal of therapy, in addition to symptom
reduction, is to assist family members in learning alternate and more satisfying ways of
dealing with one another, to have appropriate boundaries, and to replace outgrown
14 Stevens, “Systems Theories,” 191.
Strategic Family Therapy
Strategic family therapy is any type of therapy where the pastoral counselor
initiates what happens during therapy and designs a particular approach for each
This type of therapy requires the pastoral counselor take responsibility for
directly influencing people. Strategic family therapy is concise, imaginative, directive,
and positive. As a therapy, it focuses on the presenting problem rather than delving
deeply into past issues. Primarily, strategic therapy centers on family communication
patterns and the sequential ordering of interactions involved in the presenting problem.
The goal of therapy is to replace these non-conducive sequences of behavior with more
There are two forms of strategic family therapy, problem-focused therapy and
solution- focused therapy. The goal of problem-focused therapy is to solve the presenting
problems on which the family has agreed to work rather than providing insight and
understanding. To achieve this goal, the pastoral counselor must create unique
interventions that fit the presenting problems. Homework sessions or directives are often
given in addition to therapy sessions. The goals of the directives are to initiate a change
in behavior, involve the pastoral counselor in the family, and gather information. 17
Directives are the key tool of the approach to problem-focused strategic family
counseling. On the other hand, solution-focused therapy examines the exception to the
problem during the times when the problem is nonexistent.
16 Jay Haley, “Jay Haley: The Strategic Therapist,” http://www.jay-haley-on-therapy.com/html/
family_therapy.html (accessed May 9, 2010).
Alan E. Kazdin, “Strategic Family Therapy,” Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol. 3 (New York,
NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), 320-325.
Overall, strategic family therapy focuses on a family’s state of equilibrium, on
how family rules are upheld, on symmetrical and complimentary relationships within the
family, and on the reciprocation of family member interactions. Another important
component of strategic family therapy is the focus on the importance of power in
relationships within the family. The pastoral counselor can use pretending, positioning,
and paradoxical interventions as a means of creatively defining the problem for the client.
A major advantage of Structural Family Therapy as a viable therapy option for pastoral
counselors is the versatility of this therapy for a wide variety of family constructs. 18
Experiential Family Therapy
Experiential Family Therapy is distinct from the other therapies in the family
systems field because it does not rely on therapy. The key to Experiential Family
Therapy is that it relies on the relationship or involvement of the therapist with the
family. When embracing this therapy, the pastoral counselor attempts to understand the
client by comprehending the client’s perception of a situation, not just the reality of it.
This therapy is to be applied when the pastoral counselor perceives that the behavior of
the client has been driven by the client’s personal experience and individual perception
rather than by external reality; in other words, the perception is the reality. The tenets of
this therapy emphasize free will, choice, and the human capacity for self-determination
and self-fulfillment. Experience is esteemed over rational thought or intellectualizing.
There are as many ways to provide change as there are dysfunctions. Pastoral counselors
who will be effective with this type of therapy will be active, self-disclosing,
implementing a variety of evocative directive techniques, and will focus on the present
18 Stevens, “Systems Theories,” 192.
experiences of families. Pastoral counselors executing techniques fundamental to this
type of therapy will be authentic people who are spontaneous, challenging, and
The pastoral counselor’s goal for this type of therapy is to promote growth and to
support the family in constructing creative methods of coping. The goal of this therapy
does not automatically entail the reduction or elimination of dysfunctional symptoms.
One technique relevant to Experiential Family Therapy is taking a situation to its most
ludicrous outcome in order to accelerate change in the family system. At this point,
change produces growth in the system and in the individuals within the system.
Family Systems Therapy Techniques
Pastoral counselors have a number of options for therapy techniques within the
four major Family Systems Therapies. Most of the family systems therapeutic techniques
presented in this thesis project correlate with all four major theories. However, one must
realize that the reason or theoretical explanation for the use of the techniques will vary
depending on which theory employs the technique. The primary therapeutic techniques
that can be practically implemented when counseling couples in distress are:
Reframing is the attribution of a different meaning to a behavior in order that the
behavior will be perceived in a different manner by the couples or family members in
therapy. This action alters the original perception of an episode or situation and creates a
new framework that has an equally plausible explanation. One of the primary benefits of
19 Irene Goldenberg and H. Goldenberg, Family therapy: An overview (Florence, KY: Cengage
Learning, 2007), 207.
reframing is that it places an event or circumstance in a more positive or constructive
light, allowing couples or family members to shift their perception from negative to
positive. This technique permits couples or family members who have previously
interpreted behavior as unchangeable to see it as voluntary and open to change. For
example, reframing a spouse’s behavior as “loving” rather than “manipulative” could
reduce significant tension in a relationship.
Genograms are visual representations of generational family trees that identify
family patterns and themes as well as highlight connections between present family
events and prior experiences. Through the use of symbols, a genogram tells the family
story. Names, dates, marriages, divorces, mental illness, substance abuse, and other
relevant facts are included. In addition, symbols that represent the relationship among
and between family members are presented. Douglas Rait, Ph.D. and Ira Glick, M.D., in
an article for Academic Psychiatry, propose the genogram to be a useful tool because “a
picture is worth a thousand words;” and, they assert that those who utilize genograms
soon recognize the value in efficiently gathering family historical information
rather than in the traditional narrative form. 20
Genograms are a practical technique
because most couples and families enjoy the process of generating a genogram
as they see
patterns emerge in their family histories in a way that is accessible and clarifying.
20 Douglas Rait and I. Glick, “A Model for Reintegrating Couples and Family Therapy Training in
Psychiatric Residency Programs,” Academic Psychiatry 32 (March-April 2008): 81 – 86.
The Empty Chair
The empty chair technique has been frequently used in family therapy. It is
particularly effective for expressing thoughts and feelings to absent family members.
The purpose of the technique is to allow a family member to express thoughts or feelings
to another family member, represented by the empty chair, that are difficult to express
directly to that person. In family therapy, this intervention would be used with both
members present in the session whenever possible.
Family rituals can be used by pastoral counselors for the purpose of improving
family structure. These rituals could include eating family dinner together, having
couples spend specific time alone or apart. Allowing couples or families to develop their
own rituals can be therapeutic as well. Specific rules and roles would be defined for the
prescribed rituals, such as only positive talk, or no problem solving during dinner or
partner time. Because couples and families often demonstrate predictable patterns of
behavior that are unproductive, rituals can be used to change these negative behavioral
patterns. A couple can be asked to plan these rituals in therapy sessions providing
information and insight for the pastoral counselor as well as shifting the family view of
its situation from unproductive to productive.
Tracking is derived from communication, the significance of family symbols, life
themes, values, significant family events and are then deliberately used in conversation.
Tracking provides advantages such as allowing the pastoral care-taker to enter the family,
and providing information about the family structure and the sequence of events that are
keeping the family in a predictable behavior pattern. Moreover, it substantiates that the
pastoral counselor values what the family is saying; and, without soliciting information, it
provides a view of family dynamics through its themes, values, and events.
Enactment and Reenactment
A common technique that can be applied by pastoral counselors is to ask the
family to bring an outside problematic interaction into the session and to reenact the
situation. The pastoral counselor then requests the family to utilize a new set of
interactions with this problem. The beauty of this two-part technique is that it empowers
the clients to personally change the dynamics of the presenting problem, and strengthens
the client’s ability to alter the situation through specific actions. As a result, family
members or couples experience self-awareness, and frequently discover more functional
ways of interacting.
Behavioral Analysis or Assessment
Pastoral counselors should engage in ongoing observations of distinct acts
exchanged by couples or family members, as well as interactional consequences of
problematic behavior and antecedent stimuli. Family therapists focus on the function that
behavior patterns serve in the family. It is through the understanding of the function of
the behavior that the pastoral counselor and family begin to understand what is necessary
and appropriate for change to happen.
Also, it is through assessment, or the evaluation of family behaviors, that pastoral
counselors determine treatment plans and objectives. Assessment can be informal, using
observation, or formal, using one of the many marriage or family assessment instruments
now available. For the pastoral counselor, assessment is a vital part of accountability for
both ethical and legal concerns.
Summary of Family Systems Theory
In summary, the approaches relevant to the family systems fields are an exciting
option for the pastoral counselor. Even though many of the tenets of family therapy are
traditional, it is a progressive field of psychology as well. Pastoral counselors that choose
Family Systems Therapy methods need to be knowledgeable about the history, theory,
practice, and process of this system of therapy; and, they must be knowledgeable about
societal changes with an awareness of the variety of family arrangements that they will
encounter. Family Systems Therapy works very well in the fields of marriage and
couples’ counseling; but, the pastoral counselor must be cognizant of the matter that the
couple is a subsystem of the whole family system. Pastoral counselors that engage in
family or couples’ therapy need to be open to the new methods and techniques that are
available today. In other words, they must be systemic in their professional lives as they
strive to synthesize the past and present in family systems and the larger systems in
which families exist. 21
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) was born from the behavioral
school of therapy. The behavior school of therapy is divided into three generations:
traditional behaviorism, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and contextual behavior therapy.
Contextual behavior therapy is grounded in understanding behaviors, alongside emotions
21 Stevens, “Systems Theories,” 196.
and thoughts, in the situations in which they occur. In fact, it is only in examining them
in the context in which they occur that a person’s behavior makes any sense. This
approach represents a radical shift from traditional behaviorism and cognitive-behavioral
therapy because of the inclusion of acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions. 22
ACT has been classified by some as the product of “third wave psychologists” who are
now focusing less on how to manipulate the content of thoughts and more on how to
change the context of thoughts. ACT is built on the idea of what Steven Hayes called,
“the assumption of destructive normality.” This is the notion that ordinary psychological
human processes can themselves lead to extremely destructive and dysfunctional results,
possibly amplifying or exacerbating unusual pathological processes. 23
should acknowledge psychological pain rather than try to push it away, because trying to
push it away or deny it just gives it more energy and strength.
The scheme of ACT is to contextually modify the way one sees thoughts and
feelings so those feelings no longer control one’s behavior. 24
As previously stated, ACT
is a unique experiential psychological therapy based upon the use of acceptance and
mindfulness strategies in concert with commitment and behavior change strategies for the
purpose of increasing psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is understood as
getting in touch with the present moment fully as a conscious human being; and, based on
what the situation presents, either changing or persisting in a behavior because of one’s
Claudia Dewane, “The ABCs of ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,” Social Work
Today, 8 no. 5 (September/October 2008):36.
Steven Hayes, K. Strosahl, and K. Wilson, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An
Experiential Approach to Behavioral Change (New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 1999), 6.
Jen Plumb, “Psychology Today: How Analyzing Your Problems May Be Counterproductive,” Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, Feb. 15, 2010, http://contextualpsychology.org/
psychology_today_how_analyzing_your_problems_may_ (accessed October 24, 2011).
chosen value system. A key component of ACT is that it elucidates the ways that
language entangles clients into futile attempts to wage war against their own inner lives.
The quintessential process of traditional cognitive psychologists and psychotherapists is
to engage in a process of analyzing one’s way out of problems; however, ACT asserts
that one accept negative beliefs, pessimistic thinking, and depressing problems. After
that, it focuses on what one wants to become in spite of the previously mentioned
To appreciate this therapy, the pastoral counselor will have to work past ACT’s
linguistic connections to the Relational Frame Theory which gives this therapy a
propensity toward New Age and Eastern Religious orientations. However, the advantage
of ACT is the practical nature of some of its interventions. For example, interventions
can include such things as writing an epitaph, contextualizing thoughts, or clarifying
values and committing specific behaviors to the interventions. 25
Other strategies include
the use of metaphors, paradoxes, and experiential exercises in which clients learn how to
make healthy contact with thoughts, feelings, memories, as well as physical sensations
that have previously been feared and avoided. The goal of ACT is to provide clients the
skills to recontextualize and accept their traumatic private events, to develop greater
clarity about personal values, and to commit to needed behavior change. Again, ACT is
not about overcoming pain or fighting emotions; it is about embracing life and feeling
everything life has to offer. It offers a way out of suffering by choosing to live a life
based on what matters most. Rather than combined therapy for couples, the techniques of
this therapy are better suited for individuals and individual life problems that may be the
root cause of marriages in distress such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress
25 Plumb, “Psychology Today.”
disorder, substance abuse, chronic pain, psychosis, eating problems, and weight
management, just to name a few.
Attribution Theory is constructed on the idea that people, on some level, are
naturally inquisitive about discovering why individuals behaved a certain way, or why
certain interpersonal events or series of events occurred. Attribution Theory explicates
the fundamental human need to understand, control, and predict what goes on around a
It explains a behavior by attributing the cause to specific events. This
common mental exercise provides one with a sense of control, and can affect the
standing of people within a family group.
For example, when another member of the family group has erred, the natural
tendency is internal attribution, often blaming the error on internal personality factors.
However, when a personal error has occurred, some people tend to apply external
attribution, which is attributing the causes to situational factors rather than accepting
personal responsibility. On the contrary, the inclination is to attribute successes
internally and the successes of one’s rivals to external “luck.” For example, when a
football team wins, supporters say “we won;” but when the team loses, the supporters
say “they lost.”
For the most part, attributions are significantly driven by emotional and
motivational drives. When counseling couples in distress, the following implications of
this theory become particularly relevant. Couples often employ self-serving attributions
by blaming one another for the problems, avoiding personal culpability. As a rule,
26 Kazdin, “Strategic Family Therapy,” 320-325.
people will make attributions to defend what is perceived as attacks, and will point out
injustices in marriage relationships. An individual with a high need to avoid failure will
have a greater tendency to make attributions that puts oneself in a good light.
As a general process, people go through a two-step progression beginning with
internal attributions, followed by a slower consideration of whether or not an external
attribution is more important. The danger is if one is extremely busy or becomes
distracted, the second step is neglected making internal attribution more likely than
external attribution. Therefore, it is imperative that pastoral counselors generate
awareness of the danger of losing trust in one’s partner as a result of blaming others by
making internal attributions. Pastoral counselors must create alertness to the proclivity
for making excuses via external attributions, which can lead to repetitious mistakes and
can lead to cognitive discord with a partner that is making internal attributions. Pastoral
counselors must consider, in spite of substantial research on the role played by
attribution processes in the understanding of a variety of behavioral problems and
disorders, attribution therapy typically is conducted as one element of a broader scope of
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a brief, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment
that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem solving. The goal of the pastor
counselor, when implementing Cognitive Behavior Therapy, is to change patterns of
thinking or behaviors that are behind the difficulties people experience in order to
27 William O’Donohue and L. Krasner, Theories of Behavior Therapy: Exploring Behavior
Change (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1995), 385-413.
modify the way they feel. 28
An excellent technical definition of Cognitive Behavior
Therapy is “a purposeful attempt to preserve the demonstrated efficiencies of behavior
modification within a less doctrinaire context and to incorporate the cognitive activities
of the client in the efforts to produce therapeutic change.” 29
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
is used to treat a wide range of issues from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems
to substance abuse or anxiety and depression. Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be
thought of as a combination of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy is not a distinct therapeutic technique. The term Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy is a very general term for a classification of therapies with
similarities. There are several approaches to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy including
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Living
Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy.
Foundational to Cognitive Behavior Therapy is the concept that one’s thoughts
cause feelings and behaviors rather than external elements such as people, situations, and
events; therefore, a change of perception can cause one to feel and act well even if the
situation remains the same. Although Cognitive Behavior therapists understand the
importance of a positive and trusting client and practitioner relationship, Cognitive
Behavior therapists believe that clients change because clients learn how to think
differently and to act on that learning. As a result, pastoral counselors practicing
Cognitive Behavior Therapy focus on teaching rational self-counseling skills. Cognitive
28 Ben Martin, “In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” Psych Central,
http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/ (accessed May 3, 2010).
Philip C. Kendall, “Toward a Cognitive Behavioral Model of Child Psychopathology and a
Critique of Related Interventions,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 13, no. 3 (1985): 357-372.
Behavior Therapy is a collaborative effort between the pastoral counselor and the client
in which the pastoral counselor seeks to discover the life goals of the client, and assists
the client in achieving those goals. The role of the pastoral counselor employing
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is to listen, to teach, and to encourage while the client’s
roles is to express concerns, to learn, and to implement that learning. Pastoral counselors
using this therapy stimulate critical thinking by employing the Socratic Method. The
goal of the pastoral counselor is to gain a very good understanding of the clients’
concerns by asking questions and, in turn, encourage clients to ask questions.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy accepts the scientifically supported assumption that
most emotional and behavioral reactions are learned; thus, one of the goals of therapy is
to aid clients in unlearning unwanted actions and learning new ways of reacting.
Therefore, pastoral counselors committed to Cognitive Behavior Therapy have specific
agendas for each session; and, specific techniques and concepts are taught during each
session focusing on clients’ goals. Cognitive Behavior Therapy interventions include a
significant amount of homework. Christian principles can easily be implemented into
the cognitive-behavior therapy scheme making this a significant form of therapy for
counseling couples in distress. Cognitive Behavior Therapy fits well within the biblical
scheme of advice for behavior change. Notice the phrasing of the divinely inspired
Apostle Paul in one of his letters,
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and
meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the
best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to
curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and
realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you
into his most excellent harmonies (Phil. 4:8 MSG).
Even though there are many benefits to Cognitive Behavior Therapy as part of
one’s repertoire of counseling techniques, the pastoral counselor must be cognizant of the
commitment and involvement level generally required for this therapy. Due to the
structured nature of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, it may not be suitable for people who
have more complex mental health needs or learning difficulties. Another weakness of the
therapy is that, by nature, it does not address the possible underlying causes of mental
health conditions such as an unhappy childhood.
Contextual Family Therapy
Contextual Family Therapy is ingrained in the Judeo-Christian tradition; and, its
advocates have sought to integrate family theory and biblical theology of both the Old
and New Testaments into a form of counseling. The approach recognizes that human
existence is mainly relational and accentuates the natural relationships that bind the
couple or family over the functional relationships. The foundations of this therapy are
the loyalties to commitments that sustain family networks. This therapy realizes that all
family members keep track of the perception of the balances of give and take in past,
present, and future. A trustworthy early environment inexorably produces indebtedness.
If a child cannot repay benefits received from parents, an emotional debt accumulates.
When indebtedness is heavy, the adult child is unable to transfer loyalty from the parents
and family of origin to a new relationship; therefore, marital commitment suffers. In the
future, the marital commitment will be in conflict with loyalty to the offspring as the
parents seek ethical balance in the new generation.
Contextual Family Therapy supposes that it is the wish of every family member to
establish trustworthy relationships. Consequently, adversarial relationships within
families violate the basic urge toward relational justice. Couples, or the family, are
reinforced by moves toward trustworthiness and weakened by moves away from it.
Thus, high levels of individual merit, accumulated by supporting the interests of others,
contribute to the health of the whole family. All families have a distinct bookkeeping
system that establishes value for certain debts and entitlements. The goal for the pastoral
counselor in Contextual Family Therapy is always to move the marital partners and
family members in the direction of ethical relationships. This goal is achieved by
involving members of the extended family, because no family member alone can judge
whether or not the ledger is balanced. Contextual Family Therapy is based on an
enlightenment ethic that can be integrated with Christian theology to develop an approach
that stresses fidelity, community, commitment, upward striving, and a reliance on a
higher power that, in turn, fuels the process of responsible relatedness and
interdependence. Contextual Family Therapy affirms the Christian values of trust,
mutuality, and justice.
Emotionally Focused Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy is now recognized as one of the most researched
and most effective approaches to changing distressed couples’ relationships. Similar to
most modern approaches, Emotionally Focused Therapy is a brief systematic approach,
ten to twelve sessions in empirical studies, for fostering the development of a secure
emotional bond by modifying the dysfunctional interaction patterns and emotional
responses of distressed couples. In this approach, negative interfaces are changed by
accessing the underlying emotions experienced by each partner in an attempt to create
new corrective emotional experiences that modify interactions. The newly formulated
emotional responses are expressed in such a way as to create a shift in how couples
engage. Therefore, new emotional experiences, generated in the safe and accepting
environment of the sessions, promote new responses for the marriage partners. Those
who habitually withdraw are helped to re-engage; and, hostile partners are supported to
become more open and vulnerable. Specific shifts in interaction are choreographed to
prime increased emotional responsiveness between couples. New constructive cycles of
contact and caring can then begin.
Counseling that implements Emotionally Focused Therapy necessitates that the
pastoral counselor assumes the role of a process consultant. Therefore, the pastoral
counselor empathetically validates each partner, and creates a safe place that allows each
person to become more engaged with his or her own experiences within the marriage
relationship. Counseling that employs Emotionally Focused Therapy, calls for the
pastoral counselor to focus on three primary tasks: the creation and maintenance of a
collaborative alliance, the accessing and reformulating of emotional responses, and the
shaping of new interactions based on these responses. 30
Regarding the first task, the pastoral counselor fosters the trust and confidence
that allows couples to fully engage in therapy. This is done by taking a collaborative and
respectful stance toward the partners, by being genuine and transparent, and by
nonjudgmental empathy. Concerning the second task, the pastoral counselor focuses on
30 S. M. Johnson and W. Denton, The Clinical Handbook of Couples Therapy (New York, NY:
The Guilford Press, 2008), 115.
the emotion that is most distressing and relevant in the session. Often this emotion is
associated with attachment needs and fears, and plays a central role in patterns of
negative interaction. During the course of this task, the pastoral counselor remains close
to the heart of the clients’ experiences and uses the experiential interventions, reflection,
evocative questions, validation, heightening, and empathic interpretation to expand the
experiences. Hopefully, reactive responses, such as anger, move into the background as
other key emotions, such as a sense of grief or fear, become the focus of attention.
Relating to the third task, the pastoral counselor tracks and reflects the patterns of
interaction, identifying the negative cycles that constrict the responses of the partners to
one another. The pastoral counselor assigns expressive tasks in the session that
restructures the dialogue in the relationship. The two core interventions of Emotionally
Focused Therapy are the exploration and reformation of emotional experience, and the
restructuring of interactions. 31
This particular therapy will involve significant training on
the part of the pastoral counselor.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy
Traditional approaches to psychotherapy are founded on the premise that the
presenting problem is not the real problem; rather, it is just a symptom of a much deeper
psychological or interpersonal problem to be uncovered, interpreted, and processed. The
old school of thought considered therapy to be successful if it were thorough,
reconstructive, and had a significant investment of time. On the other hand, Solution
Focused Brief Therapy was developed with the hypothesis that no problem happened all
the time; and, therapy could be accomplished in a brief time frame. Possible therapy
31 Johnson, Clinical Handbook of Couples Therapy, 120.
sessions could range anywhere between three and ten sittings. Solution Focused Brief
Therapy proposed that there are always exceptions to the presenting problem. The core
tenants of Solution Focused Brief Therapy flow out of two underlying concepts. First,
the pastoral counselor and patient work on constructing solutions for what is deemed
problematic in the present, and determine together what needs to happen so the patient
can improve. Second, the pastoral counselor focuses more on the strengths and resources
of the patient than on the weaknesses and limitations.
The process of Solution Focused Brief Therapy begins by immediately probing
for the discovery of solutions. Fundamental to this therapy is the formation of realistic,
achievable, and highly specific treatment goals, which are determined by the patients as,
“They decide for what they are customers.” 32
Well-formed goals are small, specific,
concrete, and behavioral. These treatment objectives are in the present, and are indicated
by the presence of something rather than the absence of something. These therapeutic
aims emphasize what a person will do or think rather than what a person will not do or
not think. These highly specific treatment goals describe the first small steps the patient
needs to take rather than the end of the journey.
Available to pastoral counselors are several techniques unique to Solution
Focused Brief Therapy. The most well-known is the “miracle question.” It is helpful for
patients to imagine a future where problems are solved. The “Miracle Question” asks,
“Suppose you were to go home tonight, and while you were asleep, a miracle happened –
the problem that brought you here was solved. How will you and those around you know
the miracle happened, what would you do differently, what would your spouse notice you
were doing differently?” Another technique is the “Formula First Session Task.” At the
32 Steve de Shazar, Putting Difference to Work (New York: Norton, 1991). 112.
end of the first session, the pastoral counselor would say, “Between now and the next
time we meet, I would like for you to notice what is happening in your life that you
would like to continue to happen?” This encourages the client to focus on the solutions
Pastoral counselors implementing Solution Focused Brief Therapy also use
scaling questions. On a scale of one to ten, the client is asked to describe the problem
with one representing the problem at its worst, and the number ten indicating when the
miracle occurred. The client is then asked to indicate where on the scale the problem
would be placed at the present time; or, what would it take to be located fifty-percent or
higher on the scale. Scaling uses language to create a kind of visual image, a spatial
component that gives patients a way to notice change while reinforcing the idea that no
change is too small or insignificant. While there is a need for research to examine its
strengths and limitations, the existing literature demonstrates that Solution Focused Brief
Therapy is a pragmatic approach to change that can be used in a variety of church and
There are several apparent advantages to using Solution Focused Brief Therapy
for pastoral care in the area of couples’ counseling. The first benefit is that the therapy is
brief and focuses on solutions rather than on problems. Many counselors spend a great
deal of time thinking, talking, and analyzing problems while suffering continues, rather
than thinking about solutions that would result in realistic, swift, and reasonable relief.
The second positive aspect of this therapy is that it provides hope for the client.
There is nothing like experiencing small successes to help a person become more
hopeful. When people are hopeful, there is more interest in creating a better life and
stronger family relationships. People become more hopeful about the future and want to
achieve more. 33
Another upside to Solution Focused Brief Therapy is the confidence it inspires.
By studying times when problems are less severe or even absent, it has been discovered
that people, often unaware, accomplish many positive things. By bringing these small
successes into focus and by repeating the triumphs achieved when the problem is less
severe, people experience life improvement and expanded confidence.
The effort required to achieve success in this therapy is not overly difficult.
Because solutions often already appear within the existence of family structures,
repeating successful behaviors is easier than learning a whole new set of solutions that
may have worked for someone else. Since it takes less effort, families can readily
become more eager to repeat the successful behaviors and make further changes. This
type of therapy corroborates well with the Word of God. Eugene Peterson’s The
Message states, “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their
burdens and so complete Christ’s law” (Gal. 6:1 MSG).
Unquestionably, interest in spirituality in the twenty-first century is on the rise. A
recent report, Religion and the Public Interest, which incorporated the research findings
of groups including the Gallup Organization and Lilly Endowment, Inc., reported that
ninety-six percent of the population, approximately 242 million Americans, indicated a
belief in God. A 1996 USA Today survey found that seventy-nine percent of Americans
33 Insoo Kim Berg, “About Solution Focused Brief Therapy,” Solution Focused Brief Therapy
Association, http://www.sfbta.org/about_sfbt.html (accessed May 3, 2010).
acknowledge that faith can help recovery from illness. According to another survey,
seventy-seven percent of patients believe feel physicians should take into consideration
spiritual needs. In a 1994 Newsweek poll, fifty-eight percent of respondents stated the
need to experience spiritual growth. 34
All of the above are indicators that a demand for
spiritually-based counseling is on the rise.
According to the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, despite interest in
psychotherapy and the ever-increasing availability of therapists, the emergence of
managed mental health care and the current financial crisis has reduced the level of
counseling services available to many; therefore, many people will turn to clergy for help
with marriage, family, and faith issues. Also, many working poor, with no insurance
benefits, may need to seek free or low-cost counseling from the clergy. In order to take
advantage of this great opportunity for the Kingdom of God, to help couples and families
in distress, pastoral counselors must be familiar with a cross section of psychological
therapies in order to astutely develop strategies for helping this new wave of parishioners.
34 American Association of Christian Counselors, “Pastoral Counseling Today Gaining
Momentum” under Pastoral Counseling Today, http://www.aapc.org/node/5 (accessed May 12, 2010).
CORE COMPETENCY FOUR
BUILDING YOUR PLAN TO REPAIR FAMILIES
A woman from the congregation comes into the church office without an
appointment and asks to see the minister. She is visibly shaken; so, she is invited to sit
down. She says, “The police just left our home. They came to the door this morning and
asked to see my husband. When my husband came into the room, the police told us that
he had been accused by three of the neighborhood children of sexually molesting them.
My husband says that he did not do this; but, the neighbors still filed the complaint.
What are we going to do? He would not talk to me about it, he left; and, I do not know
where he went. What should the children and I do?”
A minister has been called to the hospital by the members of a man’s family. The
minister does not know much about the situation and when he walks in, is met by the
wife and the man’s doctor. The doctor relays the terminal diagnosis; and because of the
emotional state of the patient, the family has not yet told the man about the severity of his
condition. The man is asking to talk to the minister; however, the doctor advises the
minister to be careful about what is said concerning the man’s condition. As the minister
enters the room, the man immediately says, “Pastor, I want to ask you something; am I
going to die?”
A family’s relationships are strained. Both parents are working long hours; thus,
family intimacy and playtime for the children has given way to numerous structured
activities acting as controlled babysitting. Arguing, on all levels of family relationships,
has become incessant; and, the family unit has become grossly disconnected. Finally,
after reaching the boiling point, the mother says, “We need to schedule an appointment
with the pastor for counseling.”
The journey through life is a series of crisis. Some are predictable and expected;
yet, others are situational. In fact, there is no limit to the number of family crisis
experiences that occurs in life; think of the possibilities. Therefore, the pastoral
counselor needs to establish a biblical counseling process for counseling families in
This section speaks to core competency number four, “Building Your Plan to
Repair Families,” by recommending two accomplished practices for counseling families
in distress. Accomplished practice number one deals with the importance of embracing a
strong theistic psychotherapy; and, accomplished practice number two addresses the
significance of mastering a Christian integrative psychotherapy, a combination of
relational and cognitive therapy, as a primary therapeutic tool. This is an integrative
approach that fits extremely well with the Christian worldview of most pastoral
Accomplished Practice One:
Embracing a Strong Theistic Psychotherapy
The competent pastoral counselor understands the importance of developing a
strong theistic psychotherapy. It is the assertion of this writer that the best pastoral
psychotherapy, especially in the area of counseling distressed families, is derived from a
strong theistic theology. It is critical that one’s pastoral care not view the necessity of
God as an “add-on” assumption in prescribing the appropriate treatment. Recent efforts
by mainstream psychologists to introduce spiritual and religious elements into the field of
psychology have opened the door for theistic approaches to psychotherapy. In fact, many
researchers and psychotherapists are now incorporating theistic features such as prayer,
moral values, and scripture readings into their psychotherapy. 1
Nevertheless, inherent in the science of psychology is the inclination toward
naturalism. As Thomas Leahey stated in his work, A History of Modern Psychology, 2
“naturalism is science’s central dogma.” Naturalism historically has directed
psychologists to appeal to and study only natural events and processes, rather than
supernatural and theistic events or processes in order to understand and explain
psychological phenomena. 3 Therefore, because of the naturalistic tendencies associated
with the science of psychology, there exists the risk of implementing pastoral care and
psychotherapy from a weak theistic conceptualization rather than a strong theistic ideal.
This weak theistic outlook generally manifests itself in three forms, a compartmentalized
theistic point of view, a peripheral theistic perspective, or an inconsistent theistic
1 Harold D. Delaney, William R. Miller, and Ana M. Bisono, Religiosity and Spirituality Among
Psychologists: A Survey of Clinician Members of the American Psychological Association, Professional
Psychology: Research and Practice 38, No. 5 (2007): 538–546.
2 T. H. Leahey, A History of Modern Psychology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991),
3 P. S. Richards and A. E. Bergin, A Spiritual Strategy for Counseling and Psychotherapy, 2nd ed.
(Washington DC: APA Books, 2005), 19.
position; 4 whereas, strong theistic psychotherapy views God as an altering assumption
rather than merely an add-on supposition.
Types of Weak Theistic Approaches to Psychotherapy
One type of weak theistic approach to psychotherapy that is sometimes practiced
in pastoral care is called “compartmentalized theism.” Pastoral counselors that fall into
the camp of “compartmentalized theism” perceive private theistic beliefs to be segregated
from professional practices. One may be a strong theist personally, often disclosing
religious affiliations or religious beliefs for the purpose of building rapport with clients;
yet, intentionally omitting theism as a core component of one’s personal professional
therapies and interventions. In fact, pastoral counselors that hold to this line of thinking
often engage psychotherapies that are indistinguishable from secular and naturalistic
approaches. Pastoral care specialists embracing the “compartmentalized theism” ideal
reject the notion that conventional therapeutic approaches assume the necessity of God’s
influence in the mechanism of change; therefore, the practice of a conventional
psychotherapy is not guided by a theistic impression or theory. According to this line of
thinking, “God talk” may occur in the content of a conventional therapeutic conversation,
because it may help the client relax or relate to the pastor; but, its therapeutic value is
empathetic at best. In the mind of those who compartmentalize theism, to practice the
process of conventional psychotherapy is to practice as though God’s influence is
unnecessary to the mechanism of client change. 5
4 Brent D. Slife, Tiffany D. Stevenson & Dennis C. Wendt, Including God in Psychotherapy;
Strong vs. Weak Theism, Journal of Psychology and Theology 38, No. 3 (Fall 2010): 163.
5 Slife, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 169.
Another weak theistic approach to pastoral care is “peripheral theism,” which, in
many ways mirrors the same basic qualities as “compartmentalized theism.” The major
difference between the two is that “peripheral theism” brings certain fringe aspects of
theism into the context of psychotherapy. Outlying theistic features can include such
generalities as altruism, prayer, and forgiveness. These outlying theistic characteristics
can be schemed to incorporate the notion of an active God, or simply integrated as
conventional psychotherapeutic interventions not requiring God at all. For those who
embrace “peripheral theism” strategies, relationship to a spiritual being or need of an
active God is not a critical component for understanding the significance of these fringe
theistic concepts. 6
The final kind of a weak theistic approach to pastoral care is “inconsistent
theism.” “Inconsistent theism” is an attempt to combine, within the context of
psychotherapy, the incompatible postulations of naturalistic secular psychological
theories and theism. This arrangement results in a dualistic form of weak theism where
God’s activity is limited to a certain realm or set of factors of therapy in addition to other
aspects of a therapy’s theories, methods, and practices that do not require or even relate
to an active God. Thus, the theistic factors of therapy are inconsistent with the
naturalistic features of therapy. 7
A Strong Theistic Approach to Psychotherapy
From a strongly theistic perspective, a potentially unlimited God is an assumption
made, not a variable to be measured. A strong theistic approach to psychotherapy openly
6 Slife, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 170.
7 Slife, Journal of Psychology and Theology,, 171.
opposes the naturalistic presumption that God’s activity is not directly relevant to
psychological processes, and conceptualizes the assumption of an active God involved in
all realms and aspects of life. A strong theistic approach refutes the weak theistic
approach of harmonizing the naturalistic elements of psychology with rudimentary
theological basics through the concepts of deism and dualism. Deism is the notion that
God created the world, along with natural laws, but is no longer involved in the world
except in extraordinary circumstances; so, science (psychology) can proceed without
considering God’s activity. Dualism supports the concept that the world is divided into
two spheres, the natural and the spiritual. Thus, God is involved in the supernatural and
not the natural, therefore, limiting His involvement with psychology. According to the
deist, God and natural laws are not actively involved in the world at the same time; for
the dualist, the two are never actively involved in the same place. A strong theistic
approach, by contrast, does not place limitations on God’s active influence in the world.
A strong theistic approach to psychotherapy is summarized by four general
requirements. First, unlike weak theism, strong theism does not automatically limit
God’s activity to a certain time (deism) or place (dualism). Rather, God is seen to be
already present in the world and is potentially involved at all times and in all places.
Theologically stated, God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God’s activity is
presumed to be the center of therapeutic change and no change is possible without Him.
Second, God is not to be perceived as an optional add-on to secular and naturalistic
therapies and explanations. God’s activity is the nucleus and permeating ingredient of
the worldview and presuppositions that guide strong theistic psychotherapy, research, and
practice. Third, the peripheral aspects of theism, such as altruism, prayer, hope and
forgiveness, are only theistically meaningful in view of an active God working through
them. As a result, these peripheral elements are performed differently than mere
psychotherapeutic interventions. Fourth, the assumption of God’s activity is clearly
reflected in the therapy at all levels of theory, method, and practice. 8
In conclusion, naturalism and strong theism rest upon incompatible assumptions
concerning the potential activity of God. Weak theism, which attempts to harmonize
naturalism and theism, is unable to accomplish the task in a manner consistent with the
true nature of theism; therefore, weak theism actually promotes the cause of naturalistic
psychotherapy by simply using God as an addendum to its best practices. Strong theism
requires the activity of God; naturalism denies this requirement. However, this
incompatibility is rarely appreciated in psychology because naturalism is widely
considered a relatively neutral or unbiased philosophy regarding God. As a result,
naturalistic therapies are often viewed as not conflicting with the beliefs of theistic clients
or theistic therapists. Nevertheless, the necessity of God is not an add-on assumption for
the strong theist. It is an altering assumption, implying that its inclusion changes the
meanings, usually dramatically, of even supposed common assumptions such as order
and truth. 9
8 Slife, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 168.
9 B. D. Slife & J. S. Reber, Is there a pervasive implicit bias against theism in psychology?
Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 29, No. 2 (Fall 2009): 63-79.
Accomplished Practice Two:
Mastering Christian Integrative Psychotherapy
As human creations of a sovereign God, all were designed by God to be both
cognitive and relational beings. Humans are created in the image of God; therefore,
man’s ability to think and reason, his cognitive abilities, are what set him apart from the
rest of creation. This truth is acknowledged in the Holy Scriptures when the Prophet
Isaiah wrote, “Come now, and let us reason together, ‘says the Lord,’” In times of family
distress, or in the aftermath of a traumatic event, a normal cognitive response usually
involves an attempt to make sense of something that may seem, at the time, to be
indecipherable. God has created man to be a cognitive creature; therefore, it is during
traumatic events and throughout the search for meaning and answers that one may
wonder if one is able to think clearly; or, is it even possible to comprehend God’s
direction and purpose within one’s theater of crisis.
Additionally, humans were created by God to be relational beings. Although God
declared that His creation was good when He formed Adam out of the dust of the ground
and breathed life into him, there was something not good. God told Adam that it was not
good for him to be alone. It is true that we were created to have fellowship with God;
but, we were also created in such a manner that requires connection and relationship to
other human beings. It is within the structure of relationships that the most distressing
episodes of family crisis occur. As a result of these two dynamics, many Christian
counselors, as well as secular counselors, employ the use of Integrative Psychotherapy
that includes both cognitive and relational therapies.
This author affirms the practical significance of applying the core tenets of
Integrative Psychotherapy as presented by Dr. Mark McMinn 10
in his excellent journal
article published in Christian Counseling Today. 11
Because of its Christian
predispositions, Integrative Psychotherapy and its cognitive and relational essentials
provide the pastoral counselor with a solid Christian philosophical structure in which to
apply appropriate interventions when counseling families in distress. This perspective
brings an integration of theological, cognitive, and relational therapies to the setting of
pastoral counseling of families in crisis. Integrative Psychotherapy enables the pastoral
counselor to see the client as God sees them, and facilitates the caregiver’s insight to
prescribing the appropriate Relational Cognitive Therapy.
According to Dr. Mark McMinn, Christianity has put forward the concept that
humans are created in the image of God, the imago Dei. Through the years, three views
of the imago Dei have materialized within Christianity; human beings are functional,
structural, and relational. Three similar viewpoints have been materialized in major
theories of psychotherapy as well. Integrative Psychotherapy is a three-field approach
that emphasizes symptom-focused functional interventions, schema-focused structural
interventions, and longer-term, relationally-focused interventions. According to Dr.
McMinn, although the therapist is continually aware of all three areas, each intervention
is crafted according to the particular needs of the psychotherapy client. 12
10 M. R. McMinn and C.D. Campbell, Integrative Psychotherapy: Toward a Comprehensive
Christian Approach (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Academic, 2007).
M. R. McMinn, “Integrative Psychotherapy the Core Tenets,” Christian Counseling Today 16,
No. 3 (2008): 13-16.
12 M. R. McMinn, Abstract; Christian Counseling [DVD in APA Psychotherapy Video Series] (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2006).
Integrative Psychotherapy is dimensionally integrative both theoretically and
theologically. Theoretically the psychotherapy brings together ideas from cognitive,
behavioral, interpersonal, schema-focused, and relationally-focused interventions, and is
theologically integrative by allowing for a Christian view of persons as it relates to
psychological theory and intervention.
Even though theologically it has been determined that one is created in God’s
image, in one’s humanness, this concept is often difficult to fully comprehend. However,
the notion becomes intellectually accessible when one perceives the three dimensions of
being the image of God. Understanding one’s operation within the functional, structural,
and relational domains that humanness operates can help clients become more fully
human and destined for fulfillment with genuine purpose in life. The perfect picture of
this is Jesus Christ who “became flesh (functional dimension) and made his dwelling
(structural dimension) among us (relational dimension). We have seen his glory, the
glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John
1:14 New Living Translation). In Jesus, we see One who healed the sick (functional),
redefined the values and assumptions of the prevailing religious systems (structural), and
so loved the world that He came to dwell with human beings in all of their pain and
misery (relational). 13
It is important to note that even though theorists like Freud, Jung, Erickson,
Adler, Rogers, Maslow, Beck, and Ellis in no way identified with a Judeo-Christian
worldview; they still made valid and important discoveries about the human condition
and human behavior. The conflict was in the idea that those theorists did not know or
apparently care how to effectively process their concepts from a biblical framework.
13 M. R. McMinn, “Integrative Psychotherapy the Core Tenets.” 13-16.
Even though the principles of the discipline of psychology can be quite useful, they are
not on equal footing with the Word of God. However, looking through a Christian lens,
counselors realize the sovereignty of God’s Word over man’s knowledge, and grasp that
truth can be gleaned from multiple sources because ultimately all truth comes from God.
Therefore, Christian counseling incorporates truth found in the Word of God and
assimilates it with the simple truths discovered through the social sciences. Biblically-
oriented counseling is a “values-based” approach; and, when complimented by clinicians
full of the Holy Spirit and educated regarding human behavior, it represents a powerful
agent of change in a person’s life. 14
As previously stated, Christian Integrative
Psychology begins with the proclamation that humans are created in the image of God
(Gen. 1:26-27). This therapy involves looking at clients through three sets of Christian
Looking Through the Lens of the Functional Realm
First, as the pastoral counselor triages the client who is formed in the image of
God, he looks through the lens of the functional realm and offers help for the client’s
immediate pain. Looking through this lens requires knowing that one is created to
function in a particular role in relation to the rest of creation. Humans have a
sophisticated cerebral cortex that allows one to responsibly manage creation, to live with
an awareness of life, to anticipate how one’s choices affect the future, and one’s
offspring. When one enters a pastor’s office in a state of deep depression or debilitating
anxiety, the immediate prognosis is that the person is not functioning as fully as God
14 “Cognitive and Relational Therapies: Connecting the Dots in Times of Distress,” Christian
Counseling Today 16, No. 3 (2008): 8-9.
intended. Therefore, the therapeutic goal is to help the client reclaim functional capacity
as one created in God’s image.
In most counseling situations, attention is first directed toward functional or
symptom-focused interventions. The immediate objective ought to be to assist clients to
feel better and function more fully. This was the example of Jesus Christ as He
ministered to the needs of the people around Him; He often tended to their physical
healing as well as their spiritual condition.
A variety of tools from cognitive and behavioral therapies are highly effective in
helping people function better by reducing symptoms of mood disorders, anxiety
disorders, anger problems, and chronic pain. For example, a cognitive therapy technique
referred to as the “thought record” may help a client recover from depressive
Behavioral techniques such as progressive relaxation, 16
and interoceptive exposure can aid with issues such as panic attacks. Cognitive and
behavioral techniques are also quite useful in treating obsessive-compulsive patterns,
generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress. Many Christian counselors
disparage the science of psychology; but, it can be very useful in helping select effective
functional interventions for clients. Many behavioral and cognitive therapy methods
have demonstrated tremendous usefulness in scientific studies.
15 S. J. Rupke, D. Blecke, and M. Renfrow, “Cognitive Therapy for Depression,” American Family
Physician Journal 73, No. 1 (2006, Jan. 1): 83-86.
16 J. Siev, and D. L. Chambless, “Specificity of Treatment Effects: Cognitive Therapy and Relaxation for Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorders.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
75, No. 4 (2007): 513-522.
Looking Through the Lens of the Structural Sphere
Second, the pastoral counselor must reflect on the structural sphere of the client
who is created in the image of God by helping him keep schemas in perspective. A
schema is a mental structure used to organize and simplify knowledge of the world.
Unlike the rest of creation, humans have ontological capabilities that reflect God’s
character. People can think rationally, use sophisticated language, and exercise moral
will and self-discipline over their choices. Structural capabilities permit humans to
search for the meaning in life, to make sense of daily events as they relate to the larger
picture, and to map out a plan and follow it. These ontological competencies or schemas
result in deeply held beliefs that function like psychological maps to help one navigate
the world around them. Schemas guide one’s behaviors and perceptions and can often be
helpful, but are sometimes misleading or become dysfunctional.
Clients may seek help because the world is viewed with a distorted sense of
reality, because social encounters are frightening, and others may be perceived as
dangerous and unpredictable. Instead of settling for the dull pain of loneliness and
isolation, symptoms of avoiding people to avoid pain may be developed. Rational
capacities that make humanity so extraordinary have drifted off-kilter. The cause could
have been early encounters with others, possibly family members that triggered unsafe
feelings to be experienced.
A recommended cognitive strategy employed within this venue of counseling is
recursive schema activation, which is designed to assist clients in gaining distance from
the dysfunctional schemas that have been guiding the clients’ lives. This strategy
employs counseling methods designed to have the clients continually confront impaired
schemas. With each encounter, a greater awareness is created pertaining to the erroneous
schemas causing the client to move toward a better plan. Counseling through a Christian
lens can help one see the harmful effects of one’s maladaptive perceptions, and can allow
the development of new godly schemas and self-perceptions.
Looking through the Relational Lens
Third, the pastoral counselor must consider the relational view. The idea is that
one reveals God’s image in a relationship with other people. God’s image is not so much
ontological as it is dialogical. Note the flow of Genesis 1:27, “So God created human
beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he
created them” (New Living Translation). Immediately, after affirming that humans are
patterned after God, one sees that the pattern is expressed in relationship.
It is not be enough to just talk to the client about safe and healthy relationships;
the client will need to actually experience a healthy relationship initially with the
counselor, then others. The pastoral counselor will need to be aware of reenactments of
old relational patterns because people often resort to what is familiar during times of
stress. However, a healthy and compassionate therapy relationship can help a client
break free from old, dysfunctional relationship patterns. Pastoral counseling seeks to
provide suitable therapies for restoring relationships by illustrating to the client what it
means to be in the relational image of God.
In conclusion, the value of Christian Integrative Psychotherapy is immensely
significant in counseling families in distress. This particular procedure of psychotherapy
provides the pastoral counselor with a godly premise, imago Dei, upon which many
valuable techniques from the field of psychology may be appropriately applied and
allocated as programs for healing. Christian Integrative Psychotherapy, also known as
Relational Cognitive Therapy, permits the client to be seen by the pastoral counselor in
the same way as the client is seen by God.
SEMINARY RESEARCH STUDY
The objective of this study was to research the core counseling course
requirements of the basic Master of Divinity Degree programs from twenty-five major
Theological Seminaries in the United States. These Seminaries represented a diverse
selection of institutions from both sectarian and nonsectarian religious affiliations. The
purpose of the data collected was to determine the following general statistics:
The percentage of required pastoral counseling or general counseling courses offered
relative to the overall curriculum. The average number of pastoral counseling or
counseling courses offered per Master of Divinity program.
The Master of Divinity degree programs queried for this research only considered
the general Master of Divinity programs or pastoral ministry Master of Divinity programs
and did not include Master of Divinity degrees with specializations in counseling,
counseling related fields of study, or chaplaincy.
The query included a broad spectrum of those considered to be “major” theological
institutions, and included a diverse selection of denominational and nondenominational
This information was collected from course catalogues and degree programs posted
online by the above institutions during July, 2011.
Southern Baptist 91 0 0 0
Wesleyan 96 6 2 6.2
Reformed 106 3 1 2.8
Baptist 93 0 0 0
Grace Brethren 90 0 0 0
Multidenominational 144 4 1 2.7
Wesleyan Methodist 96 0 0 0
Non-sectarian 81 0 0 0
Nondenominational 78 0 0 0
72 0 0 0
Nondenominational 98 2 1 2.0
Nondenominational 120 2 1 1.6
Catholic 83 1 1 1.2
137 3 1 2.1
Reformed 111 2 1 1.8
Evangelical Protestant 98 2 1 2.0
Reformed 102 6 2 5.9
Evangelical 94 0 0 0
Interdenominational 90 3 1 3.3
A. W. Tozer
81 3 1 3.7
Southern Baptist 88 0 0 0
Evangelical Free 94 9 4 9.6
Pentecostal 90 0 0 0
Charismatic 88 3 1 3.4
Presbyterian 78 3 1 3.8
Totals 2399 52 19 2.1
Required counseling courses in Master of Divinity programs queried constituted an
average of approximately 2.1 percent of overall institutional curricula.
Theological Seminaries, on average, offered less than one required counseling course
(.76%) per Master of Divinity program.
Nearly one third (32%) of the seminaries queried did not offer any required counseling
classes in their basic Master of Divinity programs.
STRUCTURING YOUR CHURCH TO RESTORE MEN
Appendix B covers, “Structuring Your Church to Restore Men,” and addresses
the substantial problem of men and Internet pornography. Because of the shameful
stigma attached to this condition, churches tend to shy away from constructing a biblical
healing process in this critical need area. The information presented in this chapter is
divided into two sections, presenting first the problem of Internet pornography and
second, unfolding a threefold reparative plan for pastors and counselors of churches that
desire to accept responsibility and exhibit compassion to men who struggle with the issue
It is an understatement to say that pornography is the cause of mayhem in the
lives of Christian men, their marriages, their children and the American church.
Pornography’s devastating impact influences everything from the compulsive misery of
the “secret indulger” to the heinous criminal explosion of the sexual deviant.
Pornography leaves in its wake waves of victims, men, women, and children, with a wide
assortment of physical, mental, and emotional scarring. The Associated Press reported
on December 12, 2000, the following story, “Father stabs his 12-year-old son in the head
for refusing to perform a sex act less than one hour after downloading pornography from
the Internet.” 1 This is just one of many “victims’ stories” that has been reported over the
years to victims of pornography.org, 2 a proactive grass-roots organization dedicated to
fighting the media invasive pornography industry that has made obscene material easily
accessible to all, including children. It is fair to say the secular media, confused about
First Amendment rights, has predisposed an entire generation of people toward sexual
insensitivity, and has tainted modern culture’s decency, conscience, morality and
compassion for others. As a result, the public is often unaware that innocent people are
hurt and continually becoming victims of pornography. In addition, far too many
Christian men have bitten into the “forbidden fruit” of pornography; and, if the issue is
not properly addressed, the spiritual condition of the American church may be greatly
The Problem of Internet Pornography
Easy Access to Internet Pornography
The Internet has transformed life in the American family. The Internet brings
from the world the good, the bad, and the ugly to the American family’s doorstep. It
brings the historic ruins of ancient Athens to that doorstep; but, it also brings the red light
district of Bangkok. 3 The Internet has been symbiotically linked to human sexuality
since its inception as a relatively unknown United States’ military research project, which
1 Jan Larue, “Last Time Around,” Christian Counseling Today 11, no. 3 (2003): 45.
2 Vickie Burress, “Stories from the Heart,” Victims of Pornography,
www.victimsofpornography.org (accessed Feb. 1, 2011).
3 Sean Barney, “The Porn Standard: Children and Pornography on the Internet,” Third Way
Culture Project, http://content.thirdway.org/publications/14/Third_ Way_Report_-_The_Porn_Standard_-
_Children_and_Pornography_on_the_Internet.pdf (accessed January 28, 2011).
has morphed into the global superhighway of information, communication, and
commerce it has become today. In fact, pornography was one of the early financial
engines that helped catapult the Internet to its present state. 4 The marriage of technology
with sexuality has created a unique continuum of positives and negatives for America
culture in that there is now greater access to information regarding sexual information
and sexual health; however, the Internet has also become a highly profitable and effective
means of distributing sexually explicit material. The Internet has become a sophisticated
conduit for compulsive sexual behaviors, sex trafficking, and sex crimes. Moreover,
because the sex industry has an unprecedented proximity to the home and work
environments, couples, families, and individuals of all ages are being impacted by
pornography in new ways.
Internet pornography is different from other forms of pornography because of the
“Triple-A Engine” effect of accessibility, affordability and anonymity. 5 Additionally,
characteristics that make the Internet a unique and powerful medium for cybersex are that
it is intoxicating, isolating, integral, inexpensive, imposing and interactive. 6 The
previously mentioned “Triple-A Engine” effect is generally accepted as the principle
cause of a number of pre-existing problems with other forms of pornography that have
worsened in recent years; thus, many have been drawn into problematic pornography
4 Al Cooper, Eric Griffin-Shelley, David L. Delmonico and Robin M. Mathy, “Online Sexual
Problems: Assessment and Predictive Variables,” Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity 8, no. 3-4 (2001):
267–285. Taken from Testimony Of Jill C. Manning, M.S. Hearing On Pornography’s Impact On
Marriage and The Family Subcommittee On The Constitution, Civil Rights And Property Rights
Committee On Judiciary United States Senate November 10, 2005
5 Cooper, A., “Sexuality and the Internet: Surfing Into the New Millennium,” CyberPsychology
and Behavior 1, no. 2, (1998): 181-187.
6 David L. Delmonico, Elizabeth Griffin, and Joseph Moriarity, Cybersex Unhooked: A Workbook
for Breaking Free from Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior (Center City: MN: Hazelden Educational
consumption who normally would have not been involved with this material prior to the
arrival of the Internet. According to experts,
Personal inhibition levels, social controls, and the lack of willing partners and
sexual scenes that may limit sexual activity in everyday contexts are obsolete in
cyberspace. It is easy for latent desires to be realized in cyberspace. Internet
sexuality may thus serve as a catalyst. 7
Just as drug professionals are familiar with drug content, drug paraphernalia, and drug
delivery systems, those familiar with pornography implement the Internet, more and
more, as the preferred delivery system for their virtual sexual “fix.” The Internet has
allowed men, with ease and anonymity, to become deeply involved with this sinister sin.
Sadly, virtual pornography has become the “drug of choice” among conservative
Christian men as well. 8 According to a survey published in the Journal of the American
Psychological Association, eighty-six percent of men in general are likely to click on
Internet sex sites if given the opportunity. 9 Pornography bears out the truth of Jesus’
words, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed
adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28 NIV).
Because the demand for pornography is so excessive and its presence on the
Internet is ubiquitous, it is difficult to avoid if this is one’s aim. When one searches the
term “porn” on Google, it returns 31,300,000 links in 0.10 seconds. 10
Most Internet users
have, more than on one occasion, been inadvertently directed to an Internet pornographic
7 S. Leiblum, and N. Döring, “Internet Sexuality: Known Risks and Fresh Chances for Women.”
in Al Cooper, “Sexuality and the Internet: Surfing Into the New Millennium,” CyberPsychology and
Behavior 1, no. 2, (1998): 29.
8 Stephen Arterburn, “Your Cheating Heart: Men and Pornography,” Christian Counseling Today
14, no. 1(2006): 12.
9 Mark Kastleman, The Drug of the New Millennium: The Science of How Internet Pornography
Radically Alters the Human Brain and Body, 2 nd
ed. (Orem, UT: Granite Publishing, 2001).
Sean Barney, Third Way Culture Project.
site. Research presented in 2002 by the London School of Economics, revealed that nine
out of ten children between the ages of eight and sixteen have viewed pornography on the
Internet, in most cases unintentionally. Pornography has permeated our modern web-
based culture to the extent that counteractive and protective measures must be taken to
filter its nasty contents from the eyes of the general public not wishing to view this
The statistics pertaining to Internet pornography are truly staggering. According
to compiled numbers from respected news and research organizations, every second
$3,075.64 is being spent on pornography and fifty percent of all spending on the Internet
is related to sexual activity. Every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography
and daily thirty million people log on to pornographic web sites. In that same second,
372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines as twenty-five
percent of all search engine requests are pornography related; the term “sex” is the
number one topic that is searched on the Internet. Every thirty-nine minutes, a new
pornographic video is being created in the United States. In other words, pornography
consumption is big business. The pornography industry has larger revenues than
Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined. The worldwide
pornography revenues in 2006 ballooned to over ninety-seven billion dollars. 11
revenue in the United States is larger than combined revenues of all professional sports
franchises and equals that of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. 12
Internet pornography has
Jerry, Ropelato, “Internet Pornography Statistics,” Top Ten Reviews, 2006, www.http://Internet-
filter-review.toptenreviews.com/Internet-pornography-statistics.html. (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
Associated Press, “Stage Set for xxx Internet Addresses,” June 2, 2005,
www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/Internet/06/01/Internet.porn.ap/ index.html, (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
exacerbated the overall problem with pornography because it is accessible, affordable,
An unprecedented characteristic of Internet pornography is the ease in which
children and adolescents have access to it, both solicited and unsolicited. In the past,
adult bookstores or restricted movie theatres were the tangible gatekeeper or buffer to
minors being exposed to this material, albeit not impenetrable. Currently, anyone can be
a consumer and/or target of sexually explicit material. Children represent a large and
rapidly growing segment of online users. Children use the Web for a wide variety of
activities including homework, informal learning, browsing, playing games,
corresponding with electronic pen pals by e-mail, placing messages on electronic bulletin
boards, and participating in chat rooms. Among the activities most attractive to children
are those that allow them to communicate directly with their peers, for example, chat
rooms, bulletin boards, and e-mail. Almost ten million or fourteen percent of America’s
sixty-nine million children are now online with over four million accessing the Internet
from school and five million seven-hundred thousand from home. 13
According to SafeFamilies.org, the average age for initial Internet exposure to
pornography is eleven years old; and, the largest consumer of Internet pornography is the
twelve to seventeen year-old age group. 14
Some researchers believe that as many as eight
percent of fifteen to seventeen year-olds have had exposures to hard-core pornography
while doing homework. It is this writer’s opinion that the United States Department of
Federal Trade Commission, “Protecting America’s Consumers,” June 25, 2007,
www.ftc.gov/reports/privacy3/history.shtm, (accessed Feb. 15, 2011).
Tech Missions – Safe Families, “Statistics on Pornography, Sexual Addiction and Online
Perpetrators,” www.safefamilies.org/sfStats.php, (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
Justice adequately posited the cause of the problem in a 1996 post-hearing memorandum
that stated, “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States
has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors
in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” 15
The Church and Internet Pornography
The problem of pornography and the Internet has not escaped the pulpits and
pews of the American church either. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist
Ethics and Religious Liberty Religious Commission stated in a 2007 interview with the
Southern Baptist Texan,
The flood of pornography in our culture has desensitized society and has
contributed to the fact that our nation is wandering aimlessly in dangerous,
uncharted territory. That flood has entered the church doors, leaving anecdotal
and documented evidence that families and churches are being damaged, mostly
by Christian men — some of whom are ministers who succumb to a cheap
imitation of God-designed sex. Sexuality is a far bigger and more troubling issue
in the church than any other moral issue. 16
According to LifeWay Publication, Facts and Trends, forty-seven percent of Christians
say that pornography is a major problem in the home, fifty-three percent of men at
Promise Keepers’ rallies admitted viewing pornography during the previous week, and
forty percent of pastors have visited pornographic web sites. 17
Craig Gross, an expert in the field of Christianity and pornography, made this still
relevant statement several years ago in an interview with Leadership Journal, “Ten years
U.S. Department of Justice, “Post Hearing Memorandum of Points and Authorities,” at l, ACLU
v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824 (1996).
Jerry Pierce, “Flood of Pornography Breaching the Church,” Southern Baptist Texan, in the
Baptist Press, July 6, 2007, http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=26023. (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
Ken Walker, “Online Pornography; Pastors Not Immune to Cybersex Snare,” Facts and Trends
51, no. 2 (March/April, 2010): 16.
ago this was a topic for a Saturday men’s breakfast. Not anymore. …Everybody has
either had contact with pornography or knows somebody who has. This is a topic for
Sunday morning.” 18
Also, according to a poll taken by Leadership Journal, forty percent
of Evangelical clergy struggled with pornography and approximately thirty-three percent
of Evangelical clergy had looked at Internet pornography within the last thirty days. In
the past, most pastors would not have spent money on prostitution, or extra-marital
affairs because they did not have the discretionary funds that most others have; however,
now it is a different story, as comparatively, pornography on the Internet is relatively
inexpensive or in many scenarios even free. Numerous counselors attribute solitude,
anonymity, lack of supervision and accountability, pressures, and spiritual weakness as
factors that contribute to the lack of pastoral integrity in this compulsive behavioral area.
The Problematic Effects of Internet Pornography
It is hard to believe that some would argue the merits of pornography, citing
certain positive social, cultural, and spiritual benefits and a lack of clear negative
theology on the matter; 19
yet, as Stephen Arterburn, a competent writer on the matter,
astutely argued, “‘The use of pornography is not a very good idea.’ Pornography is not a
very good idea because it makes a man less of a man, not more of one. It disables a man
from experiencing male sexuality in the competent way most men want to share it with
another female.” 20
Even if one would discard the clear theological perspectives opposing
the sinful aspects of pornography, socially, pornography reduces human beings to sexual
“Porn Comes to Church,” Christianity Today International, Leadership Journal, July 1, 2005,
www.christianitytoday.com/le/2005/summer/12.15.html, (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
Steven Watts, Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
and Sons, Inc., 2008), 184-186.
Arterburn, Christian Counseling Today, 12.
merchandise to be bought, sold, used, and discarded; and, anthropologically it often
diminishes human sexual behaviors to those not even practiced in the naturalistic animal
kingdom. Pornography rips the soul from a woman as it objectifies a woman’s very
being and causes men to develop a one-dimensional view of females that results in little
regard for a woman’s feelings or views. Incidentally, researchers have acknowledged
that while pornography may not be a solitary influence in people’s lives, exposure to it is
one important factor that contributes directly to the development of sexually
dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors. 21
It is not a very good idea for numerous other reasons as well. No one is
unaffected by the mental, emotional, spiritual, and often physical consequences of
viewing pornographic material. The collateral damage of these effects is not confined to
the individual’s viewing pornography; it extends to families and culture.
Pornography spoils the exclusive, wonderful, and intimate relationship God
intended for a man and woman to share in marriage. At least three studies support the
fact that women viewed cybersex and/or pornography consumption as a form of infidelity
that reduces the exclusivity of the relationship. 22
Women commonly feel betrayal, loss,
mistrust, devastation, and anger as responses to the discovery or disclosure of a partner’s
pornography use and/or online sexual activity. A 2000 study concluded that women
overwhelmingly felt cyber affairs were as emotionally painful as live or offline affairs;
Claudio Violato, et al, The Changing Family and Child Development, (Farnham, UK: Ashgate
Publishing Group, 2000), 53.
A. J. Bridges, R. M. Bergner, and M. Hesson-McInnis, “Romantic Partner’s use of
Pornography: It’s Significance for Women,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 29, (2003): 1–14; R. M.,
Bergner and A. J. Bridges, “The Significance of Heavy Pornography Involvement for Romantic Partners:
Research and Clinical Implications,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 28 (2002):193–206; J. P.
Schneider, “Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey.” Sexual Addiction and
Compulsivity 7 (2000): 31–58.
and, many viewed the online sexual activity to be just as much adultery or cheating as
live affairs. 23
Rather than driving a man toward a companion and wife, pornography
pushes a man into a world of selfish, compartmentalized solitude. God intended intimacy
between a husband and wife to be a driving force for life and excitement, while building
an intimate bond that is often the reboot key after experiencing life’s difficult conflicts
and struggles. Because a husband’s sexual drive has been satisfied by pornography, he
no longer needs to pursue or court his wife, leading to a moribund relationship void of
romance and rich intimacy. Pornography causes marriage to be more about the man than
the wife, as the husband progressively sees the wife as less than an equal. According to
Stephen Arterburn, pornography cheats the married couple in several significant ways.
Pornography cheats a woman of her security in knowing that she is the only one
he will ever approach for sexual fulfillment and security. It cheats the couple out
of a growing bond of deep intimacy from fully knowing each other. It cheats a
man out of his sexual competency and robs him of his desire to pursue his wife in
every way she loves to be pursued. Finally, it cheats a man out of his ability to
stand clean before his Lord, knowing he is a man of character and integrity.
When the heart cheats with pornography, everyone is robbed of the ideal that God
designed for us all. 24
Pornography can even rob a marriage before it ever begins. The argument has
often been posited that while pornography is bad for married men it is alright for the
single guy. This mindset is derived from the abstract thinking that the patterns and habits
developed as singles will totally disappear when the wedding vows are said. Anyone
involved in marital counseling knows that the single person does not make a radical
transformation at the point of marriage. Marriage does not cure the desire for
Schneider, J. P., “Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey.” Sexual
Addiction & Compulsivity, (2000): 7, 31–58.
Arterburn, Christian Counseling Today, 12.
pornography; instead, the desire for pornography tends to form bridges outside of the
relationship. These bridges become very difficult to burn.
Hugh Hefner’s first Playboy magazine, in 1953, encouraged men to indulge their
lust and view what was meant to remain private. His argument was that men were
entitled to see the secret parts of a woman. He promised an expanded sexual
consciousness and competency that the uptight and faithful would never experience. 25
Instead, Hefner’s pornographic culture has created anything but a sexual utopia. Hefner’s
sinful idealism and anti-God approach has created a generation of men who are
intimately and sexually incompetent. A man addicted to pornography, in most cases,
loses interest in his spouse because the porn viewing does not entail hassles, expectations,
or issues of performance. He generated a cohort of men that have suffered through
multiple failed marriages.
Cybersex is a major cause of separation and divorce. At a 2003 meeting of the
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who
attended said the Internet played a significant role in the divorces in the past year, with
excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half such cases. Pornography
had an almost non-existent role in divorce just nine or ten years ago. 26
Patrick Carnes, currently the leading United States researcher on sexual addictions, found
that among 932 sex addicts studied ninety percent of the men and seventy-seven percent
of the women reported pornography as significant to their addictions. He also found that
two common elements in the early etiology of sexually addictive behavior were
Watts, Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream, 172-180.
Divorce Wizards, “Divorce Statistics: Pornography Cyberporn and Divorce,”
http://www.divorcewizards.com/Divorce-Statistics-Pornography.html (accessed January 20, 2011).
childhood sexual abuse and frequent pornography. 27
Capitulating on his observation that
pornography was not a very good idea, an unnamed police officer once stated, “Not
everyone who views pornography is a sex deviant. But every sex deviant views
The Addictive Nature of Internet Pornography
By nature, pornography is addictive and progressive often emulating the
mortifying symptoms of the drug addict. Recent research has shown that porn viewing
on the Internet stimulates a powerful cocktail of neurotransmitters that floods the brain
and provides a high similar to that produced by narcotics. 29
Experts believe that a porn
addiction may be harder to break than a heroin addiction. 30
Dr. Victor Cline, Professor
Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and a highly respected
psychotherapist specializing in family and marital counseling and sexual addictions,
identified four stages of progression describing the addictive quality of pornography. 31
According to Dr. Cline, after exposure and repeated viewing of pornography, a person
enters the first stage of obsession, which is addiction. Dr. Cline noted that once addicted,
one could not throw off dependency on the pornographic material by oneself, despite
Patrick, Carnes, Don’t Call It Love: Recovery From Sexual Addictions (New York: Bantam
Books, 1991), 57.
Frank Schmitt, Uncreative Uses of the Computer, Class PowerPoint Presentation: DSMN 876,
Wendy and Larry Maltz, The Porn Trap (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), 18-
Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space, US Senate, Washington DC 2004: US Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, The Science Behind Pornography Addiction, Nov.
18, 2004, http://www.obscenitycrimes.org /Senate-Reisman-Layden-Etc.pdf. (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
Victor B. Cline, “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children,” Morality in Media, 2001 ed.
many negative consequences such as divorce, loss of family, and problems with the law,
problems that included such issues as sexual assault, harassment, or abuse of fellow
employees. Many of Dr. Cline’s clients have testified as to their extreme addiction to the
pornographic material in terms of having their whole lives consumed by it.
Dr. Cline observed from his patients that once addicted a person often reached the
second stage, which is escalation. At this stage, pornographic material that formerly
produced the high became ineffective; therefore, more material, longer viewing times,
and coarser, more degrading material was sought after to achieve the same degree of
stimulation. Men, at the stage of escalation, generally experienced a diminished capacity
to love and express affection to spouses in intimate relations leaving the wives to feel
lonely and rejected.
Following escalation is desensitization, the third stage. At this stage of one’s
obsession with pornography, the material originally perceived as shocking, taboo
breaking, illegal, repulsive, or immoral is perceived to be acceptable and commonplace.
The sexual activity depicted in the pornography is legitimized in one’s consciousness no
matter how antisocial or deviant it actually may be. Even though the pornographic
activity was possibly illegal and contrary to one’s previous moral beliefs and personal
standards, there is increasingly a sense of self-permission attached to the notion that
“everyone is doing it.” Men at this stage are convinced their pornography is a little secret
that is not hurting anyone; in fact, they believe it helps them cope with the stress of life
and marriage. Pornography is seen as a meaningless act that keeps them out of trouble
and out of the beds of other women. It is easy to fall into the frame of mind that
compares looking at pictures to physical involvement, and concludes that it is not that big
of an insult to the marriage. During this stage, the porn abuser soon forgets that each
viewing is an act of betrayal of his wife. 32
Dr. Cline’s final stage is an increasing tendency in acting-out what the user has
previously been exposed to and has experienced in pornography. This may include such
things as compulsive promiscuity, exhibitionism, group sex, and voyeurism, frequenting
massage parlors, having sex with minor children, rape, and inflicting pain on them or a
partner during sex. At this juncture, the behavior of the abuser frequently cultivates
sexual addiction and is unable to change or reverse the negative consequences. Many
examples of negative effects from pornography come from the private or clinical practice
of psychotherapists, physicians, counselors, attorneys, and ministers. It is in these
various stages of addictive pornography that healers come face to face with real people
who are in some kind of significant trouble or pain.
Developing a Church Program for Overcoming Addiction to Internet Pornography
Accepting Responsibility and Exhibiting Compassion
The beginning point for establishing a church program for overcoming addiction
to Internet pornography is a church’s willingness to accept responsibility and exhibit
compassion to men who have been beaten up and distressed by this cultural sin. Because
Internet pornography is such a looming issue, the Church must be prepared to help
hurting people, especially Christian men, overcome their sexual obsessions. However,
the problem is admitting that Internet pornography carries with it a stigma far worse than
that of other addictions such as drugs and alcohol. This negative stigma often prohibits
Arterburn, Christian Counseling Today, 13.
many men from seeking help for this problem at church. As Richard Land stated in the
Baptist Press, “You can go to your Sunday School class and say you have a real problem
with alcohol and ask the class to pray for you, but if you go to your Sunday School class
and say you need prayer for a problem with pornography, it would be like you set off a
stink bomb in the room.” 33
Therefore, a church must be challenged to lovingly accept the responsibility set
forth by the Apostle Paul to the brothers and sisters of church congregations everywhere,
“… if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person
gently.” The Apostle Paul emphatically followed that directive with, “Carry each other’s
burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1 NIV). The “law of
Christ” refers to the second part of the great commandment, “love your neighbor as
yourself” (Luke 10:27 NIV). The church’s responsibility is to help the sinner overcome
sin in spite of the stigma attached to it. The Apostle Paul reminded Christians, in the last
sentence of Galatians 6:1, that all are just a mouse click away from the same sin;
therefore, one should use caution, but do not be too proud to help.
When Jesus was challenged by His contemporary religious leaders about the issue
of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, He presented His explanation in the form of a
parable about a Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. One may apply the lessons from the
story to the church’s responsibility to help its neighbors who struggle with Internet
pornography. One may also presume that it is the Lord’s expectation that the body of
Christ demonstrate compassion even with such an ominous sin. The parallels between
the man who was attacked and one who has suffered the negative effects of pornography
are astounding. Like the victim of Jesus’ parable, the victim of Internet sin has been
Pierce, “Flood of Pornography Breaching the Church.”
stripped of dignity, beaten up emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and left lifeless on
the side of the road. However, when the opportunity to be a good neighbor and assist
such a victim as this occurs, the pastor of the church must not emulate the behavior of the
Pharisee and the church leaders ought not to follow in the footsteps of the Levite; rather,
it is anticipated by Jesus that the church would proceed with the same compassion as the
Good Samaritan. That is the point of His parable. The church must accept the
responsibility for helping and compassionately caring for one who suffers from such an
This kind of care and counseling can be provided by a church that has prayerfully
and thoughtfully constructed a comprehensive healing plan for those who suffer from the
addictive behavior that is attached to pornography. This healing plan is formed because
the church should be committed to the need for cultural change in the lives of men. The
plan should be assembled to include an easy access door for entry into a confidential
church-sponsored healing program, a system for support and encouragement during the
cathartic process, and a substantial group of supporters who have the necessary skills and
means to enable the plan to succeed in the church.
Changing the Culture
For a program of this nature to work, there must be willingness to create a new
culture in one’s life. Andy Crouch’s book, “Culture Making, Recovering Our Creative
Calling,” proposed that one’s creative purpose in life is to “make culture.” He defined
culture as “what we make of the world;” it is the name for one’s persistent, restless
human effort to take the world as it is presented and make something else of it.
According to Couch, this was the intent of the writer of Genesis when he said that human
beings were made in the image of God; so, just like the original Creator, humans are to be
creators as well, 34
continually cultivating and planting godly cultures wherever He calls
us to go.
Culture making occurs most often on a personal level but may extend to family,
community, and beyond depending on one’s power to cause change. However, some
Christian men have been diverted from God’s ordained task of creating godly culture and
have allowed the surrounding culture, the sinful pornographic culture of the world, to
control and influence. Therefore, to bring about change in the lives of men engulfed in
this fallen culture, a new culture must be created. Crouch put forward the notion that the
environment best suited for creating new culture moved outward through three concentric
circles of support, the center consisting of no more than three people, the next level of
assistance including no more than twelve people, and the final level of support not
exceeding one-hundred-twenty people, an example implemented by Moses and Jesus
Crouch also perceived that God graciously imparted talents, gifts, and abilities
to individuals to accomplish cultural changes. Crouch also suggested the larger grouping
of people include some who have the means to help form cultural change and others who
have a holy respect for power and a holy willingness to spend power alongside the
The concept of moving outward through three concentric circles of
influence is the basis for this author’s proposed model to help men move from the deviant
culture of pornography to a new righteous culture of godliness, freedom, and hope.
34 Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove, IL: IVP,
The numbers 3, 12, and 120 do not have to be exact and are representative of small medium and
Crouch, Culture Making, 263.
The key to success within the scope of this model is whether or not a man is
willing to “man up” and be fundamentally committed to imitating Jesus Christ, the
ultimate creator of new culture. The Apostle Paul said, “Follow God’s example,
therefore, as dearly loved children” (Eph. 5:1 NIV), resolutely affirming that one’s
highest calling as a man is the imitation of the pattern that Jesus provided in His life and
witness. Dr. Ron Hawkins said in his article, Jesus the God-Man, “Our personal
commitment as men to the disciplined practice of His imitation provides the anchor point
for our personal joy, our public and private worship, and our achievement of lasting
Committing to the culture of imitating Jesus is the initial step for recovery if
one is to overcome pornography.
The Word of God says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same
mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5 NIV), then goes on in the text to delineate four cultural
characteristics of Jesus Christ that men should seek to replicate. First, men should imitate
Jesus’ humility. Jesus surrendered His glory completely for the sake of others. Jesus
forsook the entitlement associated with His position in the heavens and embraced the
purposes of God for His life, even when that decision resulted in the loss of position and
relationships. Jesus’ life choices were formed within a deep awareness that He was
practicing in His daily life the unfolding will of the sovereign God who had sent Him on
His mission. Unquestioning obedience to the Father’s purposes and a deeper love for
fallen humans, than could ever be comprehended, guided the life of Jesus Christ the
Savior. One imitates Jesus when one surrenders to the control of the Word of God, when
one empties one’s life of the controlling addiction of pornography, and when one enters
Ron Hawkins, “Jesus the God-Man,” Christian Counseling Today 14, no. 1 (2006): 48-50.
into the world of serving and meeting the needs of others rather than serving one’s own
Second, men must emulate Jesus’ resolute commitment to service. In the pattern
of the bondservant of Exodus 21:5 and 6, Jesus is marked by His love manifested in the
service of others, even the undeserving. The Savior is divested of personal freedom and
committed to the wellbeing of those who are impacted by His commitments and choices.
Consequently, in the presence of opportunities to act selfishly and sinfully, the person
seeking to emulate Christ refuses personal fulfillment and consciously chooses to
authentically “be there for,” serve and love his Lord, his wife, and his children.
Third, men ought to replicate Jesus’ mental toughness. Men are privileged to
witness, in the life and ministry of Jesus, the mental toughness that helped Him view His
sufferings within the larger purposes of the Father’s determination to redeem His lost
creation, and facilitate His unyielding resistance of temptations that were common to all
men. The same mental toughness exuded by Jesus permitted Him to control His
circumstances, when faced with suffering and temptation, rather than allow those
situations to control His life. When men witness the sufficiency of God’s sustaining
grace and benevolence in the midst of personal trials and temptations, life is filled with an
integrity that has a transformative influence for good. Finally, men should copy the
peace Jesus demonstrated throughout His difficult ministry. Peace is a funny thing
because one cannot simply imitate peace. In order to duplicate peace, one must
experience peace. Men who heed the call to imitate Jesus will find a deep, personal
relationship with the One whose serenity is autonomous from human circumstances. His
peace is a special peace that gives freely to all who trust His words and His grace (Jn.
14:25-28). His is the peace that passes all human understanding and is a gift given by
Jesus to rule in the hearts and minds of men as it did in His (Phil. 4:6-7). As Christian
men, one’s greatest privilege and responsibility is to imitate Jesus’ peace from positions
of leadership in families, churches, and communities. When one is frazzled and losing it,
the man filled with peace from Christ can step into, not away from, the situation. Then,
empowered by the Holy Spirit and constrained by the desire to accurately reflect the
likeness of the Prince of Peace, one models and speaks a healing calm over the situation
and all its participants. 38
Christlikeness is the initial cultural change that is the goal of
the church program presented by this writer for helping men overcome the sinful
influence of pornography.
Establishing a Comprehensive Plan to Help
The following comprehensive church design plan is a model designed by this
author to help men struggling with the issue of pornography. The plan is called
“Construction 101 – How to Construct a Sacred Home,” and is referred to as “CBS.” The
inference of the title relates to First Corinthians 6:19 as it is derived from the Message
version of the Bible which states,
Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?
Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please squandering what God paid
such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property
belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So, let people
see God in and through your body…”
The purpose of the design plan is to enable men to construct the body into a home worthy
of housing the Holy Spirit. The mission of the program is to assist men in constructing a
solid new life culture to replace the old culture tainted by pornography. The program is
38 Hawkins, “Jesus the God-Man.” 48-50.
designed around the acronym CBS, which is a twist on the construction terminology for
“concrete block structure” or CBS construction as it is commonly called. CBS
construction is impervious to fire, rot, and termites. CBS can withstand hurricane-force
winds when properly reinforced with steel bars making this acronym perfect for the three
dynamics of the program: construct a foundation to build upon, build a support system
for reinforcement, and set up a larger team of supporters and enablers to complete the
project. The CBS program is designed for the church to assist a person who wants help
in overcoming pornography and its issues, and to build a house that cannot be destroyed
by the torrents of pornography’s devastating effects. (Matt. 7:24-27).
Constructing a foundation to build upon (three people)
Discussing the blueprints for change – Confidential one-on-one counseling is the initial
entry point into the program for help. At this point, one struggling with the issue of
pornography may make a personal, confidential, appointment at a church with a pastoral
counselor who is trained to deal with this specific issue. This pastoral counselor must be
sensitive to the fact that the person who is struggling with this issue is probably feeling a
great deal of shame and exhibits a reluctance to speak about it. Generally, a man will
come to counseling because the pornography has been exposed by someone at work, a
spouse, or a friend. Sometimes a man will seek help because the feelings of guilt and
shame have become arduous. In a confidential comfortable setting, the pastoral caretaker
can communicate acceptance and a willingness to understand the ongoing struggle of the
person seeking help. The person seeking help should be approached with grace rather
than judgment. Each pastoral counselor ought to include the following statement in the
The Bible clearly states “all have sinned.” It is my nature to sin, and it is yours
too. None of us is untainted. Because of sin, we’ve all hurt ourselves, we’ve all
hurt other people, and others have hurt us. This means each of us needs
repentance and recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended. 39
This statement will help break down barriers between the pastoral counselor and the
person seeking help.
During this initial meeting, the pastoral counselor will need to gently probe for
information that will be helpful in providing wise counsel and constructing a plan for
creating a new godly culture in the life of the person seeking help. The length of time the
person has been involved Internet pornography, as well as the extent of the involvement,
will need to be considered. Because honest confession and repentance are essential to the
change process, the pastoral counselor must determine how willing the person is to take
steps to change. The initial intervention for the person seeking help will be an activity
exploring David’s confession of sin in Psalm 51.
When concluding this initial session, the pastoral counselor provides hope to the
counselee that victory over this issue is entirely possible. Even though there will be times
of temptations and possible setbacks, God will be faithful to forgive and restore. The
counselee will be assured of continued support throughout the counseling process and
instructed to structure a system of accountability through the help of a trusted friend.
Five follow-up sessions delineating specific actions comprise the rest of the “construct a
foundation to build upon” phase.
Fleeing temptation – The first session helps the person identify all the activities and
locations that cause temptation. The counselee will be advised to avoid bookstores that
Rick Warren, Celebrate Recovery: About, (2011), http://www.celebraterecovery.com (accessed
Feb. 22, 2011).
sell pornographic materials. It may be a good idea for the counselee to only use the
computer when someone else is in the room and disconnect the phone from the Internet
altogether. Purchasing software that blocks access to the undesirable Internet sites is also
a viable suggestion.
Identify emotional triggers – The second session assists the counselee in identifying
emotional triggers. Alcoholics Anonymous has narrowed down four moods that trigger
most compulsive/addictive behaviors to the simple acronym HALT. Hunger, anger,
loneliness, and being tired are the most common triggers; therefore, the counselee ought
to be encouraged to take steps to minimize the triggers. There may be work associates,
stressful situations, even certain times of the day that trigger the temptation. The
counselee should be guided to discover which trigger is the strongest.
See it as sin – The third session aids the client in perceiving pornographic actions as sin
and takes away the counselee’s arguments for behavioral justification. During this
session, the pastoral counselor confers how God views the sin, the nature of forgiveness,
and God’s unconditional love. At this point, the pastoral counselor should evaluate how
the counselee perceives self in relationship to how the counselee is viewed by God.
Refocus on Christ – The fourth session facilitates the counselee’s refocusing on Jesus
Christ. It is crucial, since the overall goal of the spiritual construction plan is to imitate
Christ, that a plan is developed to deepen the counselee’s relationship with Jesus. A
significant plan will include the disciplines of daily scripture reading and prayer. The
plan should also include scripture memorization so the counselee can bring “every
thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5 NIV).
Moving upward – The final session is an exit interview of sorts. First, if married, it
evaluates the counselee’s relationship with the spouse and provides an invitation to meet
with both to explore the effects of this behavior on the relationship and to find healing for
wounds. Second, because Internet pornography can cause long-term problems, if this has
been a long-standing issue with a high degree of involvement, it may require enlisting the
support of a professional trained in the area of sexual addictions. Finally, after the series
of sessions, the counselee is invited to become part of a support group in the church with
other men who have struggled with the issue of pornography.
Building a support system (twelve people)
Becoming part of a support group is essential to overcoming the seductiveness of
Internet pornography and establishing the disciplines necessary to construct a new
personal culture of imitating Jesus Christ. In an excerpt taken from “Dealing With
Pornography,” a pamphlet in the “Close to Home” series published by Mennonite
Publishing Network, a young man named Steve remarked,
A few years later, I attended seminary to prepare for pastoral ministry. During
that time, my addiction progressed into more deviant and dangerous forms. I
began going to peep shows, renting X-rated videos, consuming more and more
porn, and masturbating compulsively. I kept pleading with God to release me
from this dungeon. Instead, my feelings of despair and isolation only drove me
deeper into the addictive cycle. Grace finally came in an unexpected way. I
befriended a young man who was an alcoholic and I began attending Alcoholics
Anonymous meetings with him. I found a spirit of hope and acceptance that I had
never experienced before. Somehow this community of broken people had found
a pathway to healing. That introduction to the twelve-step movement led me to
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). The relief I felt at my first SAA meeting
overwhelmed me. Here was a group of men who weren’t put off by my story,
who were being honest with one another, and who were dealing with their
Stories like this validate the critical importance of support groups in overcoming issues
such as pornography. The support group structure of “CBS” will not exceed twelve men
in order to stay consistent with the biblical model for culture change proposed earlier in
this paper by Andy Couch; and, the support group will implement a “spiritual” recovery
system for use in its group format.
Most people are familiar with the classic twelve-step program of Alcoholics
Anonymous and other groups. Throughout recent history, many people have been helped
through the twelve steps practiced by AA members and similar organizations; however,
within most twelve-step programs, there is vagueness about the nature of God, the saving
power of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In seeking a spiritual program
that is similar in format to the twelve-step programs that work so well, yet keeping with
the spiritual goals of “CBS,” this writer has selected “Celebrate Recovery” from
Saddleback Church, California as a support-group model to be followed. “Celebrate
Recovery” presents steps of recovery given in logical order by Jesus Christ in His most
Anonymous, “Hi, my name’s Steve and I’m a Porn Addict,” Canadian Mennonite 15, no. 2,
(Jan. 24, 2011): 8, www.proquest.com/ (accessed February 25, 2011).
famous message, “The Sermon on the Mount.” Following are the features that make this
program well suited for this writer’s suggested recovery program:
First, this recovery program utilizes the biblical truth that people need others in
order to grow spiritually and emotionally. The program is built around small-group
interaction and the fellowship of a caring community. There are many therapies, growth
programs, and counselors today that are built around one-on-one interaction; but,
“Celebrate Recovery” is built on the New Testament principle that people do not get well
without help. People need one another. Fellowship and accountability are two important
components of spiritual growth.
Second, “Celebrate Recovery” support system is based on the Bible, God’s Word.
“The Sermon on the Mount” begins with Jesus teaching eight ways to be happy; these are
commonly known as the Beatitudes. Taken at face value, most of these statements do not
make sense and even sound like contradictions. However, when one fully comprehends
what Jesus meant, one realizes that these eight principles are God’s road to recovery,
wholeness, growth, and spiritual maturity.
Third, this recovery program is forward looking. Rather than practicing
remembrance therapy and divulging in self-pity from the past, or dredging up and
rehearsing painful memories over and over, “Celebrate Recovery” focuses on the
future. This program emphasizes that regardless of what has already happened, the
solution is to start making wise choices in the present and depending on Christ’s power to
help one make those changes.
Fourth, this program for recovery stresses personal responsibility. Instead of
victimization and self-justification, this program assists people in facing one’s poor
choices and deals with what one can actually change. The secret is that one cannot
always control one’s circumstances; but, one can control one’s response to everything.
This is an important secret of happiness. When one ceases wasting time assigning blame,
there will be more time and energy to fix the problem. When a person stops hiding faults
and stops hurling accusations at others, the healing power of Christ can begin working in
the mind, will, and emotion.
Fifth, this recovery program emphasizes commitment to Jesus Christ; the program
calls for people to make a complete life surrender to Christ. This step is the key to lasting
recovery. Everyone needs Jesus for support to succeed in recovery. There is an
evangelistic element to this program in that a number of people outside the church will be
attracted to the program because of the lives it changes.
Finally, a significant aspect of this program is that it produces lay leaders.
Because the program is biblical and church-based, it produces a continuous stream of
people moving into ministry after finding recovery in Christ. Below are the eight
recovery principles based on the Beatitudes to be implemented in the “CBS” program
proposed by this author for developing a church program for overcoming addiction to
Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the
wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”
Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power
to help me recover. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.
“Blessed are the meek…”
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.
“Blessed are the pure in heart…”
Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and
humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. “Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness…”
Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and
make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so
would harm them or others. “Blessed are the merciful…” and “Blessed are the
Reserve time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer, in order
to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will
Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my
example and my words. “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do
what God requires.” 41
The “CBS” support group will meet once weekly. The format of the “CBS” support
group will consist of four sessions: worship, testimonies or teaching, share time, and
Setting up a larger team of supporters and enablers (one hundred twenty people)
The final component of developing a church program for overcoming addiction to
Internet pornography is setting up a team of supporters and enablers. This is a team of
people who have the resources and influence to create an environment for cultural change
John Baker, Celebrate Recovery: About (2011), http://www.celebraterecovery .com (accessed
Feb. 22, 2011).
in the lives of men seeking help and in the heart of the church. This part of the process
involves gathering people who have the power and means to sustain a ministry of this
sort. This is a team of people with the appropriate spiritual gifts and talents to enable
success within the church and community setting. This team should include, but is not
limited to, people who are able to support this ministry prayerfully, fiscally, medically,
professionally, administratively, and logistically. According to Couch’s model, this team
should not exceed more than one-hundred twenty people or it becomes too diluted to
succeed. Constructing a foundation through personal counseling, building a spiritually
guided support group, and setting up a larger team of supporters will enable this writer’s
church to effectively minister to men, to free men from the culture of pornography, and to
assist men with creating a new culture of imitating Jesus Christ.
It is imperative that a ministry willing to help those who struggle with sexual
problems has a correct theology about marriage and sexuality. A correct theology about
marriage and sexuality paradoxically places accurate restraints on sex; but at the same
time, opens the floodgates of sexual freedom and pleasure within a marriage relationship.
Rather than being the neglected or misrepresented topic that it is, a biblical understanding
of marriage and sexuality must be incorporated with the whole counsel of God and
preached in the appropriate church forums.
In the very beginning, God created both male and female together, in His own
image (Gen. 1:26-27). Individually, both reflect something of the divine image; but,
together male and female reflect even more of God’s essential being. God is love, God
forgives, and God is morally responsible. God makes and keeps His commitments; and,
God celebrates the joys of life. We are created in God’s image so these qualities are
within us and these are the essential qualities of holy marriage. As God personifies the
Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), so male and female grow together in love, joy, peace,
patience, and self-control. These godly qualities are nurtured in a marriage that will
express the image of God in the two partners and in the relationship. Therefore, God
intended for there to be a beautiful intimate, spiritual intercourse fostered in a marriage
relationship. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked, blissful, unashamed, and non-
inhibited in their husband-wife sexuality, just as God created them (Gen. 2:22-25). This
is the design of God for husband and wife. In private, husband and wife are to engage in
mutual celebration of love through sexual passion that is pleasurable to both partners, and
in ways that build up the godliness of each person. Any sexuality expressed outside of
God’s intended purposes is sin.
The events that occurred in Numbers 25:1 remind God’s people that sexual sin is
progressive. Its tendency is to draw people farther and farther from God. An innocent
flirtation with sexual sin more than often leads to deadly consequences. The Bible is very
clear about sexual sin. The Apostle Paul stated, “For this is the will of God, your
sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should
know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust” (1
Thess. 4:3-5 NIV). God created sex as a beautiful expression of love in marriage. Satan
took that beauty and distorted it. Sexual sin is inclusive of a wide range of activities that
are forbidden by God. No matter what society permits, believers must look to God for
instruction in this serious matter. Followers of Christ should avoid thoughts or activities
that distort the oneness in marriage intended by God. God’s commands are for the good
of His people because He knows the power of sexual sin to destroy.
Sometimes men mistakenly think certain parts of life can be concealed from
others. The Bible says, “I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give
each one of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:23). Nothing is hidden from God; no
sexual sin will escape His notice. Everywhere one goes, everything one says, thinks, or
does is seen by God. This understanding alone should help one steer clear of sexual sin.
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Swenson, Richard. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time
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Perpetrators.” www.safefamilies.org/sfStats.php (accessed Jan. 20, 2011).
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personality-type/mbti-basics/ (accessed December 6, 2011).
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Ashgate Publishing Group, 2000.
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Baker Books, 1999.
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Willard, Dallas. “Spiritual Disciplines – Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the
Soul.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 26.1 (Spring 1998): 101-109.
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Craig L. Younce
Born: July 6, 1955
Married: Terri Younce, December 19, 1974
Children: Tara, June 23, 1979; Craig, January 24, 1981; Sara. November 13, 1985
BA, Southwest Institute of Biblical Studies, 1978
MAR, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008
M.Div., Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009
Ordained: Southwest Community Church, Miami, Florida, 1978
Church Planter Certificate: Southern Baptist Convention, 2001
Clinical Pastoral Education: Vitas Innovative Hospice Care, 2012
Associate Pastor: Southwest Community Church, 1980-1984
Senior Pastor: Arch Creek Bible Church, 1984-1997
Deacon Pastor: Flamingo Road Church, 1997-1999
Church Planter: Palm Lake Baptist Association 2000-2002
Senior Pastor: Palms West Community Baptist Church, 2002-Present
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Counseling model for busy family physicians
Gail Greenberg, MSW Keren Ganshorn, BPT, MD, CCFP Alanna Danilkewich, MD, CCFP, FCFP
OBJECTIVE To provide family doctors in busy office practices with a model for counseling compatible with patient-centred medicine, including the techniques, strategies, and questions necessary for implementation. QUALITY OF EVIDENCE The MEDLINE database was searched from 1984 to 1999 using the terms psychotherapy in family practice, brief therapy in family practice, solution-focused therapy, and brief psychotherapy. A total of 170 relevant articles were identified; 75 abstracts were retrieved and a similar number of articles read. Additional resources included seminal books on solution-focused therapy (SFT), bibliographies of salient articles, participation in workshops on SFT, and observation of SFT counseling sessions taped by leaders in the field. MAIN MESSAGE Solution-focused therapy’s concentration on collaborative identification and amplification of patient strengths is the foundation upon which solutions to an array of problems are built. Solution-focused therapy offers simplicity, practicality, and relative ease of application. From the perspective of a new learner, MECSTAT provides a framework that facilitates development of skills. CONCLUSION Solution-focused therapy recognizes that, even in the bleakest of circumstances, an emphasis on individual strength is empowering. In recognizing patients as experts in self-care, family physicians support and accentuate patient-driven change, and in so doing, are freed from the hopelessness and burnout that can accompany misplaced feelings of responsibility.
OBJECTIF Offrir aux médecins de famille dont la pratique en cabinet privé est surchargée un modèle de counseling compatible à la médecine centrée sur le patient, notamment des techniques, des stratégies et des questions nécessaires à sa mise en œuvre. QUALITÉ DES DONNÉES Une recension a été effectuée dans la base de données MEDLINE de 1984 à 1999 à l’aide des mots clés « psychothérapie en pratique familiale, thérapie brève en pratique familiale, thérapie axée sur la recherche de solutions et psychothérapie brève ». On a identifié 170 articles pertinents; 75 résumés ont été cernés et un nombre à peu près égal d’articles ont été lus. Au nombre des sources d’information additionnelles figuraient des ouvrages fondamentaux sur la thérapie axée sur la recherche de solutions (TARS), les bibliographies des articles importants, la participation à des ateliers sur la TARS ainsi que l’observation de séances de ce genre de counseling enregistrées par des experts dans ce domaine. PRINCIPAL MESSAGE La concentration des thérapies axées sur la recherche de solutions portent sur l’identification et l’amplification conjointes des forces du patient constitue le fondement sur lequel repose la détermination de solutions à un éventail de problèmes. La thérapie axée sur la recherche de solutions est simple, pratique et relativement facile à administrer. Du point de vue d’un néophyte, le MECSTAT offre les paramètres qui facilitent le perfectionnement des compétences à cet égard. CONCLUSION La thérapie axée sur la recherche de solutions reconnaît que, même dans les circonstances les plus noires, l’insistance sur les forces du sujet se révèle habilitante. En reconnaissant les patients comme des experts pour prendre soin d’eux-mêmes, les médecins de famille soutiennent et accentuent les changements réalisés par le patient et, ce faisant, se libèrent de l’impuissance et de la fatigue professionnelle qui accompagnent parfois des sentiments mal placés de responsabilité.
This article has been peer reviewed.
Cet article a fait l’objet d’une évaluation externe.
Can Fam Physician 2001;47:2289-2295.
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C ounseling has been the subject of numer- ous family medicine journal articles, focus- ing on a variety of issues.1-9 All articles share one precept: family physicians are
in the uniquely privileged position of working with patients who present with an array of physical and mental health concerns and problems.
As family physicians shift their delivery of patient care from a disease-centred to a patient-centred clini- cal method, the search for a compatible counseling paradigm is timely. Solution-focused therapy (SFT) emerged in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the umbrella of brief therapy. It was pioneered by family therapists who developed a model of counseling that clearly departed from the psychotherapeutic theory and practice of the day.10 The name of the new approach, SFT, captured its fun- damental shift from a focus on problems to a focus on solutions. Counseling concentrated on solutions and on causes of problems, and conversations recognized clients as experts in solving their presenting problems. This idea, that “individuals have within them, or within their social systems, the resources to bring about the changes they need to make,”11 is what makes SFT so compatible with patient-centred clinical care.11
The medical literature has begun to support SFT as a collaborative counseling model that fits within a busy patient-centred family practice.12-15 Family physician advocates suggest that SFT’s concentration on patient strengths, abilities, and resources creates a counsel- ing atmosphere flavoured with hope and optimism. It places responsibility for change in the hands of patients by using empowering language and recognizing them as skilled in matters of self-care. In this way it is deeply respectful of patients as individuals and takes a more balanced approach to finding solutions.
Use of basic counseling skills, such as attending and listening, genuineness, empathy, positive regard, and reflection, provide the foundation upon which SFT is practised. The model is applicable to the variety of men- tal and physical health problems in family medicine, and contraindications are minimal.11-15 Giorlando and
Schilling state that the approach allows the medical encounter to be effective, yet efficient, in terms of num- ber and length of visits.12 It is consistent with a busy practice where 15 minutes seems like a lot of time to have available for a counseling appointment.
Quality of evidence The MEDLINE database was searched from 1984 to 1999 using the terms psychotherapy in family practice, brief therapy in family practice, solution-focused ther- apy, and brief therapy. A total of 170 titles were identi- fied. We decided to obtain abstracts when authors were physicians or nurses, the article title referred to a physical or mental health problem that presents in family medicine, the author was a recognized author- ity in SFT, or the title suggested an introductory or research focus. This left us with approximately 75 texts (articles, book chapters, and books) published over 10 years that were relevant to family practice.
Research on SFT’s effectiveness as a brief coun- seling model, though minimal, is promising.16-20 It is important to state at the outset, however, that studies comparing short- to long-term therapies indicate neg- ligible differences in outcome. In fact, de Shazer and Kim Berg21 go so far as to suggest that “all therapy models work” because, by and large, individuals ben- efit from talking to a counselor.
Outcome studies indicate that between 66% and 80% of SFT clients improved during therapy. This indi- cation supports 50 years of outcome studies22 compar- ing psychotherapeutic approaches. Process studies evaluating specific SFT techniques suggest effective- ness, yet once again, the number of studies is small. When scientific research on SFT is rigorous, results consistently demonstrate it to be effective in assisting patients to accomplish their treatment goals.
Assumptions of therapy The following core assumptions are at the root of SFT and provide key ideas that drive the practice and tech- niques of this counseling model.11,23,24
• Change is constant, inevitable, and contagious. Solution-building conversations identify, elaborate, and reinforce change behaviour.
• Patients are experts on their lives. Our job is to sup- port and amplify this expertise.
• Presuppositional language emphasizes the presump- tion that change will occur, creating an atmosphere of “when,” not “if.”
• Patients have strengths, resources, and coping skills that drive change while generating optimism and hope.
Ms Greenberg is Medical Education Coordinator, Dr Ganshorn is an Assistant Professor, and Dr Danilkewich is Residency Program Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Ms Greenberg is a non-physician member and Drs Ganshorn and Danilkewich are physician mem- bers of the Section of Teachers of Family Medicine in the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
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• Exceptions to the identified problem are often under- valued. Because exceptions are part of solution behaviour, solution-building conversations explore them in considerable detail.
• Extensive information about a problem is rarely nec- essary to bring about change.
Overview of interview The literature on SFT is abundant. We suggest the acronym, MECSTAT, conceived by and borrowed from Giorlando and Schilling,12 as a good place to start for beginning practitioners of this model (we have slightly altered the acronym to reflect our own vision). The approach incorporates the fundamental and essential components and language of SFT, its nuts and bolts, and molds them into a model that is easy to both learn and use (Table 1). Although the literature on SFT is extensive, MECSTAT is the only documented model we found that clearly, succinctly, and sequentially walks counselors through the tech- niques of SFT.
The model captures the essence of SFT. In any given encounter with a patient, a physician can combine the steps depending on time available, the problem, the patient’s readiness to change, and the physician’s emerging skill level and comfort with various techniques. Each visit ends with assigning a task that keeps patients focused on solution build- ing.
Posing miracle, exception, coping, and scaling ques- tions are central to solution-building conversations (Table 2).25-28 By asking these questions, we remind patients of many things: change is constant; excep- tions to problems exist; coping indicates strength; goals that are important to and defined by patients help drive and sustain change; and change, commit- ment to change, and the confidence that change will occur is measurable in increments.
Questions are asked using presuppositional language. Inherent in any question is the presumption that change is inevitable and probably already happening. Use of the word “suppose” implies that the patient knows the answer and, if not, encourages imagining an alternative.
“When you are on track to solving the problem that brought you in today,” elicits problem-solving skills and suggests that the problem will be resolved. Additional examples of presuppositional language include asking
“instead of ” questions (“What will you be doing instead of crying?”), “difference” questions that explore exceptions and reinforce change (“What will your spouse notice you are doing differently when you are coping better with the pain?”), and the use of tentative speech suggesting change (“Could it be that you are already on track to deal with the drinking problem?”).
Miracle questions After meeting with patients and getting a brief descrip- tion of presenting problems, posing the miracle ques- tion signals the onset of solution talk.29 This question and all related amplification questions help patients iden- tify a goal, something that will be improved or different to signal that treatment has been successful. Because SFT is goal oriented, miracle and related questions facili- tate description of a goal that indicates the presence of something different, rather than an absence, something that is concrete, in the present, in patients’ language and control, and indicative of beginnings.
Although there are variations of the miracle ques- tion, we suggest that a good place to begin is with the following: “I am going to ask you a question that
M Miracle questions
E Exception questions
C Coping questions
S Scaling questions
Table 1. Solution-focused therapy using MECSTAT
Table 2. Miracle question: Variations on a theme
Imagine that, while you are sleeping tonight, a miracle happens. You wake up tomorrow, and you sense that you are on track toward making a decision. What will you be doing differently that will tell you that you are on track?
Imagine 6 months into the future, after you have successfully solved the problem that brings you here today. What will be different in your life that will tell you the problem is solved?
Pretend the problem is solved. What are you doing differently?
If I have a video camera and follow you around when you have solved this problem, what will I see that will tell me this?
What will be the first sign that a piece of the miracle is happening?
• Who will be the first to notice this is happening?
• What will others notice about you that will tell them this is happening?
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is different from those you might have heard before. It is going to require that you do some pretending. Suppose that tonight, after our meeting, you go home, go to bed, and fall asleep. While you are sleeping, a miracle happens, and the miracle is that the problem that brought you here is solved. But, because you are asleep, you do not know that the miracle has hap- pened. When you wake up tomorrow morning, what will be the first thing you notice that will tell you the miracle has happened?” (Table 2).
This question encourages patients to construct a vision of the future. All related questions serve to amplify the description, providing details of what the
“solution picture” will look like. Merely posing the miracle question appears to act as a catalyst for people on the cusp of making changes. As with all the other components of MECSTAT, asking the miracle ques- tion and then subsequent questions can be a stand- alone intervention (also called a single-step strategy). Because it elicits and amplifies patient goals, the mira- cle question is the place to begin.
Usually, we ask a presession change question before the miracle question; often a small piece of the miracle (the goal) happens between the time an individual books an appointment and then comes in to the office. “Many times, in between the call for an appointment and the appointment, people notice that already things seem different. What have you noticed about your situation?” This question focuses on differ- ences and signals to patients an intention to draw on strengths and resources.
Exception questions These questions are intended to uncover patients’ suc- cesses and strengths. Exception questions operate from the presumption that there are always times when the identified problem is less intense or absent and when pieces of the desired solution picture appear. Patients often paint a problem picture that is univer- sally present, and exception questions short-circuit this presentation by eliciting exception behaviour, instances when the desired outcome is happening,
“even if only a little bit.” Once patients identify excep- tions, physicians amplify their role in the solution pic- ture30 (Table 3).
Coping questions Hopelessness is often expressed by patients in the grip of crises or chronic problems, and it behooves physicians to rise above it. Coping questions enable both patients and physicians, particularly in sit- uations that seem overwhelmingly hopeless, to
accept patients’ perceptions of their situations, and then highlight how patients cope with and endure difficulty31-33 (Table 4). These kinds of questions uncover concrete acts taken by people coping with adversity and provide a foundation upon which to build solutions.
Scaling questions Scaling questions are useful for making vague patient perceptions concrete and definable. They measure problem severity, progress toward a goal, confidence, and commitment to a goal.28 On a 10-point scale, the number 10 represents the most positive end of the scale. Asking a patient to “scale” items transforms a description of something important into an acces- sible and measurable entity. This then becomes a starting point from which future progress can be assessed (Table 5).
Table 3. Exception questions
Are there times now that a little piece of the miracle happens? Tell me about these times. How do you get that to happen?
What will you do to make that happen again?
What will your husband (for example) say you need to do to increase the likelihood of that (exception) happening more often?
What is different about the times when the problem does not happen, or when it is less severe or less frequent?
Table 4. Coping questions
How did you manage to get yourself up this morning?
How are you preventing things from getting worse?
That sounds nearly overwhelming. How do you manage to cope?
I understand how hard this is for you. How did you manage to get to the office today?
Table 5. Scaling questions
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the problem solved and 1 is the worst it has ever been, where is the problem today?
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning you have every confidence this problem can be solved and 1 meaning no confidence at all, where are you today?
If 10 means you are prepared to do anything to find a solution and 0 means that you are prepared to do nothing, how would you rate yourself today?
What will you need to do to go from a (for example) 3 to a 3.5?
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If a patient scales a problem at 1 or 2, you might ask, “How will you know when you reach 2.5?” This question requires the patient to identify the next step and to begin solving the problem. If confidence is scaled at 1, asking, “How did you manage to come in today?” encourages a patient to recognize that action is possible even with low confidence. If confidence is scaled at 3, a question like, “What do you need to do in order for your confidence to move to 3.5?” will encourage thinking in concrete terms of strate- gies needed to sustain and increase confidence. When patients have trouble thinking in terms of forward movement, a question like, “What do you need to do to maintain the progress at 3?” frees up both patients and physicians to recognize that sometimes, treading water is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Time-out Because SFT is a counseling model used by a variety of health care professionals, using time-out is prac- tical for some and not for others. Time-out allows both clients and counselors to reflect on conversa- tions they have just concluded. When a session has been observed by colleagues behind a one-way mir- ror, counselors use the time-out for consultation. At the onset of each session, counselors inform clients that a time-out will occur toward the end of their time together that day. This time-out prepares clients to receive the accolades and task assignment that follow.
Family physicians should limit time-outs to a min- ute or two, during which time physicians leave the examining room to mentally list the accolades to deliver moments later. Although time-outs are not always feasible, the rationale for using them warrants reinforcement: the accolades we offer patients are part of solution talk, and taking a minute or two to identify praise statements is important.
Accolades Using accolades is a simple strategy that packs a pow- erful punch. Integral to solution-building conversa- tions, its effect is multiple: it validates any progress that patients make; it encourages patients by remind- ing them of personal power over their well-being; it emphasizes strengths and abilities; it sets up the expec- tation that past success is an excellent indicator of future possibilities; it fosters confidence; and it facili- tates relationship building and maintains rapport.29
Accolades take many forms, including compliments and cheerleading. Simple statements are intended to reflect back to patients positive observations about something they have said or done. When accolades
take the form of cheerleading, they encourage patients to think aloud about personal accomplishments. “How did you decide to do that?” or “How do you explain that?” reinforces and accentuates exception behaviour.
In reality, once you get your head around the power behind the use of accolades, it becomes, for some of us, the easiest and most supportive first step in solution talk. When we focus on small things patients do to overcome adversity, we quickly begin to notice strengths and accomplishments. These become the subject of compliments.
Task Assessing patients’ change readiness in terms of the cycle of change by Prochaska et al34 influences the negotiated task. Webster summarizes it quite nicely:
Clients who are very unsure about what they want from therapy are usually not given assignments. Those who have a defined complaint are given the task to observe when exceptions occur. Clients who are willing to change are given “doing” tasks, which amplify existing exceptions and construct different kinds of interactions in their real life.35
The homework task is discussed at the end of the session, after the time-out. As physicians begin to learn to use this model, we suggest the following as possible generic assignments to negotiate with patients: think about the times when an exception occurs and note dif ferences; observe for positive changes; do more of the exceptions and pay attention to the consequences; pretend to do a small piece of the miracle picture; pretend you know what to do to start solving the problem and try it out; and finally, think about what you are doing to prevent the situa- tion from worsening.36
Benefits and caveats Shifting from one’s favourite counseling approach to one that is new and unfamiliar is not without peril. We have experienced first-hand the dissonance from such an endeavour. The benefits of using this approach, however, far outweigh the discomfort of a counseling situation when we are barely one step ahead of patients in our own knowledge and experience.
Solution-focused therapy is easily integrated into patient-centred clinical care. Its language is both hope- ful and optimistic. Appreciating that change occurs in small increments means that goal behaviour is readily accessible and attainable, thus creating a posi- tive climate for both patients and physicians. Solution- focused therapy puts ownership of their health back
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into the hands of patients, and in so doing reminds them of the control, authority, and responsibility they have over their lives. This feels good to patients and doctors alike. It relieves physicians of the silent bur- den of having to come up with the right answers, while providing tools to find answers.
Ample literature supports using SFT with patients in a variety of situations: psychiatric disorders, sexual abuse, grief, palliative care, family dysfunction, weight loss, addictions, and physical disability, to name a few.26,28-33 It is important to clarify, however, that SFT is dif ferent from long-term, traditional counseling approaches in its assumption that patients are capa- ble of moving forward and growing in spite of incom- plete understanding, insight, or resolution of deep, underlying problems. Although these problems are not denied, patients determine the pace of discovery and relevance to the current solution.
Contraindications are minimal, and can generally be described as any situation where counseling in family physicians’ offices is contraindicated: emergen- cies, life-threatening situations, threats of suicide, or psychotic episodes. Time restraints of family practice often mean that physicians learning to use the model take a “single step” approach. We encourage learners to select bits and pieces of the acronym MECSTAT, become familiar with its language and method of ask- ing questions, and then gradually build on as comfort with the model grows. Quite often, scaling is a good place for new learners to get their feet wet (for exam- ple, scaling “coping” and “hope” in a patient with depression). On the 10-point scale, scaled information provides a small goal to work on between appoint- ments (patients could choose to maintain hopefulness at a particular number as a week’s goal, or perhaps pay attention to coping behaviour).
The biggest hurdle in implementing the model lies in initially trying to do too much, given time and knowledge constraints, which can be very frus- trating. Solution-focused therapy as a conceptual model is user-friendly, and steps can be taken one at a time. We like keeping visual reminders in the room with us during practice sessions, reminding us what to do when clinical encounters begin to sound like problem talk instead of solution talk. We encourage new learners to read SFT material (the reading will help address various dilemmas, such as when patients present the solution in terms of changes in another’s behaviour, or of the absence of something). Do a little, monitor SFT attempts in patient charts, follow up with SFT strategies, and practise, practise, practise!
Conclusion Solution-focused therapy is a brief counseling model that seems uniquely adaptable to patient-centred care. The MECSTAT acronym offers a ready-to-use tool that captures the essence of the model and provides a step-by-step guide for new learners. Best of all, phy- sicians who have used SFT describe its optimism and hopefulness with patients whose lives sometimes seem bleak. This counseling model offers both patients and physicians a new way to discuss the intricacies of life that is refreshing, effective, and filled with promise and change.
Competing interests None declared
Correspondence to: Ms Gail Greenberg, Regina General Hospital,
1440—14th Ave, Regina, SK S4P 0W5; fax (306) 766-4041;
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Editor’s key points • Solution-focused therapy is a practical method of
counseling for busy family physicians that is both efficient and effective.
• Solution-focused therapy is based on assumptions that change is inevitable, that patients are experts on their own lives, that patients have strengths and resources, and that they can be supported to find their own solutions.
• Solution-focused therapy is patient-centred and expresses optimism that problems can be solved.
Points de repère du rédacteur • La thérapie axée sur la recherche de solutions
représente un mode pratique de counseling pour les médecins de famille affairés, qui est à la fois efficiente et efficace.
• Cette thérapie se fonde sur l’hypothèse que le changement est inévitable, que les patients sont les experts quant il s’agit de leur propre vie, qu’ils ont des forces et des ressources, et qu’ils peuvent être appuyés dans la recherche de leurs propres solutions.
• La thérapie axée sur la recherche de solutions est centrée sur le patient et est empreinte d’optimisme quant à la résolution des problèmes.
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