Integration of Psychological and Spiritual Transformation -
From a Christian Worldview
Psychology and Counseling
The integration of spirituality within the field of psychology has become a central topic among clinicians especially within the past 30 years. However, the concept of integrating spirituality and psychology is a controversial one - particularly within the Christian worldview. Some prefer to reject psychology completely and look for a Christian model of helping that is completely scriptural. Of this approach, Mark McMinn writes "while this is an ambitious endeavor, and one that we admire, it seems to overlook the possibility of finding truth through created order as well as in Scripture. By looking only to Scripture, these counselors foreclose the possibility of learning through contemporary science. As a result, stunning scientific advances in treating many conditions are overlooked in deference to approaches deemed to be more consistent with Scripture."
Integrative Psychotherapy is integrative in two areas - theologically and theoretically. Theological integration means that therapy begins with a Christian worldview of people and the process of transformation. Theoretical integration refers to an approach to find value in evidence based approaches across various sciences, theories, and techniques of psychotherapy in the area of human growth and development.
An integrated model of counseling begins with foundations of Christian theology. Based on the understanding that humans are made in the image of God, theologians look to three approaches in an effort to understand both God and man - functional, structural, and relational. Functional views purport that humans have the capacity to manage themselves and their environment, and to be transformed into Christ's image in a way that is manifested in actions. Structural views suggest that the image of God is substantive, an embodied capacity that reflects God's character. Put another way, structural views consider morality and rational thinking as the substance of God's image in humanity. Relational views focus on God's desire to relate as revealed in humanity and throughout the Gospel.
Integrating spirituality and counseling begins with the belief that we are created in God's image; therefore, people are created for intimacy with God and with others. Closely following that principle is the understanding that our abilities for effective relationships are compromised as a result of living and participating in a sinful world where pain is inevitable. Emotions, desires, attachments, beliefs about God, self and others are all critical areas for reflection and exploration in order to create space for healing, restoration, and transformation in the integrated counseling process.
The psychological theoretical foundations that inform my work are the areas of attachment, object relations, and interpersonal neurobiology. Each of these theories of human growth and development are consistent with Scriptural truths. In addition, all of them have been extensively scrutinized with valid and reliable research.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
"Scripture provides all the words from God that we need in order to know God truly and personally, and everything we need Him to tell us in order for us to live an abundant, godly life (Ps. 19:7–9; 2 Tim. 3:15). God has given His people a sufficient revelation of Himself so that they are able to know, trust, and obey Him. '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).
God commands that nothing be added or taken away from the Bible, which indicates that it has always been exactly what He has wanted at each stage in its development throughout the history of salvation. 'You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you' (Deut. 4:2; cf. Deut. 12:32; Prov. 30:5–6). The powerful admonition against tampering that stands at the conclusion of the entire Bible (Rev. 22:18–19) applies primarily, of course, to the book of Revelation, but in a secondary sense what it says may be applied to the Bible as a whole: 'I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book' (Rev. 22:18–19).
Believers should find freedom and encouragement in the knowledge that God has provided all of the absolutely authoritative instruction that they need in order to know him and live as he intends. God’s people should never fear that he has withheld something they might need him to say in order for them to know how to please him, or that he will have to somehow supplement his Word with new instructions for some new situation that arises in the modern age. (The NT allows for the activity of the Holy Spirit in leading and guiding individuals, as in Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16, 18, 25; but this guidance is always in line with Scripture, never in opposition to scriptural commands.)
Therefore believers should be satisfied with what Scripture teaches and what it leaves unsaid. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29)."
- ESV Study Bible
The following paragraphs offer an overview of the core beliefs that form the foundation of my beliefs and approaches to spiritual transformation. Much of the text below is either directly taken from Ruth Haley Barton's manuscript (copyright 2011) through The Transforming Center or in some cases, is an adaptation of her document.
“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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 Corinthians 3:17-18