Thursday, September 08, 2005

Survey on Integrating Religious Faith and Counseling

I received an email yesterday from Gregory K. Popcak, founder and director of Pastoral Solutions Institute, a counseling ministry devoted to helping Catholics with personal, marital, and family problems through the integration of their faith and "cutting-edge psychology." Mr. Popcak wrote:

....your site was recommended to me by a reader. The organization I direct is conducting a major study examining Christian (Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox) attitudes toward the integration of religious faith and counseling. The study does not assume that respondents have ever been or ever will be in counseling. We are just interested in readers' opinions. These opinions would help church leaders make decisions about meeting the needs of souls in their care.
He proceeded to ask if I would be willing to post a link to the survey with the following announcement:
You are invited to participate in an online study examining Christian attitudes toward integrating religious faith and counseling. The study is completely anonymous. The study does not assume that you have been or ever will be in counseling. The study is only interested in your opinions. It is hoped that this study will help Church leaders make decisions about the best way to provide assistance to the souls in their care. Your participation would make a valuable contribution to this goal.

To qualify for this study, you must be 18 years or older. All information will be kept completely confidential and anonymous. To learn more about the survey, or to participate, please click this link.
Obviously, I agreed to Mr. Popcak's request but that should not be interpreted as an endorsement of his theology or methods. If you've been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that the relationship between counseling psychology and the Christian faith is of great interest to me. I'm of the opinion that at least within American evangelicalism, psychotherapeutic concepts and categories have so captivated believers' minds that in many respects we are incapable of thinking biblically and theologically about ourselves and our problems. The acceptance of psychotherapeutic and pop-psychological diagnoses leads to the conclusion that the Bible is largely irrelevant to what ails us. Instead of such uncritical acceptance, what's needed is serious thinking about how biblical themes and concepts might offer alternative interpretations of and explanations for the same symptoms secular counseling theories have diagnosed according to their philosophies of life.

Yesterday I also read an article Robert C. Roberts contributed to the Winter 2003 volume of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology called "Psychotherapy and Christian Ministry" in which he writes:
Whether or not people are actually in therapy, they do learn from therapies to construe themselves as needing higher self-esteem before they can move on to more functional behavior, or as being the seat of certain defense mechanisms, or as having been put out of touch with their perfectly reliable internal valuing process by too much social pressure to conform, or as being victims of inadequate parenting in early life. If we prefer to spread the spiritual influence of Christian reflection rather than an alien framework like the psychology of the inner child or the ideology of codependency, then we have a positive reason for sticking with the psychology of the Christian tradition. As Christian ministers, we want to couch our psychological help as much as possible in the edifying language of the Christian message.
I agree. That said, I took the Pastoral Solutions Institute survey this morning and ask you to consider assisting Mr. Popcak in his research. It will be interesting to see the results.

1 comment:

Tyler Simons said...

I'm of the opinion that at least within American evangelicalism, psychotherapeutic concepts and categories have so captivated believers' minds that in many respects we are incapable of thinking biblically and theologically about ourselves and our problems.

That seems to be a serious problem in some dioceses of the Episcopal Church as well.