The article Interventions That Apply Scripture in Psychotherapy by Fernando Garzon (2005) examines core issues pertaining to therapists’ use of Christian teachings as contained in the bible to the benefits of clients. The paper uses a hypothetical case study of a 30-year-old construction worker named “George” facing depression, low self-esteem, and insomnia. The article uses George’s case to prescribe a number of strategies that Christian counselors can employ in working Christian clients. It takes the problem-solution approach by highlighting potential problems that come with Christian approach and possible answers.
Through this case, Garzon (2005) presents issues that may crop up in relating and counseling clients. The author informs his audience about the potential ethical pitfalls that face the practice such as dual relationships between Church and state that characterized by one actor imposing values on the other in such a kind of therapy. Another critical issue is the client’s informed consent over the use of the Christian teachings as opposed to the contemporary secularized psychological approach. Garzon is insistent that a client must be positive about integration of Christian teachings in the intervention. He addresses both implicit integration and explicit integration with psycho-educational approaches that is offered in most cases.
The author has also introduced the behavioral approach in the Christian context. The behavioral approach may seek to alter behavior by either choosing to bring change in behavior through theology or psychology. Garzon cites the example of job in the bible when he was dealing with grief. However, Garzon is cautions counselors against pushing their views on their clients. This is in recognition of the fact that bible teachings are open to different interpretations depending on one’s own character, expectations and experiences in life. As such, counselors should give room to clients, if they are believers, to make their own interpretations of the scriptures by providing guidance only. The author suggests giving scripture e verses to the clients so that they can read on their own.
The article by Garzon (2005) caught my consideration since I have been using sacred texts in guiding for more than twenty years. To some degree, I was attracted to the paper in view of my own want to approve the way I have been directing individuals in the course of recent decades. Moreover, I needed to peruse the article to check whether it would have been important to “protect” what I feel is a fundamental component that recognizes Christian directing from other customary psychotherapies—to be specific, the utilization of sacred texts in guiding.
At first glance, I was looking for scientific evidence to support and validate my strong and heartfelt position concerning the importance of scriptures in counseling. Having originally trained in experimental psychology, I had hoped to find solid empirical research that yielded “hard data” to defend my “cause.” To some extent, I was disappointed to find that Garzon’s (2005) article consisted entirely of a hypothetical case study of a man named “George.” However, as I carefully read the article, I was pleasantly surprised by the ways that the author used “George” to illustrate how scriptures can be utilized effectively in counseling, while at the same time being sensitive to the client-specific factors—such as George’s unique history, and his religious training and experiences.
After I finished the article and “sat back” to think about it, I wondered whether it would be possible to actually conduct experimental research on the use of scriptures in counseling. I tried to imagine what such research would “look like,” in terms of experimental design and other research-based considerations. After a bit of reflection, I decided that I would do a literature review and see if there is any extant, solid, scientific research that confirms what I have discovered to be self-evident throughout my Christian counseling career—namely, that the truth, as contained in the scriptures, is a sine qua non for genuine Christian counseling.
Borrowing from Garzon’s article, a counselor can apply the approach to address a situation facing a hypothetical client. For now, the hypothetical clients is a 27-year-old man named Alex who served in the US Army for several years before retiring. He enlisted in the army immediately after graduating from high school, and he figured that serving in the army was an ultimate calling. However, since he retired from the service, he has been facing difficulties in finding employment. Recently, he was forcefully admitted to a Veterans Administration Hospital showing symptoms of PTSD and self-destructive ideas. He had not been sleeping well and was experiencing unpleasant flashbacks to a period when he was serving in a tour in Iraq when delayed in shooting a suicide bomber leading to some soldiers in his unit being blown up into pieces. Such memories were not pleasant and has affected him a lot in the recent past.
Alex was brought up under the Roman Catholic Church but had not been particularly keen on practicing the faith. However, after returning home and meeting up with some families who lost loved ones serving in his unit, he had grown to question his faith a lot. During his stay in hospital, he specifically requested a Christian counselor to guide him through his mental anguish. The case was allocated to a psychotherapist student working on his master’s program as a learning case with the guidance of the instructor. The therapist was an avid Christian who had his theology course.
To start with, the primary issue that should be considered for this situation would be informed consent. According to Garzon (2005), any usage of Christian teachings in counseling should be preceded by “clear informed consent procedures” (p. 114). However, the current hospital setting would not offer the necessary support infrastructure in terms of a church or other faith-based paraphernalia. Furthermore, it is not clear that such a formalized hospital under government sponsorship would agree to such a Christianized therapy as opposed to more secular professional help that is more recognized and acknowledged in such settings. Thus, it is not clear that the client’s informed consent to faith-based counseling would be acceptable to the authorities and would be considered professional enough.
Another possible issue to crop up would be the faith differences between the client and the counselor. Given that the counselor is Pentecostal and the client adverse to Roman Catholicism, core fundamental issues between the various denominations could serve as setbacks to the working of the parties. It might be amazingly troublesome for the counselor to treat the customer in a manner that would not antagonistically influence the customer’s nature of care and his treatment result based on subtle differences in their beliefs.
Past the aforementioned potential pitfalls, there are two possible ways to address the issue. Given the clients conditions, the counseling can be approached either behaviorally or psychologically through the usage of a procedure called “sign controlled” calming down. This procedure includes utilizing an interim vibration (from a gadget taking after a pager) to incite the client to take a moderate full breath at different intervals throughout the day. As the client breathes in, he can be instructed to state, “I am… ” Then, when exhaling, the customer can state, “relieved of the burden… ” This way, the counselor can use the scriptures to show that the death of his mates in Iraq through an explosion was not his own doing but rather the work of God. In this way, the clients learns how not to carry the burden of death of his colleagues and attribute such deaths to the workings of God who teaches that all things work for good for those who believe in God.
Garzon, F. (2005). Interventions that apply scripture in psychotherapy. Journal of psychology and theology 33(2): 113-121.