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In the revolutionary book of Mark R. McMinn, PhD: Psychology, Theology and Spirituality in Christian Counseling (1996) we can find practical guidelines on using religion as a part of a cognitive therapy. The author is an experienced counselor and professor. He stresses the importance of faith in one-on-one and group therapy sessions, focusing on research and studies proving the efficiency of this approach. McMinn is an author of more than a hundred articles on the topic and is considered to be an expert in spiritual healing methods. He focuses on relational cognitive behavioral therapy, which is suitable for working with patients from non-Christian background as well.
McMinn provides readers with several practical examples on how to integrate prayer and faith in therapy sessions. He also proves that spirituality is an effective method, even when the therapist comes across a non-believer and he uses the cognitive behavioral therapy as a basis, implementing spiritual features into the sessions. McMinn also stresses the importance of creating understanding and trust between the counselor and patient prior to starting a treatment. Studying the Bible and praying has a positive effect on understanding Christian doctrines, which form the basics of today's public morale teachings. Although the author admits that Christian and Biblical approach is not popular in today's counseling, it should be used by more therapists according to the patient's views and needs. In the first part of the book, the author mentions that Christian authors do not turn to psychology in their books or publications, either. He stresses the importance of putting the healing power of faith into practice to serve humankind.
McMinn does not only stress the importance of faith in Christian counseling, but also the personal development of the counselor. All professionals using Christian doctrines and teachings during their sessions should aim to achieve spiritual maturity. To successfully use Biblical texts, sacraments and prayers for healing, they need to study the scripts and use them to provide the right spiritual guidance. The book offers a practical guide for Christian counselors to develop the right skills to be able to implement spirituality in their practice. Using Scripture as a tool of healing is not common in modern psychology, however, it should be used more often. The main aim of the book is to turn Christian counselors’ attention to Scripture. As he states: “Our knowledge of God , self and Scripture are all interrelated , but our capacity to understand any one of these elements will add to our ability to understand the others (McMinn , 1996 , p .24 .)
One of the most important sacraments of Christian faith: forgiveness is used in modern psychology, however, not used as a powerful spiritual tool by Christian therapists. Forgiveness is a Christian duty, and should be exercised by counselors and patients to – as modern, non-Christian psychologists would say – let go. Simply by allowing patients to feel the forgiveness of God would have a positive effect on their sense of security and would provide them comfort when they need it.
I personally have experienced the benefits of spiritual healing back in my high school years. We attended a camp where we had a spiritual session. The priest who held the workshop for us was in his 50-s and he also wrote many books regarding spirituality and the power of faith. In the end of the second day we all had an opportunity to visit him privately for confession. When I entered the room, he was just standing there, waiting. I could not say anything just stood there, feeling the power of knowledge and forgiveness transferred by the priest. I tried to speak but I think that all I could say in five minutes was that “I did bad things”. He suddenly stood up and lifted me as well. He hugged me which made me cry and whispered: “He forgives.” Although these two words were all the priest said, the spiritual level connection based on the common beliefs helped me feel clean and start again.
When McMinn mentions the power of forgiveness, (1996) he uses an unique approach to spiritual healing. The spiritual healing of the priest was based on Biblical knowledge and experience, and I can understand why he was able to obtain trust. When people want to be healed and forgiven, the Christian counselor should be ready to provide them with the examples, tools and tools. Faith is able to create instant understanding between clients and therapists, therefore, it is important that counselors do not neglect the spiritual aspect of healing.
After reading the book, I realized the importance of continuous training as a therapist. Although there are plenty of guidebooks available, there are not many of them dealing with implementing spirituality and different approaches to healing. As there is solid evidence, according to McMinn (1996) that the methods work and the case studies published in the book convince me, I am definitely going to use the methods and techniques detailed.
Bringing in new methods will definitely allow the therapist and client to grow. I find it interesting that McMinn also describes how he did become more psycho-dynamic through and after the personal therapy he participated in. (McMinn, 1996. pp. 156) The book opened my eyes that as a counselor, I will need to develop the skills I was given to be able to help people better. A new approach to cognitive behavioral therapy detailed in the book guides newly qualified therapists to use effective and safe methods.
While reading the book, I was trying to look at the methods from the patient’s point of view. Although we can hear that there are some people who refuse faith, some people in death row do not even let the priest visit them, I know from my experience that it is easier to gain trust as a Christian therapists than a general psychologist. I was wondering how priests, missioners and spiritual leaders would be able to implement the methods mentioned and whether the type of cognitive behavioral therapy would be accepted by the rest of the practitioners, who heal without the help of faith.
As I – as many other counselors – gain more experience I would like to find out more about methods that work to be able to help my clients and patients. Choosing cognitive behavioral therapy as a route, I now recognize the importance of healing through confession, forgiveness and holistic counseling. There are some studies proving that implementing spirituality in therapy is effective, however, I would like to experience the results in my own practice.
The book made me realize that it is my responsibility to develop spiritually, and I will pay more attention to my personal improvement. The book provided me with case studies on how to implement religious features into my therapy sessions when the patient is not a Christian. (sessions with an African woman) McMinn (1996) shows the process of using scripture, forgiveness and redemption in therapy. I would recommend reading the book to any new Christian therapists and counselors, spiritual healers and charity workers, not only for their patients’ good, but theirs as well. McMinn (1996) emphasizes the importance of using spirituality when healing and as a personal development tool. As Jesus was able to heal with words, we can use his words to heal others if we study scriptures and develop our personality.