This paper addresses my personal therapeutic approach that is an integrated model combining both my Christian beliefs and those aspects of psychology which I think give a clearer explanation of the principles found within God's Word. This combination theory, as the fibers of a basket interwoven together is consistent with my values and beliefs. The following topics cover the importance of understanding human personality, where problems are developed, how to source problems and structure effective intervention, and how my worldview influences my theory. It will also include how previous theorist’s work has influenced my own thoughts. The paper will conclude with a summary of why I feel this counseling approach best suits my skills, abilities, and personality but most importantly my beliefs.
The Basket Theory
Human value is priceless, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18, NIV). With this in mind, the Christian counselor understands the beauty and value of God’s work. For this reason, it is altogether fitting that one’s ministry would be seek to understand the human personality and what is necessary to maintain mental and spiritual health. Within this paper and approach to Christian counseling the author will attempt to address the the following: a delineation of personality structure; an explanation of motivation; a description of human development; an accounting for individual differences; a definition of health; a definition of illness; a definition of the elements in a comprehensive theory of cure; a development of the techniques that govern/guide the therapeutic process; a demonstration of effectiveness; and an explanation of how the overall theory relates to a comprehensive Christian worldview. Each of these subjects will be explained by using a basket analogy by comparing the parts of a personality and the outside forces that affect personality to those within and without a basket.
Theory of Personality
The human personality begins with the construction of the basket. One must start with the physical fibers of the basket, as in, what was used to create it. The fibers of the basket would be comprised of the genetics of the parents, and their ability to put the basket together. This forms the basis of one’s personality and sets the stage for how all other influences in ones life will be perceived. Many other theorists point to the importance of parents in the formation of personality. In particular, Wilson (2001) referred to our parents as gods as they are the ones in ultimate control of everything we know, feel, and see as children. They provide a lens from which we will forever see the world. A well formed basket will have strong fibers woven together in a way that they can withstand whatever weights the world adds to the basket. A basket that is put together poorly starts a humans life with a weakness that will forever affect how a person perceives the world and interacts with it.
Personality is the compilation of who God is, who we are, and how we allow Him to direct our steps. Theorist Crabb defined this further by saying, “The body belongs to the physical side and the spirit and soul to the personal” (Crabb, 1977, p.88). The human personality can be affected by outside factors, sin nature, influence of the holy spirit, feelings, will, thoughts, temporal systems, and supernatural systems. (Hawkins, 2008) Each of these factors put pressure on the fibers of the basket either by pressing from outside, or by adding weight that must be carried. For this reason, it is vital that a person find balance as described by Hart (1999). If one allows those outside influences to damage or overwhelm either the basket’s fibers or their ability to carry a particular weight limit, then one ends up with damage which presents itself in maladaptive thoughts and behaviors as well as spiritual illness.
Theory of Motivation
We are motivated by our perception of ourselves and the world around us, but also by what we believe to be permanent or changeable.
It is not…events either past or present which make us feel the way we feel, but our interpretation of those events. Our feelings are not caused by the circumstances of our long-lost childhood or the circumstances of the present. Our feelings are caused by what we tell ourselves about our circumstances, whether in words or in attitudes” (Backus & Chapian, 2000, p. 17).
Problems arise when one has a skewed view of the world around them, caused oftentimes by the initial poor construction of the basket we carry. Our interpretations can be misguided. This can cause one to lack motivation, feeling that their circumstances are beyond God’s reach. “Satan’s first and foremost strategy is deception” (Anderson, 2000, p. 23). However, as Christian counselors, we know that the arm of the Lord is never too short. By changing the perception of the world or our clients circumstances, we may revive within them the motivation necessary to make changes that will bring about spiritual and psychological health.
Theory of Human Development and Individual Differences
The bible is clear that humans were created by God. Psalms 139:13-14 states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms, NIV) Our lives begin with our earliest experiences and are deeply affected by them later. Early choices made by those in control of us, and the choices we made the survive those choices define and outline our growth. (Wilson, 2001) As adults we can choose to rewrite our mindset, to repair the damage caused to our framework with both hard work and God’s grace. A person may respond positively or negatively to the changes around them as they go through development.
If we are all designed by the same Creator, it seems that we would all be, think, and feel the same. However, this is not so. Not only are differences caused because each of us experiences unique circumstances, but also because of our perception of those circumstances. Each of us started with one creator, God, who then allowed people to help weave together who it is we are. We are different because those who were “god to us” are different and our perception of the world, and subsequent thoughts, feelings and actions were framed by them. (Wilson, 2001)
Definition of Health
Health is defined as those people who successfully carry the basket they possess regardless of the circumstances around them, who depend on God first for the strength and wisdom to do so, and who seek assistance when they find an area of lacking in the structure of their basket or their ability to carry it. They have effective boundaries (Cloud & Townsend, 1999) which allow them the protection needed to ensure damage is lessoned or prevented altogether. Self-care is vital to living healthy and requires not only dedication and perseverance, but also the understanding that, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Hart (1999) discusses the importance of rest at length in his book stating that, “Taking time to rest has implications that benefit our minds and our bodies. Resting also affects our relationships and spirituality” (Hart, p. 120). By practicing self care, one is able to live their life to the fullness which God designed.
Definition of Illness
Illness is defined as when there is a separation of who God says we are and who we believe we are. Illness is highlighted by feelings of depression, anxiety, and harm to self and others. In essence, illness comes from misbeliefs. They are the cause of emotional turmoil, maladaptive behavior and mental illness (Backus & Chapian, p. 17).
Personality is affected by outside factors, sin nature, influence of the Holy Spirit, feelings, will, thoughts, temporal systems, and supernatural systems. (Hawkins, 2008) Each of these factors place pressure on the fibers of the basket either by pressing from outside, or by adding weight that must be carried. For this reason it is vital that a person find balance as described by Hart (1999). If one allows those outside influences to damage or overwhelm either the basket’s fibers or their ability to carry a particular weight limit, then one ends up with damage which presents itself in maladaptive thoughts and behaviors as well as spiritual illness.
Anxiety is fear in the absence of real danger, an over estimation of danger, or imagined negative results. (Backus & Chapian, 2000).
Psychological illness may also be caused by genetics or the make up of the basket a person carries. In this case it is then the counselors job to help the client make repairs necessary to their basket which may include medication, much the same as you would apply oils to worn rope or fibers.
Role of Integration and Multitasking
While God is the center and sufficient, He gives others the wisdom to provide treatment both in and out of the Christian arena. In the same way we seek a builder to build our home, we seek humans to help rebuild damaged baskets. Christ has given us a guide from which to build our spirit and mind in a way that is able to carry the weights we will encounter.
Development of a theory should reflect the ability to multi-task. Multitasking requires that the counselor views “a person’s problems form several perspectives at the same time.” (Hawkins) This means that as clinicians an effort must be made to include a well rounded approach to the clients health.
How to Source Problems and Structure Effective Intervention
God and/or Godly principles must be the basis for any action or thought of both the counselor and counselee. By starting with a firm foundation of God’s word, it is then possible to build upon it, to make repairs when necessary, and to train the client to carry the basket they have been given, regardless of size or circumstance. When a client learns how to care for their basket and carry it properly, they will live in a spiritually mature and healthy manner.
Process and Techniques
In order to facilitate positive change, four interrelated components of counseling are necessary.
The best way to combat temptation is to name satan’s lies and hold onto God’s truth. In order to most effectively bring about change, it is essential that we get our clients to see the truth about themselves and their lives. Without the truth, all other work is meaningless. Wilson admonishes her readers to follow Paul's guidance in 1 Corinthians 11:13 which states, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (New International Version). According to Wilson, as we become adults, we must somehow change the ideas about ourselves and the world around us that we developed due to our childhood experiences. We must put away old thinking in order to become new creatures.
By locating and identifying the misbeliefs in their lives, a person can then argue against those misbeliefs, and finally replace them with the truth. (Wilson, 2001) By recognizing who they are in God, it is possible to “be the dynamic, loving, altogether whole people God meant us to be”. (Wilson, p.182) By changing those beliefs, we are able to change the cycle of hurt and fulfill the ultimate purpose God has for our lives. The challenge must be made from within. The client must learn to listen to themselves and begin to tell themselves the truth. This allows for healing. (Backus & Chapian, 2000).
Expectations of Effectiveness
An important truth is that “God will never allow a situation to develop in any believer’s life to which he cannot respond biblically” (Crabb, 1977, p. 26). By teaching the clients what the truth is, and encouraging them to practice it, and put it in place within their lives, it is expected that there will be effective change for the better. By lining up counseling methods and theories with God’s word, the counselor ensures the most probable success as God’s word is sufficient (Adams, 1986)
How does my Worldview influence my Theory?
As a Christian, it is vital that all ideas and concepts are filtered thoroughly through God’s word and that the principles within that word are applied. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8). Del Thackett, quotes David Noebel's book Understanding the Times, saying a world view is “any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement, or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world, and man's relations to God and the world.” (Thackett)
Approach to Integration
God placed us in an interactive world in which we are many times forced to be dependent on others. Throughout history, there have been many examples of God instructing His people to use what was secular to further His purpose. It is the authors belief that there is no difference in therapeutic measures. Crabb discusses this calling it, “Spoiling the Egyptians,” which is in reference to when the Israelites left Egypt they were encouraged to take whatever they wished (Crabb, 1977, p. 47). This is something that must be done with balance and great care. It is vital that those things are carried by the basket, rather than becoming part of the fibers of the basket. If one were to weave different types of fibers that were not tested throughout the basket, it would in effect weaken the basket and lead to illness.
The construction of a Godly and healthy basket requires that a person takes the fibers of our basket and weave them together in a way that God instructs, and then carry that basket in a way God’s principles admonish us to do, and we will have a person who is both spiritually mature and mentally healthy. They will be able to further God’s kingdom and bring about His purposes. As Christians we have hope because regardless of original circumstances, Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” He will take whatever mess of a basket we have and repair it, or show us how to repair it, if we are only willing. We can use this hope to help those we have the blessing of coming into contact with so that they might not only be healthy, but also come to be one of God’s children.
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Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1999). Boundaries in marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan
Crabb, L. J. Jr., (1977). Effective Biblical Counseling: A Model for Helping Caring
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Hart, A. D. (2001). The anxiety cure. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
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