Using Dr. Garzon’s article, succinctly define Christian Spirituality, as well as contrast the secular use of spirituality with the Christian Spirituality as reflected by Dr. Garzon. Also, using Dr. Watts’ article, give your appraisal of the effectiveness of a secular therapist using spirituality in counseling with a Christian client. Would this be effective? Could a secular therapist give thoughtful attention and respect to a Christian client? What would be the limitations of this type of counseling relationship? Reflect your reading, viewing of presentations, and convictions in your response.
Defining the terms spirituality and Christian spirituality continues to feed an ongoing debate. Fernando Garzon (2011) suggests that Christian spirituality means focusing on developing an intimate relationship with Christ “that progressively transforms one’s values, sense of purpose, beliefs, and lifestyle in the context of a faith community” (p. 62). Garzon (2011) contrasts the United States population, who are 85% Christian, with clinical psychologists who are 46% Christian (p. 62). The gap highlights the importance of counselors at large increasing their sensitivity to spiritual matters.
A secular therapist using spirituality in counseling with a Christina client may be somewhat effective. Certain forms of secular therapy are potentially compatible with Christianity. Richard Watts (2000) suggests that Adler’s Individual Psychology aligns with Christianity by emphasizing human responsibility, cognitive development, relational connections, and the capacity for human transformation (p. 319). The most important connection between Individual Psychology and Christianity is the relational aspect that Adler terms “social interest” (Watts, 2000, p. 320). Just as Individual Psychology highlights the importance of valuing others, Christianity hinges on relationships with God, others, and self. Accordingly, a secular counselor using a compatible form of therapy may be somewhat effective in using spirituality in counseling with a Christian client.
Without question, a secular therapist could give thoughtful attention and respect to a Christian client with certain forms of therapy. For example, Watts (2000) identifies four respectful aspects of the Adlerian psychotherapeutic process. First, the alliance between the counselor and the client is of utmost importance (Watts, 2000, p. 323). Second, the goal of facilitating new cognitive structures is maintained (Watts, 2000, p. 323). Third, an emphasis on encouragement is promoted (Watts, 2000, p. 324). Finally, several techniques that align with Scripture, such as listening, teaching, and challenging are encouraged (Watts, 2000, 325). By utilizing these four techniques, the therapist can provide an environment of thoughtfulness and respect.
The primary limitation of Individual Psychology and all secular psychologies is that they lack a solution to the human condition. According to T. L. Brink (1999), Individual Psychology asserts that the central problem of humanity is a feeling of inferiority (pp. 614-615). Although the observation is admirable, the solution offered by Adler is to compensate for the inferiority by enhancing social interest through friends, family, and career (Brink, 1999, p. 615). For example, Individual Psychology asserts that friends help overcome inferiority as they “allow one to be important to someone else” (Brink, 1999, p. 615). Alternatively, Larry Crabb (2013) suggests that humans overcome inferiority by finding significance and security through an understanding of their identity in Christ within an environment of unconditional love (pp. 71-72). Adler’s compensation for inferiority by finding worth and value in friends, family, and career not only undermines the Gospel, but also results in the solutions becoming the problem when clients find identity in social interests instead of God. Thus, when friends, family, and career inevitably disappoint, the neurosis continues. Accordingly, secular psychologies ultimately fail.
Brink, T. L. (1999). Individual psychology. In D. G. Benner & P. C. Hill (Eds.), Baker encyclopedia of psychology & counseling (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Crabb, L. (2013). Effective biblical counseling: A model for helping caring Christians become capable counselors. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Garzon, F. L. (2011). Spirituality in counseling. Faculty Publications and Presentations, 62.
Watts, R. E. (2000). Biblically-based Christian spirituality and Alderian therapy. Journal of individual psychology, 56(3), 316–328.