Counseling Ethics and Ethical Standards Video

Ethics in counseling has standards that counselors in the human service field must adhere to in regards to conduct with clients, other counselors, employers, students and other peers.  They are essential to ensure quality and standards within the field of counseling.  Various organizations such as the American Counseling Association offer lists of standards that the profession adheres to in regards to conduct.

Like all professions, Counselors also adhere to ethical standards. Please review AIHCP’s certifications for counselors

This video below reviews in more depth counseling standards and ethics.  Please also review AIHCP’s Certifications for counselors including Grief Counseling, Christian Counseling, Crisis Intervention, Anger Management and Stress Management.

 

Please review the video below

Grief Counseling: Assessment and Perception Problems for Grievers and Grief Helpers

Whether operating as a pastoral counselor, licensed counselor or a close friend and confidant in the grief process for a bereaved person, certain biases and perceptions from both the griever and grief helper can hamper the healing process or cloud assessment entirely.  In past blogs, we have talked about grief myths, grief bullies and both the griever and the grief helper’s own biases.  In this blog, we will put all together as one core unit in how these issues can culminate in preventing healing and also hamper one’s ability to help the grieving.

Helping others through grief is naturally composed of both healthy and unhealthy perceptions, biases and sometimes myths about loss itself.

 

Grief Myths

Grief myths exist in society and can attach to a particular griever, grief helper, or grief bully.  They prevent true healing because they mislead about the true nature of normal grieving itself.  They help form bias within the individuals toward a particular grieving process.  In Junietta McCall’s text, “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving” there are various problematic implications that occur due to bad perceptions.  Among them, McCall lists the denial of the necessity of grief work, the fact grief should always be simple, that any type of extended grief is due to immaturity or pathology, that grieving is feeling sorry for oneself or seeking attention and finally that grieving and any outward manifestation displays weakness in character or lack of faith (2012. p. 182-184).  When individuals believe grieving is not normal, or that is an attention seeking process, then these myths become problems that infect the person’s bias in both helper and griever.

Personal Bias

Grief bullies are particular guilty of personal bias.  They set timelines for grief and assert rules for expression of grief.  Most are harboring their own interior issues and cannot grieve properly themselves.  These individuals will assert that individuals are seeking attention, or weak in character.  Some may grow with a bias that “real men do not cry” or that it is simply time to “get over it”,  Others who are less bullies but more observers may dismiss other’s grief due to their own bias and simply state “the person never talks about it, so I leave it be” or “I avoid this person because it will turn into a sad and uncomfortable conversation every time” or “I would rather say nothing instead of bringing up the pain” or “She needs to simply have more faith” (McCall, 2012, p. 179-182).

From this comes a series of problems grievers face in their own perception of their loss.  They may question the amount or lack emotion displayed.  They may question if they have grieved or felt bad long enough or not enough.  Common exclamations such as “I should be over this by now” or “It is time to move on” or “I feel obligated to cry more” are all nagging pains within the person as the person encounters the grieving process over time.  Some may feel a religious obligation to feel happy that the person is in a better place and any crying is selfish or may question other emotions of anger or guilt. Others may feel ashamed they are angry with God or have not shown enough faith that the person is in a better place.

Others may feel conflicted based upon relationships with deceased or the nature of the loss itself.  They may feel guilty for not maybe noticing an illness soon enough, or not paying enough attention to someone who passed away and feel it is partly their own fault. The person may feel guilt for not visiting enough or appreciating the person enough.  This perception as well other perceptions can create future issues in the grief trajectory and how a person heals.  The only way these issues and emotions can be properly diagnosed is through talking and identifying them.

The Pastoral Counselor, Licensed Counselor or Grief Helpers Bias

Many times, even those who work as primary help of the bereaved enter into conversations with their own bias. While grief and loss are objective realities, everyone has  particular unique and subjective experience in their reactions to grief.  This incorporates a history of grieving that has good and bad things.  Some things may also be neutral and worked for oneself while one grieved but may not work for others.  This is not to say sharing experience and coping ideas are bad but it has to be done when invited.  Comparing grief and offering solutions that may have worked for one’s personal self may not work for others.  One should not be upset if one’s particular advice does not lead one to healing but understand that a grief helper is there to listen and sojourn with the bereaved and the griever’s own particular loss in the griever’s own particular way.  Biases of past experience hence can be helpful or detrimental based on a case by case basis.

Yet, biases inherently are part of the care and healing process and when used correctly can supply large doses of wisdom and knowledge to healing. The care process, according to McCall, involves both the griever’s bias and the helper’s bias.  This leads to two sets of perceptions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs (2012, p. 175).   In healthy outcomes, this feedback loop meets the needs of the given grieving situation and promotes healthy healing.

Grief helpers can play key roles in helping identify issues that relate to griever’s bias, beliefs or perceptions due to grief myths or personal complications within the grieving process.  McCall lists numerous ways pastors, counselors or friends can help the bereaved through difficult times.  McCall lists the critical importance of making careful observations, building healthy relationships, furthering necessary treatment and promoting professional and healthy behaviors (2012, p. 186).

Careful observations push the intuitive abilities of a helper to notate issues that may be arising during the grieving process.  This involves not only note taking but also looking for non verbal clues as well as understanding the person’s past history to better identify issues that may be affecting the current grief process.    Three key consultation questions arise.  First, what is the counselor paying attention to and what could he/she be missing or taking for granted? Second, is something unsettling oneself or making oneself uncomfortable about a particular griever and what is it about? And finally, is the counselor helping the person or getting in the way? (McCall, 2012, p,. 196).

Beyond observations emerges the importance of building a healthy and professional relationship with the bereaved.  One that is helpful and not leading to co-dependence but one that is promoting a healing process where the bereaved will be able to again move forward in life.  This involves identifying with the person and forming an understanding of their pain.  It involves empathy, listening, communication and helping the person form connections from past, present and future (McCall, 2012, p. 189-192).

The third key according to McCall is integrating treatment based upon perceptions.  These treatments are unique for each individual griever and may depend on the griever and the nature of the loss.  Treatments can range based on the person but it involves good note taking and documentation of challenges and issues that appear during the grief trajectory.  These notes and documents help the grief counselor make better assessments and plans of action.  Maybe a particular griever needs a particular therapy best performed by a specialist in it, or maybe the griever needs to be seen by a licensed counselor instead of merely a pastoral counselor.  Maybe CBT is a better resource than a Humanistic approach, or psychodynamic approach?  Maybe this individual would benefit from journaling, or instead of journaling, other forms of artistic expression?

Finally, a review of oneself is critical.  It illustrates how one is reacting to the griever and how effective one is being in terms of helping the individual in his/her progress in grieving.  In analyzing oneself, one is better able to see how one has been successful and not with this particular griever and what things may need adjusted or even if one needs to step back and allow another with more experience or expertise to resume the role in the care plan.

Conclusion

The grief process is about human beings.  The griever and helper are on a mutual journey upon the grief trajectory.  Perceptions, bias and process are all part of it.  Some individuals have unhealthy bias and myths about grief and their perceptions are detrimental while others have healthy perceptions which aid in healing.  The dyad process of two individuals and their past, perceptions and ideas all constitute part of the care model and ultimate healthy grieving outcomes.

The care model of helping others through grief is between the bereaved and helper. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

Reference

McCall, J. (2012). “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving”. Routledge.

Additional Resources

“6 Myths About Grief”. PsychCentral.  Access here

Williams, L. (2015). “64 Myths About Grief That Just Need To STOP”. What’s Your Grief.  Access here

Feldman, D. (2019). “Five Myths About Grief You May Believe”. Access here

Haley, E. (2017). ” “I should have known…”: Understanding Hindsight Bias in Grief”. What’s Your Grief. Access here

 

 

Humanistic Approach in Counseling and Grief

There are many schools of thought in treatment of individuals facing emotional and mental distress.  Psycho-analysis, behavioral and cognitive schools look at each different human lens of existence to help individuals find balance and happiness.  Psycho-analysis delves deep into the past to find answers to trauma, pain, pathology or issues plaguing a person.  In this venue, we see the seed of Sigmund Freud’s thoughts.   Behavioral strategies look how one’s behavior can be modified to alter mental and emotional issues.  Ivan Pavlov demonstrated the role of classical conditioning on the a person’s behavior.  Cognitive schools emphasized the rethinking aspect to helping others overcome mental and emotional issues. Aaron Beck in the 1960s would combine behavior and cognition as a way to help others via Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Another type of way to address human distress is Humanist Therapy.  This type of behavior which has success for many is holistic in nature and looks at the now instead of the past to find healthy balance within a person.  It is far more patient based and subjective in nature.  Due to its greater emphasis on self-happiness and subjective view of self, it focuses more on the person’s emotion in the present and its interaction with others.  It looks to restore and find balance within the person.  It finds its conclusion through authenticity with self and room for self growth in the present and relationships with others (Sherrell, Z,, 2023)

This has many implications within grief.  Grief can shatter a person’s self image and world view.  Humanistic approaches can help restore confidence and hope. It is very sensitive to the needs of the person.  While it may not alone suffice for all cases, it can definitely contribute to specific needs of the grieving person.  In this blog, we will shortly review the nature of the Humanistic Approach for grief, its strengths, its weaknesses, and how it can be incorporated.

Humanistic Approach

Humanistic Therapy is a more holistic and emotional direct therapy that focuses on emotion in the present and how to deal with those emotions in relationship to self and self worth

 

The idea of meeting human needs to find balance has many strengths in psychological thought.  Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs sketched a thorough outline of how when human needs are not met, pathology and dysfunction can occur.    Carl Rogers, however, established the Humanistic school of thought.  Rogers wished to treat the entirety of the human person and felt the imbalance or lack of fulfillment in life constituted the biggest problem to individuals.  He labeled the term congruence to distinguish between healthy balance in life that reflected interior perceptions with the outside world.  When balance occurred, Rogers believed human beings display healthy mental and emotional behaviors.  When incongruence emerged or imbalance between self and the world, then person’s mental and emotional health suffered (Mcleod, S., 2024).

Rogers Humanistic Approach centered upon the needs and desires of the person.  It revolved around the now and the relationships within the person’s realm.  The first key elements were regarding self image and self worth.  A person’s self image correlated with how the person viewed oneself in life, his/her existence and relationship with others and how the person fits (Mcleod. S. 2024).  Self image focuses on a person’s perceived value (Mcleod, S., 2024).   In contrast, the existence of the real self, the actual depiction of the person’s existence can cause distress and imbalance.  Identifying the real self is essential in understanding oneself in all the good and bad that exists within.  It is the starting point to reaching the ideal self.  The ideal self is what one hopes and strive to become.  When the ideal self and self image are imbalanced, congruence is not achieved and a state of incongruence exists that causes unhappiness and discontent as well as unhealthy psychological conditions (Mcleod, S., 2024).

According to Rogers, it is hence important to have a high positive regard with self worth.  Individuals with a high self worth can grow and handle stressors and difficulties, while those with a lower self worth encounter difficulties in life and have a hard time growing from negative events (Mcleod, S., 2024).   Rogers believed that a full functioning person reaches a state of actualization when congruence occurs ands is able to better live a fulfilled life.  He identified five primary characteristics to congruent individual.  He pointed out that one is open to new experiences, living existentially in the moment, trusting one’s feeling, displaying creativity  and living a fulfilled life (Mcleod, S., 2024).

The Humanist Therapist hence needs to help the person cultivate a higher self worth and find congruence.

Humanistic Techniques

In cultivating higher self and congruence, unconditional positive regard is employed that accepts the person for who he/she is and offers little criticism.  Rogers felt that conditional positive regard later put conditions on love or behavior that could negatively shape an individual’s development.  This less structured technique embraces the authenticity of the person and looks at the subjective needs of the person.  It places the Humanist Therapist into a place more of guide and equal than true authority figure in counseling.  The counselor utilizes deep empathy and rephrasing skills to help the person find congruence and balance.

One critical technique employed by the Humanist Therapist is Gestalt Therapy.  Gestalt Therapy focuses on the present and its emotions and how to better understand and grow from them (Dexter. G., 2022).  It helps one be more mindful of current situation and emotions and how emotions interact with current relationships in life.   It helps an individual better identify emotions, utilize them and communicate them with others (Dexter, G., 2022).   Some common themes found within Gestalt Therapy includes the “Empty Chair” where one pretends to speak to someone and role playing with the therapist to communicate emotion (Dexter, G. , 2022).

In addition to Gestalt Therapy, Humanist Therapists utilize a very Patient-Centered approach that acknowledges the needs of the patient and places a great importance on equality between client and counselor.  The counselor plays a key role in building the person’s self worth and avoiding judgement.  The therapy again is focused on the present and is more broad spectrum holistic instead of focusing on one particular issue.

Other techniques include Narrative Therapy which identifies values, Existential Therapy which identifies place in the world, and Logotherapy which focuses on helping individuals cope with difficulties and trials in life (Cherry, K., 2023).

Benefits and Disadvantages

When Humanistic Therapy is utilized there are benefits and disadvantages.  Obviously, helping one’s self esteem can empower someone to retake one’s life and move forward in life.  Self image and how one perceives oneself is essential to mental and emotional well being.  This holistic approach treats the entirety of the human person, helps one find empowerment, self acceptance and confidence, and grants the client an empathetic and non-judgmental guide (Sherrell, Z., 2023). However, there are limitations and possible weaknesses to the therapy.  It has the potential side effect of creating a dependency on the therapist, as well as not addressing acute issues in one’s mental health.  The lack of structure can also be counterproductive to certain personalities, as well as being very intensive emotionally and time consuming than other therapies (Sherrell, Z., 2023). It is also very subjective in nature.  The ontolology towards happiness is not a particular code but instead revolves around what one needs and wants.  This can sometimes create a disordered approach to what is right and wrong versus what makes someone happy.

Humanistic Approach in Grief

I think the approach has many benefits for grieving, albeit, I do not think it should be the only way one works with the grieving.  Obviously, different people need different strategies.  Some grieving individuals may need more cognitive and behavioral guidance with structure, while others may greatly benefit from a unstructured and holistic approach on emotion.  Some may greatly benefit from a mixture and blending of strategies.

Obviously when dealing with depression and emotion, the self image, self worth and the ideal self is key for happiness. Many depressed individuals have major self esteem issues and the techniques and practices in the Humanistic Approach can play a key benefit in helping a grieving individual find congruence and balance.  It can help the person understand the emotions, their connections with others, and how one can grow from loss and find connection again in life.

Conclusion

The Humanistic Approach has many advantages but its ultimate success depends on the needs of the griever and what therapy is best. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

I feel the Humanistic Approach is  best utilized in an integrative approach with cognitive and behavioral practices to better help the person not only emotionally but also grant the person ways to cognitively reframe issues.  The grave importance of self image, happiness and balance cannot be overlooked and are essential aspects of finding long term emotional and mental health.  Different individuals have different needs.  Some benefit better from a singular approach, while others from an integrated approach. Ultimately, when helping the grieving, the best therapy for the individual is the one that best meets the needs of the person.  If a licensed counselor is not comfortable or acquainted enough with one therapy, then referrals should be encouraged, but for those with comfort in a particular therapy or multiple disciplines, then one can truly begin to help others from a multi-faceted angle.  The Humanistic Approach is definitely one that all licensed counselors or those in grief theory should be familiar with.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

 

 

Additional Resources

Mcleod, S. (2024).  “Carl Rogers Humanistic Theory And Contribution To Psychology”SimplyPsychology. Access here

“Different approaches to psychotherapy”. APA. Access here

Sherrell, Z. (2023). “What is Humanist Therapy”. MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

Dexter, G. (2022). “What Is Gestalt Therapy?”. VeryWellHealth.  Access here

“Humanistic Therapy”. Psychology Today.  Access here

Cherry, K. (2023). “What Is Humanistic Therapy?”. VeryWellHealth. Access here

 

 

 

Last Rites Video

From a spiritual and religious perspective, ritual has a soothing effect on the dying as well as the bereaved family.  It symbolizes comfort and peace in the uncertainty.   Spiritually, Last Rites as a series of sacraments manifest within the soul a particular grace received that helps the person prepare for happy death.  Confession, Communion and Anointing constitute this series of religious rituals.

Last Rites not only spiritually prepares the soul for death but also gives hope and peace to the mind and family of the dying. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

Christ Himself gave comfort to the dying and in the story of Lazarus not only comforted the family but brought him back to life.  As one of His greatest miracles, Christ showed mercy and compassion.  Last Rites can have physical miraculous effects but this is rare and far between but exists more so for the spiritual wellbeing of the soul.  The mental and emotional side effects are also important for both the person dying as well the family surrounding the person.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as its Christian Grief Counseling Program for already existing grief counselors.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

In addition, please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification for those who work within in the ministry of the dying.

 

Please review the video below

Christian Counseling: Faith and Loss

One’s faith is a critical component to self identity.  It is a world view that acts like a compass when times of trouble occur.  It is an anchor that keeps the person in place as the various “isms” of the world alter society.  Hence, when loss challenges world view or spiritual belief, the person can find him/herself in an existential crisis.  Many with spiritual and religious background respond strong to loss with certainty and faith, but when faith is misplaced, or when the loss is traumatic, there can be mild, moderate or even severe faith challenges to the individual.

Christianity as a faith plays the same psychological basis as any faith for a person with a world view.  A Muslim, Jew, or Hindu can weather the storm of loss and grief from a psychological standpoint if their faith plays a key role in identity of the person.  Likewise, spiritual individuals who may have no religious affiliation can also have strong roots in facing adversity.  In addition, even atheists or agnostics, although subject to possible turmoil more than spiritually based individuals, can also have world views that allow them to show resilience in loss.  Obviously, family and communal support plays a key role as well, so to merely judge one’s resilience on faith alone without considering support can lead to disparities.

Faith is a powerful tool in helping grievers find peace and healing. Healthy faith gives connection to God, beliefs and others within the community and helps one readjust and find meaning in the loss

In conclusion, for most, faith and ritual play critical roles in helping individuals understand the loss and its suffering.  Rituals help heal wounds and find closure but also understanding and hope.  Religion offers hope and reunion beyond the temporal world.  It gives a sense of meaning to why we suffer or what we must do.  Faith also gives individuals the sense of being loved by a Divine Being who cares and hopes to heal them.  These are critical aspects of resiliency due the connection with God, meaning and a community of believers.  However, when spirituality is unhealthy, things can go drastically wrong.

A Healthy Faith and Loss

There is also discussion in loss how much a role spirituality plays versus religious.  This stems from healthy versus sick faith.  A devout religious person or a devout spiritual person both have strong views that can help them through loss but also those views can become more adversely challenged when bad things happen.  We hear many definitions of individuals who are spiritual but not religious, or we see on the other hand, individuals who are only outwardly religious but have no spiritual personal life.  I find both imbalances unhealthy and more open to potential pitfalls during loss (if looking at faith and loss alone without any other factors).

The spiritual but religious motif is usually a response to anger towards organized religion.  One is suspect to it or has had a unhealthy encounter with it.  This prevents communal, ritualistic and dogmatic tenets to emerge in the person’s world view.  The person becomes his/her own existential religious guide in determining faith world views.  The person is deeply committed but not held to an objective standard in many cases.  The person is usually also more isolated from communal religious bonds.

The purely overt religious but lacking spirituality is an equally dangerous road.  The person is more concerned with show and communal approval.  The dogmas are more about identity than true motivating source to act.  It creates a proudful and pharisaical image that dominates unfortunately American politics and Christian nationalism. It is faith without love, but also faith without true foundation.

The proper balance is the personal and communal that incorporates the individual’s piety with the collective dogmatic creed and ritual of the religion.  It balances the arrogance of religious identity but also prevents the subjectivity of wandering spirituality that self serves one’s own desires.  It is religion in public and private worship perfectly balanced.  An individual who preaches and who also practices one’s faith is a far more healthy spiritual person and one more adept at handling loss and grief.  They have identity, ritual and communal support but also deep spiritual understanding of the ritual and faith and it nourishes the soul.  It is not a subjective self chosen diet of faith but one that rests upon the tenets of a faith handed down for generations.

Hence healthy faith is critical in responding to loss.  Religious and spiritual individuals may respond to loss in very positive ways due to their faith but when faith is not healthy, it can derail the grieving process in mild, moderate or more serious ways.

Issues in Faith and Loss

Christian Counselors, Pastoral Counselors or Grief Counselors when dealing with faith based individuals and loss should always tread easy when first discussing God and loss with a distressed individual. Individuals experiencing loss are no longer intellectual at first.  They are in a state of shock and numbness.  This follows with denial and an array of emotions, which include sadness, anger and even guilt.   Incorporating a comment as “Your child is now with God” or “Your husband is now in Heaven” can cause a very angry reaction towards God.  This is not unnatural to have anger towards God.  It is not unnatural to doubt God or question God even.  Within the first days of emotional distress, this mild adverse reaction which occurs with some believers, even with the most profound faith is not something to be overtly concerned with.

Individuals may only briefly question, or this questioning may persist through the depressive stage of grief as one tries to understand loss and organize it with life’s narrative.  This is especially true in more traumatic incidents, when a parent loses a child, or an entire town is destroyed by a tornado.   It becomes quite difficult through the depressive and mourning stage to understand God’s presence.  Not everyone can show patience like Job and that is OK.

When the loss challenges the faith and doubt emerges, complications within the grieving process can occur. Usually unhealthy faith is more vulnerable to spiritual complications in grieving but it can occur to anyone

Obviously as pointed out, those with an imbalanced faith, poor foundation of faith, or no faith are more subject to negative spiritual reactions about God and the loss.  Obviously, one has to take into account support systems and the level of the loss in regards to reactions that are mild, moderate or severe but for most part, those with kinks in the armor of faith are more subject to moderate or severe negative spiritual reactions when dealing with a loss.

In addition to imbalance of spirituality and religious, a lack of understanding of faith can play a key role in negative experiences.  Individuals who see prayer as a magic bean and God as a genie willing to grant wishes face a far more difficult grief reaction that an individual who recognizes prayer as communion with God.  Likewise, individuals who consider their power of prayer as a sign of their faith and a correlation of their relationship with God are also more subject to negative spiritual reactions in loss.  Prayer when it is seen as a contract and not a covenant with God creates a distortion of faith.  Instead of seeing God as a genie that grants or does not grant, individuals need to see God as a Father who walks and comforts us.  Can God grant our prayers?  Yes, but does He always, no!.

Faith that has a strong understanding of the human condition and suffering is key.  Within Christianity especially, suffering is seen as part of a fallen existence due to sin.  In Christianity, God becomes human and suffers with humanity.  Jesus Christ shows individuals that God’s will is not always the easiest or least painful but one that is necessary.  If Christ Himself suffered, what can we expect?  In the Christian faith, Christian Counselors can utilize the motif of Christ as “Suffering Servant” who suffered first as an excellent coping example when loss and grief occur.  Christ suffered first.  However, with that suffering and death came also victory.  Christ conquered death and rose.  So shall all who suffer in Christ, shall rise in Christ.

So while many individuals may feel abandoned or betrayed by God, like Job, like Christ, one can find light at the end of the tunnel.  Even Christ, felt abandoned on the cross.  It is OK to feel this and important to express it, as Christ Himself expressed.  In the Garden and on the cross, Christ felt completely alone and abandoned, but pushed forward in faith.  Hence, when we feel alone or abandoned in loss, we must realize that Christ is with us and it is important to emphasize this in Christian Counseling when dealing with loss.   Christ is not always here to take away the cross, but He is definitely here to help one carry it.

Finally, in addition to misunderstanding of suffering, those with an unhealthy faith have key misunderstandings of the essence of God Himself.  They can easily fall prey to the philosophical traps of the atheistic world which challenges God.  The famous query, “How can a Good and All Powerful God permit suffering?” is all too used in atheistic and agnostic circles without rebuttal.  If God is good then suffering should not exist, but if suffering exists, then He must not be all powerful, for a good being would never permit suffering.  So the atheist or agnostic leaves the suffering individual with only two false options.  Either God is not all good and a sadist being, or He is not God and not powerful enough to stop evil and suffering.  This two answer only option is the trap.  The fact remains, God is both good and all-powerful, but suffering and evil exists because He created intelligent beings in His image with the ability to do good or evil.  Evil and suffering is a result of free choice not God.  God does not wish to prevent freedom to love or hate because that would be the ultimate rejection of human and angelic freedom.  The source of evil is choice, not a good God and God’s power is not in question as He permits the consequences to carry out in a fallen world.

Interventions in Spiritual Complications with Grief

The stages of grief are outlines of human experience with the grieving process.  They obviously are not always linear.  They can skip steps, revert back to former steps and oscillate between each other in intensity.  Different individuals, depending on a variety of subjective circumstances react differently to different losses, but we can form a basis for understanding of the universal reaction to grief and draw a blue print of what is healthy and what is not healthy.  When spiritual complications arise, it can derail the grieving process.  Spirituality as something that is usually a anchor and help in healing can, as stated, create mild, moderate or even severe complicated grief reactions.

In the first stage, individuals respond with shock, disbelief and denial.  Even the most devout and spiritual person will feel the shock and pain of the loss.  How could this happen?  With emotion swirling, intellect and what one consciously believes can sometimes be swept to the side.  The individual may question God, or become angry with God.

For many, mild complications of grief and spirituality can lead the person back to God with more strength realizing their dependence upon God

As grief and the reality of the loss sets in, the individual enters into the dark night of sadness and pain.  Some will find consolation in faith, while others may feel a desolation.  Some may feel abandoned by God.  This is not necessarily a complication but a natural reaction to loss.  In this desolation, is there a merely a feeling of “Where are you God”, or is a more intense belief that God does not exist at all, or even a reaction of hatred towards God.  While it is still too early, especially considering the varying natures of loss to consider anger towards God or disbelief in God as a severe reaction, it still nonetheless a mild reaction that could complicate spiritual readjustment later.  It should be closely monitored to see how it develops in the spiritual life of the person.

In the despair and pain of loss, individuals go through three phases of spiritual reconnection.  McCall, in her text, “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving” points out the trials of despair, discernment and conversion during the process of mild, moderate or severe estrangement from God.  She mentions that during the despair moment, some individuals never reclaim the peace and joy of God, but instead remain haunted by the loss and a emptiness with God.  They are unable to reconcile from the depression and pain, a logical bridge between the loss and their worldview.

It is following this phase, that discernment occurs.  The individual either continues breaking down his/her worldview and its incompatibility with the loss, or finally finds guidance from grace or the aid of others to connect the loss with faith and the world view.  This leads to renewed energy to seek forgiveness from God.  Others discover how much they need God in the loss and despair.  Sometimes in the darkest days, we discover how much we need God by our side.  We realize that we cannot stand alone but need God.  This recognition can lead to a deeper and stronger faith.  However, sometimes, it can complicate things with guilt for how one behaved or create a pseudo response where one accepts one’s world view but still nonetheless with less energy and commitment as before.  If not, this continues to lead further breaking down of the worldview and faith. When answered it leads to the renewal of faith and rituals, but if does not occur, then the person is unable to reintegrate the faith into one’s life at this point.

These steps are clearly seen in C.S. Lewis’ “Grief Observed” where Lewis experiences the spiritual battle between his faith and the pain and loss of his wife.  He writes about his despair and depression and journals his anger and sense of abandonment.  (Clearly exhibiting a mild spiritual existential crisis in his life)  He however in later chapters discerns the loss, reconnects it with God, and finds meaning.  He then reintegrates his faith with the loss.

After suffering, individuals enter the final stages of grief which involve acceptance of the loss.  McCall lists a two fold process that involves re-organization as well as recovery itself, albeit recovery is a false word in grieving.  Adjustment seems to be a far better word in grieving because no person truly recovers from loss but only learns to adjust to it in healthy ways with meaning.  In the case of spirituality, one is able to connect the meaning of loss with their faith and incorporate again a healthy relationship with God via former spiritual practices.  However, complications in spiritual grief become severe when this stage is unattainable.  The individual does not recover his/her faith in God but instead either hates God or completely denies His existence.  In even more adverse reactions, removal of all memories of the faith before, including images or statues occur, as well as a bellicose attitude towards religion or anyone who holds a religious view.  The person refuses to attend rituals or pray and has completely removed their previous held worldview.  The ability to tie the loss with their previous worldview is impossible.  This causes a complication in the grieving process that prevents the person from finding peace or readjusting to the new narrative in a healthy fashion.

As the parable of Christ states, sometimes the seed of faith falls in fertile ground and can overcome all adversity while seeds that fall in thorny ground are never able to produce fruit.  This is sometimes the sad reality but as Grief and Christian Counselors, we can try to help individuals in the infant stages of loss with support and love.  During the later phases of searching and yearning, we can emphasize the true nature of suffering, its meaning, and how Christ suffers with us.  It is important to help and encourage healthy grieving practices that are adaptive and not maladaptive.  Support and care can prevent further despair and help the person find gratitude and hope in others and again in God.  It can help individuals realize that God is still present despite the loss.

Conclusion

Faith is usually an important anchor in grief adjustment but sometimes due to a variety of reasons it can complicate the grieving process. Faith that is healthy gives connection and meaning to the grieving person to a Deity or Higher Power, as well as worldviews and a communal support system.  However, sometimes faith and the loss cannot find meaning and when this occurs an existential crisis can complicate grieving.  When previous held beliefs are no longer integrated and tied to the loss, then readjustment into life can become difficult and complications in grief can arise.  It is important to identify issues that may arise in spiritual and religious people at the earliest phases and help not only counsel and educate but give them hope that life continues.  Christian and pastoral counselors as well as grief counselors can help spiritual individuals find hope in loss.

Christ is the ultimate examples for Christians when dealing with loss and pain. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

For certified grief counselors, please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counselor Program.  The program explores grief, loss and suffering from a Christian perspective.

References

C.S Lewis. (1961). “Grief Observed”

McCall, Junietta. (2012). “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving”. Routledge

Additional Resources

Mendoza, M. (2020). “Complicated Spiritual Grief”. Psychology Today. Access here

Williams. L. (2022). “The Missing Link: Spirituality and Grief”. What’s Your Grief.  Access here

Feldman, D. (2019). “The Power of Rituals to Heal Grief”. Psychology Today.  Access here

“Easing grief through religion and spirituality”. (2015). Harvard Health Publishing.  Access here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian and Biblical Counseling in Marriage

Christian marriage counseling is a specialized form of therapy that integrates theological principles with psychological insights to support couples in their marital journey. It’s designed to help couples navigate the complexities of married life, drawing on the wisdom of scripture and the practical tools of counseling to foster unity, resolve conflicts, and grow together in love. Whether in times of crisis or for regular maintenance, Christian counseling offers a unique approach to help marriages thrive at every stage.

Jesus blessed marriage at Cana.

Since marriage bonds the most cellular unit of society, its survival is also important in a secular way as well.  The family provides structure, respect, love and and unity to today’s youth.  Weak families represent a weak society.  It is hence important to preserve marriage, especially the Christian view of it which views its sanctity.  While divorce rates increase, the threat to the Christian family is evident.

Certified Christian Counselors can help with a variety of marriage issues, from premarital counseling to family counseling to marriage counseling itself.  They can offer in-depth guidance from a pastoral and biblical view that respects the unity of marriage and helps couples find a closer bond or repair a bond.  Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

Key Takeaways

  • Christian marriage counseling combines theological wisdom with psychological practices to address marital challenges.
  • Faith plays a crucial role in relationship dynamics, with spiritual beliefs influencing marital satisfaction and conflict resolution.
  • Counseling techniques in a Christian context include communication skills, forgiveness, and premarital preparation.
  • Christian counselors assist with a range of marital issues, such as financial disputes, infidelity, and role expectations.
  • Resources like church-based programs, literature, and community support provide additional help for Christian couples.

Theoretical Foundations of Christian Marriage Counseling

Marriage was ordained by God as a sacred union between a man and woman to propagate society through love and unity

Integration of Theology and Psychology

The integration of psychology and Christianity offers a unique approach to marriage counseling that respects both the scientific and spiritual dimensions of human experience. This dual perspective not only acknowledges the emotional and mental aspects of relationship issues but also incorporates the spiritual needs that are central to many Christian couples.

  • The Bible is seen as a foundational text, providing wisdom and guidance for couples.
  • Therapeutic methods are selected for their effectiveness and compatibility with Christian values.
  • The counselor’s role is to facilitate healing by drawing on both psychological principles and spiritual truths.

The holistic nature of this approach aims to foster healing and growth within the marital relationship, addressing the full spectrum of emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.

Understanding the individual’s personal faith and comfort level with spiritual practices is crucial. Communication with the therapist about preferences for the inclusion of prayer and scripture is encouraged to tailor the counseling experience.

Biblical Perspectives on Marriage

The institution of marriage, as depicted in the Bible, is not merely a social contract but a sacred covenant designed by God. Marriage is intended to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church, a union characterized by love, mutual respect, and commitment. The challenges faced by couples today, including escalating divorce rates and domestic violence, are in stark contrast to this divine blueprint.

  • Genesis emphasizes the purpose of marriage for companionship, procreation, and stewardship of the earth.
  • Ephesians 5:25-33 outlines the roles of husbands and wives, highlighting love and respect as foundational pillars.
  • 1 Corinthians 7 provides guidance on marital duties and addresses issues related to marital disputes.

Despite the tribulations of life, God provides the means for couples to access the promise of marriage’s original design. Qualified and compassionate counselors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, offer guidance to restore wholeness in marriage.

The integration of biblical wisdom with professional counseling techniques offers a powerful resource for couples seeking to build a marriage that aligns with Christian principles. It is through this synergy that couples can find the support and direction necessary to navigate the complexities of marital life while upholding the sanctity of their vows.

Models of Christian Counseling

Christian marriage counseling encompasses a variety of models, each integrating faith with therapeutic practices. Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is one such model that has gained prominence. It emphasizes practical, actionable strategies for strengthening marital bonds, such as ‘ENHANCE YOUR LOVE MAPS’, which encourages couples to deepen their understanding of each other’s worlds.

Another model frequently employed is the Developmental Model, which views marriage as a series of developmental stages, each with its unique challenges and growth opportunities. This model helps couples anticipate and navigate the changes inherent in married life.

Christian counselors also often draw from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Family Systems Theory, adapting these approaches to align with Christian doctrine and values. The integration of these models within a Christian framework aims to provide holistic support to couples, addressing both psychological and spiritual needs.

The Role of Faith in Relationship Dynamics

Spiritual Beliefs and Marital Satisfaction

The interplay between spiritual beliefs and marital satisfaction is a complex yet pivotal aspect of Christian marriage counseling. Spiritual alignment can significantly enhance the emotional and relational well-being of couples. Research indicates that shared spiritual beliefs and practices, such as prayer and worship, often correlate with higher levels of marital satisfaction.

The shared journey of faith in a marriage not only fosters a deeper connection between partners but also provides a framework for understanding and navigating life’s challenges together.

Couples who actively engage in their spiritual lives tend to report stronger bonds and a greater sense of unity. This is reflected in the way they handle conflicts, communicate, and express commitment to one another. The following points highlight the qualitative impact of spiritual beliefs on marital satisfaction:

  • A shared spiritual identity can create a strong foundation for marital commitment.
  • Spiritual practices, like prayer, can offer solace and guidance during marital difficulties.
  • Faith communities often provide support and resources that reinforce marital bonds.

While the benefits are clear, it is important for counselors to recognize and respect the individual spiritual journeys of each partner, ensuring that counseling techniques are inclusive and supportive of both partners’ beliefs.

Faith-Based Conflict Resolution

In the realm of Christian marriage counseling, faith-based conflict resolution plays a pivotal role in fostering harmonious relationships. The integration of spiritual beliefs with professional counseling techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), offers a unique approach to resolving disputes. Counselors often encourage couples to engage in open communication, guided by the principles of love, kindness, and respect, which are central to Christian teachings.

  • Mediation and Counseling: A trained Christian mediator can help reestablish communication, allowing couples to address deeper marital issues.
  • Professional and Spiritual Integration: Combining professional methods with faith can enhance the counseling experience, aligning it with the couple’s spiritual values.
  • Transparent Standards: Therapists who adhere to a Statement of Faith provide clarity and assurance to couples seeking counseling from a biblical perspective.

In the pursuit of marital harmony, it is essential to recognize that both communication and healthy conflict are valuable. They serve as gateways to understanding one’s spouse more deeply and to growing together in faith.

By embracing both faith and professional expertise, Christian marriage counseling can effectively guide couples through the complexities of conflict, leading to a strengthened bond and a deeper connection.

Prayer and Its Impact on Marital Health

The practice of prayer within the context of marriage is a cornerstone of spiritual intimacy and a vital component in the health of a Christian union. Prayer serves as a conduit for divine guidance, offering couples a shared spiritual discipline that can deepen their connection and provide solace during times of conflict. It is not merely a ritual, but a strategic tool that can fortify a marriage against the challenges of life.

The impact of prayer on marital health can be multifaceted:

  • Encouraging vulnerability and openness between spouses
  • Inviting God’s presence and wisdom into the relationship
  • Strengthening the resolve to uphold marital commitments
  • Providing a framework for forgiveness and reconciliation

The multi-pronged approach of prayer in marriage fosters communication, facilitates forgiveness, and enhances emotional and physical intimacy, growing the character of Christ in both individuals and as a couple.

While empirical data on the efficacy of prayer in marriage is limited, anecdotal evidence and the experiences of many Christian couples suggest that prayer can play a significant role in maintaining and improving marital health. It is a spiritual discipline that, when practiced consistently, can lead to a more harmonious and fulfilling partnership.

Christian Counseling Techniques and Interventions

Christian Counselors can help couples become closer in their bond and also help them repair it

Communication Skills in a Christian Context

In Christian marriage counseling, communication is pivotal to fostering a healthy relationship. Counselors often emphasize the integration of Christian principles with effective communication techniques to help couples express their thoughts and feelings constructively. For instance, active listening, a core skill in counseling, is enriched by the Christian virtue of patience, allowing partners to fully hear and understand each other before responding.

Effective communication in a Christian marriage involves more than just talking; it includes understanding the spiritual and emotional dimensions of one’s partner. A counselor might guide a couple through exercises that reflect on scriptural teachings about love and respect, which can then be applied to daily interactions.

It is essential for couples to recognize that their words have the power to build up or tear down their relationship. By applying Christian values to their communication, they can create a more loving and supportive environment.

Counselors may also provide resources such as books or workshops that focus on enhancing communication within a Christian framework. These resources can offer practical advice and exercises to practice at home, reinforcing the skills learned in counseling sessions.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation Processes

In Christian marriage counseling, forgiveness and reconciliation are pivotal processes that facilitate healing and the restoration of trust. Forgiveness is not just a one-time event, but a continuous journey that couples embark on, often requiring divine grace and personal humility. The counselor’s role is to guide couples through this journey, helping them to understand and practice forgiveness as modeled by Christ.

  • Identify the source of hurt or betrayal
  • Acknowledge the pain and impact on the relationship
  • Extend grace and forgiveness, as encouraged in Biblical counseling
  • Develop a plan for rebuilding trust and commitment

The process of forgiveness and reconciliation is deeply personal and can be transformative for a marriage. It involves not only the letting go of past grievances but also the proactive work of rebuilding a relationship on the principles of love and respect.

Counselors may employ various techniques to aid in this process, such as facilitating open communication, encouraging empathy, and setting actionable goals for the couple. These steps are crucial for couples to move beyond the pain and towards a renewed sense of unity and purpose in their marriage.

Premarital Counseling and Preparation

Premarital counseling serves as a proactive measure to equip couples with the necessary tools and insights for a successful marriage. The process is designed to address issues often overlooked during the wedding planning phase. It encourages healthy communication and conflict resolution patterns that can sustain a marriage over the long term.

The benefits of premarital counseling are substantial, with research suggesting a correlation between such counseling and lower divorce rates. Couples who engage in premarital counseling often report lower levels of relationship conflict and a higher quality of relationship overall.

Key components of premarital counseling include:

  • Exploring expectations about marriage
  • Understanding past influences on perceptions of marriage
  • Cultivating appreciation for each other’s strengths
  • Committing to healthy habits for long-term marital health

Premarital counseling is not just about preparing for a wedding, but about laying the groundwork for the years that follow. It’s about delving into the ideas and impressions formed about marriage and ensuring that both partners are ready for their life together.

Addressing Challenges in Christian Marriages

Financial disputes are among the most common challenges faced by married couples, and they can be particularly distressing when they threaten the harmony of a Christian marriage. By applying biblical principles and faith-based approaches, counselors can guide couples towards constructive financial management and mutual understanding.

In Christian marriage counseling, financial disputes are addressed not just as monetary issues but as opportunities for spiritual growth and deeper partnership. Counselors often encourage couples to reflect on their stewardship of resources, align their financial goals with their spiritual values, and practice generosity and contentment.

  • Identify shared financial values and goals
  • Develop a budget that reflects these values
  • Implement regular financial check-ins
  • Cultivate a spirit of gratitude and trust in God’s provision

In the context of faith, financial disputes can become a path to greater intimacy and trust, as couples learn to manage their resources in a way that honors God and supports their shared life mission.

It is essential for counselors to foster an environment where both partners feel heard and respected, ensuring that financial planning becomes a collaborative effort rather than a source of contention.

Dealing with Infidelity and Restoration

Christian Counselors, pastors and spiritual directors can help repair bonds from infidelity

Infidelity in marriage is a profound breach of trust that can decimate the foundation of the relationship. Restoration is possible, but it requires a deep commitment to healing and change from both partners. The process often involves several key steps:

  • Acknowledging the affair and its impact on the marriage
  • Establishing transparency and open communication
  • Seeking professional counseling and support groups
  • Committing to forgiveness and rebuilding trust

The journey toward restoration is not linear and can be fraught with setbacks. However, with patience and dedication, couples can navigate this challenging path and emerge with a stronger, more resilient union.

Christian marriage counseling addresses infidelity by integrating spiritual principles with therapeutic practices. The multi-pronged approach serves the couple by fostering communication, facilitating forgiveness, and enhancing emotional and physical intimacy. It is crucial for the couple to grow in the character of Christ, both individually and as a married couple, to prevent future occurrences and to fortify their marital bond.

Managing Expectations and Role Definitions

In Christian marriage counseling, managing expectations and defining roles are crucial for fostering a healthy marital relationship. Couples are encouraged to openly discuss their individual and shared aspirations, as well as their understanding of marital responsibilities. This dialogue helps in aligning their expectations with the realities of married life and with their faith-based values.

  • Helping couples understand and articulate their expectations
  • Assisting in the development of conflict management skills
  • Setting goals and clarifying boundaries within the marriage

By cultivating an appreciation of each other’s gifts and strengths, couples can build a more resilient and satisfying union.

It is essential for couples to embrace the journey of rediscovery, finding joy in the process and focusing on the goodness that their faith brings into the marriage, even when challenges arise. Deciding to delight in the process of befriending and discovering one another again can be transformative.

Christian Marriage Counseling for Different Stages of Life

Newlywed Adjustments and Unity

The transition into married life for newlyweds is a unique period of adjustment where couples learn to function as a unified entity. Navigating this new dynamic often requires a deliberate shift in focus from individual to collective goals. The process involves not only the merging of lives but also the intertwining of dreams, aspirations, and daily routines.

  • Be aware of the season you are in, and invest accordingly in your marriage covenant.
  • Utilize therapeutic sessions to support the practice of new ways of interacting.
  • Welcome your spouse to express themselves without judgment, listening for the voice of God in their heart’s burdens.

The early days of marriage are a time to lay a strong foundation for the future. It is essential to cultivate habits that promote unity and understanding, setting the stage for a lifetime of companionship.

Couples are encouraged to free themselves to shift time, energy, and attention to other areas of the marriage that they wish to grow. This may include committing in prayer and seeking accountable support to refocus and prioritize the relationship. Encouraging fruitfulness by pivoting attention from problems to pursuing shared interests can also be a key to delighting in the process of befriending and discovering one another anew.

Midlife Transitions and Marital Renewal

Midlife transitions present unique challenges and opportunities for marital renewal. As couples navigate changes in career, health, and family dynamics, they often encounter the need to redefine their relationship. Marital strain can simmer when issues are left unaddressed, leading to a gradual withdrawal from the partnership. It is crucial to maintain the heart of the marriage through regular care and attention to prevent the compounding effects of neglect.

In this stage, couples are encouraged to shift their focus from problems to pursuing shared interests and recreation. This deliberate pivot can reignite passion and foster a deeper connection.

The following steps can be instrumental in renewing a marriage during midlife transitions:

  • Freeing time, energy, and attention to grow other areas of the marriage.
  • Committing in prayer and seeking accountable support with a spouse and therapist.
  • Encouraging fruitfulness by focusing on shared interests and recreation.
  • Delighting in the process of rediscovering one another.

Counseling at this stage often involves helping couples to make micro-decisions that align with their commitment to becoming one. Each decision, disagreement, and reconciliation is an opportunity to strengthen the marriage. The role of Christian marriage counseling is to facilitate this process, guiding couples through the tune-up of their relationship rather than waiting for the need for triage.

Golden Years: Sustaining Love and Companionship

The golden years of marriage present a unique opportunity for couples to refocus their relationship and deepen their companionship. Couples are encouraged to rediscover each other, exploring shared interests and activities that may have been sidelined during earlier stages of life. This period is an invitation to celebrate the journey thus far and to continue growing together in love and faith.

  • Free yourselves to shift time, energy, and attention to other areas of your marriage that you want to grow.
  • Commit in prayer and accountable support with your spouse and therapist to reroute existing commitments in order to refocus and prioritize.
  • Encourage fruitfulness by pivoting your full attention from problems to deliberately pursuing recreation and following shared interests.

The process of befriending and discovering one another again can be a source of joy and renewal in the marriage. It is a time to rivet on God’s goodness and the blessings of a shared life, even when challenges arise.

The role of Christian marriage counseling in these years is to facilitate this renewal, helping couples to navigate any lingering issues with grace and to foster an environment where love can continue to flourish. The multi-pronged approach of counseling aims to enhance communication, establish healthier behaviors, and grow in the character of Christ, both individually and as a married couple.

The Therapeutic Alliance in Christian Marriage Counseling

Building Trust and Rapport with Couples

In the realm of Christian marriage counselingestablishing a foundation of trust is paramount. Counselors strive to create an environment where open and honest dialogue is not just encouraged but is seen as the cornerstone of the therapeutic relationship. This trust-building is a delicate process that involves consistent, non-judgmental support and a clear understanding of the couple’s unique dynamics.

The success of counseling hinges on the ability to foster a safe space where couples feel valued and heard. It is within this space that vulnerabilities can be shared and true healing can begin.

Counselors employ various strategies to build trust, including:

  • Demonstrating empathy and genuine concern for the couple’s well-being
  • Maintaining confidentiality to ensure a secure environment
  • Setting clear expectations and boundaries from the outset
  • Encouraging the couple to set and pursue collaborative goals

These efforts are designed to reassure couples that their journey towards a healthier marriage is a shared endeavor, with the counselor serving as a compassionate guide.

Counselor’s Faith and Professional Boundaries

In Christian marriage counseling, the personal faith of the counselor plays a significant role in shaping the therapeutic process. Counselors must navigate the delicate balance between their own beliefs and maintaining professional boundaries. This balance is crucial to ensure that the counseling provided is ethical, respectful, and effective for couples of varying degrees of faith and denominational backgrounds.

The therapeutic alliance is built upon mutual respect and understanding. It is essential for counselors to be transparent about their own faith perspectives while also being open to the diverse beliefs of the couples they serve.

Counselors are encouraged to engage in self-reflection and to seek supervision when faced with situations that challenge their personal beliefs or professional ethics. The following points outline key considerations for maintaining professional boundaries:

  • Recognize and respect the couple’s faith and spiritual practices.
  • Maintain a nonjudgmental stance towards couples with different beliefs.
  • Ensure that counseling techniques are adaptable to the couple’s faith context.
  • Uphold confidentiality and avoid imposing personal religious views.
  • Seek continual professional development to enhance cultural and religious competence.

Collaborative Goal Setting with Couples

In Christian marriage counseling, collaborative goal setting is a pivotal process that empowers couples to articulate and pursue shared objectives. The counselor facilitates a structured dialogue to help partners identify and prioritize their goals, ensuring that both voices are heard and valued. This mutual effort fosters a sense of unity and purpose within the marriage.

  • Understanding and managing expectations
  • Developing conflict resolution strategies
  • Enhancing communication skills
  • Fostering spiritual growth together

By engaging in collaborative goal setting, couples can create a roadmap for their relationship that aligns with their faith and values. This proactive approach helps to prevent potential issues from escalating and lays the groundwork for a fulfilling partnership.

The success of this endeavor relies on the couple’s commitment to the process and their willingness to embrace change. As goals are set and progress is made, the couple’s journey is marked by milestones that reflect their growth both individually and as a unit.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Christian Marriage Counseling

Christian Counselors are effective ways for couples to fix issues

Outcome Measures and Success Criteria

Evaluating the effectiveness of Christian marriage counseling involves a systematic approach to measuring outcomes. Outcome measures are essential in determining the success of therapeutic interventions and the overall satisfaction of couples with the counseling process. These measures often include both quantitative and qualitative data, providing a comprehensive view of the counseling’s impact.

The success criteria for Christian marriage counseling are multifaceted, reflecting the complexity of marital relationships and the integration of faith-based principles.

Common outcome measures include:

  • Pre- and post-counseling assessments of marital satisfaction
  • Frequency and intensity of marital conflicts
  • Reports of improved communication and problem-solving skills
  • Levels of individual and relational spiritual growth

These criteria are not exhaustive but serve as a starting point for counselors to tailor their evaluation methods to the specific needs and goals of each couple. The systematic review of outcome studies is crucial for the continuous improvement of counseling techniques and interventions.

Longitudinal Studies on Marital Outcomes

Longitudinal studies play a crucial role in understanding the long-term effectiveness of Christian marriage counseling. These studies track couples over extended periods, providing insights into the durability of counseling outcomes and the factors contributing to sustained marital health.

Key findings from such research include:

  • The persistence of positive effects from counseling over time.
  • The influence of initial counseling success on long-term marital satisfaction.
  • The impact of external stressors and life changes on the stability of marriage post-counseling.

While the majority of couples report significant improvement during the counseling process, longitudinal studies are essential to assess the lasting impact of these interventions.

It is important to note that the commitment of both partners to the counseling process and their willingness to work through challenges are strong predictors of positive long-term outcomes. These studies underscore the importance of ongoing support and the need for adaptable counseling strategies to address evolving marital dynamics.

Feedback and Adaptation in Counseling Practice

In Christian marriage counseling, feedback and adaptation are critical components for the continuous improvement of counseling practices. Counselors must actively seek and incorporate feedback from couples to tailor interventions that address the unique dynamics of each relationship. This iterative process often involves the following steps:

  • Gathering feedback through structured sessions and questionnaires.
  • Analyzing the feedback to identify patterns and areas for improvement.
  • Adapting counseling techniques to better meet the needs of the couple.
  • Implementing changes and monitoring their impact on the counseling process.

The counselor’s willingness to adapt and evolve their approach is essential for fostering a therapeutic environment conducive to growth and healing.

Evaluating the effectiveness of these adaptations requires a systematic approach. Counselors may use a variety of outcome measures to assess the success of their interventions. A succinct representation of such measures could include:

Outcome Measure Description
Marital Satisfaction Assessing the overall contentment within the marriage.
Communication Quality Evaluating improvements in dialogue and understanding.
Conflict Resolution Measuring the effectiveness of strategies for resolving disputes.
Emotional Intimacy Gauging the depth of emotional connection between spouses.

By continuously refining their practice through feedback and adaptation, Christian marriage counselors can better serve couples and contribute to the long-term health of Christian marriages.

Ethical Considerations in Christian Marriage Counseling

Christian Counselors look to protect the vow of the marriage and help each both husband and wife navigate but still maintains all ethical standards in service

Confidentiality and Privacy Concerns

In Christian marriage counseling, the sanctity of confidentiality is paramount. Counselors must ensure that all communications and records are kept private, adhering to both ethical standards and legal requirements such as HIPAA. The complexity of maintaining confidentiality increases with the use of online therapy platforms, which necessitates a thorough understanding of their privacy policies.

  • Counselors should verify that online therapy providers are HIPAA-compliant.
  • It is crucial to understand if any private information is shared with third parties.
  • Counselors must be aware of the ethical concerns raised by the FTC regarding user health information.

The foundation of effective counseling is built on trust, which is fortified by the assurance of strict confidentiality between counselor and counselee.

Furthermore, counselors must be competent and affirming of all clients, including those from the LGBTQIA+ community, and should consult the company’s statement of faith or code of ethics. This ensures that services are inclusive and respectful of diverse beliefs and orientations. The absence of a Statement of Faith on a counseling platform can lead to ambiguity regarding the standards to which therapists adhere, impacting the trust and openness necessary for successful counseling.

In Christian marriage counseling, addressing the unique challenges that arise in interfaith marriages is crucial for fostering a harmonious relationship. Counselors must be adept at facilitating a respectful dialogue between partners of different faith backgrounds. This involves recognizing and honoring each individual’s beliefs while finding common ground for the couple’s shared values and goals.

  • Understand and respect each partner’s faith traditions.
  • Identify shared values that transcend religious differences.
  • Develop communication strategies that avoid religious conflict.
  • Encourage mutual support for each partner’s spiritual growth.

In interfaith dynamics, the emphasis is on creating a space where both partners feel heard and valued, without compromising their individual faith identities. The goal is to build a foundation of respect and empathy that can sustain the marriage through the complexities of differing beliefs.

Counselors also play a key role in helping couples navigate the practical aspects of interfaith marriage, such as holiday celebrations, dietary restrictions, and raising children. It is essential for the counselor to remain neutral and supportive, guiding the couple towards solutions that honor both faiths and promote unity within the marriage.

Professional Standards and Pastoral Care

In the realm of Christian marriage counseling, adherence to professional standards is paramount, ensuring that the care provided is ethical, respectful, and in line with both psychological best practices and theological principles. Counselors must balance their pastoral responsibilities with their role as mental health professionals, often navigating complex situations that require wisdom and discernment.

  • Counselors are expected to maintain confidentiality and uphold privacy, creating a safe space for couples to explore sensitive issues.
  • They must be well-versed in both secular counseling techniques and spiritual guidance, integrating these approaches seamlessly.
  • Ongoing education and supervision are crucial for counselors to stay informed about the latest developments in both fields.

It is essential for Christian marriage counselors to foster an environment where both partners feel heard and respected, promoting healing and growth within the marital relationship.

Pastors and counselors alike are called to be involved in the spiritual labors necessary for the welfare of couples facing marital challenges. This dual role of spiritual guide and professional counselor underscores the unique nature of Christian marriage counseling.

Resources and Support Systems for Christian Couples

Church-Based Marriage Programs

Church-based marriage programs serve as a vital resource for couples seeking to strengthen their marital bonds within a faith context. These programs often provide a comprehensive approach to marriage preparation and enrichment, addressing various aspects of marital life from a Christian perspective.

  • Premarital workshops and seminars
  • Marriage enrichment retreats
  • Support groups for married couples
  • Mentorship programs pairing newlyweds with experienced couples

Churches may offer a range of services, from premarital counseling sessions that lay the groundwork for a strong marital foundation to ongoing support for couples at different stages of their marriage. The communal aspect of these programs fosters a sense of accountability and shared growth among participants.

The effectiveness of church-based marriage programs lies in their ability to integrate faith principles with practical relationship skills, creating a unique support system for couples.

Evaluating the impact of these programs, many couples report increased communication, deeper understanding of marital roles, and a strengthened spiritual connection. The table below summarizes common outcomes reported by participants in church-based marriage programs:

Outcome Percentage of Couples Reporting Improvement
Communication 75%
Conflict Resolution 65%
Marital Satisfaction 80%
Spiritual Intimacy 70%

These statistics highlight the potential benefits of church-based initiatives in fostering healthy, resilient Christian marriages.

Christian Marriage Literature and Media

The landscape of Christian marriage literature and media is rich with resources designed to support couples in their marital journey. From books and blogs to podcasts and videos, these tools offer a wealth of knowledge and practical advice grounded in Christian principles.

One standout title is Marriage – Focus on the Family, which emphasizes the importance of connecting emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife. Techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication are central to this resource, helping couples to build a resilient and fulfilling relationship.

In addition to individual titles, there are comprehensive lists that curate the best Christian marriage resources. For example, I Believe’s “25 Best Christian Marriage Resources to Help Your Marriage Thrive” includes a variety of book recommendations, blogs, podcasts, and workbooks. These resources are not only informative but also actionable, encouraging couples to engage actively in strengthening their marriage.

The Christian purpose of marriage is multifaceted, encompassing companionship, mutual support, and spiritual unity. Resources in Christian marriage literature and media serve to reinforce these foundational elements, guiding couples towards a marriage that reflects God’s design.

Community Support and Accountability

In the realm of Christian marriage counseling, community support plays a pivotal role in reinforcing the values and practices encouraged within the counseling sessions. Community accountability is essential for couples as they navigate the complexities of marital life. It provides a system of support that extends beyond the therapist’s office, offering a network of individuals who can offer guidance, encouragement, and practical help.

  • Peer support from fellow Christians
  • Support for issues like debt, addiction, stress, and trauma
  • Available 24/7
  • Free service

However, it is important to recognize that while community support can be invaluable, it is not a substitute for professional therapy. The community’s role is to complement the work done in counseling by providing a consistent and caring environment for accountability and growth.

The commitment to community support involves meeting the recurring needs of those around you, including physical provision, emotional stability, and spiritual guidance. This commitment underscores the importance of a supportive network in fostering healthy marriages.

While the benefits of community support are numerous, it is also crucial to be aware of its limitations. For instance, peers may not have formal training in counseling, and the support offered might be limited to messaging or informal conversations. Therefore, the integration of community support with professional counseling services is recommended to achieve the best outcomes for couples seeking help.

Conclusion

Marriage is sacred and deserves to be preserved. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification.

In summary, Christian marriage counseling serves as a vital resource for couples at any stage of their relationship, offering a unique blend of therapeutic techniques and biblical wisdom. It provides a space for couples to navigate the complexities of marriage with guidance that aligns with their faith values. Whether addressing current issues or preparing for future challenges, counseling can be a proactive step towards a stronger, more unified partnership. The integration of faith and counseling not only supports the individual growth of each partner but also fosters the collective journey of ‘two becoming one.’ As couples in Frisco and beyond seek to honor their vows and build resilient marriages, Christian marriage counseling stands as a beacon of hope, offering tools and insights for a thriving marital bond.

The family is the cellular society.  It forms the bedrock of society and reflects the norms of that society.  It is key to preserve marriage and its critical role in creating love, trust and morality within the family unit.  Christian Counselors and pastors play a key role in preserving this union in the secular storm of divorce.  Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Christian marriage counseling?

Christian marriage counseling is a process that integrates therapeutic methods with biblical truth to support couples in their marital journey. It addresses issues and conflicts that arise, offering guidance based on Christian principles and psychological understanding.

Can Christian marriage counseling help during different stages of marriage?

Yes, Christian marriage counseling is beneficial for couples at any stage of marriage, from newlyweds to those married for decades. It provides both crisis intervention and regular maintenance for a healthy marital relationship.

Do I need to be Christian to benefit from Christian marriage counseling?

No, individuals of all faith backgrounds can benefit from Christian marriage counseling, as it focuses on universal relationship issues, though it is grounded in Christian beliefs and values.

What if my partner isn’t a Christian, can we still go to Christian marriage counseling?

Yes, Christian marriage counseling is open to couples regardless of individual faiths. Counselors can work with both partners to ensure that the counseling process is respectful and beneficial to both.

Are there resources available to support Christian marriage counseling?

There are numerous resources available, including books, blogs, podcasts, and workbooks that are designed to support Christian marriages through counseling and self-help methods.

What role does faith play in Christian marriage counseling?

Faith plays a significant role in Christian marriage counseling by informing the principles and guidance provided. However, the level to which it is explicitly discussed can be tailored to the comfort level of the couple.

How does Christian marriage counseling integrate theology and psychology?

Christian marriage counseling combines psychological expertise with biblical wisdom to address the complex dynamics of marital relationships, offering a holistic approach to counseling.

Is Christian marriage counseling effective in dealing with infidelity and other serious issues?

Christian marriage counseling can be effective in addressing serious issues such as infidelity. It often includes processes for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration, grounded in Christian teachings.

Additional Resources

Klein, E. (2016). “The Unraveling of a Christian Marriage: 3 Common Questions”. CrossWalk.  Access here

Gresh, D. (2017). “HOW TO GET LOST IN GOD’S LOVE AND SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE”. Focus on the Family.  Access here

Idleman, E. (2023). “10 Bible Verses to Heal and Restore a Troubled Marriage”, CrossWalk.  Access here

Mailhot, J. (2019). “What Is Biblical Marriage? Foundations, Definition, and Principles”. Logos.  Access here

Utilization of CBT in Grief and/or Depression

Grief and loss strike an imbalance in life.  During the adjustment process, numerous complications can occur that can veer a person off course in adjustment.  Sometimes Grief Counseling and simple talk can help but other times more powerful forms of counseling are required via licensed counselors with an expertise in grief counseling.  In some cases, therapy involves looking solely at the past and the emotional aspect via Psychodynamic Approach, sometimes professionals utilize a more rational approach through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and in some cases, professionals utilize a combination.

CBT helps identify distorted thinking of an event and help the person reframe those thoughts and maladaptive behaviors

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT has a high success rate in helping complicated and dysfunctional grievers find understanding and meaning in life through examination of the loss and recognition of unhealthy feelings, irrational thoughts and imbalanced behaviors.  It involves intense reflection, grief work and homework, and application to help the person reframe distorted views due to complicated grief or even cases of depression.  Originally utilized by Aaron Beck (1967), it looked to challenge distorted feelings and help the person find healing through rational re-direction.  In essence, CBT recognizes the Cognitive Triangle of thought, behavior and emotion.   Each aspect of human existence affects the other.  Thoughts can positively or negatively affect behavior, behavior can affect emotion and emotion can affect thought.  If any of these are imbalanced, it can create a distortion itself.

Albert Ellis, (1957) was a core contributor to Beck’s thought.  Ellis was discouraged by the limitations of psychoanalysis and limitations of only becoming aware of an emotion but wanted tools to cognitively help the person move forward.   Ellis drafted the ABC Model which identified a triggering or Activating event with a belief that in turn caused a consequence.  An activating event could be labeled as any traumatic event or loss that in turn was interpreted by the person.  In complications of grieving, the interpretation or belief regarding the event many times caused negative consequences, instead of the event itself.  The purpose of the therapy was to revisit the event, understand it and correlate proper consequences from the objective nature of the event instead of subjective beliefs or faulty conclusions.  Hence irrational, unhealthy, and counter productive thinking and new distorted behaviors from an event are key elements within complications of grieving.  CBT looks to challenge those ways of thinking and behaviors with an indepth cognitive, intellectual and rational discussion to help correct the emotions and behaviors via better thinking or reframing.

Cognitive Distortions 

Individuals who suffer from depression or complications in grieving generally have a faulty cognitive view of reality.  Due to the event, loss, or trauma, there is a type of worldview that haunts them and adversely affects their emotional and behavioral response to life.  For those suffering from depression or complicated loss, many have a variety of distorted views which include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: Viewing situations in binary terms, without considering nuance.
  • Catastrophizing: Anticipating the most adverse outcomes without empirical justification.
  • Mind Reading: Presuming to understand others’ thoughts without direct evidence.
  • Emotional reasoning: Basing conclusions on emotions rather than objective data.
  • Labeling: Characterizing oneself or others based on a singular trait or event.
  • Personalization: Attributing external events to oneself without a clear causal line

 

McCleod. S. (2023). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Types, Techniques, Uses. Simple Psychology.  Access here

As McCleod points out, many of these distortions are assumptions that usually are tied to lower self image or negative self schemas.  These negative self schemas play a key role in the illogical thinking and ideals of a depressed person

Cognitive Triad and Cognitive Distortions 

Beck used the example of the Cognitive Triad that illustrated three ideals of self, the world, and the future.  In all cases of depressed individuals, the self image of the person was negative, the ideal that the world hated them was present and that the future possessed no future blessings.  Beck theorized that this triad stemmed from a negative schema in life that originated from a negative life event that was never processed properly.  This in turn led to a complication in grieving or adjusting.  From these events, a series of even more cognitive distortions emerged within the depressed person in how they viewed life itself.

Among the many included magnification of bad events or minimization of good events, over personalization of others emotions as if they are correlated with oneself, and  improper correlation of negative causal events with oneself (select abstraction).  As one can imagine, a depressed person is trapped not only with emotional imbalance but is also haunted daily with these negative cognitive sequences

CBT Process

CBT challenges these thoughts.  It looks for one to reframe them and see things in different lights.  It looks to gain a better understanding of these thoughts and behaviors and incorporate better problem solving ways to deal with them.  This reframing involves first a serious discussion and revisiting of the activating event and understanding it more objectively.  Sometimes the therapist will utilize exposure therapy with the patient, asking them to discuss and think about the past incident.  For more traumatic or painful memories, this takes time and over sessions, longer exposure occurs.  Sometimes, this is through direct memory or pretending to be a bystander watching the past.  This challenges the person to face one’s past, fears and trauma and move forward.

Following analysis, one is asked to discuss thoughts and emotions associated with the event.  This is where illogical and damaging thoughts and behaviors can identified and weeded out.  The patient is given alternative ways of thinking and reframing thoughts about the event, as well as ways to better cope with daily issues.  This is key in helping the individual.  The therapist not only unroots the cognitive distortion but also gives the patient the psychological and mental tools necessary to alter negative thoughts and behaviors in association with the event.  Sometimes, the therapist and patient can role play a future event to help the patient better prepare for interaction.  Other tools include meditation and ways to calm oneself when a potential social trigger presents itself that can challenge the new reframing.

CBT gives the patient the opportunity to also be their own therapist.  To work through issues, apply skills and complete homework assignments.

It is essential in CBT to identify and recognize the distorted thought or maladaptive coping in response to the event and give the person the tools necessary to properly understand the issue and reframe it for healing purposes.  CBT usually takes 20 sessions or so to finally uproot the issue and help reframe and correct distorted thinking.

Limits of CBT

While CBT is successfully, it can have limitations.  It is based primarily upon the cognitive thought process and looks to correct maladaptive coping and distorted thoughts to help the person find balance, but other therapies, such as the Psychodynamic Approach Looks at the emotional response stemming from the past event and how that event negatively affects present day emotions.  The Freudian Psychodynamic Approach finds the repressed feelings and how to cope with those feelings.  If utilized in combination with cognitive, I feel both approaches integrated can help the person have a more holistic and complete person healing process.  The other limitation of CBT is if solely utilized as talk, it does not address the chemical imbalance within the brain and neurotransmitters.  Sometimes, serotonin balance is necessary and depression medications are necessary to help a person find new balance and alter thought process.

Hence, a multi faceted approach is sometimes necessary in treating a person, not merely an intellectual approach.  This does not mean CBT is not highly effective. It is extremely useful tool in helping individuals reframe negative thoughts and behaviors due to an incident and helping them correct those issues.

Conclusion

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals

CBT and other therapies combined are excellent ways to help correct complications in grieving stemming from distorted thinking and helping the individual from an intellectual standpoint reframe and understand the loss in a logical way void of false images.  It is a heavy talk based therapy that asks one to revisit the past, rethink and reframe it, and correct distorted thoughts and behaviors.  It sometimes requires additional therapies with it to help others overcome depression or complications in the grieving process but overall is very successful.  This type of therapy or any grief therapy is reserved for licensed therapists.  Pastoral grief counselors who are not licensed need to refer more serious cases of grief and loss to these types of licensed counselors.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.  The program is open to both licensed and unlicensed Human Service professionals and offers an online and independent program that leads to a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)”. Cleveland Clinic.  Access here

“What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”. (2017).  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. APA. Access here

Raypole, C. & Marcin, A. (2023). “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: What Is It and How Does It Work?”. Healthline.  Access here

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” Psychology Today.  Access here

 

Christian Counseling and Psychology

Within the field of Christian Counseling, a Christian message tied with counseling and morality is shared with those seeking answers and healing.   Hence the title and adjective “Christian” clearly distinguishes it from other forms of counseling.  If one were to seek merely secular or a non-Christian message, one would not seek this type of pastoral counseling.   Some Christian Counselors are only pastoral in nature and not licensed professional counselors with the state, while others may be.  For those who are also licensed professional counselors, this can sometimes lead to a conflicting position, especially if working at times in a pastoral setting versus a professional setting that is not Christian based.  It is important in counseling ethics, even within pastoral counseling, to respect the autonomy of an individual and to avoid bias infusion.  This is especially true for non-pastoral counseling when a client’s moral or faith based beliefs differ from the counselor.

Science vs. Faith?

Christian Counseling adopts a Christian based philosophy to help people face issues. The degrees of it vary from one approach to another

Yet, even within Christian Counseling, there are different schools of thought regarding the dance between Christian Counseling and psychology.  Since the dawn of the scientific revolution, science and theology were unfortunately tossed at odds with one another.  The atheistic flavor of the scientific revolution looked at only observable phenomenon and reduced metaphysics to the talk of nonsense. Led by logical positivists, many sought to remove any metaphysical reality from reasonable and rational discussion.  The scientific method was designed for the temporal world and fact.  It saw faith and metaphysics as an inferior subject that failed its methodology.  This is why modern science and theology became seen as two divergent ideals that could never co-exist.

The Christian understood that truth, whether revealed from the scientific method in the temporal realm, or through morality and faith through the metaphysical realm could never be at odds.  God is hence the source of all truth.  If God is the author of all truth, then when things seem to contradict, it is due to interpretation theologically or miscalculations scientifically.   One cannot be sacrificed to the other.   Modernists would tend to accommodate theology and Scripture to science but never force accountability to science.   This is the imbalance of the Christian who as a modernist enforces science as the superior over faith.  The heresy always forces faith to change at the demands of science.

Sometimes perhaps, new interpretation is needed.  In the case of Galileo, it was a matter of faith, mistakenly, that the universe revolved around the Earth.  It was clearly seen that this was a misconception.  When science though denies miracles or the fact that Jesus could not resurrect from the dead, then science must be held accountable.  Faith, while dismissed as subjective by modernists or atheists, still none the less can hold equal truths beyond the realm of the scientific method.  While faith is subjective in nature because so many faiths exist, faith can still hold an objective fact about reality.

The only weakness of the scientific method is it puts its methodology as an objective measurement for all reality.  While observation and testing hypothesis works perfectly for the temporal and physical world, it does not work so great for all of reality that is not observable.  As the ancients pointed out, sometimes, the object itself deserves its own consideration prior to concluding what methodology is to be utilized and tested upon it.  Phenomenology utilizes experience as its primary element of study of something.  So, in essence, using the scientific method to study metaphysics is equal to using a Phillips screw driver when you need a flat screw driver for a home repair job.  Different tools of exploration are needed to understand different things.  Atheism is what has distorted the scientific method.  It is not something that should be distrusted by Christians but is something that should be seen as a tool to understand the physical world, not as a weapon against faith.

It is because of this distrust of secular science, or misuse of it as an all purpose tool for everything, that many Christians within counseling, doubt many elements of psychology.  Some Christian Counselors will be far more modernist in their approach of utilizing psychology in Christian Counseling, while others may distrust elements of psychology and turn the Bible as full source of counseling.  Others will fall in between and utilize both in an integrative approach.

Views within Christian Counseling and Psychology

Levels of Explanation is a type of approach that looks at a particular issue in psychology or counseling from a multi-layered approach.  It looks at a particular issue from a psychological, biological, social and theological standpoint.  Different angles present different perspectives upon the issue at hand.  David Meyers, a supporter of this approach has no issue reconciling his Christian faith with psychological science.  He feels they fit together, support one another and when tension occurs, releases a truth that is reconciled through proper adjustment or interpretation (Johnson, 2000, p. 49-50).  Meyers uses the emotion of love as an example of the multi-layered examination of realities between faith and secular science.  He points out how love can be seen in psychology as a state of arousal, by the poet an experience, or by the theologian as a God-given goal of human relationships (Johnson, 2000, p. 51).  Each perspective supplies a truth to be understood and applied to the reality of love.   What is good about this approach is that it utilizes good scientific methods.  It delves into multi-disciplined practices to find different perspectives of truth.  It allows one to maintain a unbiased and professional relationship with a client.  Finally, it pushes one to question possible improper interpretations of faith or miscalculations of science.

The weaknesses of Levels of Explanation though cannot be dismissed.  They are modernistic in essence.  While it may not be contended by Meyers, faith is many times put second to the cult of science.  Meyers discusses the effectiveness of prayer in psychology as well as issues of sexual orientation within the context of faith and psychology but seems to place classical notions of theology second hand to the conclusions of science (Johnson, 2000, p. 67-74).  He concludes that the power of prayer is limited to within the realm of natural laws.  While he does make excellent points that prayer is also about finding God and having God help us through suffering, instead of turning God into a “genie” that grants wishes, he still nonetheless limits the power of prayer within the confines of nature itself.  I do contend most individuals use prayer wrong and see God as a wish granter.  Worship with God is not a contract but a covenant.  God walks with us, He does not always answer us how we wish.  Hence prayer should be utilized in a more sacred way for God’s will and possible healing, but Meyer seems to try to confine prayer to a simply modernist understanding that behaves within the laws of nature, restricting God’s power to intervene.  While Meyers creates the perception that the Levels of Explanation as a method is inclusive to faith and that faith guides perspective, but we discover this is usually not the case.   Once faith crosses the fire of empirical proof, then it appears that belief must be modified.  Levels of Explanation, may point out that certain issues may have complimentary truths, but sometimes, there are concrete differences.  Which party concedes when an issue arises between the different sciences?  Usually more than most, as seen in Meyers discussion, metaphysics or Scripture finds itself having to redefine or catch up to secular science.

The Integrative Approach starts with Scripture but also utilizes modern psychology to enhance guidance in helping individuals in spiritual, mental and emotional health

The Integration Approach is middle of the ground approach that incorporates psychology and Christian teaching, but understands that the truth and faith found in Christianity is the primary element.  While improper interpretation of faith can cloud the water, it also understands that miscalculations within science are equally to blame in clouding truth itself as well.  The Integrative Approach has no issue entering into the counseling arena with a distinct Christian set of values, but it also understands the importance of good science.  It does not see Scripture as all answer book for every malady.  Scripture is not a science text but a spiritual book for salvation.  It does contain core elements to spiritual and emotional health, but Scripture’s intent is not heal us from a psychology standpoint but to save us from a spiritual standpoint.  Hence Scripture’s basics values are expanded upon through psychology in a more in-depth and clinical way.  When contradictions occur, the Christian core message is not abandoned, but held at a higher esteem than the secular science.  The Integrated Approach does not dismiss its Christian identity but keeps it throughout with the expansion of psychology to guide it.  I would conclude, most Christian Counselors, including, Gary Collins, utilizes the Integration Approach, that starts with Scripture but expands with psychology and counseling to answer our most human needs.  For those who feel, the Integrative Approach is not powerfully enough infused with Christian ideals, then the Christian Approach is a stronger version that views the totality of the Christian person found within Scripture and the Christian tradition with far less emphasis on psychology.

Opposite the spectrum of Levels of Explanation is the pure Biblical Approach.  This approach is found in more fundamentalist camps. It does not dismiss science but is far more suspicious of its every motive and finds Scripture as a sufficient source to heal anyone of any issue.  Many pastors will use the Biblical Approach as a way to help heal and transform someone in a spiritual way.  Sin is seen as the primary culprit of suffering and through the destruction of sin and God’s Word, healing and transformation can occur.  Hence everything one needs is within Scripture.  As Christians, we all believe sin is the source of suffering.  This is not debated.  We also believe that spiritual conversion can help many mental issues.  However, the main difference between Integration Approach versus the pure Biblical Approach is that Scripture is a spiritual book not a medical or clinical book to help heal mental issues.  If looking to help treat a person with a disease, there is no directives in Scripture for proper medical procedures.  The same is with mental maladies.  Psychology has given humanity a tool set to help diagnosis and treat a variety of diseases.  While prayer, transformation and healing are essential aspects, they alone are not enough in this fallen world where physical and mental treatment is required.  There definitely exists different extremes within the Biblical Approach.  It’s primary proclamation of God’s healing power over sin and suffering is critical to any Christian Counseling ministry, but when isolated as a fix all, it misses other aspects of our existence in a fallen.  It equates spiritual salvation as healing of every aspect of human life.

Conclusion

Christian Counseling can help guide many to healing. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

While atheism and fundamentalism may be at odds due to their own biases, whether it be literal interpretations of Scripture, or complete denial of the metaphysical, many within Christian Counseling are able to bridge the two together in counseling.  There are extremes that exist in Christian Counseling and Psychology as seen in the three different highlighted approaches, but each one attempts to find some common ground and utilization of both.  One may lean more towards science or faith, while another finds an equal balance, but each has its own particular strength and also weakness.  I myself prefer the Integration Approach.  What do you prefer and why?

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a Christian Counseling Certification.

References

Johnson, E., Ed. (2000). Psychology and Christianity: Five Views. InterVarsity Press

Collins, Gary. (2007).  Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide. Thomas Nelson

Additional Resources

Greggo, S. & Sisemore, T. (2012). “Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches”. Denver Journal.  Access here

Blain, T. (2023). “What Is Christian Counseling?”. VeryWellMind.  Access here

Loosemore, P. “Measuring Christian Integration in Professional Counseling Practice and the Contributions of Spiritual Formation and Mentoring”.  Sage Journals.  Access here

Assessing Complications in Grieving

Grief is a natural reaction to loss.  Grief is the price of love and as long as love survives, the bond will never be broken.  Even though one may never see the other, the bond remains.  How that bond exists is important.  If the bond remains and the person is again able to reintegrate into society, then it is a healthy bond, if however, the bond prevents one from living again, then the bond is existing at an unhealthy state.  Also bear in mind, whether the loss is death, or any type of loss, complications can occur where one does fully readjust and adapt to the new situation.  In all these cases, the grieving process, while natural, became unhealthy due to a variety of issues.  In Grief Counseling, we refer to unhealthy adjustment in loss as Complicated Grief.

Complications in grief prevent individuals from successfully navigating the grieving process. Grief Counseling can help

Complicated Grief can be seen as an extreme grief reaction beyond what is defined as normal, or as an absent grief reaction all together.  It can also be seen by its manifestations upon the mental, emotional, physical and social aspects of the person, as well as its duration.  It can occur at any point within the grieving process and keep a person at a particular stage of his/her grief.

Some cases of grief are more susceptible to complications in grieving, albeit not guarantees of complications. Such losses that are extremely traumatic as found in war, natural disaster, rape, grotesque displays of death, and acts of terrorism can have more serious imprints upon the brain and cause PTSD and grief complications that prevent the evil from being processed.  In addition, extremely painful losses such as the loss of a child or parent,  or suicide can have a more impactful sting to a person’s recovery.  Finally, sudden losses can also shock the system.  If a loved one is murdered, dies in a car crash, or one is suddenly faced with a personal loss or injury, then grief responses can be become complicated

Grief Counselors have a special role in monitoring grief trajectories to ensure they remain steady and on normal pace.  While everyone grieves uniquely, there are general human responses to loss that involve stages of denial, anger, bargaining, emotional distress, restructuring and re-adjusting to the loss itself.  Within this, individuals may bounce back and forth between stages, or oscillate in extremity of emotion from day to day, but there is a general measurement that is not equated as pathological.   Grief Counselors who are not licensed counselors need to spot complications in grief and refer patients to licensed counselors when depression or complicated grief appears.  Licensed Counselors with expertise in grief can then help the person unblock the impasse that permits the person to continue the grieving journey.

It is important to note that grief is not a pathology and individuals suffer from loss and the imbalance it causes for the rest of their lives, but what is pathological is inability to readjust to living life.  It is also important to note that the degree of the loss and attachment play a key correlation with the time to normally recover from a loss.  Time and duration are difficult assessments with deep emotional pain when grading it with a loss.   The attachment and how the person is progressing sometimes needs to be evaluated to see if the person is stuck in complication or merely still progressing at a natural rate.

Key Signs of Complications

Acute grief is extremely painful.  Someone in acute grief cannot function at first.  They are emotionally unable to rationalize, they cannot interact with others, and have no meaning for the loss.  One cannot find complications in acute grief because the grief is raw and new.  In fact, the extreme pain in acute grief is natural and important in the grieving process itself.   When someone is experiencing acute grief symptoms months or years later, depending on the loss, then one can better access if complications have occurred.  If a person is still extremely emotional over the loss as if it just occurred and is unable to process it and feels depression to the point it is crippling to life, then this is a sure sign of a complication.  These emotional intense pains will creep into every aspect of the person’s life.  One’s physical health, stress levels, sleeping patterns and immune response can all take hard hits.  In addition, one’s mental health can decline as a constant state of depression emerges over the person.  Life will no longer have any meaning to the person.  Happiness will be unattainable in any activity.  One’s social life will become isolated.  One may resign from past activities that gave oneself joy and completely disassociate from family and friends.  This will negatively affect profession and career and academics.  Finally, one will maladaptively cope with the issue through possible drug use.  As pointed out, the absence of grief can also be a sign. Maladaptive coping that prevents the person from recognizing the loss can occur.  Individuals may deny the grieving process by keeping oneself busy.  One may avoid cleaning out a deceased’s closet after a year.  These are also signs of not adjusting to the loss in a healthy way.

Complications within the Trajectory

When someone denies a terrible reality or loss, they are naturally protecting themselves.  This is normal in grief reaction, however, if denial persists, then the processing of the loss can never take place.  If a grief counselor discovers constant denial, avoidance of the subject, the person’s possessions, or areas where the person died, then there are chances of a complication in the grieving process that have prevented the person from moving forward in the denial phase.  It is no longer healthy but has become a toxic maladaptive coping mechanism.

If someone experiencing extreme adverse emotions beyond the initial acute phase of grief, then there are also signs of complications within the grieving process.  Individuals may be extremely angry, sad, or guilty even over a death.  Complicated relationships with the deceased, how the deceased passed, a person’s role in the passing of the deceased, unresolved issues with the deceased, and not expressing emotion earlier in the loss can lead to a mass of untamed emotions.  One needs to discuss these emotions and why they are exhibiting themselves later in the grieving process.  Through grief counseling, one can better understand the source of the emotions and help individuals come to grips with how they felt about the person, the person’s death and their emotions in relationship to it.

Becoming stuck in grief is a sign of complicated grief. An individual is trapped in the grieving process and unable to adjust to the loss in a healthy way

Someone who is suffering over depression, or suffering from pro-longed grief have exceeded any normal time frame.  Again time frames and duration of grief can vary, but a good grief counselor can calculate if someone is experiencing excessive duration and depression.  When the person has lost meaning to life and is unable to find happiness over an extended period of time after the loss, then the person needs professional aid in fighting off the depression which may be chemically based as well.

Other individuals suffer from an inability to reorganize their lives and find meaning the loss.  They are unable to live with the loss but still live from day to day.  Individuals may not be able to make new connections or tie the loss of the past to the present and future.  They remain stuck in the past and unable to proceed into new venues.  They feel obligated to the past.  They may utilize maladaptive practices such as drugs to cover feelings or ignore new events.  They may not be able to visit a grave, or discuss the loss.  The deceased’s past is only of pain, with no remembrance of happiness or smiles.  Healthy grieving permits one to have both sad and happy memories.  It allows one to make new connections with people without feeling a betrayal to the deceased.  It permits one to find meaning in the deceased’s life and push forward with that meaning into other venues or social agendas.

Resiliency

Most individuals who grieve losses face difficult acute phases but grieve naturally.  They are able to process the loss and move forward in life despite the pain.  For the percentage who does not grieve normally, one should not consider weak.  Resiliency to loss has many factors.  The nature of the loss itself has a large impact to the adjustment to it.  Again, objective natures of loss can play a key role into how one recovers.  Traumatic, stigmatic, sudden, or severe loss can play key role in preventing processing of a memory or loss.  Others who face complications may have family history of depression and a natural serotonin imbalance, hence reducing resilient behavior.  Still others without emotional support can face a difficult uphill battle in adjusting to the loss.  Individuals with family and social support have an easier time healing from loss than those alone or with unsupportive friends and family.  Others have proper guidance to avoid maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drinking and find guidance in support groups that offer other venues to cope with loss.  Prayer, mediation, exercise and hobbies are ways they adjust to the pain and loss itself.  Finally, individuals whether religious or not that hold to some world view to anchor them have a better chance of adjusting to loss over time.

Conclusion

Hence when grief is not processed properly, complications can occur within any point within the trajectory.  Complications manifest in extreme emotions or lack of emotions well beyond the acute phase of grief and duration of these emotions exceed normal process ranges.  They prevent the person from moving forward and adjusting to the loss in a healthy way.  Grief Counselors play a key role in helping individuals remain on a healthy trajectory, with special care to the unique grieving situation.  Licensed counselors who are also grief counselors can play a key role in helping those who fall off the healthy trajectory and help them again find the care they need to find adjustment to the loss.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals

Again it is important to note that grief is normal.  It is  natural and healthy process.  Grief is not an imbalance that needs corrected.  There is no true recovery but more so a process that leads to acceptance of the loss and finds meaning in the loss.

To better help others through the grieving process, the American Academy of Grief Counseling and AIHCP offers a four year Grief Counseling Certification for qualified professionals.  The program is online and independent study and open to those interested in helping others navigate the murky waters of grief. Please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

Additional Resources

“Complicated Grief”.  The Mayo Clinic.  Access here

“Complicated Grief.” The Cleveland Clinic.  Access here

Sutton, J. (2022). “How to Treat Complicated Grief in Therapy: 12 Examples”. Positive Psychology.  Access here

Shear, K. et, al. (2013). “Bereavement and Complicated Grief”. Psychiatry Rep. 2013 Nov; 15(11): 10.1007/s11920-013-0406-z. National Library of Medicine.  Access here

Talbbl, R. (2017). “Six Signs of Incomplete Grief”. Psychology Today.  Access here

 

 

 

Psychodynamic Therapy and Emotion

For many experiencing complications with emotion, notably grief or anxiety, individuals turn to therapy.  Not all loss is simple and sometimes emotion itself is far from simple or easy to identify its source.  Anxiety and depression plague individuals and can have crippling effects on their mental health and social interaction.  Therapists and licensed counselors usually turn to some type of medication to help balance the neurotransmitters in the brain or hormones in the body.  Others will also look to cognitive behavioral therapy to help articulate the issue from a rational way, introducing adaptive coping strategies, better responses and overall reframing.

Psychodynamic therapy looks at the subconscious root of depression and how to unblock the healing for better relationships with others.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Professionals from the Freudian school also can utilize Psychodynamic therapy which can also have equal benefits in helping individuals not only with deeper pathologies but also depression and anxiety.  Psychodynamic Therapy looks within the person’s emotions and past to help decipher the reasons for depression, anxiety or emotion.  Stemming from Freud, the idea suggests that all emotion or behavior stems from one’s subconscious and also partly early childhood experiences.   Through various internal mechanisms both inherited biological and learned through experience, one learns to balance these emotions and feelings but when imbalance occurs, anxiety can result, which can also lead to subconscious repression.  Psychodynamic therapy looks to the unconscious to find these events that has caused these unconscious feelings that are now manifesting in one’s life.

Through this process, the therapist hopes to discover the root of the issue, identify it and help the person learn from it.  The person then is guided to the root cause of his/her issue and learns how this unconscious feeling is causing havoc in one’s life and how to better regulate it.  This involves a type of talk therapy where the patient discusses their feelings and the therapist attempts to discover the source of the emotional imbalance.  Erick Erickson, a disciple of Freud, introduced how emotional issues can arise when individuals do no meet certain eight stages.  His psychosocial approach identified 8 stages of development within human life from infancy to old age and how two opposite outcomes can occur when needs and goals are not met.  Individuals who do not successfully meet certain needs or goals experience regression or incompleteness manifesting in depression or anxiety.  Therapists with psychodynamic therapy can help guide individuals discover unconscious feelings about certain events that can lead to deeper reasons why someone feels depressed, angry or anxious.  Sometimes, individuals may not be able to form relationship bonds, or have trust issues.  These issues usually are a result of some earlier childhood experience that once identified and discussed can find ways to better resolve it.

These types of talk therapies usually last anywhere from 40 to 45 minutes once a week and can continue for a few months or up to a year.  The key within the process is to uncover the root cause for the emotional balance within the subconscious mind and help identify it.  This allows the person to recognize the issues and its root and better move forward without repeating the same mistakes.  With understanding of the source, better ways to respond to it, and coping mechanisms, one can better find balance and move forward. In essence, one can understand the emotion, recognize patterns caused by it and form better relationships from this enlightenment.  The therapy looks to unblock one from the past and allow one to move forward.

Comparisons and Differences Between CBT and Psychodynamic Therapies

While looking more at emotion, this therapy differs from CBT which obviously looks at unhealthy ways of thinking and how one can reframe and better oneself.  Both CBT and Psychodynamic therapy can look at better ways to manage how we react to things, but they have different starting points.  Both are considered effective methods, but it ultimately it depends upon the person.  It also can depend upon the type of trauma.  Proponents against Psychodynamic theory may contend it takes away free will due to the unconscious drive, but one can modify the strict Freudian values and say emotional trauma at early age can greatly affect a person decision making but not necessarily strip one of conscious decisions.

CBT offers reframing solutions to perceptions and ideas one faces.  It looks to remove distortions of reality and how to better reframe it and respond.  Psychodynamic may be better at explaining the deeper cause of it but both methods look to understand the emotion and find better ways of dealing with it.  In essence, Psychodynamic looks to find what is blocking a person from proceeding forward and ends, while CBT looks at how to cope with the issue through a variety of adaptive coping methodologies.  Some therapists may only use one pure form, or combine the two, with one helping the person cope and then later delving into the source of the issue.

A good example of someone facing deeper pathological issues with depression and self image would to be utilize CBT  and Psychodynamic therapies.  With CBT, the therapist would set out to dismiss from an intellectual standpoint the false image of self that is destructive.  Therapy would look to help the individual realize the distorted self view and then offer ways to think differently when low self esteem emerges.  It would point out that low ideals of self are not true and how to better deal with these thoughts through meditation, journaling or other self affirmative practices.  It would teach one to better reframe these distortions.  The Psychodynamic portion would investigate the source of the low self esteem in earlier life, the emotion itself, how to manage the emotion, and proceed in relationships. Once the unconscious source is identified, the individual could better understand why one feels a certain way, recognize patterns and triggers for the emotion and form healthier bonds.  In this example, while not purely one therapy, one can see the benefit of both schools of thought being utilized.

Conclusion

Human beings are complex emotional beings.  We have a intellect and will.  We are rational and emotional.  According to Freud, we are torn between internal impulses and external systems.  Subconscious and conscious events can occur which create a variety of imbalances.  How we find balance depends on what therapy is best for us.  Talking therapies, like CBT and Psychodynamic are useful therapies to help from emotional or rational standpoints.  Sometimes, talk therapies are also supplemented with medications to help any neural or hormonal imbalances as well.  Ultimately, Psychodynamic therapy is a an excellent option for some.

Psychodynamic therapy has Freudian roots. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

Please also review AIHCP’s behavioral certifications, especially its Grief Counseling Certification.  While grief counseling is clearly not a pathological type of counseling because it deals with a direct loss, it can sometimes turn pathological and require a licensed professional.  AIHCP certifies both licensed and unlicensed human service professionals who offer different level of services within grief.

Additional Resources

“CBT vs. Psychodynamic Therapy: What’s the Difference?” Zencare.  Access here

Mcleod, S. (2024). “Psychodynamic Approach In Psychology”. Simply Psychology.  Access here

Davis, K. (2023). “How does cognitive behavioral therapy work?”.  MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

Dresden, D. (2020). “What is psychodynamic therapy?”. MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

Cherry, K. (2023). “What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?”. VeryWellMind.  Access here