By John Gillman
Felicity B. Kelcourse and K. Brynolf Lyon (eds.), Transforming Wisdom. Pastoral Psychotherapy in Theological Perspective. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books. 2015. 255 pp. $30.
The editors, both on the faculty at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, have assembled contributions from more than a dozen pastoral psychotherapists, who offer theological perspectives primarily from a Christian viewpoint. Although chaplains are not the intended audience, NACC members may find several of the essays relevant to the work we do.
K. Brynolf Lyon, in “Prelude: Why This Book,” argues that pastoral psychotherapy is to be rooted in a distinctive theological perspective while embracing religious and cultural diversity. This could also be said about chaplaincy. In a second article, “Group Psychotherapy as Metanoetic Liturgy,” Lyon reflects on how the Other may be experienced in group psychotherapy, calling its members toward metanoia. In another introductory chapter, Felicity Kelcourse offers a cursory historical overview of pastoral psychotherapy. Pamela Cooper-White, in “On Listening: Taming the Fox,” mines the metaphor of taming, taken from The Little Prince, to remind readers of the greater therapeutic value of listening (including silence) compared to active interventions.
Phillis Isabella Sheppard, in “Culture, Ethnicity, and Race: A Womanist Self,” calls for a theological anthropology that includes culture, gender, class, ethnicity, and race. Her attention to the theological dimension is thin compared to the psychological. In “Sexuality-Affirming Pastoral Theology and Counseling,” Joretta L. Marshall encourages counselors to deepen their awareness of their own sexual and spiritual narratives and consider how these may get in the way of positively engaging clients. Felicity B. Kelcourse and Christopher Ross, in “Personality, Individuation, Mindfulness,” provide a lucid summary of Jungian personality types and mindfulness meditation techniques.
Matthias Beier, “Assessing Faith: Beneficent vs. Toxic Spirituality,” argues that, contrary to Pargament, Cooper-White, and Koenig, the health or harm of faith is best assessed by examining the experience of existential trust or fear within the human spirit itself. While Steven S. Ivy intends his comments about “Professionalism and Ethics” for pastoral counselors, much of what he says also applies to chaplains. Ryan LaMothe, in “The Art and Discipline of Diagnosis,” sketches four interpretative frameworks for making a pastoral diagnosis.
Carrie Doehring, “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Coping and Meaning Making,” peruses ways that counselors can support trauma survivors with attention to life-giving theologies of suffering that are coherent with the beliefs of clients.
Insook Lee, in “Initial Interview,” reminds the practitioner that initial interviews are to be carefully structured with attention to the holding environment, therapeutic alliance, information gathering, assessments, and treatment plans. Looking at “Individuals: The Therapeutic Relationship,” Chris R. Schlauch examines the contours of therapeutic relating, reminding the reader that change and healing come through the quality of the relationship itself. James Furrow, in “Helping Couples find Faith in Love,” explores how emotionally focused couples therapy can be a powerful therapeutic approach.
Suzanne Coyle, in “From Systems to Narrative Family Therapy,” incorporates perspectives from liberation theology, thus offering family members an opportunity to consider how they might experience the God of compassion and freedom as empowering. Finally, Ann Belford Ulanov, in “Coda: Self-Care for the Least of These,” following Jung, suggests that the therapist (and, I would add, the chaplain) is to be included among the “least of these” (Matt. 25:32-45), and hence we need to find ways to nourish our souls and refresh our spirits.
There is much wisdom to be gleaned from the essays in this volume. My main criticism is that several contributors give insufficient attention to the integration of theological perspectives.
John Gillman, BCC, is a CPE supervisor in San Diego, CA.