Ethos of integration of Christianity and psychology
Critiquing the philosophy of psychology
We acknowledge Jesus is Sovereign over all dimensions of life, not just the religious sphere. There is not the religious sphere of life and the secular which can be completely separated. So the issue is not whether God is relevant and important in psychological therapy, but how they should be mixed together.
An essential aspect of psychology as a science is about testing and critiquing facts. In areas where psychology is based on faith critiquing is also crucial. Christian psychologists tend to critique from a more Christian biblical worldview. There are many aspects where professional psychology should be improved and a biblical understanding can assist in helping improve and transform psychological practice. Non-Christian Worldview assumptions influence all therapeutic approaches to some extent and Christian therapists need to be sensitive to tensions with biblical principles.
As Christian psychologists we respect that other psychologists practice psychology based on different religious and worldview assumptions, but we affirm our freedom to practice psychology consistent with our faith. We believe it is valuable and therapeutically beneficial for clients to have the option of therapy within a framework consistent with their beliefs.
This is all the more important in counselling. For counselling is about influencing client’s beliefs, emotions and their soul in a deep way, for the counselling the client comes to the therapist open to changing aspects of themselves and who they are.
Respecting religious freedom
Psychologists have a responsibility to respect a client’s own religious and faith positions which are usually very different from their own personal religious and philosophical views. When counselling one can’t avoid being influenced by some form of recognised psychological therapy. Likewise we recognise that philosophically therapists cannot be completely value neutral and a therapist’s own values and spirituality inevitably influence their therapy to some extent.
As psychologists we have a responsibility to not impose our beliefs onto others, and respect the faith and beliefs of the client. Psychologists are not just committed to being non-discriminatory, but submitting to the client’s freedom to follow what they believe is right and best. Psychologists also have a responsibility to inform and guide clients when the therapist believes it is in the client’s best interests. There is a tension between being directive and non-directive for all psychologists. For Christian psychologists the worldview that informs our practice is more Christian and biblical than other psychologists. All people, Christian or otherwise, are influenced by their values and worldview, and we respect others who hold different perspectives.
Boundaries of what is professional counselling
Professional Counselling has limits and boundaries that are important to maintain. There are many aspects of the Christian life that are important for individual Christians and groups to participate in, that are largely inappropriate in professional counselling. Our ethos is to stick with the bounds of what is regarded as professional psychology.
For example it may be appropriate to engage in Christian fellowship involving chit-chat for prolonged periods after church however not in the counselling room.
The ethos of Sovereignty Psychology is to counsel within the bounds of what is accepted therapeutic interventions in the general psychological community, ie evidenced-based psychological approaches. We are open to critiquing these approaches from a Christian perspective modifying or even avoiding some aspects incompatible with faith. Likewise we recognise that there are certain expressions of the Christian faith that have to be limited in the counselling environment.
We may utilise biblical themes or even refer to the Bible where it is seen for an individual client as the best way of applying recognised therapeutic approaches (ie evidenced based methods). Sometimes we may utilise aspects of Christian counselling approaches, such as Biblical Counselling, but only within the limits that these aspects support recognised therapeutic approaches.
The ethos of Sovereignty Psychology is that in the counselling room there is harmony between the Christian being authentic to his or her faith in Christ, and passionate about helping the client with best psychological practice. We believe Christ commands us to lovingly serve others to the best of our ability and God has given us psychological counselling to effectively live this out.