The case of Mary is one that needs to be handled with extreme care and caution. Mary has suffered some extreme trauma in her life, and this needs to be considered when providing care to her. It is important to ask Mary for clarity on her desire for the use of scripture and prayer in the counseling sessions (Tang, 2007).
I would use private prayer for Mary outside and inside the session. This type of prayer helps me as a counselor through the difficult work of helping Mary with her trauma (McMinn, 2011). It does not risk offending the client that would likely have confused views of religion and spirituality. If Mary seemed to respond well to the use of prayer, I would consider using devotional prayer and meditation during the sessions. This technique can help the client calm themselves and regulate during a session (McMinn, 2011).
I would be very cautious with the use of scripture in the counseling sessions with Mary because of the way her father twisted the scriptures to abuse her. Again if she seemed intent on using scriptures, I would likely spend some time using the theoeducational model. I would seek to help correct some of the false views of scripture that Mary had heard in her life (Garzon, 2005). If Mary was responsive, I would seek to use some scripture in relation to Christian Cognitive Behavioral therapy (Tang, 2007). This model seeks to apply the truth of scripture in the client’s lives to overcome false narratives they may be believing.
As I mentioned above, I would seek to incorporate Christian Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This practice has its foundation in psychology and applies Christian principles to the technique (Tang, 2007). I would also look for other techniques that have proven effective in treating people with trauma like Mary. My answers to the first two questions mesh perfectly with my answer to the third question. I believe they mesh so well because theology and psychology are allies and are not at odds. When prayer and scripture are in line with the clients’ beliefs and desires, it can mesh perfectly with psychology practices.
Garzon, F. (2005). Interventions that Apply Scripture in Psychotherapy. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 33(2), 113-121.
Tang, S. Y. (2007). Use of Prayer and Scripture in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 26(2), 101-111.
McMinn (2011) cautions therapists to not rush clients towards quick healing. He suggests a therapist should “sit still and notice the depth of pain they are bringing before us” (p. 321). For Mary, the most effective use of prayer is change therapy that will promote ‘Outside-In Change’ and connect her to the external pain she has experienced (Brewster & Peters, n.d., slide 5/7). Since every Christian referred to counseling is not the same, I would seek to fully understand Mary’s level of Christian experience before actively introducing prayer into the counseling session. Even if I did not engage in active prayer, I would remain in silent prayer for Mary both inside and outside of the counseling sessions.
Since Mary’s Father used Scripture as part of his abuse towards Mary, even with Mary’s informed consent, I would be very careful how Scripture is used during therapy. At Mary’s own pace, however, and based on the Garzon (2005) the educational approach, I would eventually assign Mary Scripture passages from the Word of God as homework. My goal would be to emphasize the loving nature and character of God; and help Mary realigning any errant thoughts or misconceptions about God that were distorted by negative experiences with her father.
My ability to competently address Mary’s past abuse and sexual trauma, would be of primary concern when selecting a specific psychological approach, technique or treatment plan. That said, I would consider the Garzon (2005) written REBT intervention behavioral approach, to address Mary’s belief that she is distant from God. This in-session REBT intervention would rate the original level of Mary’s irrational belief (i.e., God is distant). After using Scripture as the REBT intervention, to dispute this thought, then again rate Mary’s beliefs about God.
According to McMinn (2011) prayer is used with “some but not all” counseling clients dependent on both the client’s diagnosis and the counselor’s “theoretical orientation” (p. 81). In Mary’s case, integration of theology and psychology through use of Scripture can be a little fraught because it requires knowledge and understanding of Mary’s level of Christian maturity, faith and theological understanding. This is not the same case with prayer which can be used silently and without consent. Regardless of the actual integrative psychological or theological approach used by the therapist, of prayer alone, McMinn (2011) suggests that for the Christian counselor, engaging in some form of prayer is always “wise and productive” (p. 91).
Brewer, G. & Peters, C. (n.d.), Spirituality, Suffering, and Counseling Dynamics: COUC 506
(LUO), Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University Online
Garzon, F. (2005). Interventions that Apply Scripture in Psychotherapy. Journal of Psychology
and Theology, 33(2), 113-121. Retrieved from: https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/223669109/fulltextPDF/C6521E0C61D5406BPQ/1?accountid=12085
McMinn, M. R. (2011). Psychology, theology and spirituality in Christian counseling
(Revised ed.). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House. ISBN: 99780842352529