Review of Interventions That Apply Scripture in Psychotherapy

Garzon (2005) seeks to describe ways in which a therapist may use Scripture within psychotherapy interventions and to increase the awareness of therapists in these techniques. He bases this description by utilizing a case study by the name of George. Garzon contemplates issues surrounding scripture interventions. The article proceeds to relate interventions that use implicit scripture, psycho educational, theo educational, behavioral, cognitive, and affective experiential approaches. Ethical concerns are present within this discussion.

Garzon (2005) relates to the reader that one must acknowledge that within these interventions dual relationships occur, boundaries may be violated between church and state, an imposition of values and issues such as informed consent and competency of the counselor do arise. Ways to avoid these ethical pitfalls are to have a inclusive conformed consent, conduct assessments that clearly define the client’s spiritual beliefs, and use the scripture interventions only with certain clients (Garzon).

The religious background of both counselor and client must be positive to avoid negative outcomes such as guilt. Implicit integration may include empathetic stance of the counselor, praying for the client, and the spiritual life of the counselor. Garzon (2005) also covers integration with psychoeducational approaches. This is exemplified through providing a client with scripture that shows the emotions of Christ or the trials of Job as two possibilities to use with someone on emotions and grief process respectively (Garzon). Another intervention to use with the case study is a theoeducational avenue.

Garzon shows that he client’s comments pointed to the heavy view of sin nature while minimizing the love of God. Work in this area and with his view of his father allowed the client to re evaluate his theological stance. Behavioral and cognitive approaches are also suggested (Garzon, 2005). Teaching breathing techniques can be integrated using scripture verses upon breathing out. The cognitive approach suggested is using REBT or Greenberger and Padesky’s (as cited by Garzon) seven column technique. Inductive reasoning is utilized and scripture can be incorporated to adjust the way the the client thinks.

Using scripture as an affective experiential approaches is also explained by Garzon. Here he allows the client to put himself into scripture through meditating on a specific part and allowing God to heal through this experience. Garzon (2005) uses this article to highlight some techniques and allows the reader an opportunity to expand their ability to integrate Christianity. It is noted that this was not all inclusive of every technique utilizing scripture but merely an example of professional Christians working with scripture with other Christians.

Interaction This article was informative. The technique that resonated most with me was the affective experiential technique. I believe this approach can be highly effective but also requires a clinician that has an adequate basis of both scripture and psychology. When considering how powerful this can be the counselor must be sure of the client’s need and the therapist’s ability to take the client before the Savior. In this article, Garzon (2005) speaks of using the story of the woman in need of healing but changes it to the self esteem problem of his client.

By putting the client as the character in the story he was able to experience a transformation from Christ. This is incredibly powerful and in my opinion should only be used by someone trained in this technique. The cognitive approach seems to fit nicely with Christian perspective. A Christian is to form their thinking, attitudes and actions according to the Bible. Therefore it only makes sense to take irrational thoughts or ideas and reformulate these thoughts to bring about new attitudes and actions.

The behavioral approach mentioned as well helps the Christian client to relax utilizing helpful scripture. Scripture can be used in a theoeducational and a pychoeducational way to provide help to clients. As Garzon (2005) provides an example, using Job when dealing with grief. Many people may find comfort, guidance and clarity through scripture. A counselor would have to watch for the pitfall of pushing their views onto the client. If both come from the same background or if the counselor has great understanding of the client’s belief system the risk would be reduced.

Application The use of prayer and scripture in psychotherapy is something that Christian therapists and some non Christian therapists may choose to use within their sessions with Christian clients. An example of using scripture and prayer in a case where the client was experiencing racing thoughts and anxiety over too many problems occurring at one time; A counselor could assess the client to see if they agree with the statement that God wants to receive your burdens and heal your heart while sanctifying you.

The counselor could even simply give these following scripture verses to the client: Romans 5:3-4, Philippians 4:6-7, 1Peter 5:7 and Psalm 54:22. The sense that one is not alone and can go to the Lord with their burdens can help to ease anxiety. The client can write their burdens on paper and place into a box. In prayer present them to the Lord asking Him to give peace, guidance and clarity. The client can take the problem with the Holy Spirit guidance and then work on that one area with the rest of the problems resting with the Lord.

This exercise can help to relieve some anxiety while also dealing with issues. The idea, “God wants to receive your burdens and heal your heart while sanctifying you” can also be a thought that one can breath through when thoughts begin to race. Inner healing prayer seems fascinating to me. The “desire to bring these core issues and connected emotions ‘into the living presence of God’ for processing, as well as for processing with the therapist are the goal.

This could be quite effective for those struggling with irrational beliefs about themselves and feelings of helplessness as well as many other conditions. This powerful experience could be life changing. Overall, there is significant benefit to understanding the spiritual beliefs of the client and as a Christian counselor to center the therapy on Christ. References Garzon, F. (2005) Interventions that apply scripture in psychotherapy. Journal of Psychology and Theology 33 (2) 113-121.

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