You might decide to seek Christian based marriage counseling when your marriage becomes troubled because this spiritual counseling incorporates your beliefs and values into the treatment plan.
This blending of religion and therapy is called clinical integration, which is defined in the literature as “the incorporation of religious or spiritual beliefs, values, and methods into the process of psychotherapy that results in a different way of being a therapist, understanding the client, or doing therapy.”(1)
Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97232
The authors of the article that presented this definition quote
earlier studies that view clinical integration as “the next logical step
in attempting to make psychotherapy more effective by incorporating all
aspects of individuals in the psychotherapy process.” In fact, they
find three ways in which Christian based marriage counseling can
incorporate a spiritual approach to psychotherapy:
•Interventions may be guided by acknowledging that spiritual experiences make a difference in human behavior.
•Treatment goals, technique-selection, and outcome evaluation may be determined by anchoring the therapy in the universal terms of a spiritual perspective.
•Techniques such as prayer, rituals, and Scripture study may be used in addition to community resources such as communal spiritual experiences.(2)
Although spirituality can be used to guide and assist Christian based marriage counseling, it can also introduce problems into the therapeutic milieu. For example, a study of battered women of Christian faith in Memphis, Tennessee found that Christian beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, as well as partner and community pressure to present themselves as model Christians shamed and silenced battered women, preventing them from seeking help.(3)
Another problem that can arise from Christian based marriage counseling is that clients who have been counseled by lay Christians may then come to later, more formal therapeutic relationships with expectations that a new non-spiritual counselor is unaware of and unable to fulfill. In lay counseling, the various models of treatment might include active listening, cognitive and solution-focused approaches, and inner healing. These are very different from the models used in traditional psychotherapy. In addition, previously lay-counseled clients may not have the same understanding of informed consent and other ethical aspects of treatment as offered in a non-spiritually based setting.(4)
Even the types of people seen in intensive marital therapy may be different in Christian based marriage counseling as compared to non-spiritually based therapy. In one study, five significantly different personality clusters were identified for conservative Christians. These clusters were identified as:
•Abstract, deferential, trusting and tolerant of disorder
•Reactive and deferential
•Reserved, abstract, serious, grounded, traditional, and self-reliant
•Socially bold, abstracted, forthright, and open to change(5)
If you find yourself in need of spiritually-based marital therapy, you might want to start by reading some of the advice on Christian based Marriage Counseling at sites such as Real Christian Marriage.com.
(1) Lewis Hall ME and Hall TW. Integration in the Therapy Room: An Overview of the Literature. As quoted in: Psychology & Christianity Integration: Seminal Works That Shaped the Movement. 2007. Edited by Stevenson DH, Eck BE, and Hill PC. ISBN 9780979223709.
(3) Knickmeyer N, Levitt H, and Horne SG. Putting on Sunday Best: The Silencing of Battered Women Within Christian Faith Communities. Feminism Psychology 20(1): 94-113. Feb 2010.
(4) Garzon F, Worthington, Jr. EL, Tan SY, and Worthington RK. Lay Christian Counseling and Client Expectations for Integration in Therapy. Journal of Psychology and Christianity 28(2): 113-120. 2009.
(5) Knabb, Joshua J.; Vogt, Ronald G.; Brickley, Dale J.;
Newgren, Kevin P.. "Personality Typologies for Conservative Christians
in Intensive Marital Therapy" Marriage & Family Review 47:1. 20 Mar.
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