Today, psychology is a popular discipline which is studied not only by professionals but also amateurs. Psychology is constantly evolving and receives new iterations, one of such unique approaches was introduced by Megan Anna Neff and Mark R. McMinn in their book “A Fresh Look at Christianity in the Therapy Room.” The book explores the idea of integrating Christianity and psychology together to enhance therapy experiences. The first three chapters of the book are dedicated to different topics, including the practice of lamenting, living in a destabilized world, and the role of God in psychotherapy. The book contains a considerable amount of information which can enhance the reader’s understanding of the link between religion and therapy. The first three chapters of the book can enable professionals to be more accepting of their clients.
The first chapter of the book focuses on the practice of lamenting, which involves expressing and contemplating grief. The authors suggest that the second-wave cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy approaches to managing crisis situations which involve the replacement of grief with positive thinking, may not be the best solution. Instead, the authors offer their method, which relies on the third-wave perspectives and implies actually confronting the pain experienced by the patient. In the case of the new approach, lamenting becomes a vital element which enables a person to avoid ignoring their distress and embrace it, eventually gaining hope. Lamenting reinforces’ people connection with God and their faith which is exemplified by Jerimiah’s story, who faced hardships for speaking God’s words but was able to become even more faithful through mourning (Neff & McMinn, 2020). The authors provide several pieces of advice on how lamenting can become a powerful tool in psychotherapy.
First of all, it is essential to integrate lament and hope and stop making them opposites, and the counselor themselves must model it. Moreover, lamenting exposes a full range of emotions, including resistance to God, which, nevertheless, still constitutes a form of expression of one’s angst. The counselor’s role is to assist their clients in exploring their painful emotions and provide them with a framework to do it faithfully.
The second chapter of the book concerns the exploration of the topic of destabilization, which affects the modern world and the lives of people. Neff and McMinn employ the book of Ecclesiastes as the source of knowledge about difficult times. The author of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth, lived in a period of significant transition in the history of Jews which implied a considerable lack of stability (Neff & McMinn, 2020). One of the core ideas of Qoheleth is based on Hebel, an ancient word for “breath,” which also means a moment of enjoyment which is transient. Qoheleth believes that misery and pain are an inherent part of human life, and people must not constantly strive for security but rather should focus on the moments of pleasure given by God. Thus, counselors can explain to their clients the importance of being able to enjoy moments of pleasure in life and avoiding striving for money or career prospects. Additionally, counselors must also tell their clients of the significance of treating all life’s circumstances as gifts and being grateful for them.
The third chapter of the book is dedicated to the role of God in psychotherapy and the implicit and explicit beliefs in the people’s lives. The authors stress the idea that in Christianity, people were created in God’s image, which means that the counselor must also view their clients in the same way (Neff & McMinn, 2020). Such an approach will help the counselor create an environment where clients will feel accepted and relaxed. Moreover, based on the view of people as created in God’s image, counselors must assume the perspective that humanity is inherently good. As a result, they must have a positive view of all of their clients, including criminals who may actually struggle due to the lack of their positive self-regard. The knowledge of implicit and explicit beliefs can enable counselors to assist clients with trauma who can confront their explicit beliefs in relation to their issues and discover the implicit ones. Finally, it is important to avoid viewing counselors and clients as self-contained individuals, instead, a focus should be on fostering a communal atmosphere of acceptance and respect.
I can agree with every idea voiced by Neff & McMinn, yet, I find it difficult to apply the practice of integration of lamenting and hope in certain situations. For instance, atheists deny that religion can be a source of factual information and therefore do not have any faith and hope (Oppy, 2019). Therefore, it would be interesting to learn the perspective of the authors on the right approach to lamenting when working with atheists. After all, without hope, lamenting can easily turn into simple bitterness towards other people and even the self. At the same time, the idea of lamenting and hope is particularly relevant today when thousands of people die from the COVID-19 virus (Mervosh et al., 2021). Some people are subject to the continuous loss of their friends and family members, which prevents them from lamenting properly and can make them question their faith.
Personally, I lost several people who were dear to me during the pandemic, and belief played a major role in my coping process. The story of Jerimiah mentioned by the authors also helped me during the difficult time, especially the idea that God can test the minds and hearts of people (“The Holy Bible,” Jeremiah 11:18-20). Additionally, the authors highlighted the need to view misery and pain as normal parts of life. The absence of any data on the possible end of the current pandemic and the growing number of virus mutations puts people in a situation where they feel extremely stressed (Callaway, 2021). Recognizing all life circumstances as gifts can help them overcome their anxiety and be grateful for the moments of happiness they encounter. I will apply all of the ideas presented by the authors in my practice when working with different types of individuals. For instance, I will always remind myself of viewing my clients as people created in God’s image, which will help me develop an attitude of acceptance.
The chapters from the book enabled me to enhance my understanding of the relationship between belief and psychotherapy in more detail. At the same time, they also propelled me to explore my own relationship with God by considering both my implicit and explicit views. The idea of being grateful for the events which on encounter in life has never occurred to me before. Now, I have decided to praise God more often and recognize his presence in my life and always remember that “his love endures forever” (“The Holy Bible,” Psalm 118:1). Moreover, I further reinforced my belief that God always gives us life circumstances which we can overcome. I understand that every person at some point experiences pain, but hope is what can help them embrace and accept it.
The chapters also emotionally inspired me in numerous ways and enabled me to answer certain questions which concerned me continuously. For instance, whenever I confronted atheists in my life, one of the main arguments against the religion presented by them was the presence of evil in the world. Although over the years, I have given numerous justifications of such a phenomenon, the one mentioned by the authors in the book amazed me. Specifically, the authors described the suffering god theodicy, which I had never encountered before and which inspired me to embrace a different perspective on the situation. The theodicy postulates that God does not rescue people from suffering but enters into it and walks together with them (Neff & McMinn, 2020). Such an idea truly put things together for me and made me realize that God is always present in our lives whether we are suffering or experiencing pleasure.
Callaway, E. (2021). Heavily mutated coronavirus variant puts scientists on alert. Nature.
Mervosh, S., Baker, M., Mazzei, P., & Walker, M. (2021). One year, 400,000 coronavirus deaths: How the U.S. Guaranteed its own failure. The New York Times.
Neff, M., & McMinn, M. (2020). Embodying integration: A fresh look at Christianity in the therapy room. IVP Academic.
Oppy, G (2019). A companion to atheism and philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (2016). BibleGateway.