Category: Counseling

A Brief Compare and Contrast Analysis of the ACA and APA Codes of Ethics

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) code of ethics focus on the medical model and the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) code of ethics has its focus on mental health in relation to the client’s wellbeing.  Both ethical codes contain a preamble, a general description of  the organization’s ethical principles, and ethical standards.  However, there are subtle and blatant differences between these two documents.  What follows in this paper is a comparison and contrast between the APA and ACA codes of ethics with a guided focus on answering the following question: How do these ethical codes address the significance of the client-counselor relationship?

Critical Analysis 

“The APA Code of Ethics” (2010) is a document with a five part ethical principles section, lettered A – E, and are as follows: “Beneficence and nonmaleficence, fidelity and responsibility, integrity, justice, and respect for people’s rights and dignity” (p. 2).  Notably in the APA these ethical principles are declared as unenforceable rules, but rather they are to serve as a guide “to guide psychologists toward the highest ideals of psychology” (p. 3).  In contrast, the “ACA Code of Ethics” (2014) lists six ethical principles which are as follows: “autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice, fidelity, and veracity” (p. 3).  However, these ethical principles are provided after a list of five values creating a “conceptual basis” for the ethical principles (p.3).  The ACA code (2014) derives its ethical standards on its values and principles, stating: “These principles are the foundation for ethical behavior and decision making” (p. 3).  While it may be a subtle distinction, it remains noteworthy that the APA utilizes the word “guide” while the ACA code uses the word “foundation” to describe the function of the ethical principles in relation to ethical decision making; as a way to approach the ethical standards themselves.

The reason the word “foundation” is of significance, especially in contrast to the word “guide” is the overall importance being established for the ethical standards themselves.  The implication being, that the word “foundation” offers a concrete recognition that they values and ethical principles within the “ACA Code of Ethics” permeate the standards in such a way that their existence can in no way be separated from their intended social pragmatism.  It is not that the ends justify the means, rather it is the means that inform the ends.  The emphases on a foundational system of values and principles in the “ACA Code of Ethics” communicates an overarching theme of protecting the client and making sure the counselor is clear on how, as well as why, he or she should do so.

Thematic Differences 

The emphases on the client in the “ACA Code of Ethics” is substantially greater than the “APA Code of Ethics.”  For example, in the ACA ethical code the words client or clients is used 293 times, as opposed to the 67 times the same words are used in the “APA Code of Ethics”.  The ethical standards of the “APA Code of Ethics” are truncated by a lack of particular values (as opposed to ethical principles) that center around the client.  For example, when a search is conducted for the word “counseling” in the “APA Code of Ethics” the word is used 4 times, as opposed to the 157 times the “ACA Code of Ethics” refers to it.

The terminology differences are significant because they highlight two particular paths that in some regards parallel each-other, yet have differing ultimate purposes.  The APA is focused primarily on Psychology (it’s study and implications), whereas the ACA is focused on counseling (the client-counselor relationship) with an added emphases on the client’s rights.  To be more specific the APA is based on a medical model, whereas the ACA is based on a wellness model. This is important for recognizing the way each of the codes approach the client-counselor relationship.  The “ACA Code of Ethics” (2010) deals with “the counseling relationship” in the first section of its code, which introduces the subject as priority, upfront (p. 4).  The “APA Code of Ethics” places “ethical standards” as the first section of its code (p. 5).  The obvious conceptual difference is the ACA code has a cohesive platform directing the counselor in its formatting of the codes towards a client-centered approach.

Contrasting Views on “Values”   

A blatant difference between the codes of the APA and the ACA regards the role of values in the counseling or therapy relationship.  Section A.4.b. of the “ACA Code of Ethics” (2010) states the following:

Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature (p. 5).

Additionally, in section A.11.b in the “ACA Code of Ethics” (2010) counselors are directed to only give give a referral if their lack of knowledge in a particular subject warrants the client to see someone with more expertise on the subject.  The same section also deals with values in the following: “Counselors refrain from referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor’s personally held values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors” (p. 6).   The “APA Code of Ethics” is silent on the issue of “imposing values” and simply does not address the issue of making a referral based on values that are inconsistent with the client’s values.  The restrictive nature of imposing values in the counseling relationship as in the “APA Code of Ethics” once again reiterates and solidifies its position on safeguarding the client from harm, neglect, and discrimination.

In the “APA Code of Ethics” referrals, (Section 1.04, b) are appropriate when there is a lack of expertise.  Both the ACA and the APA codes have non-discrimination clauses, however the “ACA Code of Ethics” presents the concept that if one were to do a referral simply because of a difference in values with the client, the act of the referral itself is discriminatory.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, both the APA and the ACA have thorough codes of ethics, however they differ with respect to the kind of emphasis given on values and the degree to which the centricity of the client’s welfare should receive.   They are similar with regards to protecting the process of therapy / counseling, however the strategic formatting differences in the codes themselves reveal a visionary difference.  It may be observed that the ACA code reveals a relational approach to ethical values, principals, and standards whereas the APA code particularizes its focus on the role, function, and purposes of the psychologist.

References

American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA code of ethics. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf

American Psychological Association (2010). APA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/principles.pdf

*This post has yet to be updated for APA formatting.  It’s on my long list of improvements for this site.

An Existential-Christian Approach to Human Nature in Counseling

Introduction

The collaborative nature of counseling involves a specific kind of interaction, unique to the counseling relationship, where the client invites the counselor to participate in their life in such a way that the client feels understood and is empowered to make decisions for their life.  It is the process of understanding their problem and engaging in the narrative of their life, where the client learns through collaboration ways in which he or she may view and interact with their problem differently.  When a client chooses to engage a counselor in this particular kind of relationship, it is a privilege for the counselor to be the recipient of the client’s story, or a part of their story as it relates to their problem.

As a future counselor, the author of this blog post, desires to participate in this kind of counseling relationship for three reasons: Firstly, there is joy in experiencing freedom from personal narratives or problems that hinder, suppress, or entangle our humanity—as the author of this blog post has experienced from the perspective of a client.  Secondly, a counselor has the opportunity to offer hope through the collaborative framework of counseling that is a form of communicative-action.  The counselor by being actively engaged with the client through the form of asking questions, identifying themes, areas of growth or change, and by offering the client encouragement, the counselor is participating in actions that communicate hope for freedom and change to the client.  Thirdly, the counselor participates in the collaborative relationship with a client as a selfless agent working to demonstrate and provide a safe environment for the client to explore their story or problem without fear of being judged.  As someone who cares deeply for people, the author of this paper, also finds joy in being able to create such a context for those who are wounded and struggling—in need of a respite.

Human Nature: An Existential Dilemma  

Human beings live in the context of a personal narrative (individual) within a greater narrative (corporate) such as a cultural or religious narrative.  Yet, confusion and anxiety ebb and flow throughout individual narratives because of changes (external or internal) introduced into an individual’s narrative—resulting in a constant examination of the individual’s structure for their narrative, which consists of the following seven aspects: beliefs, desires, values, actions, lifestyle, identity, and purpose.  However, human nature is broken, struggling to align its nature with a greater corporate narrative in which an individual is living.  Psychological anxiety, therefore, is a natural result of this misalignment, but not a psychological state of wellbeing—as it is merely an indicator that misalignment exists within an individual.  This misalignment may include both internal and external factors, which need exploration in the counseling process.

Therefore, some reasons for entering counseling may be (1) the need to process the interruption to one’s individual narrative (i.e. divorce or a death in the family); (2) think through alternative approaches to one’s personal narrative; (3) find emotional stability; (4) re-create a personal narrative by exploring one’s options and choices for different courses of action; (5) digest the emotions and desires from events that have shaped one’s personal narrative.

The constant examination of an individual’s narrative structure is perplexed by conflicting emotions and desires, which is a result of human nature resisting itself.  Exhaustion, anxiety, apathy, dread, lostness, and confusion are natural experiences flowing from an existential misalignment created by disjointed personal and corporate narratives or a disjointed narrative structure.  This state of existential misalignment invites questions regarding one’s purpose and identity (two of the seven aspects of narrative structure).  For example, the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once wrote in his journal the following:

What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain knowledge must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. (Dru & Kierkegaard, 2003, p. 44)

Aside from Kierkegaard’s quest for a particular kind of truth, he is trying to align his personal narrative within a corporate one, which in this case is religious.  This truth, if he can find it, is something he hopes will give direction to his life (purpose) and at the same time is something that illuminates his passions (identity), or to put it another way—something that gives him life and understanding.  Later in the journal entry, Kierkegaard concludes, “One must know oneself before knowing anything else (γνθι σεαυτον).  It is only after a man has thus understood himself inwardly, and thus has seen his way, that life acquires peace and significance….” (Dru & Kierkegaard, 2003, p. 46).  The ancient greek phrase Kierkegaard attached to his conclusion is the aphorism, “know thyself”.

Understanding one’s personal narrative and the seven structural aspects listed above, creates a context for the collaborative nature of counseling whether the immediate concern is a crises, an addiction, a significant life change, or some king life struggle.  The counselor and client enter the journey together—setting goals together—seeking understanding of the client’s personal narrative for the betterment of the client’s well-being.

Counseling Models Applied 

Though the problem a client brings to the counseling process may be existential in nature the counseling model applied to the situation may be chosen according to the client’s needs and preferences.  Two models that are easily applied to existential problems having to do with a person’s personal narrative and its seven structural aspects are existential counseling and narrative counseling.  However, just as diamonds are multi-faceted things, so are problems, in which case other counseling models may be needed, such as cognitive behavior therapy or rational emotive behavior therapy.

For the sake of brevity, the remainder of this paper will be devoted to exploring how the goals of narrative therapy and rational emotive behavior therapy may be applied to the existential view of human nature outlined above.

Narrative Therapy 

Corey (2017) describes the therapists of narrative therapy as facilitators, whose aim is to invite clients to share and describe their experience in new and fresh language.

In doing this, they open new vistas of what is possible. This new language enables clients to develop new meanings for problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Freedman & Combs, 1996). Narrative therapy almost always includes and awareness of the impact of various aspects of dominant culture on human life (Corey, 2017, p. 384).

One of several practical applications of this goal is the process of externalization whereby the client examines the problem as something that is separate from his or her self.  Practically, this may be done through writing exercises or artistic expression.  A study conducted by Keeling and Bermudez (2006) indicates that when 17 participates over the course of 4 weeks practiced externalization-intervention by journaling and sculpture, the intervention helped participants express emotions, increased their awareness of personal resources and agency, helped separate problems from self, decreased symptoms and problem behaviors, and fostered a sense of empowerment (Keeling and Bermudez, 2006, p. 405).

In the magazine Psychology Today, Sherry Hamby wrote an article exploring the health benefits of emotional autobiographical storytelling.  Hamby makes the following observation in her article:

Emotional, autobiographical storytelling means writing about events and people that have mattered to you in your own life–not just describing the facts of your lives [sic]. Research shows that even brief autobiographical storytelling exercises can have substantial impacts on psychological and physical health even months after the storytelling (Hamby, 2013).

Within narrative therapy, practical exercises such as journaling and personal storytelling have a natural context for the client to explore and digest.  These self-reflecting opportunities give the client an option for examining his or her assumptions and expectations for how he or she perceives how life ought to function.  Existentially, the client through exploring their personal narrative is guided by thoughtful and engaging questions from the counselor, which helps the client consider different ways of viewing their problem.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

“REBT is based on the assumption that cognitions, emotions, and behaviors interact significantly and have a reciprocal cause-and-effect relationship” (Corey, 2017, p. 271).  This assumption fits well within the existential view described above, especially when one’s cognitions, emotions, and behaviors are recognized as fundamental elements of a person’s personal narrative.  Though one’s personal narrative is less emphasized, parts of its structure are being brought to the surface for further inspection.  The the primary hypothesis of REBT is that our emotions are mainly created from our beliefs, which influence the evaluations and interpretations we make and fuel the reactions we have to life situations. Through the therapeutic process, clients are taught skills that give them tools to identify and dispute irrational beliefs that have been acquired and self-constructed and are now maintained by self-indoctrination (Corey, 2017, p. 272).

As noted above misalignment occurs because human nature is broken, struggling to align its personal narrative with the greater corporate narrative in which an individual is living.  This is an important principle of the existential dilemma for REBT because it is within REBT that a person is challenged to let go of faulty beliefs contributing to his or her narrative misalignment.  REBT, though still within the collaborative nature of the counseling process, like narrative therapy, however REBT differs in approach.  It is more direct.  “REBT relies heavily on thinking, disputing, debating, challenging, interpreting, explaining, and teaching.  The most efficient way to bring about lasting emotional and behavior change is for clients to change their way of thinking” (Corey, 2017, p. 276).

Though REBT is not for everyone, it is an option for exploring one’s personal narrative in such a way that it brings to light beliefs that hinder living in a healthy way.  For example, a person who believes they must achieve every activity with perfection may be challenged to evaluate how and why they approach life with such a belief.  Within the context of a personal narrative, this same person may be able to identify former relationships that contributed to their believing that perfection in activities is the only option.  Additionally, a personal narrative would also bring to attention situations in this persons life where their beliefs had impacted their expectations and assumptions of others.

Conclusion

In conclusion, an existential view of human nature that is both broken and personally misaligned from a greater corporate narrative has many variational counseling approaches at its disposal for working through emotional and cognitive problems.  Of the models available to the counselor, the best option is the one that fits the client and not the other way around.  Yet, narrative therapy and REBT offer methods that are comfortably integrated within the existential view of human nature presented in this blog post.

References

Corey, G. (2017). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Dru, A., & Kierkegaard, S. (2003). The soul of Kierkegaard: selections from his Journal. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications.

Hamby, S. (2013, September 03). Resilience and … 4 Benefits For Sharing Your Story. Psychology Today.

Keeling, M. L., & Bermudez, M. (2006). EXTERNALIZING PROBLEMS THROUGH ART AND WRITING: EXPERIENCES OF PROCESS AND HELPFULNESS. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32(4), 405-19.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 6.55.14 PM.png
A visual representation of the existential view of human nature described in this paper.

Three Assessments for Suicide Prevention

This post offers three brief examples of assessments (non-standardized, norm-based, and standardized) for evaluating those at risk of suicide as well as determining factors that may play a role in reducing suicidal intentions.  The construct being measured, therefore, is suicide ideation and intention. In 2013 the average suicide rate in the United States was 113 people per day (Whiston, 2017, p. 153).   A community health assessment for Buncombe County, North Carolina in 2015 concluded that suicide in Buncombe county is rising and as of 2015 the suicide rate was higher than the North Carolina Rates (Buncombe County Community Health Assessment, 2015, p. 20).

With regards to suicide prevention, taking time to engage a client in a conversation about where he or she is at with regards to their propensity and trajectory towards suicidal thoughts may include the non-standardized assessment of discussing the mnemonic device represented in the the following phrase: IS PATH WARM.  Each letter of the phrase represents a guide for counselors in determining the potential risk of a client, please refer to figure 1.1 (Whiston, 2017, p. 154).

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 1.49.01 PM.png Whiston (2017) indicates that if the mnemonic assessment reveals there is risk for suicide for the client, the next step is to determine whether the client has a plan to carry out the his or her suicide.

The non-standardized approach of using the mnemonic IS PATH WARM assessment is helpful in providing a guide for the counselor in his or her discussions with a client so as to map out the direction their client seems to be heading with regards to suicide.  This may be considered the ground work or foundation by which other follow-up assessments may add to.  Though non-standardized and consequently subjective, this conversational approach to learning more about what the client is thinking may help build client-counselor trust and establish the client counselor relationship prior to bringing in more normative and standardized assessments.

With regards to a norm-based assessment for determining suicide potential in a client the Suicide Probability Scale provides a 36-item instrument the helps the counselors measure the risk of suicide.  “The scale includes sub scales that assess hopelessness, suicidal ideation, negative self-evaluation, and hostility” (Whiston, 2017, p. 157).  In order to utilize this scale, the counselor must have Masters related to-the-field degree.

An additional and more frequently used standardized assessment for determining suicide is the Beck Depression Inventory-II , which is an assessment focused on depression. “Ponterotto, Pace, and Kavan (1989) identified 73 different measures of depression that researchers or mental health practitioners use” (Whiston, 2017, p.159).  This is assessment may be a preferred standardized assessment as its focus concentrates around depression and it only take the client around 5 minutes to complete, allowing time for the client and counselor to discuss the results almost immediately.  To utilize this assessment also requires the clinician to meet certain educational standards and or certification requirements.

In conclusion, suicide prevention is something that needs awareness in both public and professional arenas in order that the symptoms of suicide do not go unnoticed and are given prompt attention by a professional counselor.

For further reading on the subject of suicide prevention I recommend:

References: 

Buncombe County. (2015). WNC Healthy Impact. Buncombe County Community Health Assessment. Buncombe County: Buncombe County Health & Human Services.

Brown, Jarrod & Salvatore, Tony. (2017). Raising Awareness of Suicide Risk. Counseling Today. Retrieved from http://ct.counseling.org

Whiston, Susan, C. (2017). Principles and Applications of Assessment in Counseling. Fifth Edition.  Australia: Cengage Learning.

Postmodern and Social Constructionist Implications for Christians Who Are Counselors

Postmodern and Social Constructionist Implications for Christians Who Are Counselors

Introduction

A trending topic in research journals over the last twenty years has been the various implications of postmodern thought on psychology and counseling (Biever, Cashion, Franklin, 1998).  Inherent in these journal articles are a variety of views pertaining to the practical analysis of social construction, an off-shoot of postmodernism creating implications for both counselors and social scientists.  A foreseeable problem when engaging in such discussions or reading academic papers on postmodernism is the convoluted language and often confusing jargon that seems to limit the discussion to the ‘isms’ and prevent it from moving towards the praxis of counseling methodology.  The purpose of this paper is to create a synthesis between the philosophical foundations of postmodernism, its psychological counterpart—social constructionism, then analyze a way forward for for Christians who are also counselors.

Christians who are counselors have a particular need to be aware of these trending and rather popular philosophical models because they have implications for how one perceives the purpose and role of the counselor in the client-counselor relationship.  Additionally, this paper will explore the benefits and disadvantages of postmodernism and it will explore various ways in which a Christian counselor may come to appreciate, at least in part, some of the values of postmodernism. Firstly, the current postmodern landscape needs to be described within the context of its beginnings, then an analysis of its recent developments for Christian counselors will be explored.

The Birth of Postmodernism and Social Constructionist Perspectives  

Postmodernism is a byproduct of modernism, a worldview that exhibits certain presuppositional beliefs such as human beings have the capacity through reason to discern what is true, regardless of one’s perception of that truth.  This kind of truth is known as universal truth or objective truth.  These universal or fixed truths in the world are considered knowable regardless of the geographic region one lives.  Postmodernism, a reaction over and against these presuppositional truths rejects that truth is knowable through reason.  To propose this is possible is evidence of having been “indoctrinated into the modernist assumptions of Western culture” (Hanson, 2015, p. 356).

Since postmodernism rejects that truth is knowable through reason, it also rejects that reality can be adequately understood by the mind. “Instead of knowing the truth about reality, postmodernism suggests that we interpret reality….Postmodernism asserts that there are multiple realities, realities that depend upon the stories being told in a particular society” (Blanton, 2008, p. 74).  Within this framework, the social constructionist system for contextualized meaning and “truth” are found solely within relationships, which has brought about new approaches in counseling techniques such as solution-focused therapy and narrative therapy (Hansen, 2015).  Narrative therapy focuses on meanings found in relationship, particularly in the story or stories human beings co-create in relationship with others.  Meaning, therefore is discovered through experience in the social interactions with others. “Thus, social constructionists see numerous competing viewpoints of the world rather than one true view” (Biever, Cashion, Franklin, 1998, p. 169).

Analysis of Postmodern and Social Constructionist Epistemology 

When postmodernism rejected the individualism and rationalism of modernism it however kept intact the modern view of naturalism, which limits knowledge to co-created stories between human beings engaging one-another through speaking—in sharing language. “Rorty (1989), a postmodern thinker, says that only humans speak. However, what if there are higher forces that desire to speak to people? The fact that the divine is not allowed to be part of a person’s social context in postmodern thought is a problem” (Blanton, 2008, p.76).  The epistemic foundation of postmodernism is the same as that of the modernism with regards to the elimination of the divine with regards to social interaction, co-created stories, and humanity’s story as a whole.  Purpose, meaning, and significance do not have larger transcendent or super-natural meaning within either modernism or postmodernism.  Social constructionists therefore are freed from the burden of trying to discern what is true in any given situation, so long as an individual’s “truth” promotes their well being and mental health.  For the Christian who is a counselor, the inevitable conclusion is that universal truth as a standard or for discerning right from wrong no longer exists in postmodern thought.  “Postmodernism seems to accurately describe the contemporary cultural context, but also points toward a disturbing relativism. If everything is ideological, then presumably nothing and everything can be “true” at the same time. None of this seems to be acceptable” (Watson, 2011, p. 309).

Modernism and postmodernism are contentious in their approaches to find a solution to the pitfalls of objectivity.  Even science itself seems to have failed with this regard.  For example, runaway slaves were diagnosed with drapetomania and women who desired an education and career were occasionally told by their psychiatrists that they had ‘penis envy’ (Hansen, 2015).   This would suggest that even science is fallible, or at least until future scientific revelations are made.  However, the greater epistemic concern here is the question of objectivity.  Who or what is objective?  Modernism says human beings are capable of finding objective truth through reason.  Postmodernism rejects objectivity altogether as unnecessary factor in the creation of meaning.  “While passionately criticizing Christianity, Nietzsche also rejected the claim that science could ever be fully “objective.” Science instead, he argued, invariably reflects perspectives motivated by diverse “subjective” interests” (Watson, 2011, p. 310).  If human beings cannot be trusted to arrive at objective truth without imposing their “subjective” interests (a problem for modernism) and if objective truth does not exist at all (a problem for postmodernism), then who is to say what one perceives or experiences at all can be trusted to be an accurate reflection of reality?

The social constructionist response to this, is to point out the inevitability of multiple realities.  These multiple realities with relation to the pursuit of truth changes the dynamic of counseling.  For example, it alters the counselor and supervisor relationship.  “A social constructionist perspective then, would view supervision not as a definitive model, a quest for objective truth about clients or the finding of appropriate, corrective interventions, but as the cocreation and development of new meanings through conversation” (Philip, 2007, p. 52).  This approach is a direct challenge to approaching counseling with empirical studies for the sake of adopting techniques or tools that are objectively verifiable and backed by evidence (Philip, 2007).

By What Standard?  

The very essence of Christian faith begins with the foundational belief that there is a God who has the ability to transcend cultural norms, enter into reality and directly influence nature and human beings in accordance with his own will.  Consequently, Christians philosophically and theologically find their ethical roots in the moral compass of who God is and in the various ways in which this God communicates his desires and thoughts.    This means that for Christianity, God is understood as being Truth itself, the ultimate standard by which all ‘other’ reality is measured, experienced, and perceived.  Thus to reject this objective Truth, is to the Christian a rejection of God.  Or, to put it another way, to say that human beings have the ability to judge for themselves what is right and wrong independent of any other body of truth outside of themselves is to inaugurate an age where human beings are elevated to the role of gods and goddesses.  Pure naturalism and pure materialism cannot even conceive of a God who intervenes in the lives of human beings–it’s the stuff of fantasy.  “The materialistic model of both modernism and postmodernism assumes that the real world is the world of time, space, and matter” (Blanton, 2008, p. 78).  Any extra-curricular activity on the part of a divine being simply cannot be recognized as such.

 A Way Forward for Christian Counselors

Christians who are counselors have an opportunity to genuinely empathize with their clients since Christians believe in a meta-narrative that includes morality that is independent from any legal system of any particular nation or any morality contrived by humanity.  The Christian approach to morality comes from a Christian meta-narrative. Dockery (2001) defines meta-narrative as: “An interpretive structure which gives meaning to reality and common experience” (p. 132).  Christians believe that God constructed a meta-narrative, which is shared through the Bible (divine revelation) in order that he may be in relationship with his creation.  However to believe in the Christian meta-narrative is to believe that truth exists–since the author of the meta-narrative is God–and God is Truth itself.

Blanton (2008) argues that the problem with denying truth altogether, is that God is truth-itself.  To silence truth, is to silence God, which is to silence the Word of God.  The point being is that because God is a relational God, his truth is personal.  “Truth is not simply discovered by reason, as modernism argued. Not only is truth created in language, as postmodernism postulates” (p. 79).  Following this line of thinking, if Truth is personal then morality also becomes personal, as its precepts are are refection of a God who ushered them into existence.

Watson (2001) describes a contemporary response by Christians who are engaging in the postmodern debate: “Erickson (2001) writes, for example, “We must work toward a postpostmodernism, not simply ignoring the phenomenon of postmodernism, and reverting back to a prepostmodernism, but also not halting with postmodernism” (p. 309).”

Christians who are also counselors can reflect their recognition of Truth (or, God) in their community by:

  1. Reflecting the benevolence of the God to others
  2. Taking responsibility when they say or do things that are wrong
  3. Forgiving others of the wrongs done to them
  4. Living out of the joy that comes from the freedom found in the gospel
  5. Passionately pursuing life with a fervor of learning from others
  6. Compassionately caring for others as Jesus emulated in his ministry
  7. Demonstrating empathy for those whom are wounded in body, mind, and spirit
  8. Loving others in they that Jesus loved others–serving, listening, and helping
  9. Delighting in the beauty of creation
  10. Avoiding the pitfalls of philosophical arguments that see to reject the ontological foundation and basis of Christianity.

Conclusion

Christians who are counselors can benefit from the social constructionist’s emphasis on community and its effects on human beings as well as the postmodern emphases on relationships and their impact on the way human beings perceive the world.  Christianity has within its meta-narrative these two values as core representations of what it means to be in relationship with God and his creation.  Additionally, Christians can find value on the emphasis of story in Narrative therapy, as it illustrates what Christianity describes as a consistent and common feature in humanity—sinful behavior that affects all people in all places.  Obviously, the counselor is restricted by the ACA Code of Ethics from imposing his or her own values on the client, however the Christian counselor is well equipped with tools for engaging clients who are suffering, hurting, and or wounded particularly by their own choices or the choices of others.

Christians who are counselors have the ability to enter counseling without judgement of the client’s choices because he or she knows that all have humanity has sinned (Romans 3:23) and consequently all of humanity is in need of salvation.  This produces humility, compassion, and love for others.  The Christian who is a counselor is able to use silent prayer before and after counseling for his or her clients.  This provides an opportunity to trust the work of the Holy Spirit.  The pressure or desire to measure the progress of the counseling process eases, as the Christian who is a counselor, places his or her efforts in the guiding work of the Holy Spirit.  The Christian who is a counselor is not surprised or confounded by other religious perspectives because he or she knows that human beings are spiritual beings created to worship, filled with desires and have the capacity to sin (Romans 1:21; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).  Lastly, the Christian who is a counselor is able to cast aside his or her own “agenda” for counseling because he or she knows that God is the ultimate counselor and is able to fully engage humanity without the “help” of human beings.  The Christian meta-narrative offers the best, most concrete approach for authenticity in the counseling relationship because it is in Christianity one recognizes there is no longer a need to hide behind a self-created identity grounded in materialistic or naturalistic values of self-promotion.  Christianity offers a new hope, a new creation, and new identity to those of believe in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1-2).  As a result the Christian who is a counselor is equipped to fully engage the problems of humanity with an understanding and self-less approach unrivaled by its secular counter-approaches.  Consequently, the ultimate pedagogy for the Christian who is a counselor, is an attitude of a servant.  Counseling is not about the counselor but the client and the client is best served by an attentive counselor who is able to serve the client by giving his or her time to the client in order to build a counseling relationship grounded in trust.

All of these tools are examples of ways Christians who are counselors may live out their faith without imposing their values on the client, yet at the same time remain true to the Christian meta-narrative, the Gospel, and the God who has acted in time and space to offer salvation to mankind.

References

Biever, J. L., de, l. F., Cashion, L., & Franklin, C. (1998). The social construction of gender: A comparison of feminist and postmodern approaches. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 11(2), 163-179.

Blanton, P. G. (2008). Integrating postmodern and christian contemplative thought: Building a theoretical framework. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 27(1), 73-84.

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Hansen, J. T. (2015). The relevance of postmodernism to counselors and counseling practice. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 37(4), 355-363.

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Watson, P. J. (2011). Whose psychology? which rationality? christian psychology within an ideological surround after postmodernism. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 30(4), 307-316.