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Strategic Pastoral Counseling: A Short-Term Structured Model Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
- ASIN : B00B8541G0
- Publisher : Baker Academic; 2nd edition (September 1, 2003)
- Publication date : September 1, 2003
- Language : English
- File size : 443 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 161 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #278,508 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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As such a couple of meaningful considerations offered to those who desire to strengthen their skills in this area:
Speak little - listen much. Helpful advice from French theologian, Fenelon, who suggested that we, "think far more of understanding hearts and adapting yourself to their [those we counsel] needs than of saying clever things to them."
Counseling is about being - not doing. Contrary to popular thinking, Benner reminds us, counseling is, "... not reducible, therefore, to telling a person what to do or what not to do." Moreover "it is not merely being; it is being with." The weight of offering your presence to those is need should not be minimized.
Let's rediscover the value of pastoral care and counseling and continually invest in strengthening the spiritual health of our people.
From the back cover, Benner (Ph.D., York University) is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Spirituality at the Psychological Studies Institute (Atlanta) and a practicing clinical psychologist. The author or editor of over twenty books, he is the founding director of the Institute for Psychospiritual Health.
Benner's preface to his first edition (1992) defends the need for a new book on pastoral counseling, specifically the need for an approach to counseling that is explicitly Christian, holistic, pastoral, fruitful, disciplined, well-founded, and workable. His preface to the second edition (2003) highlights improvements over the first edition. The first chapter locates pastoral counseling in the context of Christian community. The second chapter focuses on how pastoral counseling differs from other kinds of counseling. The third chapter describes Benner's three-stage model for strategic pastoral counseling: encounter, engagement, and disengagement. The last two chapters provide cases studies. An appendix addresses ethical concerns in counseling.
If all knowledge were organized into the categories of (1) revelation (religion), (2) speculation (philosophy), (3) investigation (science/wisdom), and (4) mystification (mysticism), then Strategic would fall squarely within the wisdom category since it is largely grounded in and directed toward how pastors, parishioners, and churches can function more wisely. Wisdom is therefore in the forefront. People need counseling (wisdom) because (1) they have made unwise choices and need to recover from them or (2) they are reacting unwisely to situations not of their choosing and need to learn how to react more appropriately.
Pastors also need wisdom to know how to counsel more effectively. More specifically, they need a "wise" model for counseling. They need to know their limitations as counselors. They need to know the unique advantages and disadvantages inherent to pastoral counseling. And last but not least, they need to know how to counsel.
Benner provides help for all these needs. That help involves a mix of biblical and secular wisdom -- (1) secular wisdom in terms of understanding the interplay of the social self, psychology, and sociology and (2) biblical wisdom in terms of evaluating and applying secular wisdom in counseling to help Christians facing problems. Biblical and secular wisdom, of course, can be brought to bear in many different venues. Benner is helpful in identifying those venues and in distinguishing pastoral counseling from other places of Christian help, such as Christian friendship, pastoral care, and spiritual direction.
Secular wisdom is prominent but religious considerations are primary. Benner affirms Christian values as the overarching context for counseling. His use of scripture, however, is sometimes superficial in playing off biblical quotations without regard to their original meanings. For example, the Holy Spirit's help in knowing what to say in times of crisis (John 14:26) has nothing to do with pastoral counseling.
Much of Benner's religious message though is grounded in a value system that is simply "humane" rather than explicitly Christian. For example, Clinebell's criteria for healthy religiosity (which Benner apparently approves) include 20 questions, none of which necessarily demands a uniquely Christian response. Such observations are not so much criticisms of Benner as they are a reflection of how difficult the task of Christianizing the secular substitute for religion (i.e., psychology) can be.
Benner emphasizes spirituality in terms of three components: thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Although Benner identifies spiritual growth as the main and unique goal of pastoral counseling, the word "spiritual" is notoriously slippery. Apart from its mystical aspects, spirituality is most appropriately anchored in emotionally and behaviorally charged propositions about the meaning of things. Although spirituality is rooted in propositions, it is not merely cognitive because it does have behavioral and emotional components in addition to its mental aspects. None of this analysis of "spirituality" is necessarily Christian, but it is consistent with a Christian understanding of spirituality.
Nor should any of the above diminish enthusiasm for Benner's book. His approach is well-suited and much needed by pastors. The notion of a religious status assessment is powerful. The discipline and practice of taking a person's religious history should be a mark of competence. The relative attraction of hurting people to pastoral counseling and the relative success of pastoral counseling compared to other sources should encourage those who practice it. The greater return on investment from short-term counseling (vis-a-vis long-term counseling) is counter-intuitive and Benner provides a necessary and worthy defense. Benner's observation that "people see what they are looking for" explains the blinding effects of both secular and religious professionalism. Secular counselors mostly see the distorting effects of religious beliefs -- hence their generally negative view of religion. If they are any negatives to posit about Benner's presentation, they generally lie in the inherent difficulty of contextualizing a secular discipline within a biblical worldview.
Where contextualization is not possible, Benner usually comes down on the right side in such things as the rejection of a therapeutic approach to sin. He is also right in rejecting the compartmentalization of humanity that is so characteristic of secular approaches to counseling. The human mind understands itself in terms of a personal narrative, so many people can be greatly helped simply by "re-storying" themselves. Dysfunctional behavior does have payoffs. Counseling is a roller coaster -- up after the first visit and down after the second once the hard work begins. Values become destructive when they are elevated above their rightful place. Pastors should find all of these insights helpful.
Sometimes though, Benner misses the mark a bit. Assessing an individual, for example, in terms of "how well faith is serving him" is too utilitarian to be biblical. Expressions of emotion can be cathartic, but they can also make individuals more practiced in inappropriate expressions.
Benner provides an excellent model for counseling with just enough counseling content and technique to communicate how it would work. Practitioners will have to fill in the gaps with their own practices and understandings of biblical and human nature. Some things I would add would include more attention to the problem of pride. Pride often surfaces in unexpected ways -- low self esteem may be traceable to self-punishment arising out of a prideful self-understanding of oneself. Use of emotional energy for positive purposes would also be powerful. Humans need emotional energy for motivation; and ironically, they get more energy from negative experiences that positive ones. Wisdom is needed to know how to use that energy in constructive ways. Gender counseling to address the distortions inherent to an increasingly androgynous culture would also be an intriguing approach to the problems of many people. Finally, special attention to the function of conscience in demanding confession, justification, reconciliation, and atonement may be one of the most unrecognized dynamics in counseling.
As previously noted, Benner's intent in writing Strategic Pastoral Counseling was to produce a book on counseling that is explicitly Christian, holistic, pastoral, fruitful, disciplined, well-founded, and workable. He achieves those goals in a concise, readable way.
-- Bill Brewer
There are six characteristics of Strategic Pastoral Counseling (SPC). 1. It is brief and time-limited, working within a suggested maximum of five sessions. Both the pastor and the parishioner are forced to work continuously at maintaining focus and direction. To accomplish this objective the counselor must be active and directive. The counseling relationship must be a partnership and concentrate on one central and specific problem. Also the time limitation must be maintained. 2. The use of written materials is at the heart of SPC. The Bible as well as a variety of other devotional, inspirational, and practical books are assigned to the client. The literature should be integrated within the counseling session, not simply offered as a supplement to them. The books must be compatible with the pastor's counseling philosophy and integral to the work with the parishioner. It should serve as a support and extension of the counseling. 3. Short-term counseling should be wholistic. It must be responsive to the behavioral (action), cognitive (thought), and affective (feeling) elements of personal functioning. 4. Fourth, short-term counseling is generally more structured. Each of the sessions has a clear focus and each builds upon the previous ones in contributing to the accomplishment of the overall goals. The structure is responsive to the tasks of conducting an initial assessment, developing a general understanding of the problem and of the person's major needs, and selecting and delivering interventions and resources that will bring help. 5. SPC is spiritually focused. The Counselor listens to and enters into the experience of the parishioner as the parishioner relates his or her struggles and hear the story of the persons spiritual response to the experience. 6. SPC is Explicitly Christian. It begins with a focus on spiritual matters understood broadly, but its master goal is to facilitate the person's awareness of and response to the call of God to surrender and service. Ultimate wholeness cannot be found apart from a restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ. SPC utilizes Christian theological language, images, and concepts and the religious resources of prayer, Scripture, and the sacraments. It also encourages reliance on the Holy Spirit. Recognizing that all healing and growth are ultimately of God, the pastor can relax in the work of pastoral counseling. The ultimate responsibility for the person lies with God.
Strategic Pastoral Counseling involves three stages. 1. The encounter stage, where boundaries are set, the central concerns and history are explored, a pastoral diagnosis is conducted, and a mutually agreeable focus is achieved. 2. The engagement stage, where the problem is explored wholistically and resources are identified for coping or change. 3. The disengagement stage, where progress is evaluated, concerns are accessed, referrals are arranged, and counseling is terminated.