Interventions That Apply Scripture in Psychotherapy

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Journal of Psychology and Theology 2005, Vol. 33, No. 2, 113-121

Copyright 2005 by Rosemead School of Psychology Biola University, 0091-6471/410-730

INTERVENTIONS THAT APPLY SCRIPTURE IN PSYCHOTHERAPY
FERNANDO GARZON
Regent University

Christian therapists are sometimes challenged in their work with appropriately religious clients to develop treatment components that incorporate the Bible. Utilizing a case study format, this article describes various intervention strategies available for the clinician to consider. Psychodynamic, psychoeducational, theoeducational, cognitive, behavioral, and affective experiential therapeutic examples are presented. As long as sound ethical and religio-cultural assessment guidelines are followed, Scripture remains a rich resource for clinicians in their work. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb. 4:12 (NASB) He sent forth his word and healed them… Ps. 107:20 (NIV) . . . in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21b (NASB)

(e.g., Adams, 1970), while others take a situationspecific, client-specific stance. This article uses the case of George (a fictional amalgam composed from several different clients) to provide examples of various intervention strategies. The article is not an exhaustive literature review of all interventions that might incorporate Scripture as a resource; rather, the aim is twofold: first, to increase Christian therapists’ awareness of the variety of types of Scripture interventions available, and, second, to stimulate “divinely inspired creativity” in the further development of strategies to incorporate the living Word of God in Christian psychotherapy. THE CASE OF GEORGE George is a 30-year old single Caucasian male construction worker who presented for psychotherapy with chief concerns of depressed mood, low self esteem, suicidal thoughts, and trouble sleeping. He describes these symptoms as occurring “on and off” over the last 10 years. George has no plans or intentions of acting on his suicidal thoughts and agreed to a contract with me to monitor these thoughts. He commonly makes statements like “I’ll never amount to anything “ and “I’m a loser.” He also displays a constricted expression of affect. Currently, George is most depressed about his lack of progress in any career. He’s been working construction or other odd jobs since he graduated from high school twelve years ago. George would really like to be a pilot, but he has not taken any steps in that direction. “They’d see right through me,” he laments. He also has a tendency to take on too many overtime projects, leading to another comment, “I get anxious when I think about saying ‘no’ to offered work.” Prior to his current treatment, George has never seen a therapist. He reports suicidal thoughts as an adolescent but reports never making an attempt. “I came close a couple of times, but never did anything” he notes. 113

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he Bible, as seen from the passages above, makes no apologies for the potency of its message to heal. Accordingly, whatever our approaches to Christian therapy, we are challenged to discern how the Bible’s message applies to our work. Christian counseling is a tremendously diverse profession (Johnson & Jones, 2000; McMinn & Phillips, 2001). Within this diversity exists a wide variety of perspectives on if, when, and how to use Scripture in psychological treatment. Some approaches might eschew overt strategies incorporating Scripture in treatment, others mandate such usage as the only true way to do Christian therapy A version of this article was presented for the Scripture and the Disciplines Conference, Wheaton College, May 25th, 2004. Correspondence concerning this article may be sent to Fernando Garzon, PsyD, Center for Counseling and Family Studies,...
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