The Skilled Pastor: Counseling as the Practice of Theology

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This user-friendly book has been thoroughly revised and now includes two new chapters. Benner includes helpful case studies, a new appendix on contemporary ethical issues, and updated chapter bibliographies. Benner maintains that clergy are uniquely positioned in their pastoral roles to combine the therapeutic approach of modern counseling with the framework of classic Christian soul care. This practical handbook will be a useful guide in that aspect of their ministry.

The skilled pastor : counseling as the practice of theology / Charles W. Taylor - Details - Trove

Images of Pastoral Care: Classic Readings by Robert Dykstra "This book is an edited volume of works that have predominated over the past several decades in contemporary pastoral theology. Through the writings of nineteen leading voices in the history of pastoral care, Dykstra shows how each contributor developed a metaphor for understanding pastoral care.

Such metaphors include the solicitous shepherd, the wounded healer, the intimate stranger, the midwife, and other tangible images. Through these works, the reader gains a sense of the varied identities of pastoral care professionals, their struggles for recognition in this often controversial field, and insight into the history of the disciple. Lester "In this ground-breaking book, pastoral counselor Andrew Lester demonstrates that pastoral theology as well as social and behavioral sciences has neglected to address effectively the predominant cause of human suffering: a lack of hope, a sense of futurelessness.

Lester examines the reasons that pastoral theology and other social and behavioral sciences have overlooked the importance of hope and despair in the past. He then offers a starting point for the development of addressing these significant dimensions of human life. He provides clinical theories and methods for pastoral assessment of and intervention with those who despair.

He also puts forth strategies for assessing the future stories of those who despair and offers a corrective to these stories through deconstruction, reframing, and reconstruction.

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The Church Leader's Counseling Resource Book by Cynthia Franklin; Rowena Fong This book is designed as a guide for pastors and church leaders counseling members of their congregations through mental health and family problems. It gives clergy the tools they need to understand thorny problems from both a scientific and a spiritual perspective. It includes easy-to-follow chapters that provide a summary of best practices written in lay language.

It broadly addresses real-world concerns while also noting when to contact a mental health professional. Why Seminary? Degree Programs Practical Ministry Training. Admissions Why Seminary? News Events Blog. David Currie , Dr. Mary Havens Request more information Apply today. Informing Watch Dr. Forming As a Doctor of Ministry student, you attend three, two-week intensive residencies which consist of lectures, case studies, peer sharing and individual consultations. Sample readings include: Deepening the Call Edwards, Gene.

Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, Hybels, Bill. Courageous Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, , Rohrer, David. Wilson, Michael Todd, and Brad Hoffman. Preventing Ministry Failure. Downers Grove: IVP, Chapell, Bryan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, Robinson, Haddon. Biblical Preaching.

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, Sunukjian, Donald. Here Brown uses several examples from Elie Wiesel to show how re- telling of "The Story" by others can begin to make it our own. Wiesel is again used as an example, but so too are the liberation theologians, who suggest in their contemporary retellings that the "white northerner" might not show to great advantage in how "The Story" is to be understood. This is done most obviously through liturgy.

Skilled Pastor: Counselling as the Practice of Theology

In other words, "The Story" connects with us not because it echoes some aspect of our own experience, but because our own experience changes course, is converted, through its transforming and instructive power all emphases are in the original. With a deceptively conversational tone and virtually no recourse to literary- critical, historiographical, or postmodern theory, Brown offers a persuasive and usable framework for considering how the narrative of human experience and the narrative of scriptural theology can be linked in the practice of pastoral care.

Together with the work of C. Song, his insights and example can provide the pastor with concrete guidance on doing the work of theology — apprehending the reality of God — through the use of narrative. Further explorations on how "our story" might connect to "The Story" are presented in the next two chapters.

Those related to scriptural exegesis may be too obvious to require cataloging here. Those related to the telling of personal stories are also varied, and range from the use of stories in preaching, to forming a framework for religious education, to their use in Bible study and support groups Fackre , Specific examples and guidance for using story in growth groups, and an explication of the pastor's role as a "story guide" are provided by Wimberly and are discussed in further detail below.

This chapter will focus on the use of narrative in pastoral counseling, and will attempt to discover what theological roles and resources the use of narrative can suggest for pastoral practice. Presentations of a Narrative Approach to Pastoral Counseling Philip Culbertson, in his textbook on pastoral counseling, offers narrative counseling theory as one of three theoretical foundations along with family systems theory and object relations theory for his presentation of counseling from a Christian perspective.

He begins by noticing the importance of story in Christian faith, teaching, evangelism, and liturgy. He then gives an unfortunately mangled historical overview of the value of stories in literary tradition. No matter how clear or well- intentioned, neither the storyteller nor the preacher has any control over what is heard, and what is heard is, bottom line, the truest meaning" Culbertson , Culbertson spends the bulk of his chapter on discussing the three classes of stories "that shape human identity": Family Narratives, in which families tell about their past, themselves, and the individual; Self-Identifying Narratives, which individuals tell to reflect their self-understanding and the events of their lifetime; and Intersubjective Narratives, "the stories and scripts we silently construct and rehearse in our heads all day long" Family narratives include healthy and unhealthy stories.

Healthy stories provide shared meaning, define boundaries, create equilibrium through the articulation of values, beliefs, and the connections with familial and cultural history. In fact, what Shelley said in his work A Defence of Poetry, is that "poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds" in Perkins, D. English Romantic Writers. New York: Harcourt Brace, p. Indeed, as one would expect of a Romantic poet, Shelley disparages story in relation to poetry: "A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. There is this difference between a story and a poem, that a story is a catalogue of detached facts, which have no other connection than time, place, circumstance, cause and effect.

A story of particular facts is as a mirror which obscures and distorts that which should be beautiful: poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted" ibid, It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss whether, in his exuberant exaltation of poetry, Shelley was being fair to the power of story. Families constitute interpretive communities for the stories they generate, monitoring any threatening deviations from established norms Culbertson , Culbertson provides some useful taxonomies of the types of family narratives.

He discusses the connections between family secrets for instance, childhood trauma , the untrue stories created to explain away the secret, and the negative effects that the resultant cognitive dissonance will engender. He provides a taxonomy of family scripts, the enacted dramas by which families play out their narratives with predictable results, and shows how narrative counseling theory overlaps with family systems theory in highlighting the concept of family roles.

Finally, he offers a useful discussion of how the pastoral counselor can help reshape family scripts through breaking them down into their component parts; reediting the script, particularly through the encouragement of improvised innovations on the established script; and observing reactions to the script by outsiders such as a new spouse Culbertson discusses self-defining narratives as those we begin to tell on our own about ourselves, as we begin to grow beyond the stories that we are bom into, the stories told to us about ourselves by our families.

How we construct these self-defining narratives will be influenced by the narratives our families have already told us and by our culture. We construct these narratives selectively, usually with ourselves at the center, usually with ourselves as efficacious agents, and usually with ourselves as responsible for the desired outcomes and not responsible for undesired outcomes A seven-step framework whereby the counselor can assist a person to construct a personal narrative "framing" is presented, followed by therapeutic techniques for reinterpretation of the narrative "refraining" to help achieve revised understandings, new meanings, and new perspectives on old or existing problems Culbertson's discussion of intersubjective narratives explores the view that each individual is a collection of selves, offering a variety of possible behaviors and reactions to the events of our life story.

With each of these different selves, different sets of possibilities can be considered, different alternatives to action can be "tried on" as the self decides how to advance the plot of the narrative to achieve desired ends The therapeutic aim of exploring family, individual, and intersubjective narratives is to achieve consistency and integration.

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From the point of view of narrative psychology, we might then say that those who present for counseling do so because their narratives do not match either their affective or their lived experience, or because there are significant aspects of their emotional or behavioral history that contradict the dominant narrative they are attempting to maintain. The diagnosis, therefore, might be termed 'narrative dissonance,' a condition parallel to cognitive dissonance Culbertson , The pastoral counselor may find that many cultures value storytelling, and that this mode of counseling can work well across cultures and across genders.

Caution is offered, however, to note how basic values — such as healthy development and maturity — may 31 differ from one culture to another, and thus fundamentally affect the interpretation of stories by the storyteller and the counselor. Culbertson ends this chapter on narrative counseling theory by noting again the importance of narrative in both Christian and Jewish traditions, and suggests that in the effort to construct coherent and integrated personal narratives in adulthood, by creating a self "that is whole and purposeful because it is embedded in a coherent and meaningful story" we are not engaging in "an act of narcissism, but an imitatio deF In my view he either misses or ducks the question about whether and how a person's narrative s are consonant or dissonant not just with his or her lived experience, but also with his or her understanding of God's narrative.

As pastors we can thus seek to explore whether the connection between narrative counseling on the one hand and spiritual concerns and knowledge of God on the other is not one of mere analogy or imitation, but an actual engagement of one set of narratives with the other. More significantly, Culbertson falls into a trap of what I would like to call "the myth of Edenic integrity. Du Bois as "double consciousness," referring to the "fractured psyche" of the American Negro at the turn of the twentieth century Gates This double consciousness incorporates both the black person's view of the self through the eyes of oppressive white culture and also the person's own lived experience of oppression and degradation.

Gates sketches the roots of Du Bois's concept in the Hegelian master-slave dialectic and Emersonian philosophy, and in the psychological formulations of Alfred Binet and William James, while making it clear that Du Bois is 32 referring to the particular situation of African- Americans. More broadly, I would contend, we can track formulations that are analogous to Du Bois's in existential alienation, in T. Eliot's "dissociation of sensibility," or in any number of psychological, cultural, political, philosophical, and theological discourses on integration vs.

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Gates observes that the double consciousness Du Bois attached to the condition of the American Negro "for subsequent generations of writers. And cultural multiplicity is no longer seen as the problem, but as a solution — a solution to the confines of identity itself. Double consciousness, once a disorder, is now a cure. The problem, however, of a paradigm that locates integrity and wholeness in some personal-family or cultural-historical past is that it leads us to believe, perhaps influenced by Freudian discourse, that recognizing the moment of the "fall" and somehow undoing it will bring us "back" to wholeness.

It may in fact be the case instead that integrity and wholeness are not there to be recaptured, nor if I correctly understand Gates's optimism and may be permitted to disagree with it to be discarded entirely, but qualities to be created anew, from the fragments and shards, the double and triple and quadruple consciousnesses that are the necessary inheritance of all human beings — immigrant and native, dominant culture and minority, First World and Two-Thirds World, male and female, and so forth. To take the discussion back to Culbertson and narrative counseling, and to absorb the influence of Gates's insight: what Culbertson calls "narrative dissonance" may be not so much a diagnosis as a universal condition.

My personal narrative may never square entirely with those of my parents or of my elder siblings, for as much as we traveled a road together as a family, we did not face the same historical, political, and personal realities as individuals. To reconcile our stories therapeutically may require adjustments on all sides, not just on my own.


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Much less might my story be consistent with those of other cultures and genders with whom I share the same historical space and time. Resolving narrative dissonance, whether on a personal therapeutic level or on a cultural- existential level, may be less a matter of recapturing an Edenic past or undoing a fall from grace — for as Crites reminds us, narrative time does not in fact allow us to change the past — and more a matter of creative engagement with the present and future that still allows us to acknowledge the past and incorporate the past as it enables us and gives us agency.

It is the hope held out by God's narrative that our own narratives might achieve not absolute unity and integration, but a kind of dialogic resonance and creative sympathy with the narratives of others within the capacious generosity of God's narrative. To effect this, however, we may need to remember the modesty of Ricoeur's sense of "the inexhaustibility of the metastory;" Sykes's sense of self-doubt and his skepticism of the universal claims of psychological science; Hargreaves' flexibility in seeing God's story in scripture; and Song's creativity in allowing the playful dialog of God's story with stories that lie firmly outside the Western Christian tradition.

Compared with Culbertson, Charles Gerkin provides a more nuanced and synthesized theory of narrative counseling — or, as he prefers to call it, a hermeneutical approach to pastoral counseling , He blends a spectrum of insights from psychodynamic thought with a theological perspective. The life of the soul is a continuous life of interpretation: a life of attaching meanings to behavior, relationships, the self s maintenance of its line of life, and the intimations of the recurrent conflicts of ego that press upon the soul's struggle with existence.


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  • By its hermeneutical, interpretive process, the life of the soul holds together in a dynamic tension a virtual myriad of often conflicting demands, expectations, drives and desires, emotions, relational commitments, meanings and values, perceptual patterns and ways of seeing the world.

    From a psychological perspective, taking my original cue from Boisen, I locate the central problem of the self in its hermeneutical process: the connection of experience with ideas and symbols. From a theological perspective I affirm that the life of the soul does not have to do with some isolated 'spiritual' relationship to God separate from the life of the self in the world. Rather, the life of the soul in relation to God is part and parcel with the life of the self in all its relationships, its struggle to find integrity at the connecting nexus of a confluence of forces and meanings.

    This view of the life of the soul assumes a God who is active in the world, incarnate in created life, and purposeful in history Gerkin , Gerkin approaches the understanding of the life of the soul using three dynamic postulates. Each of these forces also interacts with the others, creating a dynamic swirl of forces that envelop and influence the soul. Second, the life of the soul takes place in 35 relation to three dimensions of time: the lifespan of a single human life cycle, the extension of human history, and, within a Christian context, the eschatological time encompassing God's relationship with creation.

    Third, the self s hermeneutics, the process by which the self interprets life, is essentially narrative Gerkin , In my view, this last postulate is a more modest and more accurate claim than to say that human experience itself is essentially narrative, as many of the proponents of narrative theology have commonly stated see Chapter 1 , above. It does not presume to characterize the essential nature of experience or reality, but merely attempts to describe the manner in which we come to understand that essential nature.

    In his textbook on pastoral care, Gerkin provides a readable history of pastoral care from the beginnings of Christian history, and reaches even further back to Old Testament models.