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Effective Use of Scripture in Counseling

In terms of holistic counseling, a healthy sense of Self would be one in which body, mind, and spirit are joined and at peace with each other. These three areas in recent times have been confined and compartmentalized to their respective areas of expertise—medicine, psychology, and religion. So that if a person was having spiritual issues, he/she would seek a clergy member and so forth. The fragmentation of these three areas is what led people down paths of materialism, narcissism, addictions, hedonism, and many other negative characteristics.

These lead to a host of behaviors that accompany these characteristics, such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Holistic counseling attempts to rejoin again these fragmented but absolutely connected areas of our lives. “Reconnection with the parts of ourselves, with each other, with our communities and our environments is the call to healing across many disciplines” (Sherwood). In other words, the task of holistic counseling is to rejoin these areas of ourselves to better connect human beings to their true selves and other human beings in the world.

There has been much evidence signifying the connection between mind and body in human beings. For example, “Cutting edge research in mind body immunity clearly demonstrates that what we think and feel affects the body’s cells. How we manage change, crisis, emotional and physical stress in our lives, significantly affects the illnesses that we create in our physical bodies. Conversely, as Borysenko and Borysenko (1994) point out, the power of the quality of our thoughts and feelings to heal ourselves is very substantial” (Sherwood).

This mind body connection needs to be better explored, and this is the goal of holistic counseling. The ultimate goal for this kind of holistic counseling is the highest level of self-awareness. Steiner calls it I-AM; the Buddhists call it insight; Maslow defines it as self-actualization. It doesn’t really matter whose definition is subscribed to, the goal for human beings is to reach that highest level and live their lives in a state of being fully self-aware and conscious. So this healthy sense of self would be one who has a healthy body.

It would be someone who sees the importance of exercise and eating healthily. It would be someone who also listens to his/her body. If there is a problem, this person would try to fix it by altering diet or finding someone other homeopathic solution. Ideally, this person would not have health problems because their lifestyle would preclude problems. This person would also be someone deeply and profoundly in touch with oneself. This person would be able to analyze his/her own faults and strengths and be able to see himself/herself the way others do.

This person might struggle with emotional issues at time but would also be able to talk them out and understand the larger workings of the mind. This person would remain positive and confident in the face of great adversity. This person would have the tools to maintain this positive attitude. Also, someone with a healthy sense of self would be a spiritual person. Not necessarily the practitioner of one religion, he/she would understand the idea that many religious doctrines can provide comfort and support to one in need. He/she might incorporate ideas from many religions to integrate fully to his/her concept of the world and how it works.

This could range from “new age” to very traditional, but there would be a positive energy and a “centeredness” at the very core of this person as well as a connectedness to the larger world around them. According to Guidelines of Effective Use of the Bible in Counseling by Philip G. Monroe, there are currently two real uses of the scripture in counseling—“apologies that set out the relationship between the Bible and the science or practice of counseling or specific issue essays focused on a particular problem in living” (Monroe).

Scripture is used because it contains life-changing examples for people who are truly in need of inspiration. It is well documented that the Bible contains many references to specific issues that occur in the life of human beings today, such as trauma, depression, and marital discord. These scriptures can then be used to comfort those who are hurting and provide inspiration to those who are in need. Counseling by nature is a helping profession, and there is no reason that ministry should not be involved.

Even if some clients do not believe in the power of the Word as a religious mode, there is no reason that they would not derive comfort or inspiration from the Words themselves. Using scripture is seen as similar to using any other kind of example, but for many the use of scripture would be more powerful than any other kind of example because they are God’s words to help us heal and sustain us in this life. The scriptures are, in effect, God’s words to us, and they should be used to help human beings overcome a host of problems in the world today.

Monroe sums this up with very powerful words saying that scriptures are “discipline for the wayward and hope for the hopeless” (Monroe). Monroe continues in saying that a wise counselor uses scriptures wisely in knowing who the person is before him/her, in what context this person exists, what message this person most needs to hear, and what delivery form this message ought to take (Monroe). Therefore, the use of scripture becomes a very intimate relationship between the client and the therapist. Scripture is not to be used at random but only after a relationship has been established between therapist and client.

The therapist must largely think out the use of scripture in terms of why the use of one scripture over another is appropriate and whether the particular scripture will engage the whole person. Therapists must also be careful not to summarize the result that they hope for the client to gain from use of the scripture; the scripture must be carefully chosen so that the client can come to his/her own conclusions about the use of it.. Further dialogue must be engaged in between therapist and client, emphasizing exploration of problems.

As Monroe points out, “Unthoughtful attempts may neuter the power of the Biblical text, harm the client, or harden their hearts to future attempts by others to connect them to God through the Word” (Monroe). In other words, ideally the use of scripture would be at the right time and the right place after an intimate and ongoing relationship is established between client and therapist. The scripture would be used to illuminate or enlighten as well as to comfort those who need it.

Works Cited

Monroe. Philip G. (2004). Guidelines for the Effective Use of Scripture in Counseling. Retrieved November 14, 2007 at Web Site

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