Integration of Psychology and Theology-Christianity


1) Describe how you integrate psychology with theology / Christianity, both in theory and practice.

As a psychologist-in-training I view psychology and theology / Christianity as fields that have common concerns, and elements of focus such as humanity, purpose, meaning, the human soul, emotions, the mind, reasoning, human behavior, philosophical perspectives on suffering, goodness, badness, and human potential. As a Christian, I am not concerned with the question of whether it is right to try to integrate my theology with psychological theory and findings; instead, as a Christian, I find that I can not in good conscience divorce my faith from my practice of psychology. As a Christian psychologist-in-training it is important for me to find ways to think about how I can integrate my faith with the practice of psychology, to continue to grow in my faith and as a professional in the field, and to find ways to communicate in an intelligent way with other professionals as well as laymen about integration.

I am committed to integration and appreciate what I can draw from both theology and psychology, and what both fields have to contribute to the world. I believe that we can draw from Scripture, and theologians' teachings, both Catholic and Protestant, to inform us about the care of the soul, the human condition, and how to operate in this life. I believe that we can also draw from the many branches of psychology to inform us about the mind, human behavior, emotions, mental illness, disabilities, human potential, relationships, resiliency, and healthy living. I believe that each field can inform the other, and that writings, teachings, research, and other clinical applications of integration are a move in the right direction. We as humans will make mistakes along the way, in the integration enterprise, but I believe it is important for dialogue to exist between fields relating integration, and that each field will open to gleaning what it can from the other. Theology, and Scripture have much to offer to shed light on the human condition and on human psychology. We do not want to have a soul-less or God-less psychology, and vise-versa; as Christians (or as theologists) we can draw from what some refer to as the general truth revealed through research and the study of humans in the field of psychology, while not letting the general truth override, overtake, or take precedent as the final authority over the revealed truth from Scripture. Theology, is man-made and therefore not without error, and so is psychology. I think it is important though that Scripture, God's revelation to us through the Scriptures, always take precedence over general truths discovered in the field of psychology through research, experience, or observation.

When working with clients, although I have only worked in secular institutions where I was not encouraged to address faith without the client explicitly expressed that he or she would like to discuss it, my faith still influenced my practice. When working with clients, I hoped to be a Christ-like model, showing acceptance, compassion, kindness, and listening to them. My counseling approach was informed by my clinical psychology training as well as by my theology. During therapy I would sometimes share bibly-based concepts that could be applied by anyone.

In the introductory sessions with clients, along with a number of questions I asked to learn about their background, I often asked clients about their religious background and whether they accent a particular faith tradition, and find help from God in their life. If a client expressed that he / she was Christian, and also expressed an interest in discussing faith, then I would have the freedom to discuss biblically-based principles with this person. There were times when working with non-Christian clients or clients who did not adhere to any faith tradition, that I would mention to them that some people find support from a church community and their relationship with God, along with mention of other means by which people might find support.

When working with clients, I hope to embody some of the characteristics, values, and qualities of Christ. I want my clients to experience me as a supportive, empathetic, compassionate, trustworthy, honest, ethical, just, realistic, balanced, insightful, discerning, counselor who is a good listener. I privately invite God to be present during my sessions with a client, and think of my time with the client as sacred, and as a time in which God is intervening. My approach as a therapist is informed by my clinical psychology training as well as by the principles, knowledge, wisdom that I have gained from Scripture. I believe that my experience in relationship with God, knowledge of Him, and love that I have experienced from Him, impact who I am as a person, and who I am with a client during the therapy hour.

Merilee Lovejoy