David G. Benner is professor of psychology at Redeemer College (Ontario) and a practicing clinical psychologist. He is the author or editor of fifteen books, including the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling Dr. Benner is also the founding director of the Institute for Psychospiritual Health, an international network of scholars and practitioners.
Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counselby David G. Benner
In Care of Souls, David Benner offers a timely reminder of the benefits of recapturing the place of the spiritual in psychological work. Among the many benefits for individuals who receive a combination of the best of modern therapy and biblical guidance are an increased feeling of personal value and a willingness to put God's priorities above their own.
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Through this book, Benner proposes to explain ¿soul care¿ in its totality. He does so by examining the ideal characteristics of soul care providers, presenting his own definition of ¿dialogue,¿ and explaining in detail the distinctiveness of ¿Christian spirituality.¿ Unlike typical counseling techniques, Benner suggests that ¿providers of soul care¿ ought to offer ¿judicious advice, suggestions or offerings of direction¿ (155). He reasons that if dialogue is based on an ¿authentic relationship of care¿ then offering ¿ideas¿ and ¿suggestions¿ are expected (155). However, this is very different from what I have learned in certain counseling classes. Usually the counselee is guided and encouraged to work through their situation to find his or her own solution. I found the ¿seven characteristics of Christian soul care¿ helpful. For example, Benner states that soul care providers should be ¿spiritually mature,¿ which includes descriptors such as ¿personal holiness¿ and ¿well-developed habits of prayer¿ (209). The ¿demands of Christian soul care¿ are realistic and should be expected from all ¿soul care¿ providers (212). I think counselees expect (and deserve to get) truthfulness from the counselor; and counselors should ¿continue to grow¿ through continuing education, but more importantly they should continue to grow in their relationship with Christ in order to remain effective in their Christian counseling practices (213). Although Benner¿s section ¿Preparing for Soul Care¿ is meant for people who will receive care, I think there were helpful suggestions that care providers should do for themselves. For instance, Benner recommends the practice of self-reflection (or ¿contemplative prayer¿). This is where a person can ¿sit in God¿s presence¿ by allowing Him to ¿fill¿ one¿s consciousness thus enabling ¿psychospiritual growth¿ to happen (231). This seems like an elaborate way of saying that persons ought to have personal devotions and meditate on God¿s Word¿something soul care providers should already be doing. Benner also suggests writing a ¿soul care autobiography¿ whereby a person can assess how ¿internal reality¿ matches with ¿external behavior¿ (232). I have been able to sort out my motives, thoughts, and Christian calling through weekly journaling, so I can see the benefit of counselees and counselors writing an autobiography. Providing soul care is a very serious task, in fact Benner lists seven ¿challenges¿ for those who wish to provide this type of care. Soul care is different from ¿traditional counseling.¿ In a traditional counseling situation, friendship is not encouraged or developed¿there is a ¿professional attitude¿ that keeps the relationship very business-like (216). ¿Professionalism¿ (one-sided approach to counseling) is discouraged because Benner believes the caregiver and receiver are ¿mutually¿ caring for each other (217). If ¿challenges¿ are met, then the focus of ministry will always be evident and soul care providers will never be drained of their ¿inner psychospiritual resources¿ nor neglect the ¿formative and transforming power¿ of the gospel (216). Overall, I found the book very informative and a good resource for Christian counselors.