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A Personal Integrated Biblical Approach to Counseling: Targeting Change

Brian P. Ahlquist

The depth of influence on personality is explored as well as personal motivation and sustainability.PTP Abstract This personal model of counseling addresses the complexity of personality through a simple approach targeting positive change. Although Biblically centered. Health and illness are defined followed by a description of the counseling process. 2 . it discusses the importance of integrating both theology and psychology. as well as the techniques and indications of success. The paper concludes by addressing practicality among Christian and non-Christian worldviews followed by the author’s final thoughts.

.6 The outer circles………………………………………………………….10 The Win and the Counseling Process……………………………………………………12 Techniques………………………………………………………………………..7 Motivation…………………………………………………………………………8 Individual differences…………………………………………………………….5 Concentric circles of personality…………………………………………………..4 Personality Structure………………………………………………………………………5 Development of Personality……………………………………………………….16 ......15 Reference……………………………………………………………………………….9 Health and Illness……………………………………………………………………….5 The inner circles………………………………………………………….PTP Table of Contents 3 Abstract……………………………………………………………………………………2 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………….13 Indications of success……………………………………………………………14 Theory Application to Biblical and Larger Worldview………………………………….14 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………...

157). McMinn (1996) states. when. Contributions from 4 both psychology and theology offer a more complete plan of care. “the best interdisciplinary integration work usually comes from those who have formal or informal preparation in both psychology and theology” (p. whatever is lovely. p.49).9). Before moving forward. and how questions about life” (Clinton & Ohlschlager. In our attempts to understand the whole person. Crabb (1977) stresses “psychology must come under the authority of Scripture” (p. The biases of the person must be considered. Philippians 4:8-9 states. soul. For example. Wisdom and faith encourage a focus on an integration that brings truth from both areas to combine and apply. whatever is noble. 2002. it seems reasonable to explore the person’s mind. and the supernatural systems which influence the person. the temporal systems. It seems that the ultimate why questions in life are best answered through the theological and spiritual perspectives. The danger in this view resides in putting our faith in a person’s interpretation of scripture rather then scripture itself.PTP A PERSONAL INTEGRATED BIBLICAL APPROACH TO COUNSELING: TARGETING CHANGE There is a vantage point gained through the integration of psychology and theology. whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things” (New International Version). The course of this paper will ponder such things as the counseling theory is discussed. people are not. Although one may view Scripture as inerrant. where. “Finally. whatever is pure. body. Johnson and VanVonderen (1991) warn that legalistic Christians “will always want to see . brothers. While the data that psychology has to offer has “significant value in helping us answer the what. the issue of prioritizing theology or psychology must be addressed. whatever is true. whatever is right.

and abuse. p. There may be a way to guard against this kind of issue. 2004. For the counselor. A person not only changes physically as he or she grows. good or bad. 2007. p. self-deceit. This offers better protection from misunderstanding.) emphasizes the importance of multitasking considering insights from psychology. It allows the counselor to view the whole as well as individual parts. McMinn (1996) believes “the most effective Christian counselors are able to process several ideas simultaneously” (269). Understanding that the whole is greater then the sum of its parts allows the counselor to “intervene to create positive change” (Arredondo et al.PTP another punished.. This approach validates the complexity of influences leading to personality changes.97). Perhaps when faced with a possible contradiction. they also change in personality. Systems theory “is a generic term for conceptualizing a group of related elements that interact as a whole entity” (Gladding.136). Concentric circles of personality Multitasking is essential in counseling. “it would be better to re-examine the bases of both our theology 5 and our psychological conclusions” (Entwistle.257). PERSONALITY STRUCTURE Development of Personality Personality is complex. spirituality. and other forces shaping a person.d. Hawkins (n. Each circle lies within another influencing and . p. multitasking is the application of systems theory through an attentive assessment of the forces shaping a client’s personality.224). 2009. The concept of using concentric circles is an important tool. or made to perform as a compensation for weakness or sin” (p. theology.

It is where our deep passions and emotions are seeded. Adams (1986) agrees sharing. In Matthew 22:37. soul. talents. Scripture teaches people speak and act from the heart (Matthew 15:18-19). The heart is the center of the total personality. we are made in His image. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (1985) states. The soul is “that which distinguishes one man from another” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Next is the soul which is the eternal part of us. Also referred to as the spirit. or pneuma. Wilson (2001) captures this by stating. We long to belong in community because God exists in community. the heart is deceitful and full of sin (Jeremiah 17:9). For practicality. The soul has the Maker’s stamp on it. “substantial change requires the Holy Spirit’s alteration of the heart (one’s inner life known only to God and oneself)” (p. we will assign a definitive although ad hoc meaning for the use of each word with the goal of understanding personality more thoroughly. ¶ 6). In this theory there are four parts to the inner circle. It is where our true character of good or evil abides and motivates. and abilities. Without God’s regenerating grace. and mind overlap in Scripture. Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (New International Version). that the heart feels (Psalm 105:25). First is the heart. The roles of the heart. 6 The inner circles. xii). “The heart is that which is central to man” (¶ 1). It is where God invents our individuality creating unique gifts.PTP affecting the system as a whole. “People just . it is God’s breath of life placed within us. We will begin by examining the inner circles of personality. and the heart thinks (Acts 11:23).

Belonging and community is part our soul’s DNA. First are temporal systems. he can control your life” (p. Wilson (2001) may agree believing that “we adopt defensive.12).PTP 7 don’t have relationships. and soul. and reason. According to Hawkins (n. It holds conscious thinking where “we can talk to ourselves in sentences” (Crabb. heart. the body. There are two primary parts to the outer circles in this theory.77). mind. 1977.88). Crabb believes much of our spiritual and sinful influences hide out in our unconscious mind. Aging and dying. if a therapist is treating a diabetic client for depression it would be wise to ensure the client’s blood sugar is controlled. serves as the holding tank for the heart. our body and its physiology remains affected by the fall.) these are earthly systems that . A high or low count may affect mood. Anderson (1990) believes the mind is the central target in spiritual warfare stressing that if Satan “can control your thoughts. thought. It is here one evaluates and makes choices. Perhaps it can be seen as the place where our mind. The subconscious mind plays a role in expressing our deep seeded beliefs and emotions through the choices we make on a more conscious level. The final part. they are relational” (p. and cognition.d.21). self-protective thinking and behavior patterns when we are emotionally or relationally threatened” (p. energy. Hart (1999) reminds us that stress affects us physically. The outer circles. For example. Since our brain is biological. how we treat it will affect our emotions and other forms of cognition. It is the home of understanding. Understanding the role of physical health on psychological health is foundational in counseling. Backus and Chapian (2000) emphasize cognitively applying personal choice in belief as “the controller of your happiness and your unhappiness” (p. and soul come together.61). The third part of the inner circle is the mind. p.

Although the exact details of the metaphysical realm are kept from us in Scripture. satisfaction. Satan. Forces of darkness come to steal. Wilson (2001) reminds us “our deepest wounds come at the hand of those we love and trust” (p. New International Version). The family is probably the greatest example of a temporal system. friends. The family can also be a place of wounding. p. They may include family. and destroy yet Jesus comes to bring hope and life (John 101:10). The family can be a place where hope.10). the economy. church. First. society.PTP 8 affect our worldview.17). If the stage is not resolved in a healthy manner the person suffers negatively. Motivation In this theory of counseling. This is just one of the many important truths to remind clients of regarding this system. The second outer circle involves supernatural systems. 2008. encouragement. “If the Son sets you free. When a crisis hits or a need arises. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson captures this idea in his eight stages of development. This system includes God. angels. On the other hand. and protection is found. and sustainability. government. love. people are pro their own lives. there are three elements to consider regarding motivation: meeting needs. These stages continue into late adulthood emphasizing that . In Erikson’s theory “each stage represents a crisis or conflict that the individual must resolve” (Feldman. and education. you will be free indeed” (John 8:36. a person will act to meet his or her own needs. Jesus said. Angels come to minister (Hebrews 1:14) to Christians who are called to make disciples with the authority of Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:18-19). Scripture reminds us there is spiritual war influencing this world (Ephesians 6). and demons. kill. Anderson (1990) reminds us that Christians ought to practice the authority given to them by Christ.

49). 2 Peter 1:4). all you who are weary and burdened. Greg Boyd states. Individual differences . God must be restored to the center of our lives if we are to live and experience life to the full. Being our own center and sustaining who we are without God’s help is exhausting. we will be forced to seek life from idols.PTP challenges and needs do not end. p. sustainability. Can someone ultimately be satisfied? When a need arises.72).124). Christ becomes the person’s motivation and inspiration. judging good and evil. When people fix problems or achieve goals to the best of their ability they “are brought face to face with the horrible fact that ‘dreams come true’ have not really satisfied” (Crabb.125). This leads to the second consideration in this model. Perhaps this is why Jesus said. “As long as we thrust ourselves into the center. the desire to fix it follows. New International Version). or spiritual exhaustion is likely to come. fixing eventually leads to what Crabb (1977) calls a “vague sense of 9 emptiness” (p. p. When a person says yes to Christ wholeheartedly he or she begins to experience a new reality participating in God’s divine nature (Romans 6:3-10. “Come to me. and being cut off from [God]” (Boyd. When it does. physical. the person may be motivated to finally choose God. one wonders how long a person can sustain this kind of effort. 2004. Even if a person is able to deal with crisis effectively there is always another. This leads to the last piece of motivation. Since needs will not cease and satisfaction is never fully achieved. Yet. satisfaction. Fear of loss or failure may motivate for awhile but emotional. Cloud and Townsend (1999) wrote their own law of motivation which states “we must be free to say no before we can wholeheartedly say yes” (p. and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28.

and emotionally steady) that “account for most of the variance in personality measures” (Canger & Smith. anger. Having a basic snapshot may help narrow down the vast array of systems affecting individual personality as well as helping to focus care.253). the systems surrounding an individual influence the person’s core and ultimately forms these enduring characteristics. p.PTP Diversity in individual personality stems from several areas. Given the diversity of systems influencing personality. can effect depression. fear. 2004. as a temporal system. Basically. and the beliefs within it. 2008.728). our body may genetically predispose us to an energetic disposition or a subdued one.468). this model highly encourages the use of a tool to capture key aspects of personality to better assist during counsel. and other feelings and responses. anxiety. As previously discussed. organization. Feldman (2008) 10 defines personality as “the sum total of the enduring characteristics that differentiate one individual from another” (p. All of these systems uniquely effect how people view their core concept or “their set of beliefs about what they are like as individuals” (Feldman. Hart (1999) makes it clear our society. change. Backus and Chapian (2000) discuss how the mind alone. An example of such a tool is SCOPE personality scale sometimes called the Big Five personality model or Five Factor model. this model encompasses five broad factors (social. drives us at supersonic speed creating stress and predisposing us to anxiety. p. self-control. The Holy Spirit also effects personality by restoring and strengthening our souls (Psalm 23) and giving Christ-followers the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). . pleasing. For example.

according to this model.d. and understand the importance of relationships. Dr. Even a simple attempt in doing so would expose the multiple forces at play affecting one’s health. Illness. A person can no longer maintain or develop coping strategies while facing the challenge. crisis. Systems play a very real role in health. Wilson (2001) shares how this process can be very messy in appearance but “as long we’re shuffling or stumbling in a new. relational. psychological. We are constantly swimming in a sea of influences” (week one. According to this counseling model. Simultaneously maintaining near perfect health is rather impossible to achieve and difficult to measure. McMinn (1996) captures this movement forward through a triad involving an accurate sense of self. Yet. is the cessation of positive forward motion. admit he or she has needs.PTP HEALTH AND ILLNESS Health has many components including but not limited to the biological. When a wall presents itself. we’re making positive progress” (p. It takes a great amount of effort and self discipline to monitor this journey. step five). healthier. creating a need or crisis. and an accurate awareness of need. one’s inner desire to meet unmet needs or to resolve crisis motivates one on a journey toward wellness. and spiritual pieces. For the model being presented in this paper the pinnacle of personal change is Christ-likeness which provides the clearest sense of direction as one fix’s his or her eyes on Christ (Hebrews 12:2). .) reminds us that “we are not islands unto ourselves. more truthful direction. Hawkins (n.233). or unmet need. healing relationships. Overall health is 11 something that is acquired and lost while journeying through life. stressor. A person moving forward will grow past self-preoccupation. health is maintaining forward motion toward positive personal change.

and beliefs but “involves regret about sin and issues in a change of lifestyle” (p. healing addresses any physical or spiritual issues causing the person to think unclearly. Hart (1999) stresses much of anxiety is biologically based but also validates worry as “a learned behavior that goes back to the earliest part of life” (p. Healing. Anything functioning as a wall or obstruction to forward motion is identified and removed. v. also plays a role. stealing. this alone may remove the obstruction such .144).73). or murder a wall is introduced as the person further separates themselves from God and others. Anderson (1999) encourages to “always have a thorough medical examination to rule out medical causes of their distressing symptoms” (p. While addressing underlying causes of anxiety. there are biological causes which impede cognition.). In some cases.PTP it may come from a variety sources. THE WIN AND THE COUNSELING PROCESS The win in baseball is to achieve the most runs. If a person chooses to engage in sinful activities such as adultery. the anxiety itself may have been behaviorally learned by anxious parents or caused by biochemical imbalance in the brain. believing one fails at everything will impede success at work or in relationships. As stated earlier. and choice work together removing the wall in order to continue on the journey. In this model. Although thoughts of failing an exam may trigger anxiety. truth. The win is this theory is to maintain forward motion toward positive personal change. Choice. or volition. According to Adams (1986) this sin-based wall can only be removed through repentance which not only involves changing one’s thinking. attitudes. Backus and Chapian (2000) stress how people 12 cognitively misbelieve or hold wrong thinking causing wrong emotions and actions. For example.

If spiritual involvement is suspected taking authority over the demonic realm may be indicated but should be addressed wisely and through much prayer (Mark 9:28-29). and new behaviors. . and replaced with truth. imagination. There are many general techniques which help clients engage in counseling such as offering a comforting setting in an office. removed.220). mistakes. and confrontation are other effective techniques in connecting with clients. Backus and Chapian’s (2000) misbelief therapy is an example of cognitive disputing where misbeliefs are located. In this approach Gladding (2007) emphasizes two primary techniques: teaching and disputing.PTP as being diagnosed with paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT). 2007. A willingness to search for truth is a willingness to not blame others if personal sin. make a personal commitment toward change. Teaching involves helping the client “understand how thoughts are linked with emotions and behaviors” (Gladding. p. Regardless of the source. 2007. choice is the decision to separate lies from truth. Truth also explores the hurts caused by other people or events. “calling a thing by its correct name is the beginning of change” (p. empathy. p. Discovering truth is an essential piece to this process. Techniques This theory is basically a cognitive-behavioral approach to care “believing that how people think largely determines how they feel and behave” (Gladding.218). a fast heart 13 rate that “is often indistinguishable from the rapid heartbeat of panic” (Hart. Wilson (2001) states. 1999. a choice must be made.97).59). Disputing challenges the client to practice reasoning. or unwise choices are the cause. humor. and modeling good listening. and put it into action. asking open ended questions. Self-disclosure. In this theory. p.

221). Cognition must be healthy enough to process thinking patterns and make sound decisions. this theory validates positive change taking place when the client reports an improved sense of wellbeing. the soul. the three pieces interact and contribute to one another to create a positive change. spiritual warfare. The integration of Biblical theology and psychology has been encouraged. and healing relationships. 2007. In describing the systems effecting personality. and improved overall life functioning. As Hart (1999) reminds us. Effectiveness may decrease when a counselor limits him or herself to just one technique such as Jay Adam’s (1986) confrontational approach. and spiritual realm were addressed. God. In McMinn’s (1996) triad. Theory Application to Biblical and Larger Worldview Throughout the paper this theory has demonstrated a foundational Biblical worldview in a number of ways. sense of need. p. Moving the client toward positive change involves applying multiple techniques in communication. changing thinking does not always cure emotions. Biological causes may indicate the need for medication. Since this approach can be direct there is also “the potential for the counselor being overzealous and not therapeutic” (Gladding. Supportive Scripture has been used . Although success can be recognized in a variety of ways. The apex of this journey would be the client recognizing his or her need for Christ and a commitment to seek Him first and foremost. and understanding. symptom relief. which includes sense of self.PTP 14 Effectiveness in this approach is limited to individuals who do not have mental problems or thought disorders. Indications of success Effectiveness in this approach manifests itself by overcoming barriers in order to continue on the journey toward positive change. connection.

and choice lead to change. and works with us to target an eternal change which ultimately transforms us more and more into His image. Although positive changes can benefit overall life. Next. Secondly. . Jesus Christ. Christ changes the heart. Jesus Himself demonstrates this in John 9. It encourages it. and discussion.PTP throughout and deep transformation through Jesus Christ has been emphasized as the pinnacle of positive change. First. Christian and non-Christian alike can appreciate and accept its dynamic aspects using it as a source of explanation. although it recognizes the complexity of influences upon one’s life. Christ-centered counselors equipped with this simple approach can help a client target positive change. Lastly. the systems described as influencing personality are universal. truth. 15 This theory is also applicable to a larger worldview in three ways. Lastly. healing. although Christ-based it does not exclude helping the non-Christian. the issue of sustainability can address the client’s awareness and relationship with the true source of life. exploration. CONCLUSION This personal theory comes with a strong basis. it remains simple in concept. choosing to multitask develops a more comprehensive view of both personality and issues. makes it new. A Christian counselor who gains the trust of a non-Christian client may later have an opportunity to share the importance of knowing Christ. While moving along the client’s journey. First it is the integration of psychology and theology which provides a strong foundation for discovering truth in client care.

Boyd. OR: Harvest House Publishers. Repenting of religion: Turning from judgment to the love of God. The bondage breaker: Overcoming negative thoughts. A. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. Effects of “big five” personality on subordinate attitudes.PTP 16 References Adams. T. & Ohlschlager. G. A. S. 33(2).. J. (2000). G. MN: Bethany House Publishers. (2004). and habitual sins. & Smith M. Telling yourself the truth. (1986). (2002). & Chapian. T. Biblesoft (1996). 18(4). (1990). W. G. International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. 1). A. W. M. & Shumway. Canger J. Colorado Springs. MI: Baker Books. Journal of Business and Psychology. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Backus. Electronic Database [Computer software] Seattle. Eugene. WA: Biblesoft. A family systems-based model of organizational intervention. How to help people change: The four-step Biblical process. 465-481.. Korinek. Bloomington. Grand Rapids. irrational feelings. R. 134-148. M. Clinton. T. Anderson.. N. (2004). Colorado: WaterBrook Press . Competent Christian Counseling: Foundations and practice of compassionate soul care (Vol.. E. Arredondo. (2007). Kimball. T.

Hawkins. Upper Saddle River. R. E.). The anxiety cure. MN: Bethany House Publishers. & Townsend. (1991). theology. & VanVonderen. Liberty University. Grand Rapids. Seattle. Crabb.PTP Cloud. 17 Feldman. Thomas Nelson Publishers (1986). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues. . New Jersey: Pearson Education. (1999). N. (n. Grand Rapids. MI: Zondervan. A. OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. S. D. Entwistle. S. Inc. WA: Biblesoft. and models of integration. Eugene. Minneapolis.). and spirituality in Christian counseling. NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. R. How do we self examine? Step 5 think systematically. Development across the life span. Johnson. Psychology. D. E. IL: Tyndale House Publishers. Week one.. Hawkins. T.d. MI: Zondervan. Inc. philosophical foundations. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Counseling: A comprehensive profession (5th ed. Effective biblical counseling: A model for helping caring Christians become capable counselors. Boundaries in marriage. R. The subtle power of spiritual abuse: Recognizing and escaping spiritual manipulation and false spiritual authority within the Church. D. (2008). (1999). J. (2004). Upper Saddle River. Liberty University. J. L. (1996). M. (1977). R.). Hart. H.d. McMinn. Carol Steam. (n. Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary [Computer software].(Eds). lecture one. Gladding. (2007).

three questions will be asked. punctuation errors. spacing. referencing titles correctly with initials.PTP Wilson. or online documents) Score: 10 points DOES THE WRITING HAVE FORCE? Question Value: 40 Points • Content clearly follows the structured outline found in the . italics. instructor counts as 1. you begin with a 0 and earn points for your work In determining your grade. grammatical. the Bible counts as 1. MI: Discovery House Publishers. 18 GRADING GUIDELINE FOR PERSONAL THEORY PAPER COUN 507/PACO 600 Theology and Spirituality in Counseling The following represents an additive template for grading. 2 from recommended reading.D. Hurt people hurt people: Hope and healing for yourself and your relationships.)? Score: 15 points • HOW DID IT HANDLE THE SOURCE(S)? Question Value: 25 Points • Citations are properly referenced? (A minimum of 15 appropriate citations) Score: 15 points • Reference list? (A minimum of 10 sources must be referenced: at least 6 must come from the required reading. etc. Table of Contents. Grand Rapids. journals. body length is not more than 12 pages) Followed current APA Guidelines (headers. S. no unnecessary pages. margins. with Grading Guideline for Personal Theory Paper correctly attached? Score: 5 points • Evidence of proof reading? Score: 15 points (Minimal typographical. font. paragraphing/sentence structure is proper and without awkwardness. (2001). numbering. Instead of beginning with 100 and losing points for errors. QUESTION VALUES TOTAL 100 POINTS HOW DID IT RUN THE COURSE? Question Value: 35 Points • Submitted with correct cover sheet and/or title page followed by an Abstract. and appropriate use of lower case letters.

rich interaction with subject matter? and the elements shaping personality and influencing its health Conclusion reveals thoughtful summarization and application? Grade: .PTP Table of Contents with clarity and coherency? 19 Score: 5 points Score: 20 Points Score: 10 points Score: 5 points • Adequately addressed the elements of a comprehensive theory • • Clear. insightful.

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