Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Integration: Toward a Variety of Musical Ensembles

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Integration: Toward a Variety of Musical Ensembles

Article excerpt

I use a musical metaphor to reflect on my perspective on integration's past, present, and future. If integration began as a small chamber orchestra, it is currently a collection of symphony orchestras, and I hope it will become a variety of musical ensembles, including jazz ensembles as well as rock bands. The progression of these metaphors reflects some of the strengths and challenges in integration. Early efforts in integration provided a strong foundation, but may have been less open to diverse voices. Present efforts are more welcoming of diverse perspectives, but may still be less open to perspectives that may enrich integrative efforts. The metaphor of musical ensembles that includes varied musical groups is a call and challenge for future integration efforts to embrace more diversity, but also engage the creative tensions that this inclusiveness evokes.

Various metaphors have been used to herald the importance of gathering more diverse voices to study integration. I use a musical metaphor to highlight the importance of diversity on several levels. Given the history of integration and its emergence from selected Christian traditions, continued openness to diverse traditions is important. I argue that it may be helpful to adopt metaphors for integration that provide increased capacity for diverse perspectives and voices as this increasingly reflects current integration and hopefully its future. To this end, I find the metaphor of musical ensembles quite valuable. First, this does not refer to one musical ensemble. Ensemble is a more basic term that would include musical groups--vocal or instrumental--as diverse as symphony orchestras, jazz ensembles, trios, and rock bands. The designation of musical narrows the artistic domain. This focus is consistent with the narrowed focus of integration on Christianity and Christian theology, but how this is expressed from denominations, worship styles, and doctrinal beliefs as well as in teaching, research, and clinical practice should be flexible. The style of music that is played should vary. Ensemble members should also be free to improvise depending on the type of ensemble and the creativity of the artist. In some cases, the conversation about integration has become limited by who has the right to speak, who has the right answers, and what is the correct scope of integration. I believe the future of integration has much more to do with generating new questions and exploring them with a broader audience. Since more has been written about integration's past, I continue with a few comments and then primarily focus on the present and future of integration.

Integration's Past

The concept of integration emerged from evangelical and conservative Christians (Beck, 2006). The historical development of the term has been documented (Vande Kemp, 1996). The early focus of integrative efforts was centered on Christian counseling and the clinical practice of psychology. There were only a few schools of Christian psychology. One common approach to integration was a critique of current psychological theories and a Christian, scriptural, if not theologically based alternative. Instead of repeating some of this history, I will highlight certain dimensions of my interaction with this history in the 1970's.

Despite the reticence of some African Americans to therapy, pastoral counseling was well accepted. As I discussed my plans to become a clinical psychologist in high school with my father, this African American United Methodist pastor encouraged my pursuit of a doctorate and noted that the church needed more psychologists who would be able to share their training and expertise. This receptivity was a powerful model for me of an integrative opportunity where psychologists and pastors could be partners together in addressing mental health issues. My undergraduate training in psychology at Howard University underscored for me the importance of addressing spiritual issues in therapy and also addressing potential barriers and stigma that people of African descent might experience in response to therapy. …

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