Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Featured Review

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Featured Review

Article excerpt

We And in this book the magnum opus of one of the most important and influential Christian counselors of our generation, Siang-Yang Tan; in it, he shares his mature, deeply Christian understanding of the field, as well as his own model of counseling. He contends, in the preface, that there is a "crucial need for a book on counseling and psychotherapy that provides substantial descriptions of [the major] approaches to counseling and psychotherapy, with appropriate biblical, Christian critiques and perspectives on each major approach" (p. ix). Seeking to cast a wide net for his readership, Tan targets as his audience professional clinicians, academic psychologists and psychotherapists, pastors, lay counselors, and anyone who is "interested in increasing his or her counseling knowledge and skill from a distinctively Christian perspective" (p. x). In the course of the book, he discusses some preliminary issues regarding the practice of counseling and psychotherapy (Part One); summarizes, analyzes, and critiques many classic modern psychotherapy and counseling theories and techniques from a Christian standpoint (Part Two); and offers his own Christian model of counseling and psychotherapy (Part Three). Because of its similarity to Modern Psychotherapies by Jones & Butman (2011), we will make a few comparisons between them through the course of this review.

In Part One, Tan begins by defining terms, identifying key characteristics of good counselors and discussing the legal and ethical standards of the modern counseling profession. Using the terms counseling and psychotherapy interchangeably (p. 2), Tan borrows the following definition of counseling (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2004, p. 9): a trained person who practices the artful application of scientifically derived principles in establishing professional helping relationships with persons who seek assistance in resolving large or small psychological or relational problems.

This is accomplished through ethically defined means and involves, in the broadest sense, some form of learning or human development." (p. 2) This definition provides an interpretive grid through which Tan views the activity of counseling and psychotherapy.

Tan next discusses the essential qualities of those called to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. He concludes Parr One with an exploration of the legal and ethical obligations of those engaged in the profession, where he urges counselors to follow all appropriate ethical guidelines and introduces his readers to specific counseling codes used by those who counsel in secular and Christian contexts.

In Part Two, Tan provides an overview and critique of 10 of the most prominent or historically-significant therapeutic approaches in modern counseling and psychotherapy: Psychoanalytic, Adlerian, Jungian, Existential, Person-Centered, Gestalt, Reality, Behavior, Cognitive-Behavioral, Rational-Emotive-Behavior, and marital and family therapies. For each approach, Tan presents its historical context, theoretical distinctives, and essential components, and includes a vignette demonstrating the model, a Christian critique of each theory's assumptions or processes, and a list for further reading.

While Part Two forms the core of this textbook of contemporary models of therapy, and will rightly be seen as a major contribution to the field from a 32 Christian standpoint, Part Three contains what may be the most valuable part of the book, where Tan presents his own distinctively Christian approach to counseling in the most elaborate form he ever has--a model that is, as he has often said, "Christ centered, biblically based, and Spirit filled" (p. 325). This three-fold conceptualization of Christian counseling nicely summarizes components that would seem necessary to any vital and distinctively Christian approach to soul care. The Christ-centeredness of his model is maintained within the two poles of what he calls implicit and explicit integration (an important distinction Tan [1996] made almost 20 years ago, in what is now a classic article). …

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