Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Clinical Implications for Psychotherapy from the Seventh-Day Adventist Tradition

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Clinical Implications for Psychotherapy from the Seventh-Day Adventist Tradition

Article excerpt

Since competing Christian views on human nature may lead to very different clinical implications, we explore how a specific religious tradition might influence the manner in which psychotherapy is conducted. Specifically, we consider a biblical view on human nature as informed by the Seventh-day Adventist tradition. The biblical anthropological dimensions are chosen for discussion here because they resonate well with our experience as practicing psychotherapists within the Adventist tradition: a Wholistic concept of the person, Spirituality as a core component of Being, Values and Imago Dei, and Temporal consciousness. For each dimension, examples coming from clinical theory and relevant research are presented briefly, followed by implications for clinical practice.

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Nancey Murphy (2005) makes a compelling argument for Psychology's inherent limitations when it comes to considerations regarding human nature. Although comprehensive psychological theories are bound to incorporate notions of ultimate reality, ethics, human flourishing and derailment, and what constitutes the ultimate good for humankind, these issues are beyond the spectrum of its self-imposed methodology. Yet, most theories of psychotherapy incorporate notions of human nature (Browning, 1987; Tjeltveit, 1989), and the values these theories generate have an impact on every step of the therapeutic process (Tjeltveit, 1999).

Although some (Roberts & Talbot, 1997) advocate an approach to anchor psychology in a Christian view on human nature, there is no unified Christian view on human nature. It is probably more accurate to speak of Christian views, in a plural sense (Brown, Murphy, & Malony, 1998; Cairus, 2000; Green & Palmer, 2005; Moreland & Craig, 2003; Russell, Murphy, Meyering, & Arbib, 1999; Shults, 2003). And although the Bible provides the common ground for Christian reflection on human nature, various Christian theologies result in unique perspectives (Beck & Demarest, 2005; Green & Palmer, 2005).

Since competing Christian views on human nature may lead to very different clinical implications (Brown, 2005), we wondered how a biblical view on human nature informed by our community of faith as Seventh-day Adventists (Cairus, 2000; Provonsha, 1994; Veloso, 1990; Zurcher, 1909), might influence the manner in which we conduct psychotherapy. Does a biblical anthropology informed by our faith tradition make a difference on what technique is selected? Does it matter at the moment of selecting goals for treatment? Does it influence that which is affirmed or discouraged in a given session?

Our focus in this article is not in the development of a grand or unique theory of psychotherapy, but on the nitty-gritty of the therapeutic dialogue. In doing so, could we find clinical ideas and research findings congruent with an Adventist anthropology?

The anthropological dimensions included in this article are not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive (Veloso, 1990). In fact, we selected these dimensions primarily because they resonate with our experience as practicing psychotherapists. Other Christians, and non-Christians, may resonate with them as well, although the language and concepts are informed by our views as Adventist Christians. Before proceeding to describe each anthropological dimension, a brief historical overview of the Seventh-day Adventist tradition relevant to the intent of this article might be helpful to contextualize the ideas presented below.

Brief Historical Overview

In 1800, the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was adopted to highlight two beliefs that reflected the vision of this emerging church (Vhymeister, 2000); the seventh-day Sabbath observance (Exodus 20:8-11) and the second advent of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It emerged from the Millerite movement in the first half of the 19th century. Early Adventists' interest in health issues was reflected in the founding of the Western Health Institute in 1806, directed by Dr. …

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