Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Healing Cycle: A Christian Model for Group Therapy

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

The Healing Cycle: A Christian Model for Group Therapy

Article excerpt

The Healing Cycle is a Christian model that is designed to promote healing and growth from emotional problems in group therapy. In the context of an interpersonal therapy group, group members work through the folio wing steps: grace, safety, vulnerability, truth, ownership, and confession. The final step of confession leads back to grace. For each step of the Healing Cycle, we present (a) skills that the group leader can develop to help group members navigate each step and (b) case examples of group members -working through each step.

Group therapy has long been used as a modality of treatment for a wide range of psychological problems and research has accumulated that supports its efficacy and effectiveness (Yalom, 1985). There is some evidence that incorporating religion and spirituality (R/S) into therapy may affect the outcome of therapy for religious clients (Hook et al., 2010; Shafranske, 1996; Wade, Worthington, & Vogul, 2007; Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996). It has been argued that adapting therapy to the personal characteristics of clients such as religious affiliation may be helpful (Worthington & Sandage, 2002).

There have been relatively few attempts to integrate R/S into group therapy (Cornish & Wade, in press). Most of these efforts have taken a secular version of group therapy for a specific problem, and have incorporated R/S into the secular therapy (e.g., Christian group therapy for unforgiveness, Rye & Pargament, 2002; Christian group cognitive-behavioral therapy for marital issues, Combs, Bufford, Campbell, & Halter, 2000; spiritual group therapy for eating disorders, Richards, Berrett, Hardman, & Eggett, 2006).

The Healing Cycle is a model for group therapy that is designed for use in interpersonal process therapy groups. The Healing Cycle is different from 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA, 2001), which is a group context for intrapersonal healing that does not encourage explicit interpersonal interaction (i.e., no cross-talk). This explicit interpersonal interaction is a core mechanism of change in the Healing Cycle model. This model has been utilized in therapy groups with clients who have serious psychological problems, as well as in process groups run by lay leaders in church ministries. The model is general in that it does not target one specific psychological disorder. Rather, it is a process that describes how people can heal from a variety of emotional problems.

The Healing Cycle is distinctly integrative. It is compatible with a Christian worldview, and integrates Scripture at each step of the process. It also incorporates psychological principles from a variety of theoretical orientations, most notably cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal theories. The overall style and process of the group is interpersonal, and draws heavily on Yalom's (1985) theory and research on group psychotherapy. The Healing Cycle is circular and consists of six steps (see Figure 1): grace, safety, vulnerability, truth, ownership, and confession. The final step facilitates further experiences of grace, and the cycle continues. For each step discussed below, we present skills that the group leader can use to help group members successfully navigate each step. The skills are developmental in that they build upon each other. We illustrate each step of the Healing Cycle with a case example. All identifying information has been changed to ensure confidentiality.

Grace

The first step of the Healing Cycle is the experience of grace. Grace is foundational to the experience of Christian spirituality. The Christian doctrine of grace teaches that God forgives humans of their sin and offers unmerited kindness and love to those who acknowledge their need for God (McMinn, Ruiz, Marx, Wright, & Gilbert, 2006). The Bible teaches that God gives us grace no matter where we are in the process of healing. We are first saved by grace (Ephesians 5:8). …

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