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Faith in God not in Psychology
(2007, © George Hartwell M.Sc. all rights reserved)
Faith in God and the Biblical world view are the basis of my life and counselling and these conflict is subtle ways from Psycholgy and clinical psychologists. I find that those with faith in Psychology generate labels and diagnostic categories. I believe that these can and do interfere with a counselor's empathic connection with the person in therapy.
Schools of Psychology
When I went to graduate school in psychology I discovered many schools of thought in the different professors at the University of Calgary Department of Educational Psychology. It was something like the church with many denominations. Each had their own perspective about people and their problems. Each called for my loyalty and my belief in their world view.
As a student of psychology I wanted to learn well supported facts and useful methods. I was not interested in joining a school and adapting their worldview. The reason I wanted well researched facts and sound methods is so I could do the job well. The reason I did not adopt a 'school of psychology' is that I had recently committed to the world view of the Bible by giving my life to God.
I did not put my faith in psychology. I learned from it. My faith was not in the systems that man's intellect had created. My faith was that God's word would be revealed to me as I studied the Bible and lived with His Spirit in me.
So I believe in God and that God's word can reach me. The Bible says that we are to listen to God. My listening may be unique to me because God has a unique relationship with me.
My counselling is based on my listening to God and my listening to the person with me. My listening is with head, heart and spirit. I am moved by the person sharing their life with me. At times I cry. At times I laugh.
My trust that God reveals himself to me rubs off on my relationships to other people. I trust God and I take people at face value - at their word.
Psychological Tests and a hidden assumption of Psychology
As a psychometrist I spent hours administering various tests to people so I could understand them and write a report about them. This work was based on the assumption within psychology that we can understand you more perfectly than you do yourself. Another assumption is that my tests reveal with you cannot or will not reveal. With tests, it is assumed, I can penetrate your defenses and know you better than you can know yourself.
Sometimes this assumption is true and sometimes it is not. It is an assumption, however, that can interfere with the counselling relationship.
Faith in God has lead me to take people at their word. I believe this makes me a better counsellor because I allow myself an empathic connection with those in therapy with me. I work with an alternate assumption.
My faith is that a person committed to getting help is honest and their self-report is precious. I listen carefully and make many notes of what people say.
Culture Conflicts - my faith vs "Psychology"
My supervising Psychologist was never happy with such extensive and often verbatim notes. I was expected to keep notes general and short describing the person using diagnostic categories and proposing treatment in terms understood by the College of Psychologists.
My heart for people leads me to avoid quick conclusions and categories. That approach would set me apart from and above the person I am helping. I choose not to have distance created by categories. I choose not to slip into a superior professional attitude that puts me in a power position above my client.
My faith is in love and healing that flows through me and from God. Graduate schools teach counsellors that empathy is important. Research supports that conclusion.
Research also shows that the academic work of graduate school reduces a counsellors capacity for empathy. One might conclude that too much analysis and categorization reduces the empathic dynamic that makes counselling effective.
Empathy also allows a time of prayer in the therapy session to be real intercession because my spirit feels with the other and I share their burden. Prayer in therapy is, however, another topic.
Please understand me. I still respect the well researched observations and methods of Psychology and learn from them. I am talking about an attitude - an attitude that sets one apart from and above others. I don't want to take on that attitude.