In these comparisons I want to give everyone a fair and yet condensed perspective of what various psychologies would diagnose a problem to be and how they would approach a treatment. I think this will show just how diverse, conflicting and unscientific the methods, which will either not affect real change or leave the person in a worse condition. As evidence of the worse condition, I’d just point to the culture and ask if the psychologies are true, then why do people seem to have more issues and more clinics are opening all the time. I’d say they are promoting the problems and not helping. Yet the same could be said about Christian counseling. To this I’d answer that Christian counseling is just getting started, and is still finding its way back into the practical application of theology.
The first example I’d like to consider is a fairly common one. We all have a bout with depression from time to time, but what about when it becomes a dysfunction that begins to interfere with a person’s everyday life, and something they just can’t shake? What is done with a person to get them functional again?
Medical: The person has a chemical imbalance and if the chemistry can be figured out, we can relieve the depression. This may help make a person somewhat functional, but it does not have the cause of the depression even on the radar. It is a treating of the symptoms at best.
Freud: “Very interesting,” spoken in my best Freudian accent. No advice is given, but as the client talks he is led to realize and confess on his own that the world is full of bad people, he is one of them, and he just needs to live with unrealized dreams and hope and push onward. This is as good as it gets, and he should just make the most of it. There is no redeeming quality to offer the client about people or themselves, no tools to feel better, and no explanation for why others are not depressed.
Burns: The client is simply full of wrongful thinking and thus feeling about standards and perceptions of the world and expectations, and how to win friends and influence people. The Client is equipped with charts other tools to assess why he does what he does, and once he learns what triggers certain reactions (bad habits, or reactions to things) he is positively coached to “learn” correct thinking and behavior patterns. This treats the subject of depression as symptomatic and only masks the cause as a trigger to which you apply a different trained reaction other than depressing. The misery and melancholy are supposed to just vanish with enough practice in correct thinking. But, how often does life clean itself up enough to allow everything to go “your way” long enough to get everything sorted out?
Adler: The client does not have a “problem” with depression he just needs to understand what inner goals he has formulated that led him into this. The client is “depressing” and so he must have an inner goal pulling him into the solitude and solemn soul searching he is experiencing. He needs to make use of this time and situation to figure out those goals and seek with the counselor to formulate new goals or tinker with the private logic that helped formulate the goals that exist. You can probably see that this is a nice system but provides no real relief from the depression. It’s a good thing to be depressed and so just learn from it. Few tolerate this type of thinking, when they know they want real relief and others seem to have it.
Bradshaw: The client is a malnourished child (specifically your inner child). The client does not have a healthy self image because at some point in his past, someone was supposed to help provide that love and care, either did not, or gave cause to some form of subtle or malicious abuse. The client is lead to search his past seeking to reveal who is at fault for his loneliness and despair, and through sessions not only realize and come to grips with the pain, but to forgive and move on as the wounded warrior he came in as. Yet hope and encouragement is provided from the counselor and possible reaffirmations by a group, of similarly suffering clients, who separate are hurting, but together are unified in support of each other’s pain. The fallacy of it all is that some inner child from the past is really the you of today, acting out as a child because you are not getting the toys you want. Manipulating a person to blame something of the past, and then forgive it at the same time is a mental sleight of hand, and did nothing but presents a straw man and burns him down.
Christian Integrationist: The client in this counselors’ care is in a type of “up for grabs” methodology. Depending on how the counselor has been trained, the client will receive one of the above methodologies. In this sense all that has changed is that this Christian counselor has pushed one of the prior mentioned systems into the Bible to find support and so bless it as godly counsel. Taking the medical approach would be like Paul counseling Timothy to take some wine for his ailments. As Freudian that the world is a sinful and brutal place and we face it every day. As a Burns, you just need the right doctrines and your life will work itself out. As an Adlerian your okay, God is speaking to you and giving you signs in life of shutting and opening doors and you need a goal and just keep pressing towards it. Lastly a Christian counselor under Bradshaw would sound something like a Joel Osteen, with encouragements, suggestions, and steps to fill those God given needs in your life. In each, the end is the same as those above, and yet worse, because the sufficiency of Scripture and love of God have been dragged through the mud.
Biblical Counselor: The client is advised to have a check up, because he is not a disembodied spirit, and the physical can contribute to the mental. But the mental is not ignored as only physical ailments, as there is some impact and training to be made of how to recognize when physical symptoms are encroaching again. The client is advised that the world is full of sin and misery, and yet that God has done something very significant to redeem the world, and him in the process. The client is led through not only doctrinal insight on God’s interpretation of the world, people and feelings, but also that the heart is also a vault of sin and sometimes motivations that override what we know. The counseling does have a goal in mind, that of being more like Christ each day and yet able to look into those goals and our past that shaped us and honestly answer to our responsibility in allowing ourselves to become the people we are. The Client is not only a victim, but has participated in some of the same sins as those he laments as happening to him. The depressed client in particular is not allowed to simply set new goals, or blame his past, but acknowledge that he set up idols that he believed would bring him satisfaction outside of what God provides, and those idols will not be rehabilitated by the counselor but destroyed and God shown to take their place. Even still it is not that God will be shown to fill his every need, desire and want, for his own selfish good feelings but that God will rehabilitate his desires, needs, and goals to be as like His, and so those that bring glory to God, and not to self. The pat answer to just repent and conform will only be as such from a loving perspective or correction that is to bring healing and growth in grace. It is not a session of hell fire and brimstone, but it is also not a band-aid where surgery is necessary. There should be the meeting with God, whereas the truth of how God sees the person and the situation is brought to bear in the same tender and caring way that God loves His people. The Biblical counselor can be holistic in the deepest sense because God’s word is the deepest insight into the persona of men, and has the authority to direct, correct and train us.