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Mental health: be aware

18 October 2013

Anne Holmes praises a new handbook

Psychology for Pastoral Contexts: A handbook
Jessica Rose
SCM Press £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £18 (Use code CT577 )

PSYCHOLOGY and religion have not always been easy companions, ever since the famous quarrel between Freud and Jung over the importance of religion. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the spiritual dimension in psychodynamic counselling, a descendent of classical psychoanalysis.

The almost fundamentalist hostility to religion assumed by many therapists has recently been challenged by Margaret Clark in her useful monograph for students of psychodynamic studies, Understanding Religion and Spirituality in Clinical Practice (Karnac, 2012). Jessica Rose's needed handbook offers the equivalent for anyone involved in the practice of pastoral care, and should be required reading for all those practising or being trained in ministry.

The aim of the book is to offer some insight and practical guidelines in relation to mental health for all pastoral workers. The handbook is divided into four parts.

Part 1 is a brief introduction to the pastoral context, described as "one in which concern and practical action for others - and each other - is rooted in a common love in Christ". A summarised history of pastoral care enables the author's adoption of a model of pastoral activity which is rooted in participation in a community.

Part 2, subtitled "Some Building Blocks in Psychology", is the longest section, and distils Rose's extensive reading and experience most accessibly. Moving deftly between psychological and spiritual literature, she covers huge topics such as attachment, sexuality, and loss in a refreshingly non-partisan way. The addition of toolkit summaries acts as a practical reference for those new to reflective pastoral care.

Part 3 describes specific mental-health issues such as depression, addiction, eating disorders, and psychosis. The part played by the pastoral carer as encourager and companion both to sufferers and their families is important, as is the decision to seek professional help, which is often the key to management of lifelong conditions. Part 4 is an unexpected discussion of betrayal and forgiveness, which helps to explain what can be a redemptive opportunity if considered in a sensitive and open-minded way.

There is one area of disappointment in this otherwise outstanding addition to the literature on pastoral care. Although there are occasional references to the importance of pastoral supervision, I do not believe that the case is made strongly enough. I would have preferred more than a bibliographical reference to Leach and Paterson's Pastoral Supervision: A handbook (SCM Press, 2010), to which this is a worthy companion.

The Revd Anne Holmes, a former NHS mental-health chaplain, is a psychotherapist and self-supporting minister in the diocese of Oxford.

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