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Mind and Ministry, by Rebecca Guildea

by
29 January 2021

A book for the sceptical, says Anne Holmes

THIS sensible and well-researched short book is a useful addition to the literature on mental health and Christian pastoral care. It is the tenth in the Braemor Series of papers emerging from M.Th. dissertation papers within the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. The author is concerned to reduce past prejudice between practitioners of pastoral care and psychotherapists. She raises useful questions from the perspective of ministers approaching the field of psychotherapy and rightly concludes that there should be more teaching about psychological and mental-health matters in the core training of ministers.

There are four key chapters: biblical anthropology and psychology; sanctification and psychotherapy; a comparison of Christian discipleship and psychotherapeutic technique; and a discussion on demonology and mental illness. In each chapter, the author offers a coherent summary of relevant literature and perspectives, and has the potential to succeed in her stated aim “to ease the scepticism of those in ministry towards psychology and to create a theological framework upon which an engagement with psychology can be based”. Of course, such success depends on the willingness of those in ministry to challenge past prejudice and of those involved in ministry training to ensure its inclusion in the curriculum.

At times, terms that describe distinct disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy seem to be used indiscriminately, which is confusing for the reader. The study also suffers from a bias towards cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, and behavioural therapy, almost as if all psychoanalytic or psychodynamic approaches were dismissible owing to Freud’s ambivalence about the value of faith. This is a serious deficiency. Nevertheless, although at least one key text (J. Rose’s Psychology for Pastoral Contexts: A handbook, SCM, 2013) was not consulted, the wide-ranging bibliography is indicative of appropriate sources in a growing field of research.

 

The Revd Dr Anne C. Holmes, a former NHS mental-health chaplain, works as a psychotherapist and SSM in the diocese of Oxford.

 

Mind and Ministry: To what extent is secular psychotherapy compatible with Christian pastoral care?
Rebecca Guildea
Church of Ireland Publishing £5.50*
(978-1-904884-67-5)
*available at store.ireland.anglican.org

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