Helping People Grow: Practical Approaches to Christian Counseling

Book Review
  • Approximate Time Commitment: 10 minutes

HELPING PEOPLE GROW: Practical Approaches to Christian Counseling  by Gary R. Collins focuses on biblical counseling. This book review was written by Hank Griffith of South Suburban Evangelical Free Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota. This book is good for those who are interested or involved in counseling from a biblical viewpoint.

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Resource Description

Full Review:

Dr. Gary R. Collins, whose Ph.D. is in clinical psychology from Purdue University, is the editor of Helping People to Grow. This work was written in 1980, only eight years after I graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I was a student of Dr. Collins.

Timeless message

Helping People is, in one sense, dated. It deals with the approaches of specific Christian counselors of that period, many of whom are deceased. Today there are many more Christian counselors than there were when Collins wrote this book. On the other hand, it is not outdated because helping people is still needed. The problems of human beings are basically the same, and the approaches used by Christian counselors today, though expressed somewhat differently, are actually quite similar to what they were forty years ago.

This 350-page book is an introduction to many different ways to do Christian counseling. Some chapters are written by the counselor connected with the approach, others by the editor himself, Dr. Collins.

A survey of the table of contents will give you an idea of what the book is about:

Chapter 1: Introduction: Approaches to Christian Counseling – Gary R. Collins.

Chapter 2: Relationship Counseling – David Carlson

Chapter 3: Tournier’s Dialogue Counseling – Gary R. Collins

Chapter 4: Growth Counseling – Howard Clinebell

Chapter 5: Transactional Analysis – H. Newton Malony

Chapter 6: Family Counseling – John A. Larsen

Chapter 7: Sexual Counseling – Curtis Wennerdahl

Chapter 8: Nouthetic Counseling – Jay E. Adams

Chapter 9: Biblical Counseling – Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr.

Chapter 10: Discipleship Counseling – Gary R. Collins

Chapter 11: Three Dimensional Pastoral Counseling – Paul L. Walker

Chapter 12: Love Therapy – Paul Morris

Chapter 13: Integrity Therapy – John W. Drakeford

Chapter 14: Popular Approaches to Counseling – Gary R. Collins

Chapter 15: Catholic Approaches to Counseling – Mose J. Glynn and Gary R. Collins

Chapter 16: Other Approaches to Christian Counseling – Gary R. Collins

Chapter 17: The Distinctives of Christian Counseling – Gary R. Collins

Chapter 18: The Future of Christian Counseling – Gary R. Collins

Integrity Counseling

As an excerpt from the book, I’d like to summarize the chapter on “Integrity Counseling” by John W. Drakeford. I chose this chapter not because I think it is necessarily the best approach to Christian counseling, but because I found facets of it practical and usable in the local church setting. Drakeford, a native of Australia, was the Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as Director of the Baptist Marriage and Counseling Center in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Integrity Therapy

Integrity Therapy, developed by Drakeford, is based on many of the principles of O. Hobart Mowrer, well-known research psychologist at the University of Illinois and past president of the American Psychological Association. Mowrer would not call himself a Christian counselor, but he has had a great influence on Christian counselors, including Jay Adams.

This form of counseling uses peer mutual help much like AA, but with a Christian basis. It also resembles the kind of groups in which John Wesley’s followers were organized. With adaptation, I believe it can work well in small groups in a church.

Integrity Therapy has certain basic assumptions:

  1. It rejects all deterministic theories that make one solely a victim of heredity or environment. Every individual is responsible for his or her own life and exercises the right by making one’s own decisions.
  2. Each individual has a conscience or value system. When his conscience is violated, he becomes guilty, a condition which is not sickness but a result of individual wrongdoing and irresponsibility.
  3. A common reaction to wrongdoing is to cover up and deny its existence. In this secrecy, guilt gives rise to symptoms which may be so severe as to upset life’s balance.
  4. As secrecy causes trouble and separates us from our own fellows, so openness with “significant others” is the road to normality.
  5. Openness takes place with increasing number of “significant others,” and progresses in ever-widening circles as the individual learns to live authentically with his or her fellows.
  6. By itself, however, openness is not enough. The guilty individual is under an obligation to make restitution appropriate to the acknowledged failure in his or her life.
  7. The only way to become a whole person is not only to remain open and make restitution but also to feel a responsibility to carry the “Good News” to others.

In my opinion, Integrity Therapy has a great number of sound assumptions, but on the basis of what I read in this chapter, it misses the heart of the gospel of grace. Nevertheless, many of its principles definitely have parallels to Biblical teaching, for example:

  1. Human failure – Romans 3:22, 23
  2. Responsibility and conscience – Romans 14:12 and Romans 2:14, 15
  3. Concealment – Psalms 32:3
  4. Parading virtue – Matthew 7:3-5
  5. Confession – Proverbs 28:13
  6. Relationships – Matthew 5:23, 24
  7. Sharing – James 5:16
  8. Activity of faith – 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:12
  9. Restitution – Numbers 5:6, 7
  10. Involvement – Mark 5:19

Drakeford prefers group counseling to individual counseling for several reasons. He believes it highlights relationship, builds trust and confidence, can help establish self-confidence, and provides feedback from others. He also notes that this kind of small group, peer counseling, actually becomes a type of in-service training, that is, many participants learn the skills of leading this type of small group and can become assistants to the counselor.

Though Drakeford believes that much of what Christians need to become healthy and whole takes place best within a small group, he also believes there is a place for individual counseling.

In summary

Integrity Therapy emphasizes the biblical ideas of values, personal responsibility, openness, and restitution, and provides a large place for nonprofessionals, thus allowing lay men and women to exercise their God-given gift for helping their fellows in the process of loving their neighbors as themselves.

In Chapter 16, “Other Approaches to Christian Counseling,” Collins presents the approach of a number of lesser known Christian counselors. One of them is Texas counselor, Waylon Ward. I mention him only because Collins states that Ward believes that Christian counselors can draw on secular psychology, as long as it is not contradictory to biblical truth. I agree. (See “footnote” below.)


Footnote to book review:

I believe in what theologians call “common grace.” Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch theologian and prime minister of Holland (1901–1905), elaborated on the doctrine of common grace, a theology of public service, and cultural engagement of Christians’ shared humanity with the rest of the world. Kuyper noted, “If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit.” Kuyper’s work shows us that God is not absent from the non–church areas of our common life and bestows his gifts and favor to all people.

Among other implications, this means that all truth is God’s truth. Thus, Christians can be open to the research of science, including psychological research, as long as it does not contradict the Bible. We can utilize the fruit of non-Christian research psychologists like O. Hobart Mowrer. However, we must not adapt their naturalistic worldview. The presuppositions of our counseling must be based on the revealed truth of God’s Word, and ultimately we must present Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life.” 


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