Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Author: Edith Eva Eger
A sixteen-year-old girl is in love. She loves to dance. She has a boyfriend. And she lives with two sisters and her parents and the attendant conflicts that come with family life. One morning in 1944, her life is violently disrupted when soldiers rip her family apart. Next, we are on a journey with her. We see her enter the bleak dream-destroying Auschwitz. We learn about survival amidst a human hell.
I wasn’t excited by the novel I started during a visit to Washington DC. My wife thought I might like Eger’s book, The Choice. She was right. By the end of our DC visit, we returned to the Holocaust museum, which became a new experience through Dr. Eger's lens. I found myself looking at the faces in a new way--wondering about victims, survivors, and perpetrators in new ways.
Eger’s tells her story of survival through the eyes of a young woman. We see her near death experiences, wonder at her tiny triumphs, worry about whether she will make it, rejoice in her successes, and feel her warmth and joy as we learn of her wisdom in later years.
Dr. Eger is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at UCSD. But she did not enter college until middle age. She connects with Viktor Frankl with whom she shares not only a common past but also a common love for humanity.
As Edith struggles with her past and works to live in the present, she is faced with many life-choices. We are treated to a case study in post-traumatic growth as she reviews her past through the lens of a psychologist in healing whilst helping others heal as well.
The Choice is an inspirational story that will be of interest to anyone who enjoys seeing people break free from the past. She offers us an opportunity to dance with a star.
Dr. Eger in a Ted talk
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Lay Counseling is a handbook for paraprofessional services. Although the focus is on Christian counseling, the book is important for all clinicians. In this post I review some key features of the book.
Lay Counseling is the kind of book that anyone who works in the field of mental health should consider because it provides current information about the counselors, programs, and services that are part of a support network beyond the world of licensed providers. The book offers an explicitly Christian approach to mental health services. The reason it should be read by those outside the Christian community is because Christianity is the world's largest religion and many Christians who seek counseling wish to see a Christian provider. Since many providers are not licensed mental health providers, it is important to understand who is doing what when it comes to this large informal network of paraprofessionals.
LAY COUNSELING: EQUIPPING CHRISTIANS FOR A HELPING MINISTRY: REVISED & UPDATED. Siang-Yang Tan & Eric T. Scalise, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, Pp. 318., ISBN 9780310524274. $19.99. Reviewed by Geoffrey W. Sutton, Evangel University, Springfield, MO.
I got my copy of Lay Counseling from Siang-Yang Tan who stopped by a presentation my colleagues and I presented documenting client factors that predict outcomes amongs those who attenkded Christian Counseling. A number of the clients reported seeing clergy. Following our discussion, Tan told me of his updated text. Later in the day he gave me a copy (disclosure), which I have reviewed for an academic journal.
The book consists of 12 chapters. You will find a brief description of the lay counseling movement --mostly in the United States--along with a summary of the limited research into Christian lay counseling. There isn't a lot of research so the field is wide open--a good topic I suggest for graduate students in counseling and psychology programs.
After the "backstory," the authors provide considerable details that will help Christian leaders establish a Christian lay counseling program in their churches or community. The details include guidelines on counselor selection, training programs, supervision, ethical and legal considerations, forms, and even types of offices and financial considerations. It really is a "how to" guidebook.
What we learn is that there are several approaches to Christian lay counseling. The authors present a model that is founded in Christian ministry and eclectic in drawing on the work of Christian clinicians from the past several decades. However, the authors, both psychologists, draw upon principles and techniques of change found in such other recognizable leaders as Aaron Beck and Arnold Lazarus.
I posted my academic review on ResearchGate and Academia .
It has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.
Disclosure: The only thing I received for this review is the free book.
My website: www.suttong.com [ https://sites.google.com/view/suttong/home ]
My Books on AMAZON
Friday, August 11, 2017
“The tribal differences that erupt into public controversy typically concern sex (e.g., gay marriage, gays in the military, the sex lives of public officials) and death at the margins of life (e.g., abortion, physician-assisted suicide, the use of embryonic stem cells in research). That such issues are moral issues is surely not arbitrary. Sex and death are the gas pedals and brakes of tribal growth. ... What’s less clear is why different tribes hold different views about sex, life, and death, and why some tribes are more willing than others to impose their views on outsiders (11).”
MORAL TRIBES: EMOTION, REASON, AND THE GAP BETWEEN US AND THEM by Joshua Greene, New York: Penguin Press, 2013, pp. 422. ISBN: 978-1-101-63867-5 Reviewed by Geoffrey W. Sutton, Springfield, MO
I read Greene’s Moral Tribes in 2014. That book along with Haidt’s The Righteous Mind and moral controversies in politics in religion over same-sex marriage, prompted me to think of ways Christian Spirituality and Science -- especially psychological science--might find common ground. Even within the same movement or affiliated group of churches, Christians appeared to be from different tribes. Subsequently, I wrote A House Divided. Although I drew more upon moral psychology research, I have long valued the thinking of philosophers when it comes to analyzing the ideas of science.
Today, I received my copy of a journal, which published my academic review of Moral Tribes. It turns out, they had first published the review in 2015. Anyway, it is a popular read on Academia.edu and ResearchGate. And I think with good reason—not my review, but Greene’s analysis.
The quote at the top of this post is telling. So much of the sociopolitical debate in the US and other countries that permit open debates has to do with life issues—sex and death—and the relationships related to such issues in between life's ends. In fact, it is appropriate that the moral hedges of religion deal with these issues. And religions, traditional boundary makers of culture, frequently weigh-in when leaders perceive their rights are not carefully considered.
After an organized presentation of many moral psychology experiments revealing the natural separation between groups of people—the Us and Them problem—Greene takes us back to utilitarian philosophy associated with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The problem of developing a meta-morality is not addressed by Greene and certainly utilitarianism has been found wanting as a universally guiding theory. But then again, attempts to find universal principles of justice and rights also come up short. And Greene’s analysis of psychological research won’t take him, or us, to the promised land of a universal morality.
But I appreciate the book. Here’s why.
Outside academic debates, groups of people continue to beat the drums of war. At the national level, it can be scary living as we do in a nuclear age. But at local levels, group conflicts sometimes lead to death and disability and at other times lead to misery marked by broken relationships, suspicion, and distrust. We do well to seek common ground. On the one hand, we might try justice as fairness approaches. And on the other hand, we may revive utilitarian methods to discover that a common good may be weighed as of great importance to both tribes, a common goal worthy of pursuit, or a common positive effect when those in conflict agree that life is more important than forcing the other tribe to change its system of rights, values, or "goods." Righteous minds might hate compromise. But compromise in the form of peace treaties, allow people to live in ways others find do not like, provided no one comes to harm.
Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. New York: Pantheon.
Sutton, G. W. (2016). A house divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. ISBN: 9781498224888
A related read...
A House Divided
Free exam copies for reviewers and professors at
Friday, July 28, 2017
HELPING GROUPS HEAL
LEADING SMALL GROUPS
IN THE PROCESS OF
Jan Paul Hook
Joshua N. Hook
Don E. Davis
Geoffrey W. Sutton
As I was reading this book, I had an occasion to experience many of the points the authors made in a group where a speaker disclosed some troubling news. Those of us present naturally felt supportive and I had the impression, the process promoted growth and healing. I found myself reflecting on the authenticity of the book.
The authors, using the first person "I," refer to a healing cycle composed of six steps, which cover most of the chapters in the book. In each chapter, the authors include sections on psychological science and Christianity to show how their model is compatible with science and faith.
Each healing step is explained along with an example of growth experiences of fictitious group members. The authors offer several tips and strategies to help leaders deal with both basic and more complex difficulties that occur when guiding a group.
Following is a brief chapter summary, which is based on a more lengthy review submitted for publication.
The components of the healing cycle are grace, safety, vulnerability, truth, ownership, and repentance. The grace chapter (2) suggests ways of becoming more accepting toward difficult people. Safety in the group (chapter 3) refers to creating a psychological space where members are able to grow without undue anxiety. Vulnerability (chapter 4) promotes healing by open and honest sharing. Step four is truth (chapter 5), which focuses on providing accurate feedback to group members. Ownership is the fifth step (chapter 6). The authors observe: “You can’t change what you don’t own (p.161).” The final step is repentance (chapter 7). Here the authors introduce behavioral approaches to changing habits. The final return to grace chapter deals with the important topic of ending a group or processing termination when clients leave.
My longer and more academic review has been accepted by the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.
I close by noting again that the healing cycle has a ring of authenticity, which I experienced in the group mentioned above. I suspect that seasoned therapists will be able to agree with many of the ideas in Groups That Heal.
More Counseling Resources
Applied Statistics: Concepts for Counselors
FOR DISCUSSION IN SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES
A House Divided:
Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures
FREE EXAM COPIES
Saturday, June 24, 2017
SEX TEXTS from the BIBLE
Translation and Annotation
By Teresa J. Hornsby
Geoffrey W. Sutton
I read Hornsby's text as part of my research for A House Divided. I found her matter-of-fact and easy-to-read analysis helpful to consider alternate perspectives than one often gets from pulpits and those less skilled at the nuances of biblical languages than is professor Hornsby.
Teresa Hornsby is Professor of Religion at Drury Unversity, Springfield, Missouri. Her biosketch indicates she is well prepared with master's degrees from Harvard and Vanderbilt in addition to her Ph.D. in New Testament Studeis from Vanderbilt. As she says on her web page, her research has focused on sexuality and gender in the Bible.
I came across Hornsby's book in a local bookstore and I am glad I did. She has organized her short work in four sections: Marriage and Family Life, Women's Sexuality, Destructive Sexuality, and Sexual Joy and Delight. Within each section are major biblical texts related to the section theme. For example, under the section on Marriage and Family Life you will find chapters on "Dating," Marriage, Divorce, and Sexual Orientation.
Examples of topics in the section on Women's Sexuality include Virginity, Prostitution, and Menstruation. The troubling passages about rape and incest are included under "Destructive Sexuality." Fortunately, Hornsby ends on a positive note with biblical texts celebrating sexuality in Genesis and Song of Songs.
Sex Texts is short and to the point. Her insights are presented clearly and encourage readers to think carefully about the meaning of the ancient texts. It is no secret that Christians are A House Divided when it comes to matters of sexuality and morality. Hornsby's work contributes to helping people think carefully about what the Bible has to say about such important topics.
Hornsby, Teresa J. Sex Texts From the Bible: Selection Annotated & Explained. Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths, 2007.
TO A HAPPIER LIFE
By George E. Vaillant, MD
Aging well is a developmental task I hope to accomplish. I became aware of the book when a student, Kathryn R. Ward, decided to read it for a course I was teaching. I suggested some edits and her review was subsequently published in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.
Vaillant defines successful aging on page 15 as a: “vital reaction to change, disease, and to conflict.”
I met George Vaillant at a Positive Psychology conference hosted by the Gallup Corporation. It was clear that he and his research team have learned a lot about aging as they have followed the progress of adults in the famous Harvard Study of Adult Development. What captured by interest was the emphasis on what works--what helps people grow and develop well.
The book provides an in-depth summary of adult development from the perspective of Erickson’s developmental tasks. Using examples and empirical data, we learn of contributing factors to well-being such as play, wisdom, and religion.
Those interested in research will find measures, tables, and figures in the appendices.
As we observed in the published review, clinicians may find the summaries useful as they consider what tasks and concepts may be applicable to their own adult clients. For example, although we learn about development in the course of becoming mental health providers, we may need reminders to consider how a client's concerns may be related to the process of development.
The Harvard study team provides updates as new information and analyses become available.
To read Kathryn Ward’s review, go to https://www.academia.edu/33632348/AGING_WELL_SURPRISING_GUIDEPOSTS_TO_A_HAPPIER_LIFE_Review
To see a talk by George Vaillant on the importance of relationships to health, resilience and ageing, go to this YouTube site.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
THE RIGHTEOUS MIND:
WHY GOOD PEOPLE ARE DIVIDED
BY POLITICS AND RELIGION
Geoffrey W. Sutton
In The Righteous Mind, Haidt provides readers with a review of moral psychology research, which continues to be helpful in analyzing the culture wars between religious and political groups. I was introduced to the work by an exceptional undergraduate psychology major, Kayla Jordan, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in Social Psychology. Our published academic review is available online. In this review, I provide a summary and some thoughts about the usefulness of Haidt's approach.
Haidt's work is organized around three principles of morality. First, “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second,” Drawing on the philosophy of Hume and supported by research, Haidt explains how so much of morality is governed by emotion driven, automatic thinking, rather than cool, rational thought. This is a contrast to the common emphasis on moral thinking driven by beliefs that morality is based on considerations of justice (e.g., Fawls) or the weighing of consequences (e.g., Bentham, Mill).
Haidt's second moral principle is, “There is more to morality than harm and fairness.” In this section, Haidt introduces us to six moral foundations people rely on when providing moral justifications. His research indicates liberals tend to emphasize two concerns about harm and fairness and sometimes liberty. However, conservatives tend to have a broader base that includes an additional three moral foundations: authority, loyalty, and purity.
It is this second principle along with the six foundations that I found so useful when studying the different Christian cultures that are divided over matters of gender and sexuality (See A House Divided). In my view, the six foundations are not just emphasized by conservative and liberal Christians but these different tribes may emphasize different aspects of the same foundation.
The third principle is that, “Morality binds and blinds.” Haidt suggests that people can switch from their typical individual survival mode to becoming groupish when activated by politics or religion. This group loyalty appears to be evident in American politics where there is a sharp divide between conservatives and liberals. And further, the divide is seen between conservative and progressive Christians.
Haidt recognizes that he has provided a descriptive approach to morality. A prescriptive approach is needed to make moral decisions and here he leans toward consequentialism. Research is ongoing and should shed more light on how well the foundations help organize the justifications people provide for right and wrong. The hope is that as people become better at recognizing different moral perspectives they may engage in more productive dialogue than the present state of talking past each other.
Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. New
York, NY: Pantheon Books
Jordan, K. & Sutton, G. W. (2015). [Review of the book: The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion by Jonathan Haidt.]. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 34, 90-91. Academia Link Researchgate Link
Sutton, G. W. (2016). A house divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. Amazon Link