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 terms of life-choices.

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.


Eger, E. E. ( 2017). The choice: Embrace the possible. Simon & Schuster. La Jolla, CA.

Watch Dr. Eger in a Ted talk


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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

Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene - A Book Review

“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).”
—Joshua Greene

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.


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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

Related books

A House Divided on Amazon and other stores.

Christian Morality on Amazon and other stores.

Free exam copies for reviewers and professors at WIPFandSTOCK

Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401-2960
Tel: (541) 344-1528   Fax: (541) 344-1506
Ordering inquiries: Orders@wipfandstock.com

Friday, July 28, 2017

Groups That Heal: A Sutton Review



  Jan Paul Hook 
  Joshua N. Hook
  Don E. Davis

Reviewed by

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 suggest the book would be useful in Counselor Education programs at Christian Universities and for a discussion in groups of Christian Counselors--especially those who are new to leading group therapy. The book also has ideas for people leading growth groups in churches and Christian organizations.

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



A House Divided: 
Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures




Saturday, June 24, 2017

SEX TEXTS - What does the Bible say? A book review


Selections Annotated     

& Explained

Translation and Annotation

By Teresa J. Hornsby

Reviewed by

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 University, 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 Studies 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 using 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.

Read more about Christianity and sexuality in A House Divided 


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, T. J. (2007) Sex Texts From the Bible:Selection Annotated & Explained. Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths.
Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, morality, and Christian cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick. ISBN: 9781498224888

Related Book Reviews:

 Links to Connections

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AGING WELL by Vaillant - a Book Review



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 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 by Jonathan Haidt Book Review





   Jonathan Haidt

Reviewed by

   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.

Related Posts

Moral Tribes by Greene

Moral Foundations Questionnaire

Moral Foundations Theory

For a recent study of moral psychology and political identity, see Sutton, Kelly, and Huver (2019).

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

Sutton, G. W., Kelly, H. L., & Huver, M. (2019). Political identities, religious identity, and the pattern of moral foundations among conservative Christians. Journal of Psychology and Theology, xx, pp. xx-xx. Accepted 6 September 2019. ResearchGate Link     Academia Link


   My Page    www.suttong.com
   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
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Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
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See also Christian Morality, which contains an application of Moral Foundations Theory to understanding Christian views of same-sex relationships. See on AMAZON.

Nazi Doctors Medical Killing Psychology of Genocide- Book Review


Medical Killing and the

Psychology of Genocide

  By  Robert Jay Lifton

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton

Lifton peers into the lives of physicians who killed millions. He examines the beliefs and practices of Nazi culture, which provided a biomedical context for ridding Germany of disease by exterminating those targeted as responsible for such disease. In an evil irony, healers frame killing in an expanding narrative that ultimately reaches the level of genocide. In addition to records, Lifton included interviews with surviving Nazi physicians and some prisoner doctors who served as their underlings in Auschwitz.

Lifton discloses his perspective, which is that of a an American psychiatrist, a Jew, with a psychoanalytic perspective informed in part by the ideas of Otto Rank. In the Introduction, Lifton informs us of key elements of his psychological model. People seek to deal with mortality by seeking immortality in various life projects. Many also seek to deal with limitations via transcendence. He refers to Rank's notion of "immortality systems" to help gain a sense of the meaning of the Nazi's "Thousand Year Reich" in which ordinary Germans and professionals could be bound together in an uplifting and eternal endeavor.

Lifton also shows us that in the mass killings of Jews and others, especially as seen in the death camps, the Nazis crossed a significant barrier beyond that kind of episodic violence, which targets hated people here and there to reach a systematized elimination of certain human lives based on the logical extension of a distorted biomedical theory that harnessed physicians to a gross expansion of euthanasia to the selection of multitudes of Jews for lethal "cleansing."

In Part I, Lifton explains the early Nazi medical killing program of euthanasia presented as "life unworthy of life." There were several components beginning with required sterilization then the killing of "impaired" children and adults in hospitals-- mostly mental hospitals. The practices of injection and carbon monoxide poisoning were eventually expanded to inmates at concentration and extermination camps and then to mass killings.

Part II focuses on Auschwitz. The SS doctors performed the initial selection of arriving prisoners either for the gas chambers or temporary survival. Additional selections followed as doctors "examined" prisoners' fitness when overcrowding or health conditions commanded their attention. The "unfit" were of course selected to die in this bizarre application of triage. Lifton closes this section with three chapters each devoted to a close look at three physicians. One he considers a "human being" in an SS uniform, the other, Josef Mengele, identified as "Dr. Auschwitz," and the third, Eduard Wirths a representative of the "healing-killing conflict."

The final Part III examined the psychology of genocide. Lifton explains his view of the concept "doubling." Nazi doctors form two selves to cope with death. The previous physician self is the healer, which emerges from time to time. The Auschwitz self takes on the numbing routine necessary to psychologically survive the initially shocking assignment to carry out selections of people for immediate death. Lifton addresses some additional themes related to genocide and mentions some similarities of the Nazi killings to the earlier Armenian genocide.

Overall, I found Lifton's work informative and worthy of consideration given the in-depth interviews with Nazi and other physicians who survived the almost indescribable horrors. His analysis of "doubling" is interesting because he provides numerous examples of how this construct may help approach an understanding. Unfortunately, like many mental constructs there is a circularity that fails to satisfy my desire for a closer look at causation. Lifton does mention the cultural milieu and even provides historical perspectives that no doubt bolstered the German biological view of a healthy and superior race in contrast to those people viewed as a subspecies who were unworthy or even dangerous to life. It is this milieu, and an understanding of social psychology, that I think would offer a more useful explanation as we continue to confront extreme outgroup hatred.

Another perspective I would like to have seen is a more careful analysis of moral psychological perspectives. In fairness, much of moral psychology research has taken place in the last couple of decades and would thus be unavailable to Lifton. Nevertheless, contemporary readers would do well to consider the work of Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind, 2012) and others to examine the scheme of justifications employed by the Nazi's in their killing narrative.

Finally, Lifton appears to have ignored the work of Zimbardo and the well-known 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which offers empirically supported ideas for considering the rapid shift from fellow citizen to the split roles of guardian-inmate. A quote from Zimbardo is relevant.

"How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress. Please read the story of what happened and what it tells us about the nature of human nature."

What we can glean from Lifton's research is the perspective of a psychiatric physician who offers us a face-to-face encounter with some of history's most malevolent and scariest beings-- healers turned killers.

Related Post

Psychopaths and Leadership

Read more about Auschwitz-Birkenau at auschwitz.org


Lifton, R.J. (1985). The Nazi doctors: Medical killing and the psychology of genocide. New York: Basic Books.  (Paperback, 561 pages)


   My Page    www.suttong.com
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy for Trauma- A Book Review



Edited by

Donald F. Walker, 
Christine A. Courtois, 
Jamie D. Aten

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton

Publisher: American Psychological Association

This book is an excellent resource for clinicians considering the spiritual concerns of people who have experienced trauma. The treatment of trauma has a long history. As clinicians who have treated people with trauma, we have learned many techniques and become acquainted with other options such as medication and therapeutic animals. However, the spiritual dimension has been somewhat neglected until recently. This book helps fill in the gap.

The twelve chapters cover multiple topics beginning with an overview of spirituality and ethical considerations in psychotherapy for trauma. Other chapters offer insights into aspects of trauma where religion or spirituality may be a major concern such as spiritual struggles, the problem of evil, and changes in God-image linked to sexual abuse.

Clinicians will also find helpful forms and checklists.

See more information in my published review, which can be downloaded.


Sutton, G. W. (2017). [Review of the book Spiritually oriented psychotherapy for trauma by D.F. Walker, C.A. Courtois, & J.D. Aten (Eds.)]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 36, 90-91.  Academia Link    ResearchGate Link  

Related articles

Sutton, G. W. (2008). Christianity, Psychotherapy, and Psychology: An analysis of an Integrative Psychotherapy Model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 36, 139-141.  Academia Link    Research Gate Link

Sutton, G. W. (2011). [Review of the book Counseling and psychotherapy: A Christian perspective by Siang-Yang Tan]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 30, 87-88.  Academia Link    Research Gate Link  

Sutton, G. W. (2014). [Review of the book Evidence-based practices for Christian counseling and psychotherapy by E.L. Worthington Jr., E.L. Johnson, J.N. Hook, and J.D. Aten]. Encounter. Accepted for publication May 2014.  Academia Link    Research Gate Link

Sutton, G. W. (2019). [Review of the book Lay Counseling: Equipping Christians for a helping ministry: Revised & Updated by S. Tan & E. Scalise]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 38, 57-59.  Academia Link    Research Gate Link  

Sutton, G. W., Arnzen, C., & Kelly, H. (2016). Christian counseling and psychotherapy: Components of clinician spirituality that predict type of Christian intervention. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 35, 204-214. Academia Link    ResearchGate Link


   My Page    www.suttong.com
   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)