Tan organized 17 chapters into three distinct parts. Part one consists of three chapters, which cover basic issues in counseling and psychotherapy. Part two provides an overview of ten major theories and techniques of counseling and psychotherapy. Part three includes four chapters that offer a framework for Christian counseling and psychotherapy.
The basic issues in Part one include a brief discussion of the lack of consistent distinctions between counseling and psychotherapy (thus I will use psychotherapy to encompass both concepts henceforth), an overview of ten major theoretical approaches to psychotherapy, and an outline of features common to a theory of psychotherapy. Next, Tan describes important characteristics of counselors, including a helpful list of suggestions for self-care.
The ten chapters of Part two cover Tan’s selection of major theories from the hundreds available. His selection fits within the coverage expected compared to other textbooks (e.g., Corey, 2009). The chapters include interesting biographical sketches, key concepts and principles, a hypothetical transcript of counselor- client interaction, an analysis of strengths and weaknesses, a critique from a Christian perspective, a review of research, and comments about the future of the approach. There are helpful textboxes of key features (e.g., four key ideas from Adler). For the benefit of the reader, I will simply list the ten approaches to therapy: Psychoanalytic, Adlerian, Jungian, Existential, Person-Centered, Gestalt, Reality, Behavior, Cognitive Behavior and Rational Emotive Behavior, and Marital and Family.
Tan outlines his approach to Christian psychotherapy in the four chapters of the final section. Be begins with a trinity of concepts qua criterial attributes of a Christian approach: Christ centered, biblically based, and Spirit filled. He reviews approaches to integrating Christianity and psychotherapy and explains his approach is consistent with a view that Christianity is the dominant framework (my term) for integrating psychology as well as the notion of going beyond integration to developing a Christian psychology.
Overall, the book has several strengths that make it worth adding to the library of Christian clinicians and worth considering as a text in graduate courses. It is comprehensive with respect to the leading theories of counseling and psychotherapy and it includes recent research, modifications of earlier theoretical positions, and newly developed techniques. There are helpful text boxes to outline key points from the text and clips of hypothetical dialogues to give a sense of session to students. Of course, beyond the Christian perspective on extant theories and techniques, Tan offers his own guidance on Christian psychotherapy, which at a minimum provides a basis for counselors to develop their own approach.
The primary content of this and similar secular books focuses on theories and techniques designed for the treatment of adults. The analysis of theories in terms of strengths and weaknesses as well as a Christian perspective are interesting and even helpful; however, a clear rubric with justified criteria would make these sections more valuable. A novice will find numerous terms, thus a glossary would be a welcome addition in the next edition. Finally, the book is valuable as a stimulus to discussing more foundational matters such as the interplay of distinct epistemological assumptions associated with theology and science.
Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
McMinn, M.R., & Campbell, C.D. (2007). Integrative psychotherapy: Toward a comprehensive Christian approach. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity.
Tan, S-Y. (2011). Counseling and psychotherapy: A Christian perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.