Saturday, March 14, 2020

Counseling and Psychotherapy- Book Review by Sutton




 Siang-Yang Tan

     Reviewed by 

Geoffrey W. Sutton

In Counseling and Psychotherapy, Tan offers an evaluative review of leading theories and techniques from a Christian perspective. In addition, he describes key features of a Christian approach to counseling and psychotherapy. Having accomplished these two purposes, his book serves as a unique and helpful companion to other recent efforts to integrate the Christian faith and psychological science with the practice of counseling and psychotherapy (e.g., Integrative Psychotherapy by McMinn & Campbell ).

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. 

Tan emphasizes the importance of understanding scripture and basic Christian theology qua the usual terms of Christology, pneumatology, and so forth. Tan details five components of human nature and 13 principles of effective psychotherapy from a biblical perspective. A chapter on Christian faith and clinical practice reviews aspects of implicit and explicit integration, which includes a section on Christian resources with a notable discussion of prayer. He also adds an important section of key religious and spiritual issues that might occur within the course of treatment (e.g., sin, doubt, guilt). 

The penultimate chapter describes the role of the Holy Spirit, which seems to fit well with a charismatic perspective on the power, gifts, and fruit of the Holy Spirit. The last section of the chapter reviews key concepts of spirituality and spiritual formation (e.g., relational, nurturing spirituality). In the final chapter, Tan addresses legal and ethical issues in Christian psychotherapy, which includes a review of the American Association of Christian Counselor’s Code of Ethics and ten virtues of a Christian therapist (e.g., compassion, holiness).


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. 

Though some find comfort in the notion that all truth is God’s truth, the nature of facts, concepts, and principles associated with theology and scientific psychology do not overtly share a family resemblance (Wittgenstein’s sense). Tan clearly articulated important considerations related to both professional and Christian ethics yet ongoing discussions of an axiology informed by Christian values will be beneficial. In a related consideration, readers might wish to consider the ethical basis for using any theoretical model or psychotherapeutic technique that has little or no evidential support for its efficacy.

I refer to Tan's work in my book on Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, which Tan kindly endorsed.


 Related Post

Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy Books


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.

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  

Tan, S-Y. (2011). Counseling and psychotherapy: A Christian perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Ad See more books on Counseling and Psychotherapy

No comments:

Post a Comment