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APC Forum Resource Reviews December 2017


APC Forum, Decemberr 2017, Vol. 19 No. 8


The Art of Jewish Pastoral Counseling: A Guide for All Faiths
Michelle Friedman and Rachel Yehuda (New York: Routledge, 2017, 208 pages, Kindle, paperback)
 
When asked to write this book review, this writer’s first question to the APC book review coordinator was, “Should this review perhaps be written by one of our Jewish BCC colleagues?” She responded that the sub-title of the text is “A Guide for All Faiths” and that the writers were eager for chaplains from all traditions to read their work.
 
Dr. Michelle Friedman and Dr. Rachel Yehuda, both psychiatrists and possessing credentials in psychotherapy, present a text that has much to offer to chaplain readers.  They write with the objective of offering a guide for effective pastoral counseling using examples from Jewish life, at times within the modern orthodox tradition.
 
In a chapter comparing pastoral counseling and mental health treatment, the writers note, “Jewish pastoral counselors place life experience in the context of a historic and religious tradition that encourages the search for meaning” (24). In contrast, they note, “For the psychotherapist, the patients’ symptom relief and increased wellbeing is the goal” (24). This is a helpful comparison for many chaplains who work alongside behavioral health professionals on multidisciplinary teams.
 
The strength of this text lies in its use of over 60 examples of situations in which clergy interact with others. These situations are presented realistically with follow-up discussion of options, including questions for reflection. This material could be used with students or for didactic materials for department educational presentations or discussions.
 
One chapter that was of special interest focused on “preparing for the unexpected.” This chapter zeroed in on material that one might have not studied in seminary. The examples were both enlightening and interesting, situations such as being asked to provide counseling to others by a third party, using other forms of communication in counseling, or responding to requests that are unusual. They were framed within the congregational setting, but provided wisdom for spiritual caregivers in other settings as well.
 
The writers also presented a chapter on “working in groups” that was intended for those working in a congregation setting, but could also easily be used for anyone working with a group in any setting. The information was helpful, and could translate easily.
 
The Art of Jewish Pastoral Counseling: A Guide for All Faiths brings focus to many contemporary spiritual care questions within the modern Jewish community and beyond. It not only provides helpful guidance for realistic situations, but can educate chaplains unfamiliar with the complexities that arise for Jewish patients who are trying to integrate their faith into their lives in a meaningful way.
 
Reviewed by Chaplain Marcia Marino DMin BCC, who teaches online spiritual care courses for the Church of the Larger Fellowship (Unitarian Universalist) and the Oates Institute. 



Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Christians with Depression: A Practical Tool-Based Primer
Michelle Pearce PhD (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2016, 224 pages, Kindle, paperback)

Harold Koenig correctly writes in the Foreword that this “is a must-have guidebook for mental health professionals and pastoral counselors who want to help Christian clients use their Christian faith as a healing resource in psychotherapy” and that all “clergy will … learn how Christianity can be integrated into an evidence-based secular mental health treatment for depression” (x-xi). (Dr. Pearce, a clinical psychologist, has written a manual for Christian clients; adaptations for the other major world religions are available through the Duke Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.) She has a long fascination with “the role religion plays in people’s lives, especially in coping with mental and physical problems” (xiii).

She asks “how can we help our religious clients engage with and use their faith as a healing resource in psychotherapy?” and asserts that “we need an organizing therapeutic approach and a set of practical tools to enable us to integrate religion effectively into treatment” (4-5). She offers resources to help clients with mild to moderate depression who would not likely be hospitalized and envisions partnerships with parish clergy.

Though not addressing the role of a chaplain, behavioral health chaplains could use this resource to move toward a deeper integration of spiritual care into their interdisciplinary team’s treatment of depressed clients. This may result in more informed referrals, adaptations in spiritual care provided to depressed clients that is congruent with cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT] principles and possible themes or content for spirituality groups.

One chapter introduces the principles of and possible questions to ask in a spiritual assessment. An appendix offers online resources. In clinical trials it was discovered that Christian CBT [CCBT] will most likely be rejected by those who identify as spiritual but not religious and that the ethics of informed consent require cautioning recipients that their spiritual beliefs may change as one outcome of the therapy. A concluding chapter includes other contraindications for using CCBT.

Another chapter and an appendix introduce the basic concepts of CBT, citing neuroimaging findings about brain functioning and demonstrating its congruence with Christianity.  Since religious persons who are depressed can be found in all of the places chaplains serve, chaplains can benefit from a basic understanding of the principles of CBT: “We can improve how we are feeling by changing what we are thinking and what we are doing…. The theory of stress and coping states that it is not an event that determines whether we feel stressed or upset; rather, it’s our interpretation of the event and whether we think we have the ability  to cope with it” (38-39). While listening to the expression of feelings can create rapport, the key that opens the healing door for depressed care recipients is not an endless exploration of their feelings but altering the thoughts and behaviors that create and perpetuate the depression.

Seven chapters present the CCBT toolkit:
Tool 1. Renewing Your Mind: Planting Truth
Tool 2. Changing Your Mind: Metanoia
Tool 3.  Finding God and the Blessing in Suffering: Redemptive Reframing
Tool 4.  Reaching Out and Connecting
Tool 5. Letting Go and Letting God: Acceptance and Forgiveness
Tool 6: Saying Thanks: Gratitude
Tool 7. Giving Back: Service (170)

Each chapter begins with a clinical case including a demonstration of how using that tool would enhance that client’s treatment, scientific support for and background theory of the tool, apropos scriptural teachings and passages and specific practical applications including actual therapist-patient dialog.

The author is quite clear that using religious resources is client-centered and unique to each client. Her examples are illustrative, not prescriptive. In conclusion, Dr. Pearce offers a resource for all chaplains who wish to increase their skill development and to move toward evidence-based spiritual care of depressed persons.

Reviewed by Roy F. Olson D. Min BCC and endorsed by the ELCA, who is mostly retired but continues to work as an on-call chaplain at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois.



The Divine Dance:  The Trinity and your Transformation
Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell (New Kensington, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 2016, 217 pages, hardcover, softcover, MP3 CD, audiobook, Kindle)

When I read the title of this book, having not heard of it before, I thought it would be a book about the Trinity (God in three persons) and some dance.  What I didn’t even think about or reflect on in the title was the word transformation.  However, what a pleasant surprise and blessing I discovered after finishing the book—a transformation has begun in me!  The book is really about recovering the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit, which in much of Christianity is MIA (Missing in Action), according to Richard Rohr. 

Rohr and Morrell describe the Trinity (Godhead) in terms of relational qualities and not substantive essences, in terms of a circle and not a pyramid.  What they suggest, in order to understand the relational essence of the Trinity, is to start with the Three and see that this is the deepest nature of the One.  The relational interplay between the Three, and of course with those who wish to join in on the Dance, is where life, salvation, and fulfillment are experienced.  According to the authors, the greatest dis-ease facing humanity now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection.

This book would be enjoyed by those who see God as relational and not as the bearded Grandpa sitting in Heaven, or by those who sense a flow (as the authors describe it) in them and through them, which is the light and love of the Trinity given freely to all of us.  For those who are frustrated with conventional Christianity, i.e. doctrines, hierarchy, domination, rightness vs. wrongness, etc., this book will freshen you to the movement of the Spirit of relationship and the energy found in the wind, fire, and water.  Start with the mystery of relationship and relatedness; this is where the power is, according to Rohr.  Though the book contains deep theological issues and concepts, they are put into terms anyone can understand.

In my work as a chaplain, I find more and more people who have left the church because of its non-relevance to their lives.  I hope to use what I’ve learned in this book to connect with people more relationally as a result of my new awareness of the Trinity:  help them to see the dance going on and invite them to join!  As emphasized in the book, the Spirit is like light.  Light is not really what you see; it is that by which you see everything else.  If the Spirit is not flowing out of you, it’s probably because you’re not allowing it to flow in and through you.

Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell do a great job of reframing our mindset on how the Trinity, especially the Spirit, functions in our world as relational to all of the world around us, if we just pause and look.  A few chapters seemed to bog down or stretch the metaphor of Trinity a bit too far for me.  But maybe I just need more time to see as they see the workings of God in our world.
 
Reviewed by Mark A. Weiler DMin BCC, staff chaplain at North Colorado Medical Center, Greeley, Colorado.



A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses
S. Brent Plate (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014, 248 pages, softcover, hardcover, Kindle)
 
This book is directed toward both the student of religion and the practitioner. It is well-written, well-documented, and accessible. The book is broad-based, interdisciplinary, and historically and culturally wide-reaching. It belongs in the category of comparative religion, but instead of comparing religions based on beliefs and practices (i.e., ethics, metaphysics, ritual, beliefs, etc.), the author uses several different objects as a springboard for discussion.
 
Plate examines five objects used around the world in a variety of cultures and belief systems. These objects include stones, incense, drums, crosses, and bread. He explores both their historical and cross-cultural use by different religious groups. The “1/2” object mentioned in the title is humankind and “stands as a symbol of our incompleteness, the need for a human body to be made whole through relations with something outside itself” (30).  Plate’s book is an exploration of this human quest for completeness, and the ways these objects facilitate our connection with something beyond ourselves, enabling us to live “meaningful, fulfilling lives.”
 
One of the writer’s aims is “(…To bring) us to our religious senses, to become aware of the objects we have come to love across ages and continents and to realize how central they are to our spiritual lives” (223). More than that, however, he wants to change the way we think about religion: “Instead of asking whether all gods are the same thing (they aren’t), we might have renewed respect for each other if we begin in wonder of why so many of us carry stones, burn incense, beat drums, regard crosses, and eat bread as part of our religious devotion” (223).
 
Plate’s book is a thoughtful call to overcome the dichotomies of mind/body and sacred/profane in our thinking and practice. It is a beautifully-written reminder that religion is not simply a matter of the intellect, but also arises from sensory ways of learning and knowing. His discussion of the physical senses as “connectors,” avenues of wholeness and wellbeing, is very helpful.
 
One can read this book for religious history, comparative religion, pastoral care, or all three. No matter which you choose, you will find yourself informed, challenged, and enlightened.
 
 
Reviewed by Vicki G. Lumpkin PhD BCC, Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator, Hospice of Rockingham County, Reidsville, NC.



Redeeming Conflict:  12 Habits for Christian Leaders
Ann M. Garrido (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2016, 270 pages, softback, Kindle)
 
Catholic theologian Ann Garrido’s thesis in her book Redeeming Conflict is to present “…twelve practices for Christian communities striving to live the Trinitarian life to which they’ve been invited, twelve habits for living communion in diversity well, even when it is really tough” (8).  As she indicates in the title, her intended audience is Christians who hold leadership positions in the church, but also includes pastors, counselors, and chaplains.
 
The focus of the book is conflict, which most people try to avoid at all costs.  In “Speak Your Voice,” chapter six, Garrido states, “When we see something we think is unethical at work, when our spouse does something irritating at home, when a friend makes a burdensome request, what makes it hard to say something?  Well, that’s easy: because there are costs” (115-116).  However, Garrido suggests, “ … ask the same group of people to list all of the potential downsides of not having the conversation. Intriguingly, the charts often look mighty similar…  Silence also has its costs” (117).  Garrido fills this chapter with suggestions and models to encourage speaking “with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15 – 17; p. 113).
 
The strength of Garrido’s presentation is her straight-forward style in describing conflict as part of God’s creation. According to her, it’s a natural part of life. She capably points out that conflict is a part of the diversity of a community, illustrated by the sacred diversity of the Trinity. Within her discussion, she follows each practice by providing apt examples that she calls “Companions for the Journey.” Each chapter concludes with a “Reflection and Prayer” section. These profound and insightful questions can be utilized by a single reader or in a group setting to develop a deeper understanding of living out the practices of conflict. Her “Notes,” following each chapter, provide an ample array of resources.
 
While Garrido’s material provides well-researched and applied practices to approach, address, and overcome conflict situations, it appears strictly limited to a Christian audience. The evangelistic tone and continual scriptural references, for examples, would seem inappropriate for the corporate world.
 
Garrido suggests resources that would complement this work, such as the website  www.triadconsultinggroup.com (8) and books written by Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP) as listed below: 
 
Doug Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. Difficult Conversations:  How to Discuss What Matters Most.
 
Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback:  The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Even When It Is Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and, Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood).
 
Walter Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton.  Getting to Yes:  Negotiating Agreement without Giving In. (9)
 
Garrido clearly states, and meets, her objective of helping church members to learn and integrate the twelve practices to address conflict.
 
Reviewed by Rev. Dorothy Vopat-Crockett MDiv MAT, Pulpit Supply, Southern Association, United Church of Christ (UCC), San Diego, CA.



Rising Strong
Brené Brown (New York: Random House, 2015, 301 pages, hardcover, paperback, Audio CD)
                        
Brené Brown’s Rising Strong is a book about the truth within our stories.  It is a powerful exhortation to embrace vulnerability while “owning our story and loving ourselves through that process” (40).  Brown has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years, thanks in part to her TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability,” which is one of the ten most popular TED talks of all time.  Her most recent three books can be summarized as: “The Gifts of Imperfection: Be you.  Daring Greatly: Be all in. Rising Strong: Fall.  Get up.  Try again” (xix).  Brown notes in her introduction: “The thread that runs through all three of these books is our yearning to live a wholehearted life” (xix). 
 
Brown shows the reader how to recognize moments when we are, as she calls it, “facedown in the arena” (xxi), and how to develop curiosity and understanding about the emotions that arise in such moments.  She offers a framework for this curiosity and awareness, not denying the power of the emotions we experience, but providing a way to more calmly and effectively journey through them.
 
Rising Strong’s content is inspiring on a personal as well as professional level.  Brown’s stories of challenges and triumphs will easily resonate with most readers.  She encourages readers to reflect on their own life moments of so-called failure and resilience.  Brown tells her stories with self-effacing humor.  She reinforces the importance of healthy boundaries, and asserts that people with the best boundaries are also the most compassionate: “Compassionate people ask for what they need,” she says.  “They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it” (115).  Chaplains can always benefit from a reminder about healthy boundaries and self-care.
 
In terms of chaplaincy practice, Brown’s work resonates in many areas.  Her emphasis on stories is a key point of connection.  As chaplains we hear, interpret, honor, and sometimes compassionately “reframe” the stories of those in our care.  Recognizing the areas of “reckoning, rumble and revolution” (41) can help us clarify the rich points of meaning within our patients’ stories.  We can better see the key emotions and points of vulnerability and bravery in those we meet.  We can embrace the calm curiosity discussed by Brown.  And just as importantly, we can empower those we care for to see their own stories as meaningful and dynamic.  As Brown notes, “When we own our stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in stories someone else is telling” (xx).  Using the tools that Brown identifies may help our chaplaincy practice and grant clarity to the beautiful “messiness” of the stories we live.
 
Reviewed by Sarah Byrne-Martelli MDiv BCC, Chaplain, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.



Where God and Medicine Meet:  A Conversation between a Doctor and a Spiritual Messenger
Neale Donald Walsch and Brit Cooper, MD (Faber, VA: Rainbow Ridge Books, 2016, 189 pages, Kindle, softcover)
 
In Where God and Medicine Meet:  A Conversation between a Doctor and a Spiritual Messenger, Neale Walsch and Brit Cooper MD equate the wisdom of a spiritual messenger with the wisdom of a medical doctor, giving spirituality equal importance with medicine as patients deal with major medical illnesses.
 
Specifically, the authors are convinced that medical practice needs to overtly use and integrate within itself a spiritual perspective that affirms the fact that the Life Force (their term for God and a higher power) is the source for healing, human development and evolution; the Life Force also transforms human bodies into new forms of energy and even new physical life.  Essentially, death is not to be feared since death is the stepping stone to an evolved place of being.  The goal of illness is to learn to be a better person and to be happy, peaceful and contented.  Thus, illness becomes part of the person’s larger story. 
 
This text clearly has at its foundation deeply religious beliefs—such as reincarnation, spiritual energy, a Life Force—but the authors do not cite a particular religion.  Walsch himself serves as a spiritual teacher.  His Amazon page advertises a book and video series titled “Conversations with God,” based on his personal encounters with God, which is said to have “redefined God and shifted spiritual paradigms around the globe”  https://www.amazon.com/Neale-Donald-Walsch/e/B000APZH4Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1504903285&sr=8-1.  Clearly, although he uses God in the title, he does not believe in God in the traditional religious sense.  Dr. Cooper makes it clear that she has adopted Walsch’s spiritual teachings into her own medical practice.  As a result, their approach may be identified as highly spiritual, with religious overtones.
 
Those who are spiritual and not religious and who want to honor the larger Life Force in their lives will resonate with the authors’ approach.  The writers are using “positive thinking” and “positive psychology” to advance their spiritual beliefs in the context of medicine and healing, but don’t overtly mention either.  Their spiritual beliefs are applied in the second part of the book, focusing on such interesting topics as Assisted Living Facilities, Dementia, Prescription Medicine Issues, Abortion, Sex and Disability, Death, Spiritual Healing, and Defining Good Health.
 
This book is intended for those who work in the medical community, with primary emphasis on physician education.  It could be used for nursing curriculum as well as other ancillary therapeutic services such as social work, occupational therapy and psychiatric liaison nursing.  It could even serve as a textbook for a medical student Health and Spirituality class.
 
Chaplains in general would find it to be an excellent primer on spirituality that is not God-oriented, but Life Force-centered.  An excellent resource for chaplains’ continuing education, it focuses on bringing spirituality and medicine together.  In addition, hospital chaplains and hospice chaplains and other ancillary services who deal with end-of-life needs in the medical setting would find the book helpful. 
 
Reviewed by Rev. George M. Rossi MA MDiv BCC, Clinical Chaplain, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

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