While serving in the pastorate over twenty years, there were many occasions when I referred deeply hurting people to secular therapists. Few of them experienced long-term relief or lasting healing, and some were disappointed in not being helped at all. Some sadly stated that their therapy experience had made their personal problems worse!
Most of my referrals had been to secular therapists because I did not know any Christian ones. Their main therapeutic goal was behavioral change. To them, psychological and emotional change was of primary concern; addressing spiritual needs was not important!
I experienced the dynamics of secular therapy at Columbus State Hospital, where I spent a summer in a clinical pastoral education practicum. My supervisor, who was an ordained Methodist minister, believed that “religious ideation,” as he called it, was at the core of all patients’ distress. He insisted that his students only address psychological and emotional problems, even if patients persisted in believing their problems were spiritual in nature!
Shortly after graduating from seminary, I was invited to attend a seminar on “Medicine to the Whole Person” given by Dr. Paul Tournier, a Swiss psychiatrist. He emphatically stated the ABSOLUTE importance of addressing patients’ spiritual foundation for permanent emotional and physical healing to occur. He believed that the source of every psychological problem is spiritual sickness. I had believed this for several years. My college major had been pre-medicine. The same year I was to enter medical school, I instead entered seminary. Strange turnabout! One of the reasons for my entering seminary was my desire to learn more about inner healing and the Church’s attitude toward the healing ministry. Many physicians whom I knew held a secular world-view which carried over into their medical practices and the way they related to their patients. Many ignored and some disdained anything spiritual! Their approach to healing was secular, biological, and humanistic. Doctor
Tournier confirmed what I had believed about healing and, because of his influence, I was determined to explore the entire healing ministry. In retrospect, it was probably a wrong reason for entering seminary…
I became a member of the Order of St. Luke, a healing society within the Episcopal Church. I began praying for the sick and anointing them with oil at my mid-week Holy Communion service. Almost immediately, several experienced spiritual, emotional, and physical healing! What a shock! I witnessed more significant, in-depth healing with some of them than with any whom I had referred to secular therapists.
As the years passed, I became more eager and determined to implement total healing within my ministry. Twenty-three years after graduating from seminary I re-entered graduate school, hoping to learn an effective, comprehensive method of therapy. I entered the Graduate School of Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University of San Antonio in Texas.
By then, my marriage was in serious trouble and my wife and I had separated. I had heard about the John DeFoore Pastoral Care and Counseling Center in Boerne, Texas, and had met a former DeFoore counselor who was practicing psychotherapy in San Antonio. In deep, crippling emotional and spiritual pain, I entered therapy with this man. He claimed to be a Christian therapist, and said that his therapy would be consistent with my beliefs, and that it might possibly be what I had been searching for. We met for two hours each day for five days. During this time, I experienced a new awareness of my old, albeit unconscious, destructive habit pat-terns, and was shown ways to remain free of them. His therapy worked! Discovering that he had trained with the Gouldings in California, the founders of Re-decision Therapy, I determined to train with them!
The opportunity came when I was invited to attend a two-week therapy marathon led by Dr. Robert Goulding and his wife, Mary. Dr. Goulding had been a colleague of the late Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis, and Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy. He had blended the two therapies, added elements of behavioral modification, and called his new approach “Re-decision Therapy.” He and his wife were both secular therapists, so I knew from the beginning what kind of training I would be receiving; I could add the spiritual dimension at a later date. The two weeks I spent with the Gouldings and other therapists who hadcome for training were among the most significant events on my own journey into wholeness, and helped me create an effective, brief but intensive, biblically-based therapeutic model.
Subsequently, I began a psychotherapy practice in Charleston, South Carolina. I used the Gouldings’ Re-decision Therapy model coupled with prayer and anointing. In a short time I watched the lives of several of my clients dramatically change and transform. But I was still dissatisfied! The model had to have a stronger biblical foundation if patients were to experience permanent healing. A few prayers for healing had not been sufficient. The Lord’s healing power had to become the very foundation of my therapy!