Contemplation and Counseling

An Integrative Model for Practioners

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P. Gregg Blanton
Christian Association for Psychological Studies Books
  • Downers Grove, IL: 
    IVP Academic
    , April
     2019.
     232 pages.
     $24.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780830828654.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

With the growth of interest in integration of spirituality and religiosity in the clinical setting of counseling and psychotherapy, many authors began publishing literature on East Asian forms of meditation and yoga and their positive effects on patients. P. Gregg Blanton, in his book Contemplation and Counseling: An Integrative Model for Practitioners, provides a thorough examination of the place of Christian contemplative prayer in a clinical setting. The book aims to emphasize the place where contemplation and counseling intersect and the positive impact of this intersection on the wellbeing of patients.

Chapter 1 offers an introduction to the various types of therapy and the impact meditation and contemplation can have on the effects of therapy. Blanton provides an overview of the journey of meditation into the realm of counseling and psychotherapy from skepticism to embracement and acceptance of its positive effects on counselees. Chapter 2 examines the theology of prayer through the lens of theologians of the Christian East and West. The author provides an examination of what contemplative prayer is and what it is not. In the course of his commentary on prayer, Blanton provides six dimensions of contemplative prayer—namely, love, attention, openness, silence, rest, and presence. The author provides a brief overview of what each of these dimensions entails in relation to the overall wellbeing of the person engaging in contemplative prayer. Together, chapters 1 and 2 provide clear definitions of the two words that make up the main title, Contemplation and Counseling.

Chapter 3 supplements the discussion with the anthropological element of prayer. It begins with an overview of what a human being is from a Christian perspective. Following this introduction, the author provides guidelines for assessment, which cover one’s relationship with self, others, and God. Under the first two categories of assessment (namely, self and others) Blanton offers the reader four elements of each relationship and three hypothetical questions covering each elements. The questions are a mix of open- and close-ended questions that give space for the counselee to offer answers that can help the therapist with assessment.

In the section pertaining to relationship with God, Blanton offers eight questions that can guide the therapist in exploring counselee’s understanding of God, spirituality, and the practical implications of such a relationship. The chapter ends with a hypothetical dialogue between the therapist and “Adam,” the first man after his experience of the fall. The dialogue is accompanied by the rationale of the therapist’s question together with the elements of assessment (s)he is trying to gather from the dialogue.

In chapter 4, titled “How People Change,” Blanton provides six primary issues counselees deal with mirrored by six elements of change they are to undergo with the assessment of Christian contemplative thought. Each primary issue and element of change is informed with a well-balanced matrix of theological thought, psychotherapeutic literature, and neurobiological research.

Chapter 5 reverts the reader’s attention to the centrality of the counselor’s presence allowing the counselee to feel connected, accepted, and safe. Chapter 6 explores elements of our humanity, such as mind, heart, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in relation to the counseling and contemplative prayer as experienced by the counselee. Chapters 7 and 8 go hand in hand in outlining the tasks of the therapy sessions, the role of the counselor, and the role of the counselee. To this end, the author provides case studies of the teaching and use of contemplative prayer, which serve as an example and a potential guideline for readers wishing to implement contemplative prayer as an intervention in their practice. The final chapter addresses the centrality of love in relation to God, the counselor, and the counselee in relation to contemplative prayer and the overall counseling experience. The centrality of love is extended to the moment in which the counseling experience comes to an end upon the accomplishment of the pre-set counseling goals.

Contemplation and Counselling offers deep insight into the intersection between contemplative prayer and healing through counselling supplemented with practical advice for counselors. In chapter 2, titled “What is Prayer?”, the author offers an overview of the theology of prayer as seen through Eastern and Western lenses, though with more attention to the latter. The chapter could benefit from providing more insight on the distinctive features of the Eastern model vis-à-vis the Western model. For example, the author addresses the use of imagination as part of the “cataphatic” form of prayer in a positive light. However, he does not mention that Eastern Christian guidelines for prayers warn severely against the use of imagination as a rich soil for demonic deception. In chapter 3, the author provides guidelines for the assessment of relationships with self and others, which were clear, organized, and extensively explained. Regarding the section “Relationship with God” in the same chapter, the author did not provide a lower level of organization and extensive explanation despite this relationship being the baseline of engaging in contemplation.

Contemplation and Counseling offers an excellent overview of how Christian contemplation can be integrated into counseling to bring profound results in the lives of counselees. The book offers the reader supporting evidence for its claims through the literature of a wide range of theologians, psychotherapists, and neurobiologists. This work is an outstanding read for Christian counselors, pastors, chaplains, and spiritual care practitioners involved in providing therapy in multiple settings such as hospital setting, clinic setting, and different forms of therapy like individual therapy and marital therapy. 

About the Reviewer(s): 

Andrew N. A. Youssef is a PhD student at Toronto’s School of Theology.

Date of Review: 
July 30, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

P. Gregg Blanton is Professor of Psychology and Human Services at Montreat College.

Keywords: 

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