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Integration in the School of Psychology

The Nature of Integration

The concept of integration as it applies to psychology and theology is understood in a number of different ways.

In one light, integration may be viewed as the attempt to bring our faith confession to bear on our chosen profession.  What does theology have to say to psychology?  What difference does belief in God make in the way a psychotherapist assists a troubled individual or family?  In what way is Christ the answer to human needs?  How can the life of the church be a context for healing?  What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the healing process? And beyond these explicitly spiritual questions, belief in the importance of integration asserts that whether the topic is personality, family relationships, emotionality, human development, pathology or assessment, theological perspectives can be brought to bear.

On the other hand, we may ask what contribution the profession of psychology can make to theology and the ministry of the church.  How can one share the Good News without considering seriously the nature of human needs? Psychologists have reflected carefully on the nature of human experience, the nature of family conflict, the effects of violence, depression, anger, severe mental illness, burnout and a range of other issues. Even in those topics which are labeled as uniquely “spiritual,” such as church conflicts, spiritual numbness, missionary selection, member care, or interpersonal tensions, we can ask what psychological perspectives might be helpful.

One aspect of integration is an attempt to respond to these questions. Throughout the history of the church, there are individuals and communities who have wrestled with the relationship that Christianity has, might have, or ought to have, with the larger culture.  Our efforts at integration would do well to be sensitive to the thoughts of those who have gone before us.

One idea about integration which seems to be clear is that it is a journey. Students and faculty alike acknowledge the ways in which their understandings and embodiments of integration have changed and are developing over time. As such, we continually hold our conceptualizations with humility and strive to grow and to learn from one another.

Another important element of integration is its multidisciplinary nature. Although it includes the disciplines of theology and psychology, it is by no means limited to them. In addition to these two core disciplines, integration may draw resources from ethics, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines from the natural and humans sciences.

Although we have offered but a few reflections on the nature of integration, we invite you to join us to on this journey, which is much more appropriately discovered and lived out.

Integration Competencies

The following are integration competencies that as a faculty we have agreed  will shape our curriculum and our planning.  We hope that when students have completed their studies they will possess most of the following integration competencies: 

1.      Theoretical Integration Competencies

  1. An understanding of the religio-historical context of the profession of marriage and family therapy or clinical psychology.
  2. A theological understanding and critique of human nature/personality, psychobiology, pathology, social issues, family systems, and approaches to psychotherapy.
  3. The ability to articulate relationships between religion and epistemology.
  4. The ability to apply the knowledge base of general psychology, including psychology of religion, to religious experience.
  5. An awareness of the integrative research in religion and psychology.
  6. An awareness of how differing religious and cultural traditions influence the approach which must be taken to both theology and psychology.

 2.       Clinical Integration Competencies

  1. The ability to take a detailed religious history and to appraise how a client’s religious views impact healthy and unhealthy psychological functioning.
  2. The ability to create a space where a client feels the freedom to use religious language.
  3. The ability to develop interventions which attend to the religious experiences and resources of a client.
  4. The relevant knowledge of religious and denominational histories/traditions as applied to psychotherapy.
  5. An awareness of ways in which mutual assistance can occur between the mental health professions and the religious community. 

3.      Personal Integration Competencies 

  1. The development of personal and corporate spiritual practices, personal self–understanding, and  interpersonal maturity that support the work of scholarship and clinical practice.
  2. The possession of a deep understanding of one’s own religious tradition and its implications for spirituality and the practice of therapy.
  3. The respect for persons with different religions, cultures, and values.
  4. The presence of a passionate commitment to bringing the reconciling power and presence of Christ to fragmented communities and broken people.
  5. The ability  to live with the tension of paradox, truth, and pain.