Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Three Domains Of Integrationist Psychology

The three domains of integrationist psychology are “Symptom-focused,”  “Schema-focused,” and “Relationship-focused” areas. These are also classified as functional, structural, and relational domains. McMinn and Campbell identify these three domains as an incorporation of the Imago Dei in counseling, and I agree—especially in view of my Trinitarian understanding of the Imago Dei and the nature of man as a Tripartite creature. The domains fit nicely into a reversed view of man’s dilemma as stated in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul sees man here as a spiritual, soulical, and physical creature vying for the love, care, and affection desired on each level. Paul lists them in order of their eternal importance. Each domain of man is seen in his conscious (or unconscious) efforts to find peace. Our spirit is, then, our God consciousness, our soul is our self consciousness, and our body is our environmental consciousness. The psychological domains simply put them in antithesis to the biblical order, which makes sense because man tends to focus on environment ahead of the spiritual.

Domain one, then, is symptom focused because it gives attention to our environmental issues—our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. In one example, it is possible to become so burdened by the pressures of society that we can begin to have physiological symptoms based on that stress.  In the soul-care paradigm, the wise counselor can help the client navigate life to avoid pitfalls and traps that lead to the stress filled condition.  In the medical-care paradigm, the physician can prescribe drugs, such a xanax, to treat the anxiety caused by the stress, but does little to help relieve the root cause, instead focusing on the symptoms. (Many good, Christian doctors will attempt to do both.)

The counselor practicing soul care can move to level two, focusing on the soul, or self consciousness. In the medical-care paradigm a physician will refer a client to a therapist for this area. The soul-care paradigm will focus on discovering deep seated issues within the individual’s background that creates pressures and fears that lead to high anxiety.  The term “baggage” comes to mind. Counselors talk about what “baggage” are we carrying from our past that makes us who we are today. Did our fathers ignore us? Did our older brother outshine us? Did our mother and father divorce, leaving us with a sense of un-fulfillment, or a parent die leaving us with separation anxiety? This baggage weighs us down and keeps us from achieving our full potential, which the Christian counselor would say was weak at best anyway. The writer of the Bible book of Hebrews said that because “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight (i.e. baggage), and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NKJV) Let us face the facts; everyone of us has a scarred and marred soul because somewhere, sometime, someone let us down; and the fact that we are marred from God’s perfect image because of our sinful nature and actions. Nevertheless, the Bible provides a prescription for healing the scars and allowing us to lose the weight of those bags by moving forward with Christ. The integrationist approach marries, then, the best of psychology (losing the baggage) and spirituality (laying aside every sin) into soulical care.

The third domain is the reconnectivity (as I see it) of God’s Spirit and man’s spirit. Man is born with a dead spirit thanks to the sin of Adam. (see Romans 5) The medical-care paradigm has nothing to offer here. Neither does psychology, for that matter. This is the realm of clergy and the soul-care paradigm. Relationships that are broken on the human level can be repaired, and even healed. But they cannot exhibit the type of freeing joy that they deserve until forgiveness and unity are achieved at a level only God can provide. I have personally seen over the last five years of my ministry marriages restored after divorce papers were filed (with three separate couples!) because of God’s intervention at this level. When the couples began to climb the relational triangle together with the Lord, as they drew closer to Him, they naturally drew closer to each other. Man cannot have a proper relationship with his fellow man, until he has a proper relationship with God.

1 comment:

  1. Man cannot have a proper relationship with his fellow man until he has a proper relationship with God.

    Wow - that is the bottom line! That's why we often say that we don't 'do marriage counseling' since the foundation of the problem is usually each person's disconnection to who they really are in Christ, and why they were created.