Science in Christian Perspective

Philip Marquart, M.D.

From: JASA 6 (September 1954): 27-28.

The pitfalls of non-directive (or client-centered) therapy is appraised by Orville S. Walters, M.D. in United Evangelical Action of May 1, 1954. It is aptly called "this laissez faire method", in which the counselor takes a "hands-off-but-keep-them-talking" role. It is also called a "nihilistic method' and is considered to be doubtful for use in pastoral counseling. "For a humanistically-minded therapist or counselor to prolong the wallowing and floundering of a confused soul in the morass of his own frustrations and conflicts-when he needs the regenerating grace of God-is like unto a physician stubbornly withholding a proven remedy because of his own prejudice or ignorance, while the patient suffers or dies."

The need for heartfelt religion and evangelistic methods is stressed by the writer, something more than mere intellectual assent. Rather the Gospel message should be given the perplexed person so that there is a "conscious fusion of the hearer's will with the Divine will". The doctor indicates that any Christian is a "priest", according to Scripture, and he should be ready and willing, directively to show the Way to Christ, even though the liberal pastor may insist on using non-directive methods. The Christian physician also should not neglect these opportunities.

The writer attacks the underlying philosophy of this masterful inactivity", called non-directive counseling, when he says that "the patient needs more than his own resources to overcome his difficulty." It is well-known that this form of counseling is founded upon a belief in some kind of inner ability or inherent goodness of human nature. They say that the counselor should merely re-echo his sentiments and not add anything to the interview of his own values. The counselor must disregard all social and spiritual values and he should never try to change any of the client's values. Such a procedure would seem to be of doubtful value, particularly if the client has a spiritual need, in which the Christian counselor could help. We must therefore reject the underlying philosophy behind this method, but there may be some question whether the method itself may be used by Christians ' in special occasions in which the directive approach is plainly inappropriate. Perhaps the seeming success of this "hands-off" method may be due to the fact that perplexed persons may have had to face the confusion of two many advisers, who have set themselves up as authorities. This is frequently true in adolescents whose parents have already provoked them to wrath.

The writer remembers the unsaved son of missionaries who were, at that time, in China. This son was the youngest of six children all of whom were getting their education in this country. That meant that this bewildered youth had five advisers who spent most of their time nagging their younger brother. The boy turned from them in disgust and became disgracefully wild. Thereupon, all the well-meaning siblings stepped up their campaign of managing him. I showed the brothers and sisters how they could apply a non-directive method, for the time being, and stop their nagging tactics. When the youth found that he no longer had a group of antagonists, but merely a family who were sincerely interested in his welfare, he finally asked for their help in finding the precious Saviour they claimed for themselves.

When the counselee is a Bible-believing and born- again Christian, then we should be especially cautious about being too directive toward them. Christ is a better Counselor than we could ever be and we should be careful not to give orders to another Man's servant.* A student came to me in the midst of a college revival. He sincerely questioned whether he should go forward and make public confession of his errors, as the rest of the students were doing. Since his fellowship with the Lord was not shattered, I f elt that I had no right to constitute myself as an all-wise authority. Thus I promptly began to re-echo back to him his inner feelings, as a sounding board, letting him do his own thinking in the matter. When he suggested that we might pray about the matter, we promptly engaged in prayer. Some time thereafter, he obtained his answer, to confess publicly those things that were public matters, and to settle the rest with His Lord alone.

Thus we see that the non-directive method has its usefulness as partial method, when the client has too many weak, human advisers, and when a child of God, in a state of fellowship with his Wonderful Counselor, seeks for counsel which he could better find in Christ. However, we must ever be alert to turn to directive tactics when it is appropriate to bring every client into a closer walk with Him.

* Romans 14:4.

Wheaton, Illinois
July 30, 1954