Wright, N. & Hallervorden, N. (2003) ‘Transformation: A New Development Paradigm’, The Christian Counsellor, January-March, Issue 16, pp30-33.
Personal Development Planning (PDP) and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) are very much in vogue in counselling circles today. The emphasis within PDP/CPD philosophies is on a commitment to on-going learning and development, leading to increasing degrees of positive impact in our work with clients.
These philosophies are commendable insofar as they resonate with key Biblical principles including a central call to personal and corporate transformation (see ‘Arrow’ below). We would, however, add another dimension that is the fundamental basis for Christian development – dependency on the Spirit of Christ and a commitment to his eternal kingdom.
This article marks the first of a new series in the Christian Counsellor to be continued throughout 2003. The series will explore a transformational model that draws together these three dimensions for those involved in Christian counselling:
Spiritual development Personal development Professional development
We hope to demonstrate that the core principles of this model can be applied at a number of different levels, for example:
Counsellor Supervisor Church/agency
We will provide case study examples and practical tips to enable readers to try out the model in their own practice. We will also provide an email address at the end of each article so you can feed back your comments and experiences to us.
A model is, essentially, a conceptual framework that helps us, firstly, to differentiate between different aspects of our experience and, secondly, to describe the relationship between them. The model portrayed in Figure 1 below has been developed through work with Christians in a fairly diverse range of interpersonal disciplines (e.g. counselling, supervision, social work).
Figure 1: Paradigm Development Model
The first time we showed this model to a counselling practitioner, she commented that it looked very much like a Star Trek badge. Insofar as Star Trek represents a journey of discovery into places unknown, the analogy could well be an appropriate one.
We feel very conscious that, at first glance, the model can look a bit complicated and abstract. What we will try to do in this first article, therefore, is to demystify the model so that it will (we hope) begin to make sense and connect with your own experience.
The horizontal arrow in this model depicts a process of development leading to holistic transformation. We believe that it is worth emphasising the word process since everyone, including each person reading this article, is already on a journey of change - whether they are conscious of it or not.
The notion of transformation is, of course, a central Biblical theme. Paul writes, for instance:
“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Ro 12:2) “…we…are being transformed into his likeness.” (2 Cor 3:18) “...the Lord Jesus Christ...will transform our lowly bodies.” (Phil 3:20f)
Rosseter, in a related field, describes development as, “…moving on in some way from point A, not necessarily to point B or C, but to some position beyond A.”[i] Although there is one sense in which this principle is true in Christian approaches too, we believe that passages such as those quoted above point specifically to a process of development towards God’s eternal design and purpose.
The key distinction between Biblical transformation and secular ideas of change and development is, therefore, the final outcome of the process. In order to achieve an outcome which corresponds to God’s purposes, the spiritual dimension is crucial.
The outer circle in this model represents an entity, whether that be a person or a church/agency, in the process of transformation. We believe that this process can be supported consciously and deliberately by engaging in what is described in the inner circle as reflective practice[ii]. (For further explanation of Reflective Practice, please see Christian Counsellor, Issue 15: Oct-Dec 02).
The arrows on the edge of the outer circle show how this works in practice:
We act in a real situation We step back from that situation to reflect and learn from it We develop new theories and concepts on the basis of our experience and reflection We re-engage in a new situation on the basis of our new insights and theories
The following example may help to illustrate this:
Gill has recently begun a fieldwork placement as part of her counselling training course. One of her clients, Tom, a teenage boy referred by his pastor, was finding it difficult to control his anger. After an initial assessment, Gill suggested Tom needed to forgive those who had hurt him in the past. Tom walked out of the session and never returned.
Gill felt confused and de-skilled by this experience. Reflecting on it with her supervisor, she realised that she had probably introduced the subject of forgiveness too early in the process and in such a way that Tom had felt judged and/or pressured to forgive before he was ready for this. Gill realised she had been taught to forgive offences as quickly as possible and that this had affected her counselling approach.
Gill’s supervisor directed her to relevant articles which depict forgiveness as a gradual process.[iii] As a result, Gill felt more competent to explore forgiveness in a more sensitive and appropriate way with clients in the future.
The next time a client struggled with anger, Gill was able to empathise, explore the hurt and anger present and validate the client’s feelings before helping them to consider when forgiveness seemed appropriate.
The triangle represents the 3 dimensions (spiritual, personal & professional) that we mentioned in the introduction above.
It is not, of course, possible to separate these dimensions from one another in the life of a real-life Christian practitioner. If a person develops spiritually, for example, she could reasonably expect to see corresponding changes in the personal and professional dimensions of her work too.
In the case of Gill mentioned above, we can detect all three dimensions of development. Firstly, Gill has enhanced her professional ability to address issues related to anger and lack of forgiveness in a client-sensitive manner.
Secondly, this has made her rethink her own understanding of forgiveness. This new insight may also bring about changes in her personal and spiritual life. If, for example, Gill tended to despair over hurts from her own past which continued to affect her despite her decision to forgive the people involved, then this new understanding of forgiveness may bring relief and a recognition that continuing to hurt does not necessarily mean that she has not forgiven.
This may also have a profound impact on her spiritual development. If Gill previously worried that her ongoing pain meant that she hadn’t forgiven others, then she might have worried about God not forgiving her. A changed understanding of forgiveness may enable her to experience God’s forgiveness in a new way, consequently helping her to draw closer to God.
This improved relationship with God would probably also enhance her ability to help clients deal with spiritual difficulties in the future.
By moving from one dimension to another, we are therefore able to consider alternative possibilities and perspectives. What this model can provide us with is a simple touchstone to help us think about different areas as we engage in the development process.
We ought, at this stage, to explain how this model can apply to a collective entity such as a church or agency. What, for instance, might personal development mean for something like a counselling centre? The way we would think about this is by analogy. So, for instance, if we were to think of the counselling centre as a ‘person’, we would consider how that ‘person’ could develop.
We will discuss personal development in more depth in Issue 18 of the Christian Counsellor but, to help clarify things in the meantime, one general indicator of development in this area could be: growth in ability to identify personal skill resources (this is what I cando) and deficits (this is what I can’t do).
This could translate at an individual level into:
Neil, a counsellor in an inner city neighbourhood, is becoming increasingly aware of his personal strengths and limitations when counselling clients from different cultural backgrounds.
If we apply this same principle to a collective entity such as the counselling centre, the parallel could be something like:
The management committee of the counselling centre is becoming increasingly aware of which specific aspects of cross-cultural counselling need to be addressed more effectively in its staff training policies.
If we now combine the three dimensions illustrated by the model in Figure 1 (spiritual, personal, professional) with the three levels described above, we can create a simple grid (see Figure 2 below) that may be used as an effective basis for development planning.
Spiritual Personal Professional
Figure 2: Paradigm Development Grid
To use this grid, we recommend that you consider development priorities (3 maximum) at each level and write them into the relevant space against their respective dimensions.
[i] Bill Rosseter, Youth Workers as Educators, in Tony Jeffs & Mark Smith (ed), Youth Work, 1987, p52. [ii] “Reflection in the context of practice”: Jennifer Moon, Reflection in Learning & Professional Development, 1999, pvii. [iii] Charlotte Rosenak & G. Mack Harnden, Forgiveness in the Psychotherapeutic Process: Clinical Applications, Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 1992 vol. 11(2), pp188-197; Glenn Veenstra, Psychological Concepts of Forgiveness, Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 1992 vol. 11(2), pp160-169.