Brian W. GRANT: A Theology for Pastoral Psychotherapy: God's Play in Sacred Spaces. New York, The Haworth Pastoral Press, 2001. 327 pp. ISBN 0-7890-1201-4.
Reviewed by Brian EDWARDS. Campus Ministry, HENDERSONVILLE, TN 37075

The role of the therapist is to build a collaborative relationship which emphasizes the client's rights to self-determination, and one that also assists the client in discovering the strengths and talents with which they have naturally been imbued. The therapist has a ministerial role, even when he practices in a secular setting. The space in which he practices can truly be seen as a sacred space in which God actively plays in his own way and in his own time.

Grant does an excellent job reminding the therapist that he is called to the sacred work of healing. He reminds us that in this century the magnitude of upheaval and distress has necessitated the work of psychotherapy. He describes society as a place that pushes individuals to the brink, and he says, "No wonder we need so many healers."

He states, "We are formed in, through, by and for communities," and these communities have enormous influences on our lives. In fact, they are the structure that most defines us. We feel safest when part of a community, but he says, "we have lost the skill for creating communities of the kind we need and want." Instead, we have created "corporate wholes" which do not holistically satisfy the cravings of the human need to belong. He says that God uses community to effect our salvation, and despite their imperfections, he uses religious communities to bring this about. The pastoral therapist plays a significant role in this work. The pastoral therapist represents the religious community and his judgments have a profound impact upon the client, even during the assessment process. It is at this time that the client will learn whether he has been accepted or rejected, all or in part, by the therapist's judgments on issues like: the communities to which they belong (religious or secular), financial issues, how to achieve termination, etc. If the therapeutic relationship is successful, then the client will have encountered God's healing power and will become a further extension of this healing in the world.

Grant also states beautifully that in the therapeutic process, "both client and therapist flow into one another, through the medium of the sacred space, and both are changed in the process." He reminds us that in the therapeutic encounter both the therapist and client bring to one another every experience, every encounter, every community and relationship in which they have ever partaken. He aptly describes this as "an encounter with the communion of saints, pulled together in a sacred time and location by the reverie of the therapist and the grace of God." He sees pastoral psychotherapy as serving the purposes of Christianity, not necessarily serving Christianity by name.

Grant's book is respectful of all Christian traditions. The book is divided into two parts. The first is devoted to the context of pastoral psychotherapy, and the second is devoted to pastoral psychotherapy as the play of God. The pastoral therapist can't help being challenged to be a bearer of the Holy Spirit through the hallowed space of his/her office.

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