Schwartz and Kaplan have co-authored a source book which presents biblical stories that can be used by therapists, clergy, and lay leaders to help others spiritually in a manner that addresses their psychological concerns. In traditional societies, religious leaders performed this integrative function, applying psychological wisdom implicit in the biblical religious traditions to the particular life problems of members of their congregations. This book assists rabbis, priests, and pastors to utilize biblical wisdom to help people with their concrete, real life problems.
The authors present fifty eight biblical stories from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with interdisciplinary insights from history, literature, Greek mythology, and psychology. The book is organized in eleven major chapters which address key contemporary counseling issues: self-esteem; obligations and loyalty; decision-making; temptation; anger; disorders; family problems; parental support; human development; recovery from loss; and suicide prevention. Each chapter contains an introduction, followed by five or six biblical stories and characters which offer the reader a biblical perspective on this theme, and concluding with clinical implications for addressing this theme with a client or patient.
The introductory chapter to the book is particularly insightful in examining therapeutic assumptions in a helping context. Schwartz and Kaplan explore the Greek bias in medicine, psychology, and psychiatry. Their comparative analysis of the Greek worldview which views disease as the enemy, and the Hebrew worldview which sees disease as a beneficent messenger sent by God, empowers a holistic wellness perspective for spiritual and pastoral care. Their analysis offers the skilled helper a biblical framework for care-giving, and demonstrates how post Freudian psychology and therapy are flawed.
Another strength of this text is the narrative theology developed by the authors. They apply the age-old wisdom of stories from the Hebrew Scriptures to current psychological issues. These texts, embellished with Midrashic teaching and interdisciplinary insights enable the truth of the scriptures to come alive, and speak directly to contemporary struggles. The author's invitational and engaging writing style draws the reader to experience these stories as 'torah' and truth for human life.
This pastoral source book is a fine resource for faith based counseling, therapy, and as a tool for spiritual direction and spiritual mentoring. The theology of hope transcends all of the human and psychological struggles addressed in these chapters, as one integrates life story, psychological journey, and spirituality with these biblical stories. The essence of the biblical covenant resounds through the text: the human person is created in the image of God, God is the center of human life; God is active and present for us in our history, God's abundant, unconditional, and everlasting love is with us. The genius of the authors is engaging the reader in a direct relationship with the sacred text, the reader is invited to experience God as therapist.
The clinical implications sections of each chapter offer wonderful psycho/spiritual insights to the reader, and the beginning tools for spiritual exploration and integration. For the next edition this reviewer would recommend expanding this section. Skilled helpers may also find the development of a list of questions, organized according to theme, useful with clients to help them critically reflect on the insights presented. Expanding the reader audience to persons of faith might also dictate a section of journal questions for spiritual reflection. This text also has potential for use as a discussion resource for adult faith formation groups. Developing discussion questions for small group discussions would also be useful.