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Ethical Considerations of Integrated

Christian Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CCBT)

 

By, Dr. Brian Campbell

 

McMinn (2011) devotes considerable attention to a discussion of ethical standards for integrated Christian counseling.  He rightly raises the issue of whether integrated Christian counseling is ethical, given the apparent lack of controlled (double-blind) research to support an integrated approach.  He correctly asserts that “no religiously oriented interventions have been evaluated in two independent double-blind studies” (p. 23).  In addition, he speculates that, “In the near future insurance companies may require counseling to be conducted according to an approved treatment protocol.”

 

At first blush, the above issues appear quite disturbing.  After all, all of you are taking a course on integrated Christian counseling and most of you are hoping to practice integrated Christian counseling once you finish your studies and training at Liberty University.  However, after reading McMinn (2011), you may be wondering how you can  practice integrated Christian counseling if this treatment modality has not yet been shown to be scientifically validated?  Wouldn’t such practice be unethical?  Fortunately, when considered from a different perspective, there should really be little, if any, concerns about practicing the specific form of integrated Christian counseling that I have been teaching you throughout this course, namely:  Christian Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CCBT).  Let me explain…. 

 

CCBT draws upon an established body of research literature that has validated Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy as the most efficacious treatment paradigm in modern science.  Christian Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CCBT) is simply an extension of established Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques into the realm of faith.  If you practice the type of treatment I have described to you in this course, there should be little or no ethical concerns in practicing integrated Christian counseling.

 

By way of further explanation, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) utilizes cognitive techniques in combination with behavioral techniques to help clients improve their mental health.  Cognitive Therapy focuses on helping clients change irrational beliefs and replace them with more functional beliefs that bring about improvement in functioning.  When helping clients change their thinking, therapists who practice CBT also utilize Behavioral Therapy and behavioral techniques to help correct thinking and behavior.  In a similar fashion, therapists who practice CCBT, utilize essentially the same techniques as those used in CBT; CBT focuses on changing thinking and behavior—and so does CCBT.

 

Therefore, in a very real sense, CCBT is simply an extension of CBT—both treatment paradigms focus on helping clients change irrational beliefs and faulty behavior.  As a Christian counselor in private practice, I do not have any fear or ethical concerns using CCBT techniques.  Remember, CBT is the most efficacious treatment method in the world.  I am simply extending this treatment modality by utilizing Biblical truths (in addition to secular “truths”) to defeat irrational beliefs.  I am also using well-established behavior modification techniques to help change thinking and behavior.

 

In private practice, when working with insurance companies, it is often necessary to develop and submit treatment plans for clients in order for them to receive benefits.  When developing these plans, I simply indicate that I am going to utilize Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to treat this or that behavior.  And, I might add, that is exactly what I am doing.  The fact that the “Truths” I utilize to correct irrational thinking are different to the “truths” that other secular therapists might use, does not make my therapy essentially different from established CBT techniques.  The form (techniques utilized) of therapy are virtually identical; only the content (a focus on Biblical “Truths” vs. secular “truths”) is different.

 

Of course, because the content of my CCBT therapy may not be appropriate for all clients, and some clients may not expect or desire treatment based on Biblical truths, it is important to obtain informed consent from clients before proceeding with CCBT.  I have created a “Client Handbook” where I describe my treatment orientation and give the client the option of receiving traditional CBT or, if preferred, CCBT.  Before I see clients, they must read the Client Handbook and sign a “Consent for Treatment” form.  Below, please find a quote taken from my Client Handbook.


 

Client Handbook

Dr. Campbell is a licensed psychologist in the state of Florida (PY 0004142).  Dr. Campbell has extensive training and experience in a variety of treatment techniques.  The main treatment modality utilized by Dr. Campbell is that of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Implementation of CBT may involve a variety of established secular scientific treatment techniques. 

 

Dr. Campbell is a practicing Christian.  As such, Dr. Campbell also specializes in providing CBT from a distinctly Christian perspective.  This perspective may involve the utilization of scriptures from the Bible, prayer, or other religiously oriented activities.  The incorporation of Christian concepts/content together with traditional secular CBT is termed:  Christian Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CCBT).  Dr. Campbell will discuss with you at the onset of treatment whether you would prefer counseling based on secular CBT or religiously oriented counseling utilizing CCBT.

 


 

By obtaining informed consent, and by utilizing CCBT, it is my opinion (I am not an attorney) that counselors desiring to provide integrated Christian counseling are providing the “highest standards of care” and are functioning well within the ethical guidelines for counselors and psychologists.