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Dr. Campbell’s Personal Theory

 

My Personal theory of Christian counseling is grounded in a conceptual framework that separates the influences that determine human behavior into seven “levels of analysis.”  These levels are ordered according to a rough “hierarchy,” starting with the most fundamental level—biological--and progressing to the “highest” level of analysis, which I have labeled as the spiritual/religious level (see below).

 

Table 1:  Levels of Analysis

 

 

Nature/Body/Physiological

 

      (1)   Biological:   Biochemical processes; brain anatomy; brain physiology; brain structures and functions; genetics; neurochemical processes; brain damage; brain pathology; teratogens; biological drives; sensory capabilities; central nervous system function; drug interactions; current medications

      (2)   Physical:  Physical deficits; sensory limitations; physical impairments; pain; physical limitations; physical characteristics (size, attractiveness, deformities); developmental delays

 

 

 

Nurture (Experience)/Mind/Psychological

 

      (3)   Psychological/cognitive:  Mental processes; cognitive functioning; memory; emotions; learning; beliefs; information processing; problem-solving; psychological disorders; feelings

      (4)   Interpersonal:  Communication; family; family systems; marital

      (5)   Socioeconomic:  Money; financial support; poverty; affluence;  employment history

      (6)   Sociocultural:  Race; cultural influences; cross-cultural influences; church; government; politics; gangs; country of origin; language

 

 

Supernatural/Spiritual

 

      7)   Spiritual/religious:  God; Christ; Holy Spirit; supernatural; devil; angels; soul; sin; Truth; forgiveness; salvation; miracles; religious upbringing; religious training;  faith; belief

 

 

Christian counselors should seek knowledge of all seven levels of analysis in order to most effectively help their clients.  Each of these levels “looks at” (conceptualizes) a fundamentally different class of data (information) when developing theories and laws used to explain human behavior.  That is, human beings can validly be studied from a wide variety of vantage points.  We can “zoom down” to the level of  DNA and genes, or we can “zoom out” to the level of family systems or even cross-cultural influences that affect behavior.

 

Because the focus of each level is different—in terms of the data that it analyzes and conceptualizes—none of the levels of analysis should not be thought of as being in competition with any other level in its attempt to explain human behavior.  Nor should one level of analysis (except for Level 7) be thought of as being inherently superior to another level of analysis.  All truth is God’s truth; we can learn much by studying the “biology” of genes, or the “psychology” of information processing.

 

Another useful way to conceptualize the different “levels of analysis” is to group them according to nature vs. nurture.  Levels 1 & 2 focus on the physical makeup of human beings which result from genes and heredity (i.e., nature).  Levels 3-6 focus on changes that occur in individuals as a result of their experience in the world—what they have learned from others and how others have influenced them (i.e., nurture).  In contrast to the distinction of nature vs. nurture, Level 7 focuses on conceptualizing human beings and human behavior from a supernatural/spiritual vantage point.    

 

Turning back to the general “Levels of Analysis” model (Table 1), it is important to point out that the seven levels of analysis are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  That is, it is often profitable to study human behavior by conceptualizing and developing theories that focus on data obtained from more than one level of analysis.  This brings me to the core concept in my personal theory of Christian counseling—namely, beliefs.

 

A belief is something an individual assumes to true.  Beliefs are formed by an individual’s experience in the world (i.e., nurture), as well as by supernatural forces.  For example, our parents or other influential people in our lives teach many of our fundamental beliefs to us; however, beliefs can also be formed as the result of supernatural influences.  For example, the devil (a supernatural being) can influence human beings to believe lies about ourselves; in marked contrast, the Holy Spirit can influence human beings to believe the truth about who they are and their relationship to the Triune God.

 

Identifying our underlying beliefs is important, because what we believe affects our thinking, our behavior, our emotions, and our eternal salvation.  The role of the Christian counselor is to help clients:  1) Identify irrational beliefs, 2) Challenge irrational beliefs; and 3) Replace false beliefs with Biblical truths.  When successful, this process results in mental health and fruits of the spirit.                                                                                                        

Personality  

Complex interaction of nature (biology); nurture (experience); and, spiritual

·         Nature:  Biological “wiring”; genetics; DNA; chromosomes; how God knit us together in the womb

   o   Affects “temperament”; reactivity of the nervous system to stimulation (noise; touch; pain); reactivity to pleasure

   o   Affects physical growth and development (physical features; physical appearance; height; basic body size; “attractiveness”)

   o   Affects sexual expression of genes; sexual characteristics; strength of sexual drive; sexual orientation

   o   Affects intelligence:  cognitive capacity; ability of organism to learn (process and store information based on experience)

 

·         Nurture:  Experiences in life; what we learn from our environment

   o   Importance of early childhood experiences; what our parents and others “teach us” about ourselves and about the world

   o   Interpersonal factors that influence what is learned from environment:

          Psychological health of family; family dysfunction; family composition (presence of both parents (marriage; divorce)); past           experience of parents (healthy vs. maladaptive); mental health/illness in parents/family; communication styles

   o   Socioeconomic factors: Money; financial support; poverty; affluence; 

   o   Sociocultural factors that influence learning; country of origin; taboos; mores; economic influences; religious training; traditions

   o   Beliefs: Through experience, we develop a set of beliefs:  a set of assumptions about ourselves and the world around us;  how the world “works” (cause and effect relationships); what we accept as being “true”:  irrational beliefs (lies); or, rational beliefs (truths)

   o   Belief in truth (leads to mental health and fruits of the spirit); belief in “lies” (leads to pain, suffering, mental illness, unhappiness,   loneliness)

 

·         Spirituality:

   o   Spiritual “health” determines personality

   o   Original sin; sin nature

   o   Influence of evil; devil; evil spirits; temptation

   o   Free will; dying to sin; born again

   o   Eternal salvation; belief in Christ; redemption; forgiveness; born again; restoration of relationship with God; miracles; supernatural

   o   Holy Spirit; Spirit-filled; Holy Spirit informs us of Truth

   o   Biblical Truths (as revealed in the Bible)

   o   Christ-like; renewal of mind; transformation of mind (soul)

   o   Belief in Truth—sets you free!  Mental health

 

Motivation:

What is the motivating force that “drives” human behavior?

·         God’s directive to be fruitful and multiply

   o   Seek pleasure

   o   Avoid pain

   o   Procreate (sexual drives)

·         Man’s desire to seek God

·         Man’s desire to please God

Human Development:

   Importance of beliefs that are taught to children early in development

In general, individuals develop as a result of:

·         Biological and physical maturation of the body across the lifespan

·         Psychological development of the mind through the lifespan

·         Spiritual development throughout the lifespan

Individual Differences:

Beliefs develop as a result of individual experiences

In general, individual differences in behavior result from:

·         Complex interaction of nature, nurture, and spirituality

·         The way God made us…combined with our individual experiences in life  (including interpersonal, socioeconomic, and sociocultural)

Where Do Problems Develop?

A major source of psychological problems can be traced to faulty beliefs (lies), taught to individuals by other human beings or by the devil.  Problems also develop because of man’s inherent sinful nature.

Working Definition of Health 

Belief in the Truth: Life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Apostle’s Creed)

Assumption: Belief in Biblical Truths brings mental health.

What does a mentally healthy Christian “look like?”

The following are characteristics of the mentally healthy Christian (from “Christlike: Walking the Walk,” Campbell (2010).

·         Belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior

·         Born again

·         Personal relationship with Christ

·         Strives to be Christlike

·         Having the mind of Christ

·         Spirit-filled (listens to the Holy Spirit)

·         Avoids willful sinning

·         Doesn’t dwell on sins

·         Accepts forgiveness

·         Confesses, repents, and moves on

·         Submits his will to God’s will

·         Keeps things in perspective

·         Humble

·         Self-controlled

·         Clear conscience

·         Patient

·         Slow to anger

·         Joyful

·         Lives in the present

·         Fears God only

·         Honest and trustworthy

·         Confident

·         Strong sense of self-worth

·         Generous in giving

·         Prayerful

·         Constantly changing and improving

·         A servant

·         Trusts God

·         Abides in God

·         Respects others

·         Gentle/kind

·         Bold/assertive

·         Hopeful

·         Peaceful

·         Compassionate

·         Loving

 

Working Definition of Illness

Belief in Lies:  Toxic misbeliefs (lies) taught by parents, the world, the devil, etc.

Role of Integration and Multitasking

All truth is God’s truth. 
Integration:  Combining psychology and spirituality
Multitasking:  Combining information from all seven “Levels of Analysis”

How to Source Problems and Structure Effective Interventions

 Key Elements of My Theory

·         Identify Irrational Beliefs (Lies)

·         Challenge Irrational Beliefs

·         Replace Irrational Beliefs with Biblical Truths

·         The Truth sets you free

Process and Techniques

·         Identify Irrational Beliefs (Lies)

   o   Interview

   o   Questionnaires/checklists  (Toxic Parenting Messages; “Stinky Thinking”

   o   Client History

   o   Bring underlying irrational beliefs (lies) to client’s awareness

·         Challenge Irrational Beliefs

   o   Education:  show relationship between underlying beliefs to: thinking and emotions

   o   Questioning

   o   Direct confrontation/rebuke

   o   Scriptural Truths

   o   Experiments to test truth of beliefs

   o   Cognitive refutations

 

·         Replace with Irrational Beliefs with Biblical Truths

   o   Memorize Scriptures

   o   Study Scriptures

   o   Listen to Scriptures

   o   Meditate on Scriptures

   o   Prayer

   o   Modify “self-talk”

   o   Listen to the Holy Spirit

   o   Training in Spiritual Disciplines

   o   Church attendance

   o   Fellowship with other Christians

Expectations of Effectiveness

·         The Truth sets you free

·         Fruits of the Spirit:  Joy, Peace, etc.

 

How Does My Worldview Influence My Theory?

 

The following letter formed part of my application to teach at Liberty University.

 

 

Worldview

Dr. Brian Campbell

I am a Christian counselor.  My faith informs every aspect of my profession.  I pray with clients and use scriptures on a regular basis.  I believe that the Bible is the best mental health textbook ever written.  There is no greater authority for Christian living than God’s Holy Word.

My approach to teaching Christian Counseling is grounded in the Bible.  I have written three Christian Counseling books that consist almost exclusively of scriptures.  I teach that God is concerned with how we think and how we behave, and that our thinking and behavior will improve if we: identify the irrational (lies) taught by the world; challenge these irrational beliefs, and replace them with Biblical truths. 

Although I use the Bible as the foundation of my Christian counseling, I also utilize traditional psychological knowledge and concepts.  I believe that we are flesh, mind (thinking), and spirit.  The flesh and the mind are part of the natural word, whereas the spirit is God-breathed, and eternal.  As a psychologist, I have learned a great deal about the flesh, and I utilize this knowledge fully in my practice of Christian counseling.  For example, I frequently recommend targeted psychotropic medications, especially for disorders that have a known biological basis.  In addition, I utilize traditional knowledge and concepts of behavior modification and cognitive therapy to help people change.  These treatment modalities have grown out of the scientific research and are applicable to the “flesh,” (body and mind). 

I believe that developmental constructs are also important to analyzing and intervening in a person’s life.  The developmental factors (age, maturity, body changes, puberty, etc.) also fall within the “flesh” considerations when conceptualizing psychological disorders/deviations.  I am highly familiar with developmental constructs.  I have taught lifespan human development for ten years at the doctoral level.

With regard to the mind, I am an expert in cognitive therapy.  I utilize cognitive therapy constructs throughout my counseling.  In fact, I combine my knowledge of cognitive techniques with my knowledge of behavior modification techniques, and practice a variation of cognitive-behavioral therapy.  The only major difference from traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy is that I utilize the Bible as the source of “truth” for restructuring thinking.  I, as well as others, have termed this approach as “Christian Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy” (CCBT).

One of the main assumptions of CCBT, is that our thinking is greatly influenced by our underlying beliefs.  We have a choice.  We can either believe the lies taught by the world (and the devil), or believe the truths taught in the Bible, and as manifested in the perfect life of Jesus Christ.

As Christians, God expects us to bring our thinking into line with the truth.  He pays close attention to our thinking.  We cannot hide our thoughts from God.

Importantly, God has provided us with free will, and the tools and means by which we can begin to change our thought life:  by diligently studying the truth as revealed in the Holy Bible; by focusing our thoughts on the life and teachings of Jesus; and by praying for guidance form the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth).  In the end, our thinking is transformed in remarkable and wonderful way, as we become more and more Christ-like.

Originally, God sent the truth in the form of His son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself proclaimed: “I am the way, the truth, and  the life” (John 14:6). God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 23-4).  

For those who are Believers in Christ, God chose to give us birth through the word of truth; believers are the “first-fruits” of all God created (James 1:18).  Believers were chosen by God from the beginning of time to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and through belief in the truth (2 Thess. 2;13). 

Throughout the lives of all individuals, God examines us to see if we are walking in the truth (Jeremiah 5:3).  His desire is that His truth penetrates deep within us, to the core of our very being (Psalm 51:6).

In contrast, it is the devil’s plan that we believe lies, for he is a liar and the father of lies; there is no truth in him (John 8:44).  We can protect ourselves from the lies of the devil by living in God’s truth and abiding in God’s love (Psalm 40:11). 

The Bible is the main source of truth for mankind.  It contains the Word of God and the teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Every word in the Bible is flawless (Proverbs 30:5), perfect (Psalm 19:17), righteous (Psalm 119:138), trustworthy (Psalm 119:138), true (John 17:17), and eternal (Psalm 119:160).

As we study the Word of God we gain wisdom and understanding an ultimately, we start to “walk in the truth” (Psalm 26:2).  That is, as we learn God’s commandments and start following them, or thinking and actions become more and more pure (1 Peter 1:22).  We are transformed and “born again” through the living and enduring Word of God that stands forever (1 Peter 1:23).  The final result of this process is that the truth literally “sets us free” (John 8:31-32).

In order for this transformation to take place, it is first necessary to accept and believe in the central truth of the Bible—that Jesus Christ (the Son of God) came to this earth to die for our sins (1 John 3:5), and that if we believe in Him and repent of our sins, we will inherit eternal life (Romans 10:9).  Once we accept this “gospel of salvation,” we receive the Holy Spirit, who lives and dwells within us (Ephesians 1:13). 

The Holy Spirit, also called the “Spirit of truth,” (John 14:16-17) is the great Counselor who was sent by God to testify about the truth of Jesus Christ (John 15:26), and to guide us further into the truth as we live out our lives here on earth (John 16:13).

There are always consequences for rejecting the truth and following lies (Romans 2:8).  Once we receive the truth, God wants us to “hold on to it” (1 Timothy 3:9), and not be swayed by people who try to distort the truth (Acts 20:30).  We must stand firm in the truth, (Ephesians 6:14), and not exchange the truths of the Bible for the lies of the world (Romans 1:25). 

Once we know the truth of the Bible, we cannot fool God by pretending to follow the truth and then deliberately keep on sinning.  If we try to do this, we are in danger of being judged by God and going to hell (Hebrews 10:26-27).

In the final analysis, our journey as Christians is a journey towards truth.  In a similar manner, our journey into mental health follows the same path.

Believing in the truth has a profound influence on our thought life.  Once we become Christians, God expects us to bring our thinking into line with the truth.

As a Christian counselor, I utilize my skills and knowledge of the “flesh,” “mind,” and “spirit,” in order to help people come to a knowledge of the truth, and be set free.  When doing so, I utilize my understanding of “learning theory,” “cognitive therapy,” and “behavior modification,” to help bring about change.  In addition, I utilize my knowledge of the scriptures and biblical truths, to help people be freed from the tyranny of false beliefs and the world’s lies.  These “false beliefs” are the main source of mental illness.

Please Note:  The information given above was taken, in part, from my recent book, entitled:  “Godly Counsel:  Scriptures for today’s world.” 

Conclusion

My approach to Christian counseling integrates psychology and spiritualty, while at the same time it involves multitasking across a broad spectrum of sources of data and conceptualization (Levels of Analysis).  I bring to bear my knowledge of body, mind, and spirit (nature/nurture/and spirituality) to help people heal and recover from the tyranny of sin, and come to a knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ (the most important and ultimate truth)—wherein lies forgiveness of sins and eternity in heaven.

Dr. Brian Campbell