As a teacher at Washington Adventist University, I always open my psychology and counseling classes with a brief devotional thought and prayer. We are a philosophically sensitive discipline when it comes to the nature of man and our view of creation. So, the integration of faith and learning comes naturally for our discipline. I am very intentional and serious about our purpose and mission for Christian education. We build on the premise that the “true principles of psychology are found in the Holy Scriptures” (2MCP 781.1).
With this in mind, we require students to reflectively construct their own biblical worldview for psychology and counseling before they graduate. I share articles on this topic and have students begin to critically reflect on their understanding of why mental illness, crime, abuse, neglect, physical disease, etc., occurs and what would be the ultimate best practice to make man whole. We emphasize that compassion, empathy, meaningful relationship and rapport are essential to promote the psychology that is biblical in orientation. The words of Isaiah are very relevant here, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I would know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” Isaiah 50:4. Our assumption is that the real struggle people have is a spiritual one. Individuals who function and behave outside of God’s boundaries will suffer longer and need spiritual help to fully overcome.
We maintain two attractive posters on our department bulletin board (see photos here and here), stating the mission and purpose of our department and our Biblical mission from Matthew 9:35-38. We are to assist the student in their mental, emotional, and spiritual development. The compassion of Jesus is encouraged to be the way to reach people who are afflicted with various kinds of problems. We take seriously the idea that students are to become laborers together with Christ as they are a channel for His healing power and grace.
The theme I have been discussing with my students is the Psychology of Soul-Wellness. It means that students find ways to understand that health of body and mind is achieved through the study of Soul-Wellness from a biblical worldview. Soul-Wellness means an Integrated Mind, Will, and Body. We are blessed with an abundance of instruction that helps the student to understand that healing comes from God as we learn to be dependent upon Him.
Students pull together their biblical worldview paper and submit it in the seminar class for undergraduates or, for graduate students, their clinical internship class. Every graduate student is given the book The Ministry of Healing at the beginning of our MA program. This book is an excellent integration of biblical principles and psychology. I use it regularly in my classes. In addition, the book Mind, Character, and Personality is required reading in one of our mandatory graduate courses. Students must use it to write a series of brief papers indicating how they would integrate mental health principles into their practice.