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Care of Persons, Care of Worlds: A Psychosystems Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Graham has taken on one of the major challenges in pastoral care and counseling: how to move from a narrow, psychological framework to a broader, systemic framework. He states the problematic and the need for an alternative very persuasively. He draws upon process theology and liberation theology to provide the theoretical underpinnings for the psychosystemic approach he advocates, defining psychosystemic as "the reciprocal interplay between the psyche of individuals and the social, cultural, and natural orders" (13).

The book is divided into two parts: theoretical foundations and pastoral analysis and response. While this has the advantage of organizational clarity, it can also suggest that theory comes first or that practice consists in applying theory. It would have been intriguing if G. had introduced the case material at the outset and used it to develop his theoretical framework, or if he had reversed the sections, presenting the cases and his pastoral responses first, then explaining where they came from.

Nonetheless, the presentation of the theoretical foundations is clear and orderly. G.'s style is to itemize the key elements of a topic, e.g. the six components of a psychosystemic world, the five principles of psychosystemic caregiving, the five goals of systemic change, etc. This is helpful for a quick review or representation to a class, but it distances the commentary from the holistic flow of reality which G. affirms with process thought.

Process philosophy and theology provide theoretical reinforcement rather than a critical foundation for G.'s psychosystemic approach. His summary of process thought may be too generic for those not already familiar with a process worldview, and it tends to avoid the troubling implications of that view. However, G. does emphasize the aesthetic ideal of process thinking with its supreme value of beauty and the antithesis of triviality. This puts familiar pastoral situations in a fresh context and opens stimulating ways of thinking.

The pastoral analysis and response section consists of six chapters, which gradually define the ministry of care as resolving transactional impasses, rearranging power, harmonizing contention, liberating creativity, and changing structures. The cases are drawn from G.'s own experience in family counseling and are cited repeatedly so that by the end of the book a well-rounded analysis of each case has been given. The analysis itself illustrates effectively how various systems enter into the makeup of each apparently individualized case.

No one who reads this book can view a person in care as a self-enclosed, isolated individual. The risk profile of the person, especially as laid out in Chap. 3, brings alive the mystery of each individual as a dynamic center of multiple forces. G. alerts ministers to the diverse influences at work in individual cases, describes how these influences appear as symptoms, and shows what the ministry looks like when it promotes optimal change. This provides a framework which redefines the goal and value of the ministry of care and organizes the analysis of each case in terms of diagnosing the symptoms and offering practical strategies for making the pastoral response more effective. Most of all, G.'s psychosystems approach puts pastoral care and counseling in a holistic context and sets the standard for subsequent reflection in this all-important area of ministry.
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Author:Kinast, Robert L.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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