The creation and development of a BA (Hons in counselling): the use of the Waverley integrative framework in counselling practice

Author: Dr Heather Churchill

Publish date: July 31, 2022
Reading Time: 35 minutes

This is part 1 of an article on the Waverley integrative framework in counselling practice, with part 2 due to be published in the next edition of the journal. In this paper, I set out some of my personal background and motivation for creating and developing a higher education counselling programme, validated by a university, underpinned by a Christian worldview, and making use of the Waverley integrative framework. In the next edition, the focus will be more on the practical application of the Waverley integrative framework and, in particular, the use of Christian faith interventions in clinical practice.


Introduction and personal background

For the last 25 years, my passion has been to proclaim the benefits and the complexities of integrating Christian faith in counselling practice, when appropriate, and as I look back over the years, two key difficulties have strengthened this passion. The first difficulty has been the significant resistance I have personally experienced by some within the counselling profession, to any notion of integrating Christian faith into counselling practice. An early example of this resistance was when, as a novice therapist, I was told by my first clinical supervisor that any faith issues that were raised by my clients (several of whom professed to have a Christian faith) were not to be discussed or explored in therapy; the rationale being that faith issues were for the clergy; psychological issues were for therapists. At the time, I accepted my supervisor’s advice, although I found it disturbing and challenging, not least because I viewed (and continue to view) my faith in ontological terms, that is, I consider it to be a vital part of who I am. I also considered this to be potentially true for some of my clients. Therefore, even at this early stage of my career, I felt that to ignore a client’s struggle over their faith issues in counselling, was a denial of the whole person (see Jenkins, 2011). In addition, as my counselling practice developed, I was beginning to find that many of my Christian clients’ faith issues were entangled with their psychological difficulties, making the separation of Christian faith and therapy very challenging.

Looking back, and with the benefit of hindsight, I have concluded that my supervisor’s advice was potentially influenced by Freud, who considered religious/spiritual beliefs to be a form of neurosis and something to be overcome (Freud, 1927/1973). The arguments made by Ellis (1973) are also likely to have contributed to this view, with Ellis arguing for the separation of the paradigms of faith and therapy. Nevertheless, despite the resistance shown by my supervisor (and the theories proposed by Freud and Ellis), I have noted that in recent years the counselling profession appears to have become more open to spirituality (Bartoli, 2007; Delaney et al., 2007; Gingrich & Worthington, 2007; Pargament & Saunders, 2007). That said, along with others, I consider there remains a level of reluctance to the concept of integrating Christian faith and counselling and/or an avoidance of any concept of working with a client’s Christian faith issues in therapy (Macmin & Fosket, 2004; Gubi, 2009; West, 2011; Harborne, 2012; Ross, 2016).

The second difficulty I have experienced, perhaps surprisingly, has come from within the Christian community itself. A significant event that demonstrated this issue occurred in 2001, when I met with a number of Christian leaders, in order to promote the benefits of counselling and encourage them to refer any of their parishioners with mental health difficulties to the counselling service I was developing. While some Christian leaders were broadly supportive, I was quite shocked by the significant resistance to counselling I encountered from several other leaders. A few argued that counselling was unsympathetic to the Christian faith, while others reported negative experiences that members of their congregation had experienced from their counsellors when they had mentioned their Christian faith during their therapy (and admittedly, this resonated with my own experience in supervision). Over the years I have discovered that these views have been strongly supported by a number of Christian writers and therapists, in both the UK and the USA, where they demonstrate a strong resistance to the notion of integrating Christian faith with counselling and psychotherapy (see Almy, 2000; Bobgan & Bobgan, 2008; Powlison, 2010; Adams, 2014).

The difficulties reached a peak for me personally in 2002, when I gained sufficient clinical hours to begin an application for accreditation with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). By this time, and despite my first supervisor’s advice, as I developed into a more experienced therapist, a number of Christian clients had raised faith issues and concerns and I had facilitated them to explore these (I had a different supervisor by this time who supported my work in this area). However, as I began to write my BACP application, I was faced with a dilemma. In the light of the resistance and avoidance that I had experienced from some within the counselling profession to the concept of discussing Christian faith issues in therapy, did I stay true to myself and my work and submit a philosophy and case studies to BACP that truly reflected my clinical practice? In other words, did I set out that I was explicitly helping the two clients that I had selected for my case studies to explore Christian faith issues, which had become intertwined with their presenting problems? Or, did I submit a philosophy and case studies that I thought BACP would pass? I am embarrassed to admit that I was strongly tempted to do the latter, especially since I had been told by a number of fellow counselling professionals that if I mentioned Christian faith in clinical practice, I would never get it passed by BACP. Fortunately, my new supervisor challenged me to submit a true reflection of my clinical work, which I did, and I was somewhat surprised to learn, a few months later, that BACP had accepted my application and awarded me accredited status. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was to have a significant impact on me in later years as it gave me the first indication that I could be explicitly Christian in my worldview, theory and practice and still be viewed as professional and competent by my secular colleagues.

The creation of the BA (Hons) underpinned by, and in dialogue with, a Christian worldview

Moving forward a few years to early 2009, a highlight of my passion to integrate Christian faith with therapy took place when I was approached by the chief executive officer (CEO) of Waverley (CWR). The CEO shared with me that he was looking to appoint a person with the specific task of transforming the organisation’s existing unvalidated certificate and diploma in Counselling, into a professional higher education counselling programme that would be validated by a university. In addition, the aim was for it to become the first single honours programme in the UK that would be explicitly underpinned by a Christian worldview and in addition would acknowledge the importance of the use of Christian faith interventions with clients when appropriate. I confess I had a mixture of emotions at the offer. On the one hand, it was my dream to create the BA that he was suggesting, because I was aware that, if successful, it would demonstrate to the counselling profession that it was possible to deliver a higher education counselling training programme that was explicitly underpinned by, and engaged in a dialogue with, a Christian worldview. On the other hand, in view of the hostility I had experienced, from both Christians and secular counselling professionals to this notion, I felt somewhat overwhelmed and was far from sure that I was up to the task of convincing a university to validate a professional counselling programme that integrated Christian faith. What made the task even more of a challenge was the fact that, as acknowledged by writers in the UK (Martinez & Baker, 2000; Swinton, 2007) and in the USA (Richards & Bergin, 1997; Brawer et al., 2002; Schulte et al., 2002; Aten & Hernandez, 2004; Cassidy, 2007; Delaney et al., 2007; Young et al., 2007; Post & Wade, 2009), there was minimal, even non-existent, training provided by other counselling programmes in the UK and USA, which assisted counsellors to develop competences in addressing a client’s faith issues in clinical practice. Nevertheless, after a period of reflection, I accepted the challenge, with one of my first tasks being to critically evaluate the Waverley integrative framework, then called the ‘Waverley model’; an approach unique to Waverley that underpinned the existing counselling training that was delivered at the time.

A critical evaluation of the Waverley model

The Waverley model was formulated by Selwyn Hughes (the founder of CWR/Waverley) in the 1980s. The model’s anthropological, ontological and epistemological underpinnings have been set out in a number of Hughes books, including: A Friend in Need: How to Help People Through Their Problems (1981), What to Say When People Need Help (1982), Marriage as God Intended (1983), My Story: From Welsh Mining Village to Worldwide Ministry (extended edition, 2007) and his main publication Christ Empowered Living (2002). Hughes based his model on an approach developed by Crabb in the USA (Crabb, 1987; Kallmier, 2011:7) and, as already explained, it was used as the foundation for Waverley’s existing (unvalidated) certificate/diploma in counselling. While over the years I had become familiar with the approach, I was aware that the definition and practice of the model would need to be significantly adapted if it was to be deemed appropriate for use in a professional counselling programme validated by a university.

In critically evaluating the model, I identified a number of strengths and limitations. The strengths included, firstly, its holistic perspective, which took into account a number of areas of human functioning, including the spiritual area (Hughes, 2002). Secondly, the model’s ontological underpinning recognised human individuals as being created in the image of God: imago Dei (Hughes, 2002:139). Thirdly, Hughes proposed that all human beings are driven by deep needs/longings for security, self-worth and significance (Hughes, 2002:139). The search for love, security, meaning and purpose is congruent with the writings of many other theorists (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980, Cassidy, 1999: 3-20; Gerhardt, 2004). Fourthly, the model was integrative and open to both Christian faith/religion/spirituality and psychological/psychotherapeutic insights (Hurding, 1986:300; Hughes, 2002; Kallmier, 2011:131-181).

However, my main concern was that in Hughes’ writings, a specific goal of the Waverley model was to assist clients to move from ‘self-centredness to Christ centeredness’ (Hughes, 1981:100). While I have some sympathy with this from a Christian pastoral/discipleship perspective, from a professional counselling perspective it was inappropriate, too directive and thus incompatible with both the goals of counselling and the ethical demands of the profession. My concern was intensified by research conducted by Fouque & Glachan (2000), who concluded that Christian counsellors ‘are perceived as significantly more directive and more powerful than professional counsellors and the overall outcome was perceived more negatively’ (2000:201). While there was no accusation that the counsellors included in the research had utilised the Waverley model, the researchers specifically mentioned Waverley (CWR) as a Christian counselling training provider in their introduction (2000:203).

In critically examining the research by Fouque & Glachan, a significant limitation appeared to be the failure to define what they meant by ‘Christian counselling’; nevertheless, the research provided valuable evidence that counselling underpinned by a Christian worldview had the potential to be both directive and damaging. It was therefore crucial to make some major adjustments to both the definition and the practice of the model in order to ensure that students were fully aware of the ethical constraints and requirements of the counselling profession. In addition, I believed it essential that a number of explicit learning outcomes should be included in the counselling programme, which would sit alongside the model and ensure graduates attained the ethical standards of proficiency required by the profession.

Learning outcomes of the programme

Drawing on research and literature, including: McMinn, 1996; Chappelle, 2000; Exline & Yali, 2000; Fouque & Glachan, 2000; Aten & Hernandez, 2004; Knox et al., 2005; Richards & Bergin, 2005; Hage et al., 2006; Russell & Yarhouse, 2006; Aten & Leach, 2009; Gubi, 2009; Post & Wade, 2009; Worthington et al., 2009, and in addition my own experience in clinical practice over a number of years, I drafted a set of what I believed to be essential learning outcomes for a programme. These were designed to not only enable students to assist clients with their psychological difficulties, but also be ethically proficient to explore any Christian faith difficulties that emerged in the therapeutic process, when appropriate. The learning outcomes were designed to ensure that:

  • students were made fully aware of the ethical constraints of the counselling profession, including the inappropriateness of attempting to proselytise and impose beliefs, Christian or otherwise, onto a client.

  • students were trained to be alert to issues of difference and diversity in order to practise in a non-discriminatory manner and to avoid oppressive practice. This included training students to recognise how social, cultural and issues of difference may impact the counselling process.

  • students were trained to be alert to any faith issues that might be entangled with clients’ psychological difficulties and to have ethical and professional competence to make use of appropriate interventions in clinical practice in order to address these and facilitate therapeutic change.

  • students were assisted to develop a self-critical and reflective approach to their counselling practice. This included assisting students to reflect on their responses and reactions to their own, as well as their clients’, faith issues.


Revised ontological/epistemological positioning of the model

Having critically evaluated aspects of the practice of the Waverley model, it was important to also evaluate the ontological and epistemological underpinning of the approach. Since a person’s worldview sets out how they construct reality, perceive truth and in addition make meaning in the world (Horton, 2000; Nason, 2015), I wanted to ensure that the counselling programme would be underpinned by a Christian worldview and that it specifically set out a Christian understanding of what it means to be a human person. I therefore decided to retain Hughes’ ontological and epistemological underpinning of the model, including the concept that human beings are created in the image of God, imago Dei. Nevertheless, in critically evaluating the model, I rejected Hughes’ modernist/individual ontology that underpinned the model on the basis that I deemed it vital that a relational ontological understanding underpin the approach (Dr Ashley, having undertaken a PhD thesis evaluating the model, had made a similar observation of the approach, Ashley, 2013:14).

To explain my criticism in a little more depth, it is worth noting that there is a considerable divergence of opinion amongst theologians as to the precise meaning of imago Dei, with Millard Erickson valuably dividing the various opinions into three main groups: those who take a substantialist/individual interpretation; those who adopt a functional view and those who argue for a relational interpretation of imago Dei (Erickson, 1985: 495-517. See also Grenz, 2001:4). It is beyond the scope of this paper to set out and critically evaluate all three interpretations in depth, however, suffice it to say that after a period of reflection, I concluded that all three interpretations had legitimacy and in addition I considered it unhelpful to pit one interpretation against another. Furthermore, I reached the view that the core understanding of imago Dei should be viewed in relational ontological terms, mainly because, from the imago Dei scriptural texts, there is an understanding that human beings are relationally and ontologically connected to God and to each other (Green, 1999; Vanderploeg, 1981; Miner & Dowson, 2012; Hobson, 2019).

I acknowledge the limitations of adopting imago Dei as the philosophical underpinning of the counselling programme, not least because Scripture and Christian doctrine do not teach a theory of personality or explain psychopathology in the way that psychotherapeutic theories do (McMinn & Campbell, 2007). Indeed, attempting to use Scripture in this way risks treating the biblical texts as though they were written as a psychological or scientific manual (Benner, 1985; Jones, 2010). Nevertheless, the understanding of the Christian doctrine imago Dei; that human beings are created in God’s image and likeness (see Hoekema, 1986; Clines, 1996; Grenz, 2001; Harrison, 2010) is considered foundational to a Christian understanding of human nature (Bufford, 2007; Johnson, 2010, a; Jones, 2010, a:111. See also McMinn 1996 and Vitz et al., 2020).

Key themes emerging from the doctrine imago Dei


My critical evaluation of imago Dei enabled me to identify a number of key themes and I used these to underpin the philosophical assumptions of the counselling programme and its learning outcomes. In addition, I used the themes to assist me to explain the programmes and defend their position to the university’s panels during the validation events.

The key themes are as follows:

  1. Firstly, clients (irrespective of whether they are aware of, or acknowledge, that they are created in the image of God) should be viewed as persons of infinite worth and value and deserving of care, love, compassion and dignity (Guthrie, 1979; Hall, 2004; Bufford, 2007; McMinn & Campbell, 2007; Cherry, 2017; Vitz et al., 2020).

2.     Secondly, for a Christian, imago Dei has profound implications for their vocation as a therapist, in that in response to God’s activity in the world, human beings are also called to live, not just for themselves, but to care for others and affirm their worth (Vanderploeg, 1981; Barr, 1982; Canning et al., 2000; Olthuis, 2006; Jones & Butman, 2011:461; Tan, 2011). I particularly appreciate the writings of Henri Nouwen on this area, who points out that responding to those who suffer ‘is the concrete expression of the compassionate life and the final criterion of being a Christian’ (2006).

  1. Thirdly, the doctrine of imago Dei enables a therapist to fully respect issues of difference and diversity, in that it is inclusive in recognising that all human beings are created in the image of God, irrespective of their intellectual ability, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation (Hall, 2004).

  2. Fourthly, all three interpretations of imago Dei assimilate well with the psychological theories and approaches to counselling that the programmes would integrate; for example:

a)     The substantialist view, which emphasises the individual and rational ability of a person, provides a point of contact with contemporary cognitive therapy, which also values the embodied aspect of a human being, and the importance of the role of cognition in emotional distress (Beck, 1995; Padesky & Greenberger, 1995; Jones & Butman, 2011).

b)     The functional view has a point of contact with the psychological view that human beings have the capacity for volition (the faculty of using one’s will), the freedom to choose, the right to autonomy and have the ability to reach their full potential (Guthrie, 1979; Gabriel, 1991; Simpson, 1999; McMinn & Campbell, 2007; Bosman, 2010; King & Whitney, 2015).

c)     The relational ontological interpretation of imago Dei, which perceives a person as being relational at the core of their being, fits well with the value placed on the quality of the therapeutic relationship in counselling. For example, the importance of the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist has long been recognised as being the foundation for effective therapeutic work (Mearns & Cooper, 2005) and is emphasised by most of the main modalities (for example, see DeYoung, 2003; Gilbert & Leahy, 2007; Knox, 2008; Shedler, 2010; Atzil et al., 2015; Sandage & Brown, 2018; Vitz et al., 2020).

  1. Finally, by adopting all three interpretations of imago Dei, a holistic approach is taken in that all aspects and functioning of a human being can be acknowledged: physical, emotional, volitional, rational, spiritual and relational (Guthrie, 1979; Chandler, 2015). In addition, it allows for the recognition that each aspect of human functioning has the potential to impact a person’s mental health and well-being. This perspective sits comfortably with the Waverley model (and what would become the Waverley integrative framework-see later sections) and it’s areas of human functioning.

Additional philosophical assumptions underpinning the approach

In addition to the Christian doctrine imago Dei, two other key philosophical assumptions would underpin the approach taken by the programme. Firstly, the assumption that there is a ‘legitimate’ role for psychotherapy to supply the knowledge and skills to help someone with mental health and emotional difficulties (Jones, 2010, a:101). Central to this position is the understanding, from a Christian perspective, that truth can be discovered from both special and general revelation. To explain what is meant by these terms, the discoveries of truths from psychology and science are sometimes referred to as ‘general revelation’, that is truth discovered through the natural world (Hurding, 1986:258). The revelation of God through the Person of Jesus Christ and the Old and New Testaments is referred to as ‘special revelation’ (Mizell, 2005). Thus, the truth discovered from psychology/psychotherapy is valid on the basis that God is the source of all truth (Guy, 1980) thus ‘all truth is God’s truth’ (Mitzell, 2005:53).

A second assumption underpinning the approach is that since the programme would be underpinned by a Christian worldview, it was important to facilitate students to engage in a dialogue between Christian faith and psychotherapeutic theories, with the aim of students taking a dialogical and relational approach to the integration of Christian faith in counselling practice (see Richardson, 2005). This would enable insights from both paradigms to be considered and mutually respected.

Change of name to the Waverley integrative framework

Having set out a critical evaluation of the Waverley model and in addition briefly described the philosophical underpinning of the BA (Hons) counselling programme, it is worth noting that I had concerns regarding the approach being described as the Waverley model. I considered calling the approach a model to be a misnomer, in that, in the counselling world, the approach cannot be perceived as a model of counselling as such, in the way that the main approaches to counselling, e.g. psychodynamic, cognitive behaviour therapy and humanistic therapy are understood as models of counselling. I also wanted to make it far more flexible than that suggested by Hughes, in order that students could formulate, develop and critically evaluate their own personal integrative philosophy of counselling, rather than having a prescriptive method or a model imposed on them to use with their clients. From this perspective, the approach is rather viewed as a framework that facilitates students to undertake a dialogical approach between the insights and knowledge provided by psychological and psychotherapeutic theories and Christian faith. I therefore considered it was important to not only significantly amend how the approach was practised, but to also change the name to ‘Waverley integrative framework’. Describing the Waverley approach as an integrative framework also enabled it to have points of contact with a number of other integrative approaches in the counselling world (for example, see the integrative approach suggested by Lapworth et al., 2001).



As I implemented all of the changes to the Waverley integrative framework, I was faced with a considerable challenge. On the one hand, I wanted to honour and respect Selwyn Hughes, whose writings had inspired many (including myself). On the other hand, I believed it essential for me to critically review and amend the theory and practice of the approach for all of the aforementioned reasons. Furthermore, it was crucial that I convinced the staff team, tutors, Waverley (CWR) management and ultimately the Waverley (CWR) board that the changes were appropriate and necessary. As I look back on this challenge, I recognise that as a staff member and ‘insider’ of the organisation I was in a privileged role (Costley et al., 2010:3), which helped me to make the necessary changes to the integrative framework. However, on reflection, I believe that, at the time, I failed to fully appreciate some of the underlying tensions that were connected with the task, not least the fact that I was employed by the very organisation whose founder I was criticising (Costley & Gibbs, 2006). I do remember that it felt as though I was walking on eggshells and I was nervous when I presented the proposed changes to the Waverley (CWR) board.

As I pondered further on my nervousness over the presentation, an issue that I have struggled with for many years came to mind. Over the years in Christian environments, I have frequently hidden the professional counsellor part of myself, mainly because, as I have already mentioned, the disapproval of the counselling profession from Christians, sadly including those from within my church. Likewise, in professional counselling environments, I have frequently hidden the Christian part of myself, due to my perception that in holding a faith, I might be judged in some way as not being fully professional. Part of my development over the years has been to acknowledge and be proud of these parts of myself and to allow both of them to come to the fore; to fully embrace them as part of who I am, my identity, theme, as shown in Figure 1.


I believe the presentation to the board was one of the first occasions where I had to make sure that both parts of myself came out of hiding to be seen by all. Looking back, I believe a number of factors helped me during this time. Firstly, I had had the honour and privilege of meeting and listening to the teaching of Selwyn Hughes in 1997 and 1998. I truly believe that he would have approved of the changes I had made, especially since, when he wrote his books, he did not have access to the substantial psychological and counselling resources that I had been able to draw upon when I critically evaluated his approach. Secondly, his vision was that at some time in the future, Waverley (CWR) would form a Christian university. I therefore considered that my work was the first stage of implementing his overall vision. Thirdly, the CEO of Waverley had a professional mental health background and he, together with the director of training, were fully supportive of my recommended changes. It was a relief (and a considerable achievement) to gain agreement from management and final approval from the board to my proposed amendments. The only change that I was not able to secure initially was the change of name of the approach from the Waverley model to the Waverley integrative framework. However, on the basis that change within an organisation at times needs to be incremental (Neal & Tromley, 1995), I was content at that point to proceed without changing the name. (In 2012, I subsequently achieved agreement from all parties to change the name of the approach to the Waverley integrative framework.)

Validation of the programme

During the summer of 2009, along with senior management of Waverley (CWR), I spent time explaining to university academics that when Christians seek counselling, many actively seek faith-based counselling (Aten & Hernandez, 2004; Aten & Leach, 2009; Post & Wade, 2009; Worthington et al., 2009; McMinn et al., 2010; Scott, 2013; Kim, 2019). I also described the significant absence of any training in the UK (and the USA for that matter) that assisted counsellors to work with a client’s faith difficulties and concerns, when they were entangled with their psychological issues. In addition, I argued that the lack of training resulted in many therapists having to find their own way of dealing with the professional and ethical issues that are involved when they undertake a dialogue between Christian faith and psychological/psychotherapeutic theories in the context of counselling practice and/or when they work with their client’s faith concerns and difficulties (Crossley & Salter, 2005; Jackson & Coyle, 2009; Koce & Baker, 2019). This situation had resulted in a significant gap in provision and there was thus a need and demand for a BA in Counselling underpinned by a Christian worldview and where the insights from both Christian faith and psychological/psychotherapeutic theories were considered and mutually respected. Furthermore, I set out the ultimate aim of the programme which was to be as follows:

The overarching aim of the programme is to provide a robust and effective undergraduate training programme that ensures students who exit with a Diploma of Higher Education (Dip HE) or BA (Hons) Counselling are professional, competent and ethical practitioners who have attained the standards of proficiency that are required by professional counselling bodies.

(BA (Hons) Counselling programme specification, 2010).

I anticipated a level of resistance and lack of acceptance from the counselling professionals in the university to the possibility of integrating Christian faith in counselling training and I was therefore pleased that I managed to convince them of the uniqueness and what I believed would be the ethical professionalism of the programme. We were subsequently given permission to progress to the next stage in the validation process and I am delighted to say the programme was validated and the programme was launched on the 1 September 2009.

Key features of the training

In order to bring this paper to a conclusion, it is valuable to summarise and further evaluate five key concepts that relate together and provide the foundation for the integrative approach that underpins the BA (Hons) Counselling programme. I provide a diagram that sets out a conceptual framework of the five key concepts at the end of this paper (see Figure 2).

1. A flexible dynamic approach to integration

It is interesting to note that back in the 1980s Hurding acknowledged that he (and others) hesitated to apply a ‘how to do it approach’ when it involved ‘activities which largely concern relationships’ (1986:304). In more recent times, Strawn et al., point out that literature indicates there have been three past ‘waves’ of integrating psychology and the practice of counselling with Christian faith, namely, ‘apologetic, model building and empirical validation’ (2014:85). Without going into depth and defining each of the waves, suffice it to say, a ‘fourth wave’ is now emerging, one which mirrors my own approach, where the focus is far more on how each individual therapeutic encounter influences and shapes the nature of how integration takes place (Strawn et al., 2014:85, 89, 91. See also Sandage & Brown, 2015; Neff & McMinn, 2020). The focus on integration taking place within a unique dynamic therapist/client relationship, where each individual therapist and client bring their own perspective, background, faith, beliefs and values and engage in a unique dynamic relationship, is also in harmony with the embodied and relational perspective proposed by others (Augustyn et al., 2017) and the relational understanding of imago Dei that was explained earlier.

2. A dialogical approach to integration

The term integration, related to the word integrity, is commonly understood as an amalgamation of two or more things being brought together and joined into a harmony, unity and wholeness (Evans, 2012; Santrac, 2016; Finlay, 2021). While Stanton Jones acknowledges that the term integration has been criticised for failing to appreciate the complexities of the integrative task and in addition recognises that some claim it suggests the combining together of ‘two things that do not naturally belong together’ (2010, a:102), he believes ‘what matters ultimately is not the word, but what the term summarizes’ (2010, a:102).

However, words do matter and it is important to try and capture, as near as is possible, exactly what one is attempting to achieve when making use of a particular word or term. After a process of reflection, I have come to the view that the best way to describe what the programme is seeking to achieve regarding integration is to say it takes a dialogical approach to the integrative task. I have found the argument made by Richardson persuasive when he states he has ‘strong concerns’ about the basic idea and project of ‘integration’ on the basis that there is ‘no neutral external criteria for resolving differences among diverse perspectives or fields’ (2005:186). Richardson goes on to argue that it is more helpful to consider the integrative task as one that engages in a dialogue between Christian faith and psychology and psychotherapy (2005:206).

The use of the term dialogue is also helpful as it is understood as a collaborative term that involves listening, understanding and evaluating the views of another (and, in this context, listening, understanding and evaluating both psychological theories/counselling practice and Christian faith) in order to find meaning, greater insight and fresh understanding (Angel, 2018). In addition, the term includes the implication that things are not fixed or resolved, but are open ended and, thus, it is accepted that contradictions and paradox will inevitably arise. This is in contrast to the use of the term debate which is more oppositional/dualistic, with one side trying to force thinking into right or wrong choices (Angel, 2018). As Neff and McMinn point out, dialogue can be ‘messy, complicated and nuanced’ and ‘fluid in nature’ (2020:3, 21). Nevertheless, from this perspective, insights from both Christian faith and psychology and psychotherapy can be mutually respected (Martin, 2015).

3. The Waverley integrative framework: A tool for integration

As already mentioned, rather than imposing on students a ‘method’ or a ‘model’ (as originally proposed by Hughes), the Waverley integrative framework is rather utilised as a flexible framework that enables students to formulate, develop and critically evaluate their own personal integrative approach to counselling. From this perspective, the Waverley integrative framework can thus be viewed as a tool; a scaffolding, which facilitates students to undertake a dialogical approach, at a theoretical and practical level, between the insights and knowledge provided by psychological and psychotherapeutic theories and Christian faith and doctrine.

4. A two-person relational and embodied approach to integration

By adopting a dialogical and relational approach, the concept of integration moves from a ‘one-person view of integration’ to a ‘two-person’ and relational embodied understanding of integration (Sandage & Brown, 2015:166). Furthermore, it gives prominence to working with a client, wherever possible, at ‘relational depth’ (Mearns & Cooper, 2005, xi). (This is irrespective of whether faith (Christian or otherwise) is addressed or not within the counselling room). Trying to define what is meant by relational depth is difficult and can, as Mearns & Cooper articulate, be almost ‘beyond language’ (2005, xi). Nevertheless, they sum it up well by saying it is:

a state of profound contact and engagement between two people, in which each person is real with the Other, and able to understand and value the Other’s experiences at a high level (2005, xii).

This notion of working at relational depth resonates with the approach of Martin Buber, in his description of an I-Thou encounter (Buber, 1923. See also Metcalfe & Game, 2012; Ross, 2018). This two-person relational and embodied approach to integration, together with an emphasis on the unique relational and dynamic encounter occurring between a therapist and their client, the significance of the therapeutic relationship and the importance of adhering to the core conditions is embedded within the counselling programme.

5. The vocational aspect of integration

Ultimately, from a Christian faith and worldview perspective, integration means having humility and being aware that clients (irrespective of their faith, beliefs and values) are persons of infinite worth and value and deserving of care, love, compassion and dignity (Guthrie, 1979; Hall, 2004; Bufford, 2007; Cherry, 2017). In addition, the vocational aspect to integration includes the understanding that as human beings we are called to live not just for ourselves, but to care for others.

Below (see Figure 2) is a conceptual diagram of the five key concepts of the integrative task that relate together and underpin the counselling programme.

Part 2 of this paper, due to be published in the next edition of the journal, will continue to discuss the integration of Christian faith and counselling, with the focus on the practical application of the Waverley integrative framework and in particular, the use of Christian faith interventions in clinical practice.


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About the author

Dr Heather Churchill

DCPsych (PW) (Middlesex), MTh (Middlesex) BA (Hons) (Brunel)

Registered member BACP (Senior Accred, Counsellor/Psychotherapist)

and Supervisor

Fellow of Association of Christian Counsellors and Registered Accredited Counsellor

Heather is Head of Counselling Faculty for Waverley Abbey College and has many years of experience as a trainer, counsellor/psychotherapist and a supervisor. She has co-authored two books: Insight into Helping Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Insight into Shame and has published a number of articles in the Accord journal of the Association of Christian Counsellors. In her private clinical practice, Heather specialises in counselling adults who have experienced abuse in childhood.

Copyright 2022 Heather Churchill

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