Dave’s Pastoral Counselling Reading list

Someone recently asked me to put together a list of suggested reading for them to do with pastoral care and counselling.  I thought it might be helpful to share this a bit more widely.  I would suggest that it is particularly useful for

a. Those involved directly in pastoral care within the church

b. Those involved in preaching and teaching -this helps us to keep our teaching practically and pastorally focused.

c. Those who may be involved in or considering careers in the medical and secular counselling world. It’s helpful to have thought through your approach from a Christian perspective and have a theology of your specific area of work.Usual caveats apply -inclusion on the list does not imply endorsement and even where I would endorse someone that does not guarantee agreement with everything they say!

For busy people who just want to pick up one book I suggest Lane & Tripp.

 From a Christian Perspective

Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp: How people Change –a good overview of a contemporary Biblical Counselling Approach

Larry Crabb: Changing from the Inside Out –This is actually a book to help people change so can be given direct to the counselee but good for the counsellor to read too.

David J Atkinson & David H Field: New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology

Gary R Collins. Christian Counselling a comprehensive guide

Martyn Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression -A classic! Lloyd Jones helps us distinguished between causes of depression. Some causes are clearly rooted in medical issues and should be treated appropriately but we also need to identify spiritual causes and address them pastorally

John White: The Masks of Melancholy           -White’s aim was to do for  medically rooted depression and mental/emotional health issues what Lloyd Jones did for spiritual depression.

Oliver Donavan: Resurrection and Moral Order – This is a book about Christian ethics and really we need to do the ethics bit to pin down our thinking on what the Bible says about how we should live before we can counsel. Unfortunately this isn’t the easiest read but worth the effort!

Jay Adams: Competent to Counsel,

Jay Adams: Ready to Restore

Jay Adams:  The Big Umbrella.

Adams is the father of the modern Biblical counselling movement.  His challenge to secular counselling and a heavy reliance of drug therapy was seismic within the reformed tradition. His approach is combative –as you might expect from a pioneer and sometimes comes across as harsh –but it’s good to get back to see the roots of a movement, to be aware of his context in the US and also to note that his ‘descendants have nuanced their approach whilst some of his criticisms both of Christian and secular approaches in his day are increasingly acknowledged by others.

Emma Scrivener: A New Name.  Given the great challenge of eating disorders and self-harm, I think it is worth mentioning a book that focuses in on this specialised area of counselling. Emma writes honestly from direct personal experience of struggling with anorexia.   Whilst she is focusing on this issue, by analogy you should be able to read across her gospel application to other situations.

Books from a secular perspective

David Westbrook, Helen Kennedy and Joan Kirk: An Introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is an increasingly prominent approach to counselling. A lot of Christian counsellors feel that there is a close fit with Christian approaches because it encourages an integrated approach linking what we think/believe and how we behave to how we feel.  This leads to an emphasis on telling yourself and others the truth.

Eric Berne: Games People Play. This is the original handbook of Transactional Analysis, another popular counselling approach. 

Anthony C Moss and Kyle R Dyer: Psychology of Addictive Behaviour

Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams – If we are going to be reading the “daddy” of the Christian Counselling Movement then we should really have a look at the grandfather of modern psychotherapy too!

Chris Frith: Making up the Mind (How the Brain Creates our mental World) –from a professor in Neuropsychology. This is a book all about how our brains work

James Davies: Cracked. Why Psychiatry is doing more harm than good –to some extent this is the secular equivalent of Jay Adams’ book “The Big Umbrella. Davies’ quarrel is really with the drugs industry.  The book is polemic and provocative. Some may feel that it’s a bit on the sensationalist side of the spectrum but worth the read to be challenged and to stretch your thinking.

Wider Reading

I would also suggest that a pastoral practitioner will be benefit from wider reading and knowledge including:

A good overview of human biology

As part of our own in-house pastoral care training we offer a session on “Medical aspects of pastoral care” –it’s helpful to know the basics

Understanding the history/culture of people you are working with as well as staying up to date with contemporary affairs will help you understand the environment in which you are working and how that affects pastoral needs.

Counselling approaches are not philosophically or theologically neutral so it’s worth getting a good  grounding in the history of philosophy and key thoughts.  Have a look at Bertrand Russell’s History of Philosophy, Francis Schaeffer, Escape from Reason and Jostein Garder, Sophie’s World as good starting points

Oh and of course a sound foundation in Systematic Theology is important if what we believe affects how we live and how we feel (http://faithroots.net on line or a good Systematic Theology book such as Wayne Grudem’s).