'THIS is an important book. written with clarity and erudition and offering a point of view which should be seriously examined by all, but in particular by the Christian community. The word "priest" which appears in the title suggests a recognisable function of priesthood — namely, of mediator.
Such mediation is now no longer between the revealed God and His People but an opaque, blurred society immersed in the idolatory of technology, and technique using an army of men and women trained in the techniques of counselling, its secular priests. trying to give personal meaning to the inner confusion of contemporary man.
The author claims, and probably claims rightly, that there has developed both in Britain and in America, but not in Europe so far, a group of people called counsellors who have claimed professional status on the basis of a personal service whose principal function is to bring about changes in the physical or psychosocial personality of the client.
Counselling is described accurately in terms of 17 propositions which can be summarised as follows. Essentially the source of counselling is Freudian psychoanalysis with later developments from non-Frcudian sources.
In the past. when a person sought help he was given authoritative advice on the basis of the prevailing social and ethical norms. In counselling the client is not given advice or directions.
He is first of all unconditionally accepted. Whatever he says is received as part of the caring acceptance by the counsellor. This allows a free exchange of feelings instead of passive reception of authoritative instructions.
In the course of this ex
change the client is encouraged to explore his feelings towards himself and others and examine his thoughts. acts. needs, behaviour in terms of his whole personality instead of a rigid code of legal prescriptions.
At the end of the encounter the client has been assisted to reach his own conclusions about the matter in hand in the light of a deeper awareness of his motives, some of which were previously unconscious.
Counselling thus claims to assist in a process of insight and a deepening of personal awareness from which flows personal behaviour which is more fully human. On the other hand. the author points out that it may do nothing of the sort.
Instead, the person is deceived into aceepting the slams quo of the norms of a society which needs instead radical changes in its structure, aims, functions. The client is lulled through the myths of maturity and adjustment — two fashionable terms of counselling away from the pursuit of criticism and change called the prophetic as opposed to the priestly approach.
The book concludes with the sentence: "The inestimable service that the psychotherapeutic ideology supplies is that it gives the individual the feeling that somebody cares even if it is not true."
It is a sombre warning which the Christian community must examine most carefully, since it is heavily committed to the counselling approach, as for example in the Catholic Marriage Guidance Council.
While thanking the author for his book, the reviewer would totally repudiate his conclusions.
Counselling has provided an enormous advance in understanding and helping human beings, and its purpose in the Christian context is to be neither an instrument of deception preventing social change wherever it is needed nor offering an artificial package deal of friendship and care. Counselling works only when Christian agape is truly present and the eternal logos forms its foundation.
Dr. Stafford-Clark, the wellknown psychiatrist, to whom society owes a great deal for his persistent efforts to use radio and television to inform accurately and reduce anxiety about psychological illness, pursues an inquiry about God with the same thoroughness as Dr. North but with a different approach.
Born in the Methodist tradition, he shows a familiar disenchantment with orthodoxy but examines with passionate conviction the perennial question of the existence of God, whose nature is Love.
The contradictions he explores with his medical and psychiatric insights are between the essential loving nature of this God and the manifold absence of this inhuman suffering and tragedy.