Despite astute critiques and available resources for alternative modes of thinking and practicing, individualism continues to be a dominating and constraining ideology in the field of pastoral psychotherapy and counseling.
Philip Rieff was one of the first to highlight the negative implications of individualism in psychotherapeutic theories and practices. As heirs and often enthusiasts of the Freudian tradition of which Rieff and others are critical, pastoral theologians have felt the sting of his charge, and yet the empirical research that Barbara McClure presents in this volume shows that pastoral counseling practitioners still resist change. Their attempts to overcome an individualistic perspective have been limited and ineffective because individualism remains embedded in the field’s dominant theological and theoretical resources, practices and organisational arrangements. Only a radical reappraisal of these will allow effective pastoral counseling practices to emerge in a post-individualistic mode.
Moving Beyond Individualism in Pastoral Care and Counseling makes a strong case for the failure of pastoral counseling to shake off its individualistic presuppositions, but goes beyond mere critique to offer a vision of a way forwards. McClure proposes several critical transformations of thought and practice: broadening and deepening the operative theologies used to guide the healing practice, expanding the role of the pastoral counsellor, reimagining the operative anthropology, reclaiming sin and judgement, nuancing the particular against the individual, rethinking the ideal outcome of the practices, and reimagining the organisational structures that support the practices. Only this level of revision will enable this ministry of the church to move beyond its individualistic limitations and offer healing in more complex, effective, and socially adequate ways.