“All theology should be clinical theology.” These were the words Dallas Willard used to open the founding of an institute called “The Institute of Clinical Theology” (ICT) back in 1992. Gary Moon had invited Dallas Willard to kick off the event and the Institute. The idea behind the ICT was that a valid way to interpret the Greek word sozo was not only “salvation” but also “healing.” It was a word as much at home in a hospital as a courtroom. In time the ICT morphed into a spirituality track in counseling at Richmont Graduate University and the Conversations Journal.
This 4-part series, for which the attendees are ministers, mental health professionals and a few professors, has some special moments. For one, Dallas has a lot to say about the soul. What will stand out to those who know what he writes 10 years later in Renovation of the Heart is that in 1992 his view was different. Soul in this series functions more to describe the unity of the invisible part of the person as connected to their visible body. This helps him raise some philosophical issues which plague those working in psychology, such as is there such a thing as the spiritual.
Given what he has to say about the soul and the gospel of Jesus, Dallas then moves to offer instruction about how a Christian should approach counseling or spiritual guidance, particularly in one-on-one settings. This is a topic which occupied Dallas for the rest of his life and this series has some of his earliest attempts to share what he had learned.
This talk is from the third breakout session of the 2018 Experiencing Life with God Conference, an academic conference hosted by the Martin Institute of Westmont College and Renovaré. Here is Siang-Yang Tan’s description:
“Dallas Willard’s impact on counseling and psychotherapy is less well- known but significant, especially in the use of prayer, Scripture, spiritual teaching, and other spiritual disciplines in therapy. Religious and spiritual therapies have received much attention and empirical support for their effectiveness in recent years. Willard’s impact can be clearly seen in the development of such therapies, including Christian approaches that are Christ-centered, biblically- based, and Spirit- filled.”
This featured essay first appeared as a chapter in Counseling and Psychotherapy: Five Approaches, (2012), Edited by Greggo, S. P., Sisemore, T. A. and Johnson, E.L. Downer Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. The approach is called “transformational psychology,” was written by Gary Moon, and, as you might imagine, is inspired by the ideas of Dallas Willard and experiential approaches to the integration of applied psychology and practical or “clinical” theology.