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A book not just about psychotherapy and psychotherapists

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The cover of Philip Brownell’s Spiritual Competency in Psychotherapy, which was recently released by Springer Publishing.

My book, Spiritual Competency in Psychotherapy, just came out. The publisher (Springer Publishing in New York) sent me four copies of it.

It’s beautiful. It looks beautiful, but I mean this in more ways than one.

First, one of my former professors made a comment on the back cover.

He wrote, “What a wonderful book! Phil Brownell brings his considerable expertise in both spirituality and gestalt therapy techniques to bear on this strikingly concise, practical, and compelling guide.

“Brownell unflinchingly tackles the most vexing spiritual dilemmas of our age and shows practitioners how to help their clients find spiritually and clinically meaningful solutions.” (W Brad Johnson, PhD, US Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins University)

When I read that he had said my book was wonderful, it felt gratifying.

I had struggled with that book, and that leads to the second reason I think the book is beautiful.

Pardon while I speak candidly here. I am sharing the experience of a writer and not really trying to sell books.

I had had this book in mind, in various forms and for various audiences, for about fifteen years.

When I finally got a solid outline and the proposal was accepted by the publisher, I signed a contract that gave me about eighteen months to complete the book.

Not long after that two teams of editors contacted me to write chapters for their respective books, and another team of people asked me to write a couple of entries for the Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology.

One of the chapters for one of the books was to be published by the American Psychological Association, and I felt I could not pass that one up.

The other was to be published by Sage, a major producer of good books for clinicians.

The encyclopedia was a five-volume work by Wiley, a major publisher; so, it too was attractive. I became greedy, and I took them all on.

While I was working on those things, I was also involved in helping with two major research conferences — one in Cape Cod and the other in Rome.

I had to prepare lectures for both, and then also, I received the opportunity to teach at three universities in Asia: Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Nanjing University in mainland China.

So, this book, this flower that had once been very important to me on several levels, became obscured among the weeds of these other projects.

As my book deadline approached, my options for how much I would put into the book diminished.

Interruptions persistently and consistently kept me from working on the book.

The editors for these other projects were insistent, and they had specific needs, and they communicated their urgency. I put working on the book off repeatedly. Finally, with only about two months to go, I revised the approach I would take to the book and began writing.

I had eighteen chapters to complete; so, I decided I would have to speak more freely from my experience and tell more stories.

My usual approach was to refer extensively to the research literature, and I did that too, but far less than usual.

The book is beautiful, because it has a flow to it and the stories and examples add to the research literature and the theoretical parts.

And that leads to the third way in which the book is beautiful.

I do not know if other writers have this experience, but often after I have completed a project and I go back to read over my own material (to see just exactly what I did say!), it reads as if someone else had written it.

I don’t remember the labour pains that gave birth to it. I don’t recall coming up with any particular phrasing.

In reading over parts of this book I am finding myself saying, “Wow. That was good” or “How did you come up with that?”

I know my wife’s explanation is that the Holy Spirit writes through me. I don’t claim any kind of inspiration on a par with The Bible, but I do think there is something to this.

This is what I mean: when a person functions in the way they were created by God to function, in the capacity that God provides, then God is working in the world through that person.

A pastor does this when he or she preaches. However, an attorney can do this when they practice law, a retailer can provide services in a way that honours God and affirms other human beings, or a baker can make cakes to the glory of God and so on. I write.

It is something that has been in the making as I’ve lived my life talking to and with God for over fifty years now (I can say I started talking with God when I was about ten years old, even though I did not enter into an intimate relationship with Him until I was about twenty-two).

The fourth way this book is beautiful is that it’s not just about psychotherapy and for psychotherapists.

If a person were to read this book just for spiritual growth, I believe it would be uplifting, and that leads to my fifth and final observation about how this book is beautiful.

When I was teaching in Seoul, the first day was a power point lecture based on aspects of the book.

In Korea the people had experienced a national tragedy in the sinking of a ferry that had several hundred children on it — most of whom were lost.

As I taught, I could see that the people were responding very positively to what I was saying.

Over and over on the breaks people kept coming up to me to express their thanks for what I was saying.

It was as if the national tragedy had opened them up to spiritual issues in a new way.

It was a beautiful and moving experience to visit the memorial to all those children in the square in front of city hall in Seoul and to do that against the backdrop of having taught and interacted and conducted demonstration therapy sessions around the spiritual concepts contained in the book.

Before that book had even come out, it had an effect in people’s lives half way around the world and that, to me, is beautiful.

A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast releases a paper boat with messages to wish for safe return of his missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea