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Archives » CCAV Yarra Valley Discussion Group

--> Meeting dates and reports 2006

Address upon inquiry through 

14/03/06 - Graeme Cann - Integration of Psychology & Theology? or Psychology from a Pastoral Care Perspective?
09/05/06 - Bob Ridley - Grief and Trauma
11/07/06 - Tom McCrimmon - Child Psychologist - 'Counselling Children & Families'
12/09/06 - Graeme Cann - 'Dual relationships & Boundaries'
21/11/06 - Rev. Dr. Harold Taylor - 'Unpacking the Love Languages' (Note date change)

Rev. Dr. Harold Taylor - 'Unpacking the Love Languages'


Graeme Cann our Speaker for September
Topic: Dual Relationships & Boundaries




Graeme maintains that dual relationships are controversial because we try to find a 'one size fits all' solution. Rather, we need to approach this subject with flexibility and keep a number of principles in mind.

1. For many years, Graeme was counselling full-time in a residential situation ministering to very wounded and broken people.

2. More recently, he has been a pastor in a church with about 1000 people. Many are very wounded and others are new Christians drawn in by the Alpha Courses (run 3 times a year). The church has a counselling centre with 4 to 5 counsellors but there is also pressure on the pastors to do some counselling, especially on Graeme, the one with the most experience. 

Graeme believes ongoing relationships with church members can be strained if they have long term counselling with the pastors. For this reason, he tends to prefer short term counselling situations. Difficulties are also more likely to arise if the counselling issues are marital or moral problems. Studies in the US found that a high percentage of people counselled by their pastors, left the church after about 12 months. 

There are no simple answers. For example, Graeme found it difficult to refer an elder, with whom he had a very good relationship but who was in great crisis, to someone else because of the quality of their relationship. 

Another scenario may occur when a relative of a church member is being counselled and may disclose more than that church member would feel comfortable with. It makes the relationship between church member and pastor difficult. 

Graeme is a 'people person' and doesn't believe as some do, that, as a pastor, he should not have friends in the church. However, if he counsels one of these people, he tends to try to separate out his counselling, friendship and pastoral roles. However, this can become difficult. 

If Graeme does take on long term counselling, he insists that he not be the only one involved. It is helpful to appoint a case manager for high needs people and various church members are involved in the care of that person. Someone might phone once a week, another have coffee with the person, another take them to a men's breakfast, etc. Case managers receive training for the job. This frees Graeme to have just a counselling relationship with that person rather than being involved in pastoral care as well. 

Graeme constantly deals with people with poor boundaries. He believes we need to set our own boundaries 'for our own health' rather than simply following the rules. He asked us what were the qualities we thought were important for a counsellor to have and people responded by saying:

Be myself
Good listening skills
Correct use of personal power
Respect and understanding etc.

Graeme likes the quote, 'Every person is worth understanding'. He believes that when we practice these principles we automatically set boundaries, but in a positive rather than a negative way. Some examples of what Graeme does are as follows: He always begins and ends sessions on time. He counsels with a glass panel door and does what he promises. He believes there is a certain formality to counselling and does not visit people in their homes. Rather, they come to the office at an appointed time. 

Jesus had profound respect for people. He rarely used an encounter with someone as an opportunity for evangelism. Rather he demonstrated the love of God and treated people as individuals. We need to follow His example. 

Helen McAlley.

July Meeting - Tom Mc Crimmon
Tom Mc Crimmon, a child psychologist working mainly in schools around Lilydale spoke at our July meeting.
Tom told his personal story of growing up in tough times and tough areas that eventually had a bearing on where his counselling 'heart' would end up.
Growing up in Reservoir, a tough western suburb of Melbourne, and coming from a dysfunctional family, Tom soon got into drugs in his teens. Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-seven he was 'lost' to heroin.
Tom said that it was only due to the Grace of God that he was arrested on this path and was encouraged to enter a rehabilitation center in Sydney. He said that the 3-½ years that he was in rehab were some of the more productive times of his life. The rehab. center was based on sound psychological practice and while not being a Christian center, held high Christian type principles. He learned during that time that it was not the drugs that were the problem, but the underlying 'stuff' that he had taken the drugs to mask.
He said, with a certain amount of pride, that he did the rehab so well that he was encouraged to become a counsellor. This he did until he was thirty one which was when he went into to University to study psychology.
After graduating from McQuarie University, he worked in and around Sydney as a psychologist with kids and teens on the edge and on or in danger of doing drugs. 
In a miraculous way Tom then found Christ (who had been calling him) and while attending church also had another find, a wife.
The counselling center that he worked in was a church that had decided to do something about the problems 'out there'. He worked there for three days a week with the 'socially disadvantaged'.
After that time he moved to a new job working within the field of adolescent mental health. He said that that title really covered all the teen problems and was not necessarily psyche disorder specific. He worked with many that were then termed as 'Oppositionally defiant'.
In 2004 he and his then family of a wife and two children moved to Melbourne and after some time finding his feet, started in private practice working from home in Lilydale. He works with children, adolescents, and families, particularly within the school context.
Tom also does Oz Child Psychological Assessments for the Victorian Government for qualification for teacher aid assistance.
We had a good night of listening and questioning and were helped by Tom who had a lot to give in his field. We were a little sorry there weren't more there to hear such a good speaker on such a broad topic.

Click here for a typical help sheet for parents dealing with difficult kids.

Bob Ridley, guest speaker - 9th of May

Yarra Valley CCAV Discussion Group Meeting
Tuesday 9/5/06 at Woori Yallock.

Speaker: Rev. Bob Ridley - Minister/Psychologist.


Bob brought a wealth of ideas and life experience to our discussion. He is a Uniting Church minister who has also worked in many ministry areas outside the parish, for example with Orana Family Services and with intellectually disabled teenagers. With the later he formed a scout group and also took them to the Jamboree in New Zealand. He has also helped the disabled young people to come to terms with the loss associated with the death of their friends and has developed a simplified service to help them say good-bye. He was formally the senior Police Chaplain and has set up trauma counselling services in the Inter- church Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM). He is now ministering in Wandin and is interested in working with chaplains in schools and running bereavement courses. His role is unique in so far as the board of the Uniting Church has called him to minister to the broader community rather than to its local congregation. If you would like to use Bob's services, he can be contacted through the Focal Point email address.

Bob distinguishes between grief and trauma and believes that people in grief often need to first talk with understanding friends rather than having counselling as such. This may come later if the griever is stuck. He said the grieving process is just a normal part of every day life. Even when there is an accident, counselling may not be appropriate for everyone. Some may not even have liked the person who died yet are traumatized by the death. When an accident has occurred, Bob believes people in shock need to have safety issues dealt with first. Are they all right to drive home? Is there anyone they need to inform? (for example if they have an appointment to attend). Have they been injured (grit in the eye etc.)? These are questions, however, that need to be asked immediately.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms may be obvious later and need to be dealt with one at a time. 
Counsellors should be aware that they can have transference trauma and may need to attend to their own needs. 
Later we had a very interesting discussion and many questions were asked and answered followed by a welcomed supper. 

Helen McAlley/Graeme Dawson.

Graeme Cann, guest speaker -  14th of March, 12th of September

Report of CCAV Yarra Valley Discussion Group Meeting on Tuesday, 14.03.06 at 8pm at Graeme Dawson's home.

(Pastor Graeme Cann). 
Graeme was the former Senior Pastor and now is an associate pastor of Berwick Church of Christ and directs the Living Springs Counselling Centre at this church. He has been counselling for many years and also lectures at Tabor College. He is currently writing a book on pastoral care and is one of the founders of the Christian Counsellors' Association of Victoria (CCAV). 

Graeme does not believe that the current way that we integrate psychology and theology goes far enough for Christian counsellors. He went on to discuss forgiveness - something he needed to do himself when he had been badly mistreated as a young person. He has developed 5 steps in the forgiveness process:

1. We need to own our own negative emotions although others may be responsible for the sin against us. This is always a hard step as the wronged person can think they are being asked to accept the blame for what was done to them. We may think we have solved the problem by suppressing our emotions but their effects will follow us like the smell of a dead cow that is put out of sight but not buried properly. 

2. Identify the destructive behaviours that flow from the negative feelings. Just as we have been victims of destructive behaviour, now we may become perpetrators, for example becoming sarcastic and critical. Some questions to ask here are, 'Who's paying the price for your anger? What could you do about that?' In exploring resentment, we could ask, 'How is it affecting your behaviour?' Sometimes the motivation to change may be because we do not want to be like someone who has let us down, for example our father. 

3. Seek forgiveness of those whom we have hurt by these negative behaviours and also seek God's forgiveness and release from the guilt and shame of these behaviours. 

4. Forgive the person we've always blamed for hurting us and for the negative emotions we've had. We need to recognise that the only way we can forgive others is because we ourselves have first experienced forgiveness. 

5. Real healing is not possible without forgiving others. The painful memory then becomes a memorial to the healing (a symbol of God's grace) rather than a memorial to the hurt. 

Graeme would not try to fast track this process. The client may need time to accept responsibility. To force things could be abusive. He might spend a long time with a client working on just one stage of the process. 

As we look at the work of counselling, we can recognise that these 5 steps of forgiveness are also the distinct features of Christian pastoral care. 

This tradition of pastoral care, which goes back 2000 years, offers care (for example the steps of forgiveness) that the secular psychology does not necessarily know about. But secular psychology has also opened doors of diagnosis and therapeutic process unfamiliar to the church. As well as these things, the Christian counsellor or pastoral care worker needs to have a total commitment of being connected to Jesus Christ through the cross. 

Jesus cared for the sick and the well. We need to care not only for those in the church but the unchurched as well. In so doing, we are demonstrating God's grace to all. We need to have a bigger definition of ourselves as Christian counsellors than simply 'Christians who counsel' but rather need to draw on the rich tradition of pastoral care available to us. One aspect that the church has understood, for example, has been the practice of bringing people into groups. 

We may not be able to talk explicitly about God, but His presence is still a powerful dynamic. God's power can flow into our responses, thinking and attitudes no matter what therapy we apply. Good psychology (for example helping a person to own negative emotions and recognising the behaviour that comes out of these emotions) is also God's will. 

Working in a church-based organisation, it may be appropriate for us to say, 'I am a Christian. You may not be and I will respect that. However, some of the psychological models I use are because of my belief system.'

We may also need to have a closer look at ethics in regard to our counselling practice. We (CCAV) have tended to embrace the secular model of ethics without questioning. As Christian counsellors, we should see ourselves as servants. However secular therapists might not see themselves as such. But we need to remember that even a servant has boundaries. For example, we must not encourage dependence or inappropriate intimacy with the client. The client needs to be in control of the process and should be asked what they want from it. They should not be thinking, 'You're well. I'm sick, so you are more powerful'. Rather the counsellee is the consumer. The unspoken attitude of the counsellor might be, 'I am not your servant to be abused, but God's servant to help you'. 

We will explore these ideas more with Graeme in our meeting on September 12. 

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Focal Point Yarra Valley 2009