Prepared for Andrews University
The theorists and therapists who came before us were convicted in the individual’s worth. Alfred Adler, Carl Rogers and Rollo May understood the success of therapy was dependent on the therapist’s respectful treatment and the undivided attention for the client. Today we call this form of therapeutic approach by the therapist humanistic psychology as the approach keeps the sessions client-centered. May’s theory branches out to existential psychology theory and focuses on freedom as the ultimate level in personal growth for an individual attending therapy sessions. However, I dare to challenge there’s more to the client than just individual worth. The client has God-given, inherent worth because the client has the image of God vested and impressed into the person’s being. The individual is not God, nor a demi-god. The individual is a being created with emotions, reason and free will like its Maker. Therefore, people were created in the image of God and possess inherent value that demands the therapist to approach each client with the highest level of dignity and veneration, short of groveling and worshiping, irrespective of culture, race or socioeconomic status.
The therapist must address the present issue, or presenting problem of the client and then work backwards into the client’s life-history. The client will come with a presenting problem, but sometimes the presenting problem is just the tip of the iceberg. There are rooted complications and insecurities sown early in the client’s life that the image of God is almost lost. The therapist needs to work with the client from where the client is on the tip of iceberg and work down into the depths of the iceberg. The client’s image of God allows the therapist to see beauty in the individual when the individual cannot see it for himself. The therapist proceeds to work with the client from the presenting problem back to where the problem and other associated issues stem. The individual will rediscover the image of God and his innate worth as the therapist elicits from the client his God-given worth through therapeutic work that upholds and honors the image of God in the client.
My personal world-view is that in the manner that we therapists restore value and self-worth to the client, we are equally upholding the client’s image of God in each session. One may be tempted to see certain clients as a nuisance be it because of the client’s personality, or their presenting problem is not something “too big, or serious,” or we may have an out-right counter transference to the client. The reason we as therapists may not “like” the client or may not have an affinity to the client is not an excuse to disregard the indelible image of God in that client whom one may erroneously find annoying. In other words, it’s difficult for a therapist to think of a client or the client’s issue as insignificant and simultaneously acknowledge the client as the expressed image of God.
In the measure that the therapist acknowledges the individual coming to his office as one with inherent worth granted from God himself, the image of God in the client, the therapist counsels, speaks and validates the client as the standard of treatment. The therapist’s natural response and behavior toward the client whom he knows has inherent, God-given worth, is to follow in suite during session by the way the therapist looks at the client in the eyes and uses words to uplift the client’s personhood and innate image of God. Many times our clients have experienced deep pain, betrayal and even trauma that leave them discouraged and depressed to the point of almost extinguishing the image of God under layers and years of abuse and self- depreciation. It is the therapist’s task to, jointly with the client, restore the image of God buried beneath the client’s distorted psyche.
Clients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are some of the most challenging clients who also deserve a therapist who will work to restore the inherent worth the client has as one created in the image of God though the client may have forgotten she has such worth. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an approach to restore the client’s worth as the therapist aims to respect the image of God even in an individual as perturbed as one with BPD. These therapeutic approaches in combination allow the client to find balance in the course of healing and restoration. One of the powerful healing properties of DBT is the therapist models for the client correct and appropriate validation. This is especially necessary for people who grew in an environment without affirmation of “subjective emotional experience (Hadjioif, 73).” In other words, people with BPD have challenges and struggles with validation as Hadjiosif explains. Therefore, in BDT, the therapist models correct validation and the individual with BPD begins to validate himself, too. This is a concrete form to restoring and the image of God and worth to the client. Thus, the client will begin to see validation in himself in the measure that the therapist confers unto the client his inherently, God-given gift.
the correction has been made for those who misconstrue that there is no the image of god in women. the bible explicitly confers the image of god on both genders: “so god created mankind in his own image, in the image of god he created them; male and female he created them (genesis 1:27, niv).” the bible explicitly gives each gender recognition. therefore, there is no confusion; god intentionally created both genders in his image. this proves quintessential to the woman who comes to the therapist with symptoms of depression and low-self-esteem. the therapist can begin to inculcate value in her psyche with the words he chooses to address her. the therapist is aware that the client is one created in god’s image. As the therapist speaks words of affirmation and value, the client will believe in her inherent worth and image of god which she will slowly learn about as she continues therapy.
The Orthodox commission at Athens regarding women’s ordination in the Anglican- Orthodox Dialogue in 1978 concluded the following: “In no sense does the Orthodox Church consider women to be intrinsically inferior in God’s eyes. Men and women are equal but different, and we need to recognize this diversity of gifts (Heiser, 60).” Therapists need to combat even the client’s own self-loathing and self-depreciation; the client soon will see herself as having the image of God and with much appreciation and esteem.
Additionally, experts and erudite of Jewish writings examined the meaning of the image of God according to Genesis 1:26-27. The following was the conclusion: “…Any kind of discrimination does not bear witness to what it means to rule as God’s image; to taint the image of any human being, is to taint the image of God (Eck, 7).” It is from this taint of the image of God that we therapists must safeguard ourselves by esteeming our clients with affirming words that calls out the image of God to shine through in the person.
Another point to emphasize is that God created both male and female to have equal dominion and rule over creation. God established this equal dominion over creation before Eve was created in chapter 2 of Genesis. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 1:26).’” The therapist’s respect and words of affirmation to the client assist to restore the female client’s understanding and appreciation of the image of God in herself, even if the therapist never uses the term, “image of God.”
People were created in the image of God and possess inherent value that demands the therapist to approach each client with the highest level of dignity and veneration. The therapist must address the present issue, or presenting problem of the client and then work backwards into the client’s life-history. My personal world-view is that in the manner that we, therapists, restore value and self-worth to the client, in the same manner one upholds the client’s image of God in each session. [Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)] is an approach to restore the client’s worth as the therapist aims to respect the client as the image of God while helping the client attain balance. The therapist can begin to inculcate value in the client’s psyche with the words he uses to address her because the therapist is aware that she is one created in God’s image. God created both male and female to have equal dominion and rule over creation. Therefore, therapists are to respect the image of God in each of their clients, male or female, as the therapist works with the client towards a healthy state of self-appreciation and self-worth.
Bible, The. (2011). New International Version.
Eck, E. V. (2017). Created in the image of God and sexuality in early-Jewish writings. HTS
Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies,73(4). doi:10.4102/hts.v73i4.4636
Hadjiosif, M. (2013). From strategy to process: Validation in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy.
Counselling Psychology Review, 28(1).
Heiser, A. (2014). Healing a Wound. John Chrysostom on Women and the Image of God.
Revista Teologica, 96(3).