Christian Faith and Clinical Supervision

Christian Faith and Clinical Supervision April 12, 2019

Terri S. Watson
Developing Clinicians of Character – A Christian Integrative Approach to Clinical Supervision
IVP Academic, Downer’s Grove, Illinois, 2018.
Available at

By Stuart Adamson

There is an implicit entreaty on just about every page of the book Developing Clinicians of Character. This entreaty becomes explicit as Watson draws her argument to a close in the final pages. She yearns for clinical supervisors who identify as followers of Jesus to be people “of character known by their faithfulness, hopefulness and love [who] engage in their clinical work with wisdom, justice, temperance and courage”.

Serving as Associate Dean of Psychology at Wheaton College in the US, Watson writes from a Catholic perspective and liberally references the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Her purpose is to exhort those who identify as followers of Jesus and who serve as clinical supervisors of counsellors, psychologists and marriage and family therapists to integrate Christian virtues with best clinical practice.

She commends an integrative framework with four components: theological and moral virtues; professional ethics; supervision models; and individual and corporate faith practices. One of the strongest aspects of the book is the breadth of reading across all components. In regard to the theological and moral component for example, we see apposite references to seminal works by Hauerwas, Volf, Moltmann and Sandage in addition to the expected Nouwen, Merton and Aquinas.

Three separate chapters on how to integrate faith, hope and love respectively into clinical supervision were thought-provoking, though at times a significant level of dissonance rose within me around the integrative method Watson suggested. Biblical content was relevant, though the chapter on love was lacking in that there was only passing reference to the atoning sacrifice of Christ and not at all as a definition of the love of God. Watson’s omission of 1 John 4:10 in this section was noteworthy and a paucity of any developed writing on the problem of sin left her comments on forgiveness seem strangely disconnected.

However, her writing on faith and trust in supervision contained excellent insights and her commendation of intercessory prayer and expectant silence, among other things, made me think of a range of possibilities for my own practice.

While there may be significant differences of opinion across a broad theological spectrum about how the believer in Jesus might acquire the virtues mentioned in Scripture – much less integrate best supervisory practice in four categories – Watson has done both the body of Christ and the clinical supervision profession a great service in writing this book.

She is not a theologian, rather a highly gifted educator and supervisory practitioner who is passionate about discipleship and is laser-like in her writing focus. Watson is concerned for a thriving, God-honouring witness in clinical supervision –  a discipline that is only just beginning to be understood in significant sections of the Christian church in Australia.

In addition to making the explicit entreaty referred to earlier, Watson, by authoring this book, also issues an implicit invitation to supervisors, clinical and pastoral alike. She wants those men and women who care about their service of Jesus to contribute to the body of literature on integration so that, in God’s grace, it will be an ever-increasing blessing to His people.

Stuart Adamson is visiting lecturer in Chaplaincy Skills at Ridley and guest lecturer at St. Mark’s Theological College in pastoral supervision.

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