Dr. Phil Henry is the author of The Christian Therapist’s Notebook. I recently wrote him w/ this quazi book interview regarding his most recent publication…enjoy!
1. Your most recently published book is The Christian Therapist’s Notebook. How and why did you start this project?
I was sitting at my desk praying and the thought of the book came to me: The Christian Therapist’s Notebook. (I had been looking at The Therapist’s Notebook series and it seemed that there was one for everyone but for Christians.) I wrote the name of the book down on a piece of paper were I put things to be done or ideas. I started to pray again and a second time the idea came, along with a strong prompting. Actually, the voice in my head said, “Do this now. You are not getting any younger, if you are going to do something you better start now.”
I was a little taken back felt to be truthful, a little like when your mother tells you to clean your room. I turned to my computer and emailed the vice president of the publishing company. To tell the truth I was very skeptical. Short story: he liked it, we sent a proposal and five years later the book was published.
2. The preface of each chapter gives readers a crash course in the topic of each section, such as suicide, eating disorders, depression or anxiety; this sets the stage for the vignettes that focus on the small and personal experiences an individual faces, giving a clearer understanding of these strong issues. The vignettes are followed by handouts or homework, which coordinates with the need as well as suggested resources. Did you have that format in mind from the beginning, or did it develop as you began culling and organizing these chapters? Was it a challenge to write these opening pieces that crystallize each issue for readers?
The format changed midway and it took another year to finish it. I had much help with the resources etc. I really was a labor of love for me and for others.
The challenge in writing was to be as biblical, specific and practical as possible, but also write to a wide audience of trainings and education levels. Therapy has and does hold a great fascination for me. I love the stories of people and I try to tell someone story in each chapter in a way that addresses the issue and shows how using a simple exercise to connect people to God and offer some help and healing.
3. The multiple authors you chose to include in your work are well versed and demonstrate finely tuned and brilliant minds. How did you choose this group of contributors for the book and how do you work together?
It was a God thing. Some came on early and others later. It is like baking a cake. The ingredients must each have there own job and flavor, but they also must blend together. I had a great editor and a fantastic administration assistant and others who came just at the right time.
4. I recently read a review that said, “All University Psychology programs and Christian churches should supply their staff with this book.” When putting this notebook together, were you thinking about its academic applications?
I planned to use it for my internship class, but I am not sure that I thought about the broader implications. It is not as easy as you might think to counsel Biblically and competently. Even after sixty hours of training, for many, it feels like they are just starting to know what they are doing. It is an art and skill, a gift and a calling. 5. What do you love most about your work?
What I most love about the book is that I did what I believe God asked me to do. Very few times in life do we have the sense of doing exactly what you are supposed to do, but, in this case I feel blessed to have much of what we were aiming for.
6. What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
How dumb and human I am. I am constantly looking for my car in the parking lot of our local store and I have very little sense of direction without a map. I am not really a very good “spellar”.
Let see, the other thing is that I broke my nose twice in the last six months playing basketball. In heaven I will be able to shoot better.7. Who are your icons and heroes?
Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Rick Warren, Mother Teresa, Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, Ed Young, Rob Bell some professors I have had along the way. Also, I would add, Diane Langberg, who I worked with for several years. She is often in my head when I go to make a decision.
I admire people who bring God to the average person in a new way and those who sacrifice for the right in life. Ooops, I forgot Eugene Peterson.
8. Name a book that you have read in the past 6 months that you would recommend to another reader and why would you recommend it?
I just read a Chuck Colson book called The Good Life. It has a lot to say about meaning and purpose and life in general. I love the Mitford series. I have just reread or rather listened on tape to the last of the series. I read two to four books a week so I know I have borrowed from many.
The Nooma series by Rob Bell is creative, biblical and wonderful. 9. What do you want readers to take away from your book?
Well, that’s a good question. I think that I would like to help bridge the gap between Christians and those who hurt. There are millions of people who are addicted, or depressed, or who suffer from eating disorders, or have abuse in their past, or anxiety, or any number of problems like sexual problems, who do not see Christ as the answer to their problems. They feel condemned around Christians and would never enter or even think of a church as being a helping place. Sometimes the packaging can help.
I would love to see an army of trained women and men of God who know the scripture, know God and who know how to care and love people.
10. Have other writers influenced your work? Who are they?
Diane Langberg, Archibald Hart, Steve Arterburn, Frank Peretti, Jan Karon, Gerald May, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Lorna Hecker (the original therapist’s notebook), Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, and many fiction writers, Walter Wangerin and a host of others. 11. What are you working on now and what can readers expect to see?
I currently am working on The Therapist’s Notebook for Addicted Populations. This book has practical exercises that are tailored to the level of client motivation. Hopefully, this will help the therapist find a good fit with the client and will bring twelve step people closer to the true power.
Also, I am beginning a book on therapy that takes an existential Christian slant on the process via Rick Warren and others. I believe that it is not just our thoughts and emotions that need to be examined in therapy but also the overall direction of our lives. What good is a well working car if it is not going somewhere? This is what I am currently excited about.
Now that you’ve read all about it…buy it here!