Why Fred?

Fred Gingrich profile pictureFred Gingrich, D.Min., AAMFT Approved Supervisor, has been Professor of Counseling at Denver Seminary since 2005. From 2007-2015 he was chair of the counseling division, a division with a CACREP accredited MA and an ACPE accredited Clinical Pastoral Education program. Clinically he is an MFT and an approved supervisor of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He earned degrees from Carleton University and St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, and his doctoral degree in marriage and family from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Seminary) in Philadelphia. He is married to Heather Davediuk Gingrich, also a Professor of Counseling at Denver Seminary, and they have two 20-something, bi-racial sons, and a 3-yr. old grandson, whom they are raising.

In 2005, he and his family returned to North America after eight years as professor of counseling at Alliance Biblical Seminary (now Alliance Graduate School) in the Philippines where he directed the graduate programs in Christian counseling and marriage and family ministry. He also developed and directed the Ed.D. in counseling program offered by the Asia Graduate School of Theology. Prior to his work in the Philippines, he taught at a college and worked with counseling practices in Ontario, Canada.

Currently, he participates as a Senior Associate for the Institute for International Care and Counsel at Belhaven University (www.belhaven.edu/careandcounsel). He has written a number of articles in secular and Christian publications, and presented at professional conferences in the areas of marital and premarital counseling, counselor supervision, integration of counseling and theology, and and international counseling. He has co-authored/edited two books, Skills for Effective Counseling: A Faith-Based Integration (2016), and Treating in Christian Counseling (2017). He is currently working on a co-authored book, tentatively entitled, Global Mental Health: Expanding the Church’s Transforming Mission.

The 5 Questions:

1)You have served in several leadership positions, both in the US and abroad. What perked your interest in global mental health?

My initial response to this question is that I am still living abroad. My wife and I are proud Canadians, yet for the last 20 years we have lived outside of Canada, first in the Philippines and now in the US. In some ways we are “global nomads,” both of us having lived internationally as children as well. So when we announced that we would be taking our 3 and 4 yr. old sons to the Philippines, our families were all for it.

Between 5 and 10 yrs. old I lived in Kenya. My early memories are full of economic and quality of life disparities, racial differences, visible health issues such as albinism and leprosy, and many questions in my young mind about what is normal behavior and what is pathological.

As an adult, teaching counseling and practicing in Manila was fascinating. After 8 years there I literally felt as though I knew less about Filipino culture than I did when I arrived. My wife and I taught in and directed MA and EdD counseling programs with primarily Filipino students, along with a number of students from other Asian countries, and a couple of Americans thrown into the mix. My students would sometimes, very nicely and respectfully, tell me that my frequent question, “how does this apply in your culture?” was getting old! Yet, I kept asking it of them and of myself.

My wife did her PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of the Philippines, the premiere national, and nationalistic, university. The Filipino ambivalence about the West was highlighted by the fact that there is an identifiable literature on Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology), which is an intriguing, linguistically-derived analysis of a post-colonial culture and language (Tagalog) which has been greatly influenced by the West yet struggles to define and maintain the uniqueness of Filipino identity in the shrinking globe (I must say that it helped in this regard to be able to say we were Canadians!). An example of the multicultural mosaic of Filipino culture is the literally millions of Filipinos working outside of the country and providing economic stability for their families while also importing a complex mix of languages, technology, media, consumer products, as well as health and strategies and values.

During my years in the Philippines, and subsequently, I have been drawn to exploring anything to do with the internationalization of mental health, and I strive to incorporate research and examples throughout my teaching. For instance, in teaching Diagnosis and Psychopathology I have a little trouble giving students a healthy appreciation for DSM-5 without my biases leaking out. They get tired of me saying “remember, this is a Western conceptualization.”

My life has been greatly enriched by my international experiences; while it has made me a little weird to my colleagues, it has given me a perspective I would not trade for anything.

2)What does it mean to you to be a leader in the counseling profession, and specifically in relation to your work in global mental health?

Having directed five counseling programs in four institutions in 3 countries is, I guess, a little unique. introverted and pathologically shy as a child, made leadership roles a challenge. The prevailing images of leadership in many cultures did not fit well with my natural personality tendencies. My thinking about leadership has been deeply influenced by Friedman’s (1985, 1991) concepts of differentiation. I can only be myself and to the degree I attempt to be what others want I am at risk of losing my leadership creativity, and insights. This served me well internationally since I can’t not be Canadian or Western.

It also probably helps that I am not the stereotypical brazen, assertive, Western expert. I lead in a counseling way – more concerned about the process we are currently in and co-creating than about specific content and outcomes. Thus affirming and promoting national voices, empowering colleagues and students, willing to pass on leadership to others sooner than later, letting go rather than hanging on, all came easier to me than to some other expats that I observed. I truly do believe that every culture has its own healing methods and that what I have to offer may, or may not, be enriching to what is already present in the culture.

3)What do you see as the current strengths of the counseling profession? What has got you excited?

The work done on global issues worldwide is exciting. The research is clear and persuasive that mental health matters. It matters to health, economics, productivity, peace, and individual well- of all people worldwide. In addition, we are nearing, or it has already arrived, that what we know about mental health and healing is becoming two-way. It may be that as much is being done in other countries as is being done in the US. That is empowering for both the other countries and the US. The sociocultural phenomenon of the American mental health system is recognizing that global voices matter.

Probably the most encouraging thing I see is that students seem to understand, in ways that they didn’t 20 years ago, that counseling is primarily a person-centered relationship. Despite many legitimate critiques of Rogers and the human potential movement, there are core values embedded in those therapeutic worldviews that transcend psychopharmacology, treatment protocols, and manualized techniques. I think the field genuinely cares for people, responds to human suffering and respects diversity in ways that are refreshing and encouraging. We have much to learn through science about neuropsychology and evidenced-based treatments and I applaud those who do this complex foundational work, yet I am also pleased that concern for the person, for relationships, and the aptitude to address the hard questions of life, are still the primary motivation for people-helpers.  

4)What do you see as the current challenges of the counseling profession? What has got you concerned?

I am concerned about the professionalization of people-helping. We tend to be strong, unquestioning advocates of licensing, professional associations, and organizational structures that promote and control entry into the helping professions. Consumer protection is, of course, a legitimate concern. However, gatekeeping to the extent that we export and impose standards on other contexts that do not have the educational opportunities and economic resources is unethical, and ironically does not respect the diversity emphases within the profession.

I am also not a fan of the medicalization of mental health. While there is still much to learn in neuropsychology about mental functioning, information that will hopefully continue to ease the pain of many who suffer, biopsychosocialspiritual (whole person) interventions are not reducible to medical formulas. So we need to continue to research and make the case for the value of talk therapy and the other less-medically-derived methods of helping.

Related to the above concerns, is the fee-for-service/insurance reimbursement model of counseling services. Do counselors really uphold the values to which they aspire in terms of provision of services to everyone, or is counseling primarily for the economically privileged and well-employed? The universality of mental illness has not resulted in the democratization of access to services, and values, such as distributive justice, are not widely practiced.

Over the last few decades I have applauded the surprising shift to a greater appreciation for spirituality in psychology and mental health. However, I am increasingly concerned that traditional cultural religious values are denounced despite post-modern social values of tolerance and respect. Personally, this shift to more openness to spirituality has coincided with less openness to specifically Christian values, and increasing antagonism to conservative and fundamentalist religious values. There is a deeply embedded contradiction at work when tolerance of diversity is upheld but specific religious beliefs are condemned.

5)What are your hopes for the profession as it continues to grow and mature in the next 5/10/20 years?

I hope that the field would continue to model the radical acceptance of differentness that we often proclaim but have trouble living out. We are responsible to gate-keep for the profession; to set standards of competency and ethical practice. And, we are responsible to challenge with civil discourse the tendency of all persons to judge differentness, especially differentness than we view as harmful to persons. Whether we are talking about religious differences, sexual diversity, racial tensions, or global nationalistic trends, the field needs to practice what it preaches – radical hospitality of the other. I think we are doing better, but we have a ways to go.

I also hope that the commercialization and competitive elements in the field will be tempered by a constant reminder to ourselves and our colleagues that we probably didn’t go into this profession to get rich (if you did you were misguided!). Is it fair that the length and sophistication of our training rivals that of doctors and lawyers, yet, for most, the pay is considerably less? No, it is not fair, but remember why we got into this field in the first place. Advocate primarily for our clients and less for ourselves, idealistic though that may be.

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