Clinical Theology is a course in clinical pastoral training and care which makes full use of the resources and techniques of psychology. It was the first publication of Frank Lake (1914 – 1982), on which the Clinical Theology Association was founded in 1961. Thousands of clergy, ministers, and lay people within the Church of England have undertaken the two-year course of training in centers throughout Great Britain.
Lake’s work in pastoral counseling in Great Britain served as a frontier discipline that related theological and psychoanalytical data. Archbishop Frederick Temple once wrote that “our theology has been cast in a scholastic mode….We are in need of, and we are gradually being forced into, a theology based on psychology. The transition, I fear, will not be without much pain, But nothing can prevent it.” After the Clinical Theological Association was formed, the Bishop of Bradford, Donald Coggan, later Archbishop of Canterbury, gave Lake and his staff of psychiatrists and clergy his blessing.
The need for clergy being trained in pastoral counseling and care is now generally recognized and is offered as part of the curriculum of most seminaries, but Lake’s pioneering efforts were significant. While much can be learned from psychiatry and psychoanalysis, Lake’s unique contribution was his emphasis upon the therapeutic resources found in certain particular aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He demonstrated that these resources can be like specific medicines, active against recognizable forms of spiritual and mental pain. Lake’s full analyses of mental and spiritual conditions are illustrated with case-histories, some of which include accounts of the use of abreactive drugs which evoke vivid memories of birth and the earliest months. This has brought a striking clarification to the psychoanalysis of many fundamental issues having to do with mental health and mental illness. His achievement has been to correlate these with the various patterns of personality within a theological framework.
Lake cautions against the over-zealous attempt to win approval from God and shows that this disposition reflects an anxiety disorder rather than being a Christian virtue. He warned against what he called “the hardening of the oughteries.”
In the opening chapter, Lake lays out his vision of the counselor as listener, the mainly silent “witness to the presence of Christ at the depths of mental pain.”