President Clinton admits he needs help. Just last week he chose a team of ministers to pray with him. But religious and secular counselors alike are debating whether such pastoral guidance is enough - or if the clerics should steer him toward therapy.
C. Roy Woodruff, executive director of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, hopes the president's spiritual advisers will "have enough awareness to see that he can benefit from more intensive psychological help."But Thomas Moore, former therapist and author of "The Soul of Sex," bristles at the thought. "We use psychology to be morally punishing," he says. " `Put this man in therapy.' It's a kind of moral jail."
Clinton will meet weekly with his spiritual advisers to pray and read scripture, according to the Rev. Tony Campolo, a sociology professor at Eastern College in St. Davids, Pa., who will be part of the team. Campolo said in a statement that he will remind the president that he can "be empowered by the Holy Spirit to conquer the demonic forces which have defeated him in the past."
Another of the counselors, the Rev. Gordon MacDonald, senior minister at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Mass., said in a sermon Sept. 13 that he will draw on the lessons learned from his own adulterous relationship more than a decade ago, the subject of his book, "Rebuilding Your Broken World." Referring to a conversation with Clinton, he said, "I could sense his own brokenness."
Pastoral counselors may be best able to reach people who understand the world in religious terms, says Sharon Nathan, a psychology professor at Cornell University Medical College in New York City and a sex therapist in private practice.
Pastors' psychological training can range from a class or two to graduate work, but their counseling can be "very psychologically informed" by intuition as well as formal training, Nathan says. As an example, she recounts the story of a priest who told a Catholic man with a sexual compulsion that his penance for adultery "should be to think about how much God loved him." The priest, she says, "was so tuned in to the fact that this man did not need more emphasis on how he had sinned."
Although not religiously oriented herself, she says, "There are probably a lot of people who see spiritual counselors and are cured."
But psychotherapist John Tarrant thinks that too many spiritual counselors have too little respect for the psychological dimension.
"All spirituality has a tendency to try to get rid of the complexities of life, while rich spirituality tries to integrate the soul with the spirit," says Tarrant, who is also a Zen teacher in Santa Rosa, Calif., and the author of "The Light Inside the Dark."
If counselors "are just saying, `You're in a fight with the devil,' it's a worthless point of view. The devil has the best music, the best songs, the best dances. To hold hands and hope the devil doesn't come is another kind of insanity worse than the one you're trying to cure."