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Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy: A Meeting of Minds (American University Studies) 2nd Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1433121562
ISBN-10: 1433121565
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Archbishop Chrysostomos  has written a book review on Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy appearing in Orthodox Tradition, Volume XXVIII, Number 2 (June, 2011) posted at
 
orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/review-of-ancient-christian-wisdom-and-aaron-becks-cognitive-therapy.aspx
From the review:

"I admit that I had to read parts of this book several times, since it covers such a vast amount of material... Rereading Father Alexis's excellent prose was a delight in itself... A splendid, highly recommended book that is not to be missed."


Dr. Bruce Foltz, professor of philosophy at Eckerd College, has also written a fuller review on the Eighth Day Books Blog for Aug. 28 2011. The link is  blog.eighthdaybooks.com/?p=792

From the review:
"Above all, this is a remarkable exploration of spiritual and psychological health, brimming with practical insights and useful techniques. In fact, it may be one of the most solid and useful 'self-help' books of our time."


«This remarkable volume will not only appeal to a wide range of audiences, but each one will surely find a wealth of ideas and insights far exceeding what could have been expected. Therapists will find the most impressive retrieval of the spiritual depth beneath their science since the work of Carl Jung. Pastoral counselors will discover the truth of what they have long espoused - that scientific and spiritual knowledge cannot really conflict in a world created by a single deity - along with practical guidance that will set a new standard in their field. Students of human nature will find a stunning juxtaposition of ancient wisdom and the findings of modern research. Intellectual historians will discover here an author equally at home in the world of ancient spiritual wisdom and modern science, who is at the same time able to make brilliant connections between these cultural domains. And individuals seeking wisdom about what Plato called ‘that greatest question’ of how one is to live will find insights and challenges that have the potential to be life-transforming. » (Bruce Foltz, Professor of Philosophy, Eckerd College)

From the Author

When I am asked the simplest of questions, "What is your book about?" Trying to supply a simple answer that does justice to the material is a rather difficult task. I think it would be more helpful to answer it somewhat indirectly by describing some of my concerns while writing it, which will in turn reveal some of the issues the work intends to address. 
At its core, the book is really about being a Christian in this post-Christian world and the choices that this reality presents. In some ways, today's situation is similar to that of believers during the first centuries of the early church. The two easiest options are to reject the culture entirely and try to survive in a self-enclosed cultural ghetto or to embrace the culture and merge with it. Both of those choices, however, have severe problems in terms of Christian outreach on the one hand and apostasy on the other. These subjects I discuss at length in chapter one entitled "Egyptian Gold in a Christian Hand: Models for Relating Cognitive Therapy and Orthodox Pastoral Theology." Looking at important figures in the history of Christianity, I note that there is yet another option, which I refer to as discerning openness. It can be seen in the works of Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great, and Maximus the Confessor among other luminaries of the first millennium. So, Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy is about applying an approach of discerning openness to what may be one of the most important forms of treatment for various psychological problems of our day.
Of course, I anticipate objections from audiences who feel very strongly about what inspires them in their lives. For example, some Christians might point out that Christian tradition in all its many manifestations often seems to be at odds with modern secularism as an ideology that leaves little room for the sacred in human life. They might have some very reasonable questions such as "Wouldn't a therapy that grows out of such an ideology be dangerous for the believer? When dealing with the human soul is it theologically acceptable to apply the findings from a very different source, anthropologically speaking, to how a Christian can better think, feel, and live? Mightn't the use of such a source have a harmful effect on the faith of the believer?" These questions are foremost in my mind and in each chapter I try to answer them on the basis of the teachings of early Christian writers.
Therapists and counselors in the secular world will also come to this work with their own questions and reservations. Starting with Freud, psychotherapy has been very suspicious of religion and, at the very least, influenced by the Freudian understanding of religion as a misguided projection of the primitive subconscious. Psychologists rightly decry the fact that many who appeared to be mentally ill were stigmatized as witches, tortured, and burned at the stake in the West during the Dark Ages and even during the more broad-minded Renaissance. Thus, the non-religious psychologist reading this work might have questions such as "What insight could possibly be derived from figures who take demon possession seriously? Wouldn't mixing pre-Enlightenment thought with results derived from the rigorous application of the scientific method be one step backwards if not two?" I have also tried to be mindful of these questions out of respect for the time, the work, and the genuine human compassion that are also at the foundation of the development of the cognitive therapeutic attempt to relieve human suffering.
And so, the work begins and continues as a kind of balancing act. Yet, the aim is not to avoid offending certain people, but to be fair to all parties in the hope of recognizing the unified wisdom of God both through revelation and the use of the God-given reason of the human mind. Of course, it's a tall order to respond to the best of our culture even in its secularity in a way that is somewhat analogous to how the Great Cappadocians responded to the best of ancient "secularism," Plato and Aristotle. But I believe that it is an attempt that needs to be made and a conversation that should be had. Ancient Christian Wisdom seeks to begin that conversation, which is really important for so many people who suffer from psychological and spiritual problems.
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Product Details

  • Series: American University Studies (Book 313)
  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.; 2 edition (September 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433121565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433121562
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Father Alexis Trader is an American-educated Athonite monk, who, in his own life, already bridges two rather different worlds. His book is a lucid reflection on leading themes taken from Aaron Beck's cognitive therapy, on the one hand, and the writings of Greek Christian monastic masters, on the other - masters whose own concerns with the therapy of the person account for the greater part of the monastic counsels that have come down to us. The author writes with rare fluency and insight on issues that have often proved difficult of access for therapists on either side of this particular instance of the east-west divide, when they have consulted each other. What emerges in this study, out of the author's living experience, is an incisive, compelling and at times, surprising account of the connectedness of the therapy of the soul, both modern and ancient, eastern and western - as other reviewers have rightly noted, all very elegantly-written. The result is an important book from a gifted writer who has obviously spent much of his adult life reflecting on two seemingly incompatible world-views. The author demonstrates where synthesis is possible, and demonstrates the importance of that convergence. This is a book that belongs on the desk of Parish Pastors, therapists both clerical and lay who work with non-parochial communities and institutions, as well as on the desk of those responsible for monastic communities, presumably already well-versed in the work of Christian ascetic therapists down the ages. But, just as importantly, laymen concerned for these "ultimate questions" could not be better-served in pursuing their personal goals than by studying this amazing, sophisticated work. This is an important reflection by a master concerning things that are close both to the heart of historic Christianity, as well as to the main themes of contemporary western cognitive psychology. Father Alexis Trader's book is a rare achievement and cannot be too highly-recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This unique study, which is wonderfully written, has broadened and deepened my knowledge of not only the spiritual teachings and pastoral practices of the Early Church, but also the contemporary theories of the renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Aaron Beck and his school. Although it is more expensive than many popularized works in theology or psychology, it contains an expansive wealth of material and information that could easily fill two or three other lesser volumes. Classic reference works and textbooks are in fact comparably priced. Ancient Christian Wisdom can even be conceived of as three works in one: it provides an excellent introduction to the pastoral practices of the Church Fathers and how they approach the art of spiritual guidance and healing, with vast references and quotes from their original writings; it also presents a complete and reader-friendly introduction to Cognitive Therapy, including its theory and techniques; and most significant of all, it draws surprising connections and also highlights the underlying differences between these two approaches. This third aspect sets it apart from other important resources in either field.

The book is also quite literally a pleasure to read, being written in a style that is both elegant and strikingly clear. It takes the reader on an inspiring journey that spans and bridges the two seemingly contrasting worlds of theology and psychology. At the same time, this is no intimidating esoteric work for specialists only. It's a practical volume useful for anyone open to these two important sources of human understanding.
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Format: Paperback
This book would appeal to a broad cross section of the population interested in psychology, Eastern Orthodoxy, psychotherapy, the Church Fathers, contemporary mental health care, or Beck's Cognitive Therapy. Each page is densely packed with eye-opening revelations, which draw the reader further into the book and makes it difficult to put down. It is a book that should be read slowly, and in many sittings in order to digest the feast placed before the reader. The Church Fathers knew what is either already being used in modern psychotherapy or is being newly rediscovered and used in cognitive therapy. The language in some areas may get a bit technical, but it is still understandable to the average person. I highly recommend this book to the professional therapist or to anyone pursing spiritual, psychological, or personal development be they Orthodox Christians or of another faith. There is something here for everyone.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this work to be a beautiful and useful guide for clinicians and pastoral workers alike who wish to help individuals through a combination of psychological and Christian teachings. Pater Alexios outlines cognitive-behavioral psychotherapeutic approaches and compares and contrasts them to Christian writings for the purpose of assisting individuals who may or may not have previously attempted to use these combined principles for healing of the mind and spirit. It is a moving work which is a pleasure to read for many reasons. It provides concrete examples of how to conceptualize and apply combined Christian and psychological solutions for challenges to the mind and spirit. It is also written in a clear and elegant style. As someone who treats people with mental health problems, I believe that this book is a valuable and unique resource in treating and supporting individuals and families who believe in Christian doctrine and who would also benefit from cognitive-behavioral interventions for their difficulties.
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