Original Research

Beyond psychology: Spirituality in Henri Nouwen’s pastoral care

Yolanda Dreyer
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 59, No 3 | a670 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v59i3.670 | © 2003 Yolanda Dreyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 October 2003 | Published: 27 October 2003

About the author(s)

Yolanda Dreyer, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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This article aims to explain Henri Nouwen’s reflection on the relation-ship between psychology and practical theology and especially on the commensurability/incommensurability of psychological techniques and spirituality, both of which are relevant to pastoral care. It demonstrates Nouwen's understanding of pastoral care, what the underlying epistemology is and how spirituality is the focal point of his model. In this context he discusses aspects such as pain, anger, greed, grief and solitude. In the discussion his knowledge and use of psychological perspectives become apparent. He sees the suffering person as a spiritual being, someone who lives in the presence of God. Therefore he finds it imperative to move beyond psychology. Spirituality is about the way in which someone experiences God’s presence. To explain and enhance spirituality, Nouwen proposes a theory for pastoral care which aims at healing, sustaining and guiding the suffering person. To elucidate the underlying epistemology of Nouwen’s model and to understand his critical stance with regard to psychology, the article follows the pattern of the focal points “healing”, “sustaining” and “guiding”.


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