Monday, April 15, 2013

You mean, I have 3 parents?

This title simply means that God is our third parent, at least, whether we know it or not, we view Him the same way we view our parents. How we view our parents, colors how we view God. This is explained in God Attachment theory.

Attachment theory has been around for some time and has gained considerable ground in the scientific world, especially among Christian counselors. This theory of relating seems to most clearly demonstrate integration for the Christian counselor in his/her pursuit of combining psychology and theology into a unified whole. The psychology of attachment theory, especially God attachment, very clearly describes what is found in the Bible. For example, attachment theory describes the primary caregiver of a child as a “safe haven.” The Bible very clearly uses this language when describing how we experience God who is our caregiver. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” and Hebrews 13:5 states “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” We relate to God in the same way a child relates to his/her primary caregiver.

As aspiring counselors who may end up working with Christian clients in a Christian setting, God attachment is a theory you will want to hold onto as it can be of immense help. Every Christian at some point of another will doubt their faith and turn to a counselor, quite likely, for help. This “crisis of belief” can turn someone world upside down and they look to you and say, “What do I do?” A great place to begin with a client struggling with their relationship with God is to find out how they view God. God Attachment theory can help answer that question. Our presuppositions we bring to God shaped by our relationship with our earthly parents is stronger than we think and by helping clients gain insight into how they see God could be the beginning stages of resolving their “crisis of belief.”

In God Attachment, Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub walk through the stages of relating to God and present questions that clients need to ask themselves in each stage. I briefly list one each here, paraphrased.

Proximity Seeking:  When do you or do you not seek God?

Safe Haven: Do you feel safe with God?

Secure Base: Do you really believe God has your best interest at heart?

Perceived Abandonment: Do you feel as if God will abandon you sometimes?

These questions, and more, are probing and thought-provoking. As we work through these questions with clients it could bring more awareness to how they view God and can set the stage to creating goals for change.

Familiarizing yourself with God Attachment theory as a Christian counselor is an act that will not go unrewarded. The benefits of understanding clients and facilitating change through utilizing this theory cannot be overstated. I would encourage all readers to click on the links below and read up!

Clinton, T. and Straub, J. (2010). God attachment. New York, NY: Howard Books.

God Attachment by Tim Clinton and Josh Straub


  1. Brent, great post. I often feel that God is my father, he protects me, loves me and hears my cries. I truly believe God wants us to be attached to Him, that is part of our relationship with him. God is my safe haven, I can't run to no one else but Him. He takes good care of me, well He takes care of all us. Great post!! I loved it!!! It is always great to be reminded how God wants to be attached to me. To all His children!!

  2. It's funny how until I heard Dr. Corsini say this, I never considered this (at all) I just always believed I had parents and then there was God who looked over me. I had never even related attachment theory to God. Between this class and Integration, I have started to realize and reshape my views of spirituality and religion. I'm not quite sure what route I am going to take when it comes to counseling, but I feel that this information is beneficial for my spiritual growth and definetly will assist me when it comes to counseling.

  3. Brent,
    Thank you for your post! I think that it is incredibly interesting how people view God in light of their parents. Their relationship with God may be skewed by their relationship with their parents. The lenses in people's lives tint the way they perceive life and relationships. It is important to look at the bigger picture when counseling someone on any issue. There is always another perspective, another factor, or another preceding event that influences a problem or area of interest in one's life. When looking at one's relationship with God, it is important to investigate that individual's relationship with his or her parents. I think that it is interesting, how Dr. Corsisni stated in class, that people can either directly see God as they see their parents or they can see God the opposite as they see their parents. This can be a simple reaction to life events or a defense mechanism. It is critical, however, for people self reflect on their lives in general, their perceptions of close relationships, and their past experiences in order to see how those may influence them today. One's present state is directly influenced by one's past. First, identifying and understanding one's attachment style can lead to considerable breakthroughs.

  4. Ah Brent thank you for this post! I have such a desire to be attached to my Heavenly Father. I feel that I sometimes forget how the Lord desires for attachment to his children. As Brittany commented above me, I too believe it is very interesting how people view God in light of their parents. I have such a strong relationship with my father, that there is personally no better depiction of what my heavenly father is like. However, I know that many individuals are not so lucky. The attachment styles are something I would like to research and learn more about. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Brent,

    God Attachment (and Attachment Theory in general) has always provoked my interest, so I am grateful for the book suggestion! I agree with you that as counselors, expanding our knowledge on attachment does not go unrewarded, as it serves to explain how people relate to others and to God. This serves as a base for understanding how our clients view themselves, and how they view the world, and these two factors are critical to the helping process.


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