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Howard Clinebell Jr., 83; Minister Advocated Combining Religion, Psychotherapy to Treat Addiction

May 14, 2005|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Howard Clinebell Jr., a minister whose books on the counseling of alcoholics, divorcees and others pioneered an approach that combined psychotherapy and religion, has died. He was 83.

Clinebell, a minister in the United Methodist Church and a professor in pastoral counseling at the Claremont School of Theology, died April 13 of complications from Parkinson's disease at Vista del Monte Retirement Community in Santa Barbara, said his son, Donald.

A prolific writer, he worked on more than 20 books, some of which he co-wrote or edited. He was best known for two titles of his own: "Understanding and Counseling the Alcoholic Through Religion and Psychology," published in 1956 and updated many times, and "Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling" (1966), which remains one of the most widely used books on the subject. Clinebell updated and expanded it in 1984 as "Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling."

"Howard's book on alcoholism was refreshing, especially in religious circles, because it used the disease model instead of attributing alcoholism to character deficiency," said Kathleen Greider, a colleague of Clinebell at Claremont. "Howard provided leadership by saying that addiction can't be cured through religious practice alone."

As an early advocate of training in psychotherapy for seminarians planning to work as counselors in a variety of settings, Clinebell helped found the pastoral counseling movement that pioneered such training. He was a founding member of the American Assn. of Pastoral Counselors and served as its president in 1964-65.

Later in his career, he began to write more specifically about personal problems in the context of relationships. He co-wrote "The Intimate Marriage" (1970) with his wife, Charlotte, a psychotherapist and social worker. He was sole author of "Crisis and Growth, Helping Your Troubled Child," published in 1971.

Each topic he wrote about led him to a new one, Greider said. In the early 1970s, he addressed the effects of social systems on individual lives.

"Howard saw the need for counselors to understand how oppression and poverty wound a person," Greider said. Clinebell's "The People Dynamic: Changing Self and Society Through Growth Groups" (1972) takes up the problem.

More recently, Clinebell looked at the relationship between human beings and nature in "Ecotherapy: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth" (1996).

"More diseases do than don't have some environmental pollution in their etiology," Clinebell said in a 1997 interview with the Deseret News of Salt Lake City.

War, he said, is a major cause of ecological damage. "If you push the threat of violence as a way to solve conflicts, the chain reaction produces destruction of the Earth," he said.

Clinebell was born in Springfield, Ill., and graduated from DePauw University in Indiana and Garrett Theological Seminary in Illinois. He earned a doctorate at Columbia University in New York City.

He also studied psychotherapy in a program designed for the ministry at the William White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychoanalysis in New York City. He received clinical pastoral training in several New York state hospitals.

He moved to California in the mid-1950s to join the staff at the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena and later worked as a counselor at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia. He joined the Claremont faculty as a professor of pastoral psychology in 1959 and retired in 1988.

Along with his wife of nearly 60 years, Clinebell is survived by a brother, three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in Kresge Chapel on the campus of the Claremont School of Theology, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont.

Contributions in his name may be made to the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, 111 N. Maple St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103; or the Clinebell Institute, 211 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont, CA 91711. The institute is a pastoral counseling and training center.

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