David G. Benner

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Dr. David G. Benner (born February 9, 1947 in Orillia, Ontario) is an internationally known Canadian depth psychologist, author and wisdom teacher. The central organizing thread of his life and work has been to help people live the human journey in a deeply spiritual way and the spiritual journey in a deeply human way. Drawing on the insights of science, philosophy, the perennial wisdom tradition and forty years of work integrating psychology and spirituality, the focus of his more than thirty books has been the unfolding of the self associated with a journey of awakening and transformation, and the access this provides to wisdom.


David G. Benner followed his Honours BA in psychology at McMaster University with an MA and PhD in clinical psychology at York University.[1] After registration with the College of Psychologists of Ontario,[2] and licensing in the state of Illinois, he was certified as an expert witness in clinical psychology in both jurisdictions. He also completed post-doctoral studies at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.[3]

His practice as a psychologist developed through clinical appointments and special projects,[4] among them the assessment and classification of young offenders, development and evaluation of a day-treatment program for emotionally disturbed children,[5] and an examination of the childhood antecedents of multiple personality disorder. Over the years he continued to develop therapeutic models[6] and publish steadily.[7]

David G. Benner was professor and founding chair, Graduate Department of Psychological Studies at Wheaton College in Illinois,[8][9] and chair of the Department of Psychology, Redeemer University College, in Ancaster, Ontario. In Toronto, he held overlapping appointments as Adjunct Professor (Psychology and Christianity), St. Michael's College, University of Toronto; Adjunct Clinical Professor, Graduate Department of Psychology, York University; and Adjunct Clinical Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.[10] He was later the founding director of the Institute for Psychospiritual Health.[11] and in 2016 he became the founding director of Cascadia - A Living Wisdom Community.[12]

He was in private practice in Illinois and Ontario between 1973 and 2006. Whereas his clinic-based practice focused on children and adolescents, particularly those suffering from abuse and experiencing dissociative disorders, his private practice focused on adults. Within this context he developed and offered an intensive, highly individualized, short-term (3 week) residential intervention that combined clinical and spiritual components. He offered these Intensive Soul Care Retreats and trained others to do the same for over 20 years.[13] During these years he also held clinical directorships in Glendale Heights and Carol Stream, Illinois, and served as a consultant in psychology in North Bay, Barrie and Waterloo, (Ontario, Canada), as well as for the Hershey Medical School, Pennsylvania State University (Pennsylvania), the Pastoral Counseling Institute (Atlanta), the Modum Bad Klinikken Psyckiatrisk (Norway), the Institute for Pastoral Care (Manila), the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture (South Africa), and the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre in Hong Kong. Other appointments included the Children in War Zones Project at McMaster University Medical School in Hamilton and Thistletown Regional Centre for Children and Adolescents in Toronto. He was also a consultant in forensic psychology to the DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton and Charter Barclay Hospital in Chicago.[14]

Between 1989 and 2006, he was Chief Psychologist and Coordinator of the Brief Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program, Child and Adolescent Services, Hamilton, Ontario.[15][16] He was Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Spirituality at the Psychological Studies Institute, Richmont Graduate University (Atlanta, GA),[17][18][19] and in 2008 was named Associate Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria (Victoria, B.C.).[20] In 2013 he was invited to join the faculty of the Rohr Institute's Living School of Action and Contemplation (Albuquerque, NM) as a master teacher [21] and has conducted seminars, workshops and retreats on four continents.[22]


The intersection of psychology and spirituality became his main interest during the 1970s.[23] His general approach was described as a "multidisciplinary analysis of psychological change and spiritual development" that blends "insights from psychology, theology, anthropology, his own clinical practice, and other disciplines."[24] Examining the role of spirituality in clinical practice in 1988, he noted "the chasm that had been dug between professional psychology and spiritual longing",[25][26] and in 1989, published his views in an article on the nature of spirituality, its role in psychotherapy and a "nonreductionistic understanding of spirituality that situates it within the heart of an individual's psychological being."[27] A retrospective study of Benner's model of human nature and its implications for educators and counselors, based on his writings since the late 1980s, was published in 2006.[28] A later examination of changes in therapeutic work over two decades included Benner among leading researchers in the field of spirituality.[29] By then, his role in therapeutic counseling extended to spiritual guide and personal transformation coach.[30] A 2012 review noted that "Benner's broader approach to spirituality in this book may be difficult for some readers, especially in his generous borrowing from eastern spiritualities", categorizing this as a "respectful dialog with others outside his faith tradition."[31]


David G. Benner has authored or edited more than thirty books. Early titles focused on the role of spirituality in clinical practice and were primarily written for psychologists and other mental health professionals. His middle-phase books were written from an explicitly Christian perspective and focused on living the spiritual journey in a deeply human way and the human journey in a deeply spiritual way. Later books have been written for a more general audience and have continued to focus on the role of spirituality in human spiritual development while still drawing on science, philosophy and the perennial wisdom tradition for insights that are helpful in understanding spiritual awakening and transformation. These big themes of awakening, becoming fully human, and the possibilities of deep personal transformation have been at the core of all his books.

In addition to his books, he has also published articles in peer-reviewed journals of psychology in areas such as religious psychodynamics in multiple personality disorder, development of a psychological test for the assessment of marital communication, the psychology of money, health psychology,[32] and psychological trauma and social healing in Croatia.[33] He also played a seminal role in the creation of a child trauma treatment program.[34]

He was also editor of a reference encyclopedia in psychology and co-editor of a subsequent edition expanded for a readership of pastoral counselors and clergy,[35] as well as editor of a ten-book series on strategic pastoral counseling resources.[36] In a journal addressing the interface of psychology and spirituality, a reviewer wrote of Benner's body of work: "His research plumbs the best of human development psychology and ancient spirituality wisdom.... As a seasoned scholar, author, psychologist and a spiritual director, Benner serves as an expert witness of what healthy and whole humans look like...."[37] His contribution of material for peer professionals continues,[38] and his books have reached a broad general readership.[39] More than two dozen of his titles are in print, and translations have been published in more than twenty languages.[40]


David G. Benner's citations and honours include being named in International Men of Achievement, The Directory of Distinguished Americans, The International Book of Honour, Dictionary of International Biography, International Directory of Distinguished Leadership, Who’s Who Among Human Service Professionals, and Who’s Who in Theology and Science.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Living Wisdom (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2019) ISBN 9781532692147
  • Human Being and Becoming: Living the Adventure of Life and Love (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016) ISBN 1587433796
  • Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014) ISBN 9781587433610
  • Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012) ISBN 158743296X
  • Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2011) ISBN 1587432978
  • Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998) ISBN 0801090636
  • Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest: Exploring the Links Between Psychological and Spiritual Health (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988) ISBN 0801009480
  • Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010) ISBN 978-0-8308-3542-3
  • Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003) ISBN 0830823026
  • Strategic Pastoral Counseling: A Short-Term Structured Model (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003) ISBN 0801026318
  • The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004) ISBN 0830832459
  • Money Madness and Financial Freedom: The Psychology of Money Meanings and Management (Calgary, AB: Detselig Enterprises, 1996) ISBN 155059138X
  • Healing Emotional Wounds (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985) ISBN 0801009839
  • Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002) ISBN 0830823425
  • Counselling as a Spiritual Process (Winchester, Hants: Clinical Theology Association, 1991) ISBN 0948097809
  • Therapeutic Love: An Incarnational Interpretation of Counselling (Winchester, Hants: Clinical Theology Association, 1985) ISBN 0948097000
  • Free at Last: Breaking the Bondage of Guilt and Emotional Wounds (Belleville, ON.: Essence Publishing, 1998) ISBN 1896400841
  • Understanding and Facilitating Forgiveness. David G. Benner, Robert W. Harvey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996) ISBN 0801090199
  • Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices. David G. Benner, Gary W. Moon, eds. (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004) ISBN 0830827773
  • Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology. David G. Benner, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985) ISBN 0801008654
  • Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling. David G. Benner, Peter C. Hill, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999) ISBN 0801021006


  1. ^ David Gordon Benner, "Instructed neutral image visualization as an anxiety neutralizing response in systematic desensitization", PhD diss., York University Graduate Program in Psychology, Sept. 1972.
  2. ^ C. Psych., Registered Psychologist, College of Psychologists of Ontario, 1973.
  3. ^ CV dd 15 Jan 2012, pp. 1-5 (David G. Benner, CV on request, 4 Dec 2012).
  4. ^ Journal sources mention various career stages. Overview, Phil Howard, "A Psychospiritual Model of Spiritual Formation", Christian Education Journal, Series 3, Vol. 3, no. 2, p. 231, top; retrieved 2013-09-19, http://journals.biola.edu/cej/assets/15/3-2-230.pdf.
  5. ^ Valerie E. Copping, Diane L. Warling, David G. Benner, and Donald W. Woodside, "A child trauma treatment pilot study", Journal of Child and Family Studies 10, no. 4 (Dec. 2001), pp. 467-75; retrieved 2013-09-29, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1016761424595.
  6. ^ Review by K.J. Van Harn, "David G. Benner - Strategic Pastoral Counseling: A Short-Term Structured Model", Calvin Theological Journal 40, part 1 (2005), pp. 147-150; retrieved 2013-08-12, British Library Document Supply Service.
  7. ^ WorldCat, classification bv4012.2,253.5, "Overview - works: 39 works in 87 publications in 5 languages and 4,414 library holdings", retrieved 2013-10-02, https://www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n85-73186/ .
  8. ^ "InForm : Bulletin of Wheaton College 1984-85" (PDF). Espace.wheaton.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
  9. ^ Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections, Series 2: Faculty Files, Box 20, Benner folders 1-6, retrieved 2013-10-03, http://archon.wheaton.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=206&q=&rootcontentid=140542#id140542/, and Dean of Graduate School Records, Folder 67-David Benner, retrieved 2013-10-03, https://archon.wheaton.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=213&q=&rootcontentid=105870 .
  10. ^ "Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE)" (PDF). Ro.oise.utoronto.ca. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
  11. ^ Phil Howard, "A Psychospiritual Model of Spiritual Formation", Christian Education Journal, Series 3, Vol. 3, no. 2, p. 231.
  12. ^ [1], Cascadia Living Wisdom School, retrieved 2016-10-31.
  13. ^ Sperry, Len & Shafranske, Edward D., Eds. (2005). Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. pp. 287–306. ISBN 978-1-59147-188-2.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Benner website, retrieved 2013-09-02 http://www.drdavidgbenner.ca/professional-life/ .
  15. ^ Journal of Psychology and Theology 30, no. 4 (Winter 2002), p. 355, retrieved 2013-02-02; http://search.proquest.com/docview/223673349/
  16. ^ Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, archive records name-search result, "David Benner, Ph.D. (York), Chief Psychologist, Child and Adolescent Services, Hamilton", retrieved 2013-10-07, http://ro.oise.utoronto.ca/Archive/200708/Bulletin.pdf.
  17. ^ "Benner (Ph.D., York University) is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Spirituality at the Psychological Studies Institute (Atlanta) and a practicing clinical psychologist...", Bill Brewer, reviewing Strategic Pastoral Counselling, 16 Oct 2006, retrieved 2013-09-26, https://historeo.com/web/?p=112.
  18. ^ Benner at Psychological Studies Institute, Institute for Psychospiritual Health, Atlanta, GA, "Nurturing spiritual growth", Journal of Psychology and Theology 30, no. 4 (Winter 2002). Special issue: Psychotherapy and Spiritual Direction, Part I, pp. 355-36.
  19. ^ Deborah Arca, "Waking Up: A Q&A with David G. Benner", interview 15 March 2012, Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith, retrieved 2013-01-06, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/takeandread/2012/03/waking-up-a-qa-with-david-g-benner/ .
  20. ^ Associate Fellows list, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society Newsletter 17 (Fall 2008), p. 6, retrieved 2013-02-15 http://csrs.uvic.ca/Publications/pdf's/newsletters/SIRS_newsletter_Fall08.pdf/
  21. ^ Faculty and master teachers list, Centre for Action and Contemplation, retrieved 2013-04-04.
  22. ^ Described as an "intensive retreat-based combination of psychotherapy and spiritual direction...." in Len Sperry and Edward P. Shafranske, eds., Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2004), pp. 287-306; retrieved 2013-08-05, https://psycnet.apa.org/PsycBOOKS/toc/10886
  23. ^ David G. Benner, "What God Hath Joined: The Psychospiritual Unity of Personality", The Bulletin: Christian Association for Psychological Studies 5, no. 2 (1979), pp. 7-11, in Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God's Image (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), p. 244; retrieved 2013-02-23, https://books.google.com/books?id=uYiRj7rXJOwC&pg=PA244&lpg=PA244&dq=psychospiritual+unity+of+personality+benner+christian+association+of+psychological+studies&source=bl&ots=DhCPDfR6Xb&sig=DEXTmF02M9hTFMSugQgh5pPOFFA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UVYpUYS5LsKjiQLJloDIDg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=psychospiritual%20unity%20of%20personality%20benner%20christian%20association%20of%20psychological%20studies&f=false .
  24. ^ Book review, Spirituality and the Awakening Self, 12 Dec 2011, Publishers Weekly, retrieved 2013-01-14 https://www.publishersweekly.com/9781587432965.
  25. ^ Profession's context re Benner's Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest, in Gary W. Moon, "Introduction to Special Issue on Spiritual Direction: Part One", Journal of Psychology and Theology 30, no. 4 (Winter 2002), p. 261; retrieved 2013-03-10, https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-97908547/introduction-to-special-issue-on-spiritual-direction .
  26. ^ Proponents differed on Christian counseling: "Reviewing the writings of Adams, Crabb, Collins, Benner, Worthington, Powlision, and himself, Bufford concludes that there is widespread disagreement between the authors...." Daryl H. Stevenson, Brian E. Eck, and Peter C. Hill, eds., Psychology and Christianity Integration: Seminal Works that Shaped the Movement (Batavia, Ill.: Christian Association for Psychological Studies Inc., 2007), p. 243.
  27. ^ David G. Benner, "Toward a psychology of spirituality: Implications for personality and psychotherapy", database PsycINFO of the APA, retrieved 2013-07-27, https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1990-02087-001.
  28. ^ The study notes his "substantial contributions to the literature relating to spirituality and spiritual formation in ways that address the often-shaky linkage between psychology, spirituality, and Christian education." Phil Howard, "A Psychospiritual Model of Spiritual Formation: A Review of David Benner's Contributions", Christian Education Journal 3, no. 2 (Fall 2006), pp. 230-39, retrieved 2013-02-02, http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/22997458/psychospiritual-model-spiritual-formation-review-david-benners-contributions; also https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267772919_A_Psychospiritual_Model_of_Spiritual_Formation_A_Review_of_David_Benner's_Contributions .
  29. ^ Sharon R. Gough, "Spiritual and religious diversity: Implications for counselor education programs", PhD diss. (2009), College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Walden University, Minneapolis, MN. Ms. Gough calls Benner and several others "the leading researchers in the field of spirituality...." (p. 68) and describes a change in psychologists' emphasis (p. 55): "A paradigm shift has been developing over the past twenty years that recognizes the importance of integrating spirituality and religion into the therapeutic process (Benner, 2002)"; retrieved 2013-01-28 https://www.biola.edu/ She references D.G. Benner, "Nurturing spiritual growth", Journal of Psychology and Theology 30, no. 4 (2002), pp. 355-62.
  30. ^ Christopher Page, "Cartographer of the Spirit: A Book Review of David G. Benner's 'Spirituality and the Awakening Self'", Diocesan Post: The Anglican Journal 46, no. 8 (October 2012), p. 7; retrieved 2013-02-25, http://bc.anglican.ca/sites/bc.anglican.ca/files/diocesan_post/diocesanpostoctissueweb.pdf .
  31. ^ Review of Soulful Spirituality, Anthony W. Shelton, Journal of Psychology and Christianity 31, no. 2 (Summer 2012), pp. 178-79; retrieved 2012-12-28, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312154844_Review_of_Soulful_spirituality_becoming_fully_alive_and_deeply_human.
  32. ^ David G. Benner, "Toward a Psychology of Spirituality: Implications for personality and psychotherapy", Journal of Psychology and Christianity 5, no. 1 (1989), pp. 19-30, in Eleanor Marschke, Robert Preziosi, and William Harrington, "Professionals and Executives Support a Relationship Between Organizational Commitment and Spirituality in the Workplace", Journal of Business and Economics Research 7, no. 8 (August 2009), p. 36; retrieved 2013-03-17, http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/JBER/issue/view/250.
  33. ^ Donald Woodside, Joanna Santa Barbara, and David G. Benner, "Psychological trauma and social healing in Croatia", Medicine, Conflict and Survival: international medical concerns on global security issues 15, no. 4 (Oct.-Dec. 1999), pp. 355-67; retrieved 2013-08-05, https://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3ADavid+G+Benner .
  34. ^ Valerie E. Copping; Diane L. Warling; David G. Benner; Donald W. Woodside, A Child Trauma Treatment Pilot Study, Journal of Child and Family Studies 10, no. 4 (2001), pp. 467-75; database British Library Serials, retrieved 2013-04-21, https://www.worldcat.org/title/a-child-trauma-treatment-pilot-study/oclc/365364460 .
  35. ^ The 1985 Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and 1999 Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling and its later editions; retrieved 2013-08-15, https://www.alibris.com/search/books/isbn/9780801021008 .
  36. ^ WorldCat, author-name, retrieved 2013-08-05, https://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3ADavid+G+Benner .
  37. ^ Anthony W. Shelton, review of "Soulful Spirituality", Journal of Psychology and Christianity 31, no. 2 (Summer 2012), p. 178; retrieved 2012-12-28, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312154844_Review_of_Soulful_spirituality_becoming_fully_alive_and_deeply_human.
  38. ^ Updates to the psychology and counseling encyclopedia; new titles (2012, 2013 ); rev. ed., Strategic Pastoral Counseling; retrieved 2013-02-07, https://www.christianbook.com/strategic-pastoral-counseling-short-structured-model/david-benner/9780801026317/pd/26318
  39. ^ Author-name search, reader comments posted, Goodreads, retrieved 2013-02-14, https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=David+G+Benner&search_type=books.
  40. ^ https://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3ADavid+G+Benner .