When Hearts Become Flame

An Eastern Orthodox Approach to the διά-Λογος of Pastoral Counseling


by Stephen Muse


Paperback (January 2011)

ISBN: 978-1-933275-48-2

Price: $19.95 + S&H (USD)


Hardcover (January 2011)

ISBN: 978-1-933275-49-9

Price: $28.95 + S&H (USD)


When Hearts Become Flame takes its point of departure and return from reflection on the question, "What Makes Counseling Pastoral?" to show that it involves participation of all three aspects of our human nature in dialogue with others in such a way that as in Emmaus, Christ, the Logos, appears 'between' us. It is not enough to be emotionally warm or conceptually accurate or physically energetic. The human person is an integrated presence of all three turned toward trialogue with God, self and others. Taking my cues from Jesus' formulation of the heart of the law, it is clear that an Orthodox approach to pastoral care and counseling cannot be focused solely on the intrapsychic and individual person. Nor can social justice proceed cut off from the wellspring of contemplative life in Christ, as Thomas Merton observed, without burning out or becoming the evil that we fight against. There is both a private inner discernment and ascetical struggle in dialogue with God and an existential and communal outward dimension which involves fellowship in confronting justice issues in society that contribute to the sickness and wellbeing of people. These two domains must be considered together as mutually influencing one another in a circular causality. Given the burgeoning field of counseling and psychotherapy and the growing interest in its spiritual dimensions, the time is ripe for interdisciplinary Orthodox dialogue between priests and practitioners, monastics, theologians and scientists as well as with mental health professionals outside Orthodoxy. The fi eld of pastoral counseling has been largely Protestants and Roman Catholics, who, since the founding of AAPC, have contributed half a century's worth of valuable reflections on the integration of theology and psychology in service to suff ering persons. There is a great deal we can share with one another to know Christ more fully and learn how to serve better and celebrate human potential when it is in co-creative partnership with God to help alleviate human suffering.



With painstaking accountability to the great Tradition of the Eastern Church as well as to the discipline of psychology, Dr. Stephen Muse takes an apophatic "leap" of faith, offering through his "altar of the heart" a life-giving synergy of doxology, collaborative wisdom, earthiness and personal  encounter while witnessing to the love of the living Lord. This book is a must read for Orthodox Christians and others who are interested in learning and experiencing the "phronema" and "synedesis" of pastoral counseling from a contemporary Eastern Christian perspective.  This is a joy to read and read again.

— Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald, M.Div., Ph.D., Adjunct Professor in Theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, co-author, Living the Beatitudes: Perspectives from Orthodox Spirituality, editor, Encountering Women of Faith: The St. Catherine's Vision Collection, vols. 1 & 2


This very important and timely offering of an Eastern Orthodox approach to pastoral care and counseling opens the spiritual and psychological depth of the caregivers' vocational world and does not allow the reader to relax or to stay indifferent. The author's experience and ideas make your brain think, your soul pray, your eyes cry, your ears listen to the heart and your heart love God and people. Psychotherapists, clergy and other caregivers whose work is "a way of prayer" needed such a book long ago. It's a precious gift. May God hold in the Palm of His hand all caregivers, one of whom is the author Stephen Muse.

— Tatiana Filipieva, Ph.D, psychologist, St. Sergius Orthodox Theological School, Moscow, Russia


Stephen Muse draws from the philosophical, theological, spiritual and mystical treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy as he reflects on his ministry of pastoral counseling. Each chapter is simultaneously thoughtful, inviting, compelling, passionate and intriguing as the reader is drawn into the personal vision of a deeply human teacher who humbly shares his humanity as he offers insight into his experience of the holy  in his pastoral counseling ministry. A master teacher, Dr. Muse artfully draws from theologians, philosophers, psychologists and the spiritual masters of Eastern Orthodoxy as he personally encounters clients in their struggle  towards wholeness. When Hearts Become Flame is a uniquely rich resource for counselors and pastors who seek a holistic understanding of counseling & psychotherapy which includes the spiritual and religious dimension.

— Barry K. Estadt, Ph.D, psychologist, Professor Emeritus, Loyola University of Maryland, Co-editor of Pastoral Counseling and The Art of Clinical Supervision: A Pastoral Counseling Perspective


Eastern Orthodoxy as a mere institution can spawn what most religions spawn. Concerns about administrative power and prerogatives, vicious gossip, cultism, religious platitudes, and fundamentalistic theological trivialities. Orthodoxy as the genuine philosophy of life in Christ leads the human person to re-creation, restoration, the healing of sin and its spiritual and psychological consequences, and deification by union with Christ. In this collection of his writings, Dr. Muse adds to our increasing understanding of the psychological dimensions of the Orthodox way of life and the emerging practice of so-called Orthodox psychotherapy among mental health professionals and pastors. I commend him for these significant contributions to this new and important field.

— Archbishop Chrysostomos, former Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality, U.S. Library of Congress and author of A Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy


The humble acknowledgement that healing is not primarily "technical" so much as relational and the "Trialogue" model of Pastoral Counseling, argued for by Dr. Muse, are potent enough to set 'hearts aflame', towards humility and healing. This optimally relevant book is sure to attract wide readership, not just in Orthodox Circles, but in other Churches and religions as well, in our generation where persons are "malnourished by an impoverished civil religion." In India especially, where the individual is acknowledged as a spiritual entity, who is identified with the Transcendent at the height of enlightenment, this innovative work is most welcome.

— Metropolitan Dr. Yakob Mar Irenaios, Malankara Orthodox Church, India


Taking the presence of God in pastoral counseling as seriously as Dr. Wayne Oates did in his book with that title, Dr. Stephen Muse invites pastoral counselors to fully experience God's companionship. He poetically describes the journey of disciplined listening to social context, self, client, and God which transforms both the client and the counselor to love more fully and freely. Speaking with honesty and vulnerability, Muse reflects about social justice issues and personal shortcomings that make the journey difficult. He offers resources to address the difficulties from his life experience, his deep reflections about the pastoral counseling encounter, his mysticism, and his Eastern Orthodox faith. These resources can make the journey rewarding. Indeed, if we listen, they can set our hearts into flame.

— Denise Massey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, McAfee School of Theology


When Hearts Become Flame is a very valuable addition to the paucity of literature on psychotherapeutic encounter in which the author tries to describe and reveal the psychotherapeutic meeting as communion in Christ. The question "What makes counseling pastoral? (or what makes psychotherapy Christian)? "is solved here not technically, but by placing psychotherapy in an entirely different context of thinking about life. The main and decisive thrust here is understanding the therapist's work as service to neighbor, which places a very high demand on the therapist's personality. Also important is his personal experience, especially his experience of life in the Church and the experience of working on his own soul. But most important is his readiness for change himself, seeing each patient as another chance for salvation sent to him by God. All this is fully inherent in the author of the book and is revealed in its content.

— Elena Zagorodnaya, Editor, Moscow Journal of Psychotherapy (Russia)


Dr. Muse shares insight and wisdom gained over the course of his life's journey as a pastor and psychotherapist trying to follow the Light wherever He leads. Some profound and very useful insights are found within these pages.

— Dr. Albert Rossi, Psychologist, St. Vladimir's Seminary


When Hearts Become Flame invites those unfamiliar with the ancient healing traditions of the Christian East and how these are lived out in the modern context of pastoral counseling, into the depths where science and faith are not at odds, and the Christian tradition of healing is supported by contemporary theories of mental health. Using part travel log, part private journal, and part textbook, the reader is invited to encounter the author as one who offers himself to his clients, his students and to the broader community. It is through this self-offering that he witnesses to the nature of pastoral counseling as a trialogue between God, counselor, and client. In this way, the book reflects and reveals the work of a pastoral counselor prepared to encounter the person of the client: prepared to hear and discover rather than diagnose and treat. The only logical way to teach what he does is to share who he is, and in so doing, he invites each of us to share who we are as we minister to those we serve.

— Philip Mammalakis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology


Stephen Muse has written an important book on pastoral counseling from the perspective of Eastern Orthodox theology. One of his key ideas is engaging in healing work with an intense awareness of the presence of God and the image of God in Self and Other. Spiritual seekers from various traditions will learn from Muse's insights.

— James Newton Poling, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, author of Deliver Us from Evil: Resisting Racial and Gender Oppression, and Render unto God: Economic Vulnerability, Family Violence and Pastoral Theology


I am a pastoral counselor (Army Chaplain) and this book has been extremely helpful in providing practical direction for counseling sessions as well as guiding my own personal reflection on the work I do. [Read the rest of this review on Amazon.com]

— Buddy Hammill



Stephen Muse, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, B.C.E.T.S is Co-Director responsible for the Pastoral Counselor Training program and Clinical Services for the D.A & Elizabeth Turner Ministry Resource Center of the Pastoral Institute, Inc. in Columbus, Georgia and teaches and supervises in the U.S. Army Family Life Chaplain Training program at Fort Benning. He has served as a part time instructor in the graduate counseling program of Columbus State University, as a clinical field supervisor for Auburn University counseling psychology program and as adjunct faculty with the doctoral programs of Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Illinois and Union Graduate Institute in Ohio.

Dr. Muse has taught and led professional workshops throughout the U.S. and Internationally in the civilian sector as well as for the U.S. Army Chaplains in the areas of his specialties which include healing combat trauma & abuse, training clergy as pastoral counselors, stress and burn-out of clergy and helping professionals, Orthodox Christian life and spiritual formation, and Orthodox Christianity and marriage.

He has contributed chapters in eight books and more than 30 articles, book reviews and poetry for professional journals and trade magazines, including national award winning research in the area of religious integration and clinical empathy of therapists. His work has been translated into Russian, Greek, Swedish and Serbian. He served as Managing Editor of The Pastoral Forum from 1993 to 2002. Previous books include Beside Still Waters: Restoring the Souls of Shepherds in the Market Place (2000); Raising Lazarus: Integral Healing in Orthodox Christianity (2004), and When Hearts Become Flame: An Eastern Orthodox Approach to the ??????-?????????? of Pastoral Counseling (2010).

Dr. Muse holds a bachelors degree in philosophy from Davidson College, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary emphasizing Greek New Testament exegesis and early church spirituality, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Loyola University of Maryland in Pastoral Counseling and has completed post graduate work in marriage and family studies through the University of Georgia. He holds Diplomate certification in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors; in Professional Psychotherapy with the International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling and Psychotherapy, and is an AAMFT Approved supervisor, Board certified in Traumatic Stress and in clinical hypnotherapy. He is licensed in the state of Georgia as both a Professional Counselor and a Marriage and Family Therapist and board certified as a life and clergy coach.

Prior to his reception into the Greek Orthodox Church where he is ordained as a Subdeacon and set apart for ministry as a pastoral counselor, Dr. Muse pastored a Presbyterian congregation for 11 years and helped begin an outpatient psychiatric clinic in Delta, PA. He is past president of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion and a founding member and first parish council President of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Mission Church in Columbus. He and his wife Claudia have four children: a daughter killed in 1982, a daughter 34, a son 30, a daughter 29 and a grand-daughter, 5 with another on the way.

Dr. Muse can be contacted at smuse@pilink.org.