Christian counseling

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Christian counseling is pastoral counseling that draws upon psychology and Christian; practitioners approach psychology through the lens of the Bible.[third-party source needed][1]


Christian Counseling began in the end of the 1960s leading into the 1970s with the Biblical Counseling Movement directed by Jay E. Adams which brought to attention in his book Competent to Counsel a Christian-based approach which was different from the psychological and psychiatric solutions of the time. He was a devout Protestant who believed that it was the job of the church to heal people who he believed were morally corrupt, but labeled by society as mentally ill. He rejected other models of counseling, such as the Medical model, which gave clients a medical diagnosis based on a list of their behaviors or actions. Adams believed the lists of maladaptive behaviors listed under each diagnostic category, were actually behaviors emanating from our volitional nature, rather than an illness we were suffering from. Maladaptive behaviors are a matter of sin and therefore subject to confrontation and education in God's word, exhorting the client to choose behavior that is obedient to God's word, thus removing the sin in their life. Adams' disagreed with any attempt to reclassify our behavior that removed us from complete responsibility for our choices.

Adams gained converts but also lost popularity among people as well.[clarification needed] [2] Adam's model of Nouthetic counseling identifies many scriptures that a counselor may use to exhort clients to change their behavior and come into obedience and away from sin. The term "Nouthetic" is derived from the Greek word "noutheteo", meaning "to admonish". Critics however point out the complexity of God's creation and that telling an anorexic to eat because starving themselves is a sin, is not likely to be an effective method of treatment for eating disorders, nor many other issues clients present with that have intermingled bio-psycho-social-cultural origins as identified in scientific research.

Prior to this movement, counseling had become something more secular and not associated with the church. People such as Charles Darwin, who questioned the book of Genesis and how life began in his book Origin of Species published in 1859. This caused panic in the church because it called into question everything that the church believed at the time. Following in that direction, Later Wilhelm Wundt, a main contributor to the scientific method, introduced it to psychology and claimed that one's biological makeup was the reason why humans are the way they are. He was one of the main drivers behind psychology being looked at in the scientific realm. In addition to Wundt, Sigmund Freud believed that the church had failed to counsel in the correct way, so he came up with psychotherapy, "the talking therapy", apart from the church. These were driving factors behind why the responsibility of counseling was moved away from the church and began to be secularized. The Church began to fall behind the ever-changing scientific field that seemed to blossom quickly. When Adams did come along he brought the attention back to the church but his influence faded in the 1980s only to be continued by David Powlison. Powlison converted to Christianity in his adult life publishing a journal, Journal of Biblical Counseling that made his beliefs known and was extremely influential in this movement.[citation needed] Because of his work, biblical counselors reflected on their movement and began to seek ways that it could improve which had never really been called to question before. His aim was to advance what had already been started by Adams. [3]

Integration with psychology[edit]

Efforts to combine counseling, psychotherapy or other scientific or academic endeavors with Christian or other religious perspectives or approaches are sometimes called "integration." Integration of academic subjects with theology has a long history in academia and continues in many colleges and universities that have continued their founding religious underpinnings. [4] There are multiple kinds of integration, as it has been defined differently over the years. The way in which Christianity has been integrated with psychology thus far is by considering the ways in which psychology and the bible agree and not integrating the teachings of psychology that don’t agree with the bible. While this tactic is still in progress and continuing to be looked at, there have been significant efforts to try and integrate the two. Two men Stanton Jones and Richard Buteman came up with a list of three different methods on how to integrate psychology and the Christian faith. The methods are called Pragmatic eclecticism, Metatheoretical eclecticism, and Theoretical integration. The first method, pragmatic eclecticism, looks at the best solutions for resolving patients' problems based on previous research comparing different methods that have been used. The second method is concerned with the effectiveness of the counselor and looks at the tactics they are using that are beneficial and those that are not. The third method takes theories that are previously existing and makes that the baseline from which further research can build upon. [5] What all integrators of Christianity and Psychology do believe as underlying truth is that all truth is God's truth.[6]

Principles of Christian Counseling[edit]

Christian counseling focuses on a few main principles that are different from traditional counseling. It focuses on the care of the whole person, body,soul and spirit[clarification needed] as it is also sometimes named "soul-care", and maintains the values taught in the bible. The aim of Christian counseling is to help people regain a sense of hope for their life that is found in Jesus Christ. Faith-based counseling has been increasingly sought after in recent years.[citation needed] When people seek counseling, people are open to the idea of having their lives transformed and changed in a positive way.[neutrality is disputed] People are searching for answers in the midst of pain and suffering that is experienced in life and to obtain meaning for their life.[neutrality is disputed] Christian counseling believes that at the core of what they do is to help others achieve a better understanding of themselves and God which is rooted in the Holy Spirit's conviction. People become aware of the sin in their lives that has caused them suffering but also come to know the immense worth and value they have as a person to God.[7]


Jay E. Adams published Competent to Counsel in 1970, criticizing the influence of psychology throughout Christian counseling. He began the Nouthetic counseling movement which teaches that the Bible alone is sufficient for all counseling.[8] While Nouethic counseling is strictly based on the biblical scriptures and the power of the holy spirit separate from any psychological implementations, Christian counseling tries to implement psychology and Christianity still keeping God and biblical truths in the picture. While they do not take psychology as the absolute answer or solution to problems that people face, rather it is used as a tool in unity with Christianity to help people have a deeper understanding of themselves and God. Therefore, Christian Counseling should not be thought of in opposition to psychology but as complementary, it is not a competing religion. Though some Christians do reject the teachings of science completely, others think that they shouldn’t have to be separate and that they can be integrated together. Christian Counseling aims to do just that.[9]


  1. ^ Lelek, Jeremy. "Biblical Counseling Defined". Association of Biblical Counselors. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Powlison, David (2010). The Biblical Counseling Movement. Greensboro: New Growth Press. ISBN 978-1-935273-13-4. 
  3. ^ Lambert, Heath (2012). The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams. Crossway. pp. 30–33. ISBN 978-1-4335-2813-2. 
  4. ^ Stevenson, Daryl H.; Eck, Brian E; Hill, Peter C (2007). Psychology & Christianity integration: Seminal works that shaped the movement. Batavia, IL: Christian Association for Psychological Studies. ISBN 978-0-9792237-0-9. 
  5. ^ Jones, Stanton; Buteman, Richard. "Modern psychotherapies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal". InterVarsity Press. 
  6. ^ Stevenson, Daryl; Ick, Brian; Hill, Peter (2007). Psychology & Christianity Integration: Seminal Works that Shaped the Movement. Batavia, Illinois: Christian Association for Psychological Studies. ISBN 978-0-9792237-0-9. 
  7. ^ Clinton, Timothy; Ohlschlager, George (1984). Competent Christian Counseling. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Waterbrook Press. ISBN 978-1-57856-517-7. 
  8. ^ "History", About, NANC .
  9. ^ Wallace, Ken. "Integrating Psychology and Christianity". Integrating Psychology and Christianity. Retrieved 4 December 2014. [unreliable source?]

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