Biblical or Christian Counseling?

Counseling is designed to minister to our souls. It is a conversation where one party with questions, problems and trouble seeks assistance from someone they believe has answers, solutions and help.

Counseling requires some vision of life. The way the counselor looks at life, the creation, the purpose of mankind, the existence of the soul and morality determines the way he or she counsels. The way you look at the major questions in life is rooted in your religion, theology or the absence thereof. It creates the foundation of your counseling.

A lot of the current problems with which people go see a counselor, psychologist or psychotherapist are ego-centric in nature: self-image, co-dependency, emotional abuse, mid-life crisis, lack of purpose, self-worth, etc.. The way you look at life defines the way you deal with these problems.

Secular and Integrative Christian Counseling

Integrative Christian counseling is a faith-based, combined approach to secular psychotherapy that brings together different elements of specific therapies. Integrative therapists take the view that there is no single approach that can treat each client in all situations.

Secular psychology and psychotherapy is based on Freuds theory on life. Freud was a humanist and said that psychology was a substitute for religion. He defined the human soul and human behavior in a secular, humanistic, rationalistic and atheistic way. Integrative Christian psychology and psychiatry consists therefore of often contradicting theories about the human condition.

Psychological theories

A psychological theory has two key components: It must describe a behavior and it must make predictions about future behaviors. A theory is used to provide a model for understanding human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

  • Behavioral Theories: focus on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning
  • Cognitive Theories: focus on internal states, such as motivation, problem-solving, decision-making, thinking, and attention.
  • Developmental Theories: focuses on what motivates human growth, development, thoughts and learning
  • Humanistic Theories: focus on the basic goodness of human beings, self-actualization and development of self.
  • Personality Theories: focus on patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that make a person unique.
  • Social Psychology Theories: focus on social behavior and social phenomena (f.e. group behavior, prosocial behavior, social influence, love, etc.)

Wikipedia shows a list of 165 psychological, often contradicting theories. Each theory has its own way of explaining people’s behavior and solving their problems.

Every secular, integrative counselor and/or therapist picks and chooses his own unique blend of theories on which he build his counseling interventions. There is no clear right or wrong and each approach is highly subjective.

Psychological Ideas & Solutions

Modern, secular psychology often holds the following ideas regarding men’s problems and solutions:

  • Human nature is basically good
  • The key to understanding and correcting a person’s attitudes and actions lies somewhere in that person’s past.
  • Individuals problems can be purely psychological in nature, unrelated to any spiritual or physical condition
  • Deep-seated problems can be solved only by therapy

In secular counseling and psychology the solution for most problems must be found within the counselees: their own source of energy, their own truth, their own morality and according to their own idea of God. Most of the time, this results in superficial solutions and behavioral modification, but not in real solutions to anyone’s spiritual problems.

The desired end-result of secular counseling is related to the improvement of ‘self’, for example: more self-love and more self-esteem. 

Biblical counseling

Biblical counselors hold the following ideas regarding men’s problems and solutions:

  • God is at the center of our life
  • Sin in all it’s dimensions is the primary problem in people’s lives
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer
  • The desired and Biblical change process is progressive sanctification
  • The situational difficulties operate within the sovereign design of God
  • The Holy Spirit can change people overnight

(Christian) psychologists or counselors often think that Scripture, prayer and the Holy Spirit are insufficient for solving certain types of problems. Biblical counselors see the Word of God as complete, sufficient and infallible, and able to deal with every life situation.

Biblical counselors look at the external source of truth and wisdom, Jesus Christ. He is central for dealing with all problems. They acknowledges that people need the Holy Spirit to bring forth progressive sanctification and healing of the heart. This results in changed feelings, changed thoughts and changed attitudes.

… who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases’ (Psalm 103:3)

Physical causes?

Some mental illnesses and depression have physical causes. When a client suffers from symptoms that are pointing towards these illnesses, it’s entirely appropriate to do a thorough physical, medical examination. When people suffered from severe trauma or addiction It can also be wise to seek help through specific therapies or medical treatment. However, those are not common problems, so we should not take them as an example for whether or not Biblical Counseling is sufficient. In almost all cases of human suffering there are also spiritual problems that need to be addressed.