What to Expect from Biblical Counseling (part one)
My latest title, Biblical Counseling: What to Expect, was written to acquaint counselees with (and prepare them for) entering into the counseling process. This article (and the ones that follow) has been taken (or adapted) from that booklet.
True biblical counseling should reflect the Scriptures at every point (major and minor). That means that every bit of advice you get from your counselor, should have solid biblical support. At any point in the process, you may stop and ask him to explain the biblical basis for his counsel. (Of course, he will likely make every effort to explain the theology behind any direction he gives before you ask.)
It’s not that everything your counselor tells you will be based on a biblical directive (imperative / command), but there should be a firm biblical principle behind everything he or she says. You see, a problem cannot be solved biblically until it is diagnosed in biblical terms. Then, and only then, will your counselor be able to take you to those portions of Scripture that address the solution.
This series of articles (and the booklet from which they have been taken) has been written to introduce you to some of the key elements of the counseling process and to offer you hope that no matter what your problem, Jesus Christ has a solution. So let’s jump in and consider a couple of things you might anticipate as you take your journey down the path of biblical counseling.
You should expect to experience biblical love and compassion.
As the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy: “… the goal of our instruction is love, from a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB). A truly biblical counselor is not ultimately seeking his own gain (either by way of exorbitant fees or public acclaim). Rather, he reflects the heart of Jesus, who was moved with compassion to help those in need (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Luke 7:13). Jesus wept over sin and its consequences (Luke 19:41-42; John 11:34-38), as should all of us whose affections are aligned with His.
This type of biblical love and compassion also includes speaking the truth in love. Far from avoiding issues of sin, Jesus and the Apostles dealt directly and specifically with sin—sometimes in startling ways (see for example Matthew 16:23; Galatians 3:1ff). But clearly, the tenor of our Great Counselor’s ministry and that of His Apostles was one of compassion and love.
One of the ways your counselor will express these attitudes toward you is by taking your problems (and the misery associated with them) seriously. He will take you at your word, not assuming that he is the expert and you are naive—totally incapable of and unequipped to understand the exact nature of your problems without his expertise. Rather, he will express 1 Corinthians 13:7 love for you by believing the best about you (putting the best interpretation on the things you tell him until he has evidence to the contrary). This means you will have to be truthful with him, being careful not to conceal the necessary information he needs to make an accurate biblical diagnosis and to help you.
You should expect to receive a biblical interpretation of your problem.
Because your counselor is going to attempt to diagnose your problems biblically, (using biblical nomenclature: “And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words;” 1 Corinthians 2:13, Berean Study Bible), you may be presented with a different way of looking at them—especially if you have been to counselors who have been trained only in psychology.
For example, you will not find words such as “codependency,” “alcoholism,” “paranoia,” “OCD,” “passive aggressive” or even “nervous breakdown” in the Bible. God usually uses different language than man does to describe and categorize these and many other human behaviors. If we don’t recognize God’s way of understanding and classifying our problems, we will miss (be unable able to locate in the Bible) His solutions to those problems. Even His terminology for the non-material parts of man (the organs of the soul) are not the same as those typically found in secular psychology. Terms like “self-image,” “personality type,” “id,” “ego” and superego” lead people in the wrong direction when they try to pinpoint an accurate understanding of man and his problems.
Another benefit of using biblical language (especially if you have been a Christian for any length of time) is that you should be familiar with the diagnostic and therapeutic terms used by your counselor. And if you aren’t, your counselor will be able to help you understand them in language that not only makes sense, but that you can learn more about by studying your Bible.
In my next article, I will cover two or three more things for which you may look forward in the process of biblical counseling. If you would rather not wait until then, please secure your own copy of the booklet by clicking on one of the links below.