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Posts tagged ‘biblical counseling’

Why We Must Never Forget Even When We Do Forgive

SOURCE:  LeslieVernick.com

 
Biblical counselors are also guilty of using these same phrases with their counselee’s usually when the one who has been sinned against feels stuck and is unable or unwilling to be silenced and continues to bring up past offenses or hurts in the counseling session.

Working for over 30 years with couples attempting to recover from serious marital sin, I have often heard one of them say, “Why can’t you just forgive and forget?” or “You’re holding onto the past?  Can’t we start with a clean slate?” or, “God says that we’re to forget the former things. Each day is a fresh start.”

There is a time for putting the past in the past, but doing so doesn’t mean forgetting the past, it means healing from it.  We must never forget the past because…

1. The past is instructive.  The past reminds both sinner and sinned against that sin is always painful and destructive to someone.  Remembering helps both of them stay aware that they never want to return to where they’ve been.  It also keeps them stay vigilant so they won’t slide back into the old habit patterns that created the problem in the first place.

Tom, one of my clients, reminds himself every day that he is an alcoholic. To forget would mean disaster. One wrong decision could wreak havoc on his entire present life that he has worked so hard to rebuild.  He attends weekly meetings and joined a men’s discipleship group where he remembers what it was like to be lost, drunk, hopeless and helpless and what it feels like to be rescued by Christ.  He never wants to go back to his old life.   Remembering he’s an alcoholic as well as a new creation in Christ, helps him know what to do when the lure for just one drink sings her deceitful song.

2. The past is often still the present.  John swears he’ll never hit Sally again and feels insulted that she won’t let go of her “irrational fear”.  He wants her to reconcile and trust him again.  It’s true that John has not hit Sally for over eight months.  But John continues to demonstrate attitudes and actions that are rude, selfish, and inconsiderate.  He is consistently unable to empathize with Sally’s feelings, and unwilling to hear her dissent.

John has not allowed his past to instruct him (about himself) but Sally has learned something from it. John may have learned not hit her again (due to his fear of legal consequences), but Sally knows John’s heart has not changed.  He continues to minimize his offenses, refuses to follow the counselor’s treatment plan, and is still ruled by his own desires rather than by Christ.  Sally can’t and shouldn’t forget the past because if she chooses to stay with John (or is told by her counselor she must), their past as a couple will continue to be her present reality.

John demonstrates no new history (fruit of repentance) to give Sally any other data points in which to rebuild safety or trust. To trust his words when his behaviors don’t match them is foolishness, not godliness.

3. Forgetting the past could put you and others in continued danger. Recently the media has been covering a story chastising the silence of the church leadership at Covenant Life Church, and former pastor Grant Layman, because they did not report allegations of rape and sexual abuse and withheld incriminating information from the police.

We are not privy to all of the details of this case but for whatever reasons, whether to protect the church’s reputation from ugly scandal or a misapplication of Biblical forgiveness and forgetting, they closed their eyes and allowed other children in their congregation to be vulnerable to a sexual predator.

Sin always, always, always has negative consequences.  Sometime the consequences are short term but other times they are permanent.  I hope if someone molested one of your children, no matter how much he or she repented, I hope you would never allow him or her unsupervised contact with any of your children or anyone else’s children that you know. You may forgive him or her, but you must never forget.

When we as biblical counselors, encourage someone to forget, we are asking him or her to do the impossible.  God gave us our memory for a good purpose.

Remembering keeps us humble.  We need to be honest with ourselves. Remembering helps us stay alert to the places where we are weak and most vulnerable so that we invite wise people to help us change, as well as help us “see” ourselves more clearly (Hebrews 3:13).

Remembering keeps us vigilant to our blind spots so that we are less likely to repeat serious sin and trash our lives and hurt those who live with us.

Remembering keeps us wise, so we don’t become repeat victims or continue put others or ourselves in harm’s way.

As a biblical counselor, when a person guilty of a terrible or repetitive sin keeps pressuring his or her partner to forgive and forget, pay attention.  They are doing so because they are unwilling to do the hard work to learn from their mistakes. They are unwilling to be empathetic to the pain they’ve caused.  Rather, he wants to be free from the pain he feels and put it all behind him.  In addition, he is unwilling to be held accountable by his spouse and wise others, who know what’s going on, to call him into awareness when he is getting close to the edge of repeat destructive behavior.

Forgiveness does not mean or require forgetting. 

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This post was originally published on ChristianCounseling.com.

Focus on the Family: Homosexuality/Same-Sex Attraction Issues

SOURCE:   Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Counseling for Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions

In recent years, there has been a marked debate in the mental health professions about both the desirability and feasibility of attempts to alter a person’s homosexual orientation. Historically, such “change” was widely considered both desirable and possible.

More recently, however, an increasing number of mental health practitioners now believe that a homosexual orientation is an intrinsic part of a person’s identity that can not – and should not – be changed. It is in this largely politically driven context – in contrast to a more objectively scientific or even scriptural context – that many clinicians further hold that any and all therapy practices that have as their goal sexual orientation change are harmful and should be declared professionally unethical.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

 Cause for Concern (Same-Sex Counseling)

Many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome.

Bowing to the forces of political correctness, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1998 issued a position statement “rebuking” practices that are broadly referred to as “reparative therapy” for homosexuality. In 2000, the APA affirmed this opposition to psychiatric treatment of reparative or conversion therapy. 1Holding the view that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, their concern was with groups who were motivated by the view that homosexuality is morally wrong and harmful to society. While the 1998 statement said that there are risks to such therapies, no evidence was offered to support this claim.

What is evident, however, is that the American Psychiatric Association was simply agreeing with pro-homosexual activists and with the American Psychological Association, which had passed a similar, but broader, resolution in 1997. Here, the American Psychological Association claimed that treatment for unwanted homosexual behavior is harmful, unethical and unsuccessful. 2Of note, this resolution also supports the client’s right to self-determination and autonomy – calling for psychologists to “respect the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from their own.” Clearly, this would include religious beliefs upholding the biblical view that God’s created intent for sexual expression is limited to a monogamous, covenantal marriage relationship between one man and one woman.

Significantly, both groups ignored the fact that many individuals who experience same-sex attractions are dissatisfied with the situation and seek professional help in aligning their thoughts and behaviors with their convictions and faith. In short, many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome. And as they seek pastoral and professional psychological counseling, they find that change and transformation are, indeed, possible.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies) POSITION STATEMENT, May 2000,http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200001a.aspx, August 20, 2008.

2Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, APA online, 14 August 1997, http://www.apa.org/pi/sexual.html , August 20, 2008.

Our Position (Same-Sex Counseling)

Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image.
  • Focus on the Family is dedicated to defending the honor, dignity and value of the two sexes as created in God’s image – intentionally male and female – each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationships.
  • Sexuality is a glorious gift from God – meant to be offered back to Him either in marriage for procreation, union and mutual delight or in celibacy for undivided devotion to Christ. 1
  • Homosexual behavior violates God’s intentional design for gender and sexuality.
  • While we do not believe an individual typically “chooses” his or her same sex-attractions, we do believe that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex sexual temptation can choose to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.
  • We affirm the Scriptural teaching that homosexuals can and do change their sexual identity (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  • We support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior.
  • We do not endorse or promote any one particular religious, psychiatric or psychological approach as the “one and only” way to go about changing same-sex attractions and behaviors.
  • Just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. Thus, individuals and their helping professionals are called to discern and pursue the most appropriate approach that best enables them to steward their sexuality in alignment with their chosen values.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Focus on the Family Mission and Vision, The Pillars,http://www.family.org/sharedassets/correspondence/pdfs/GeneralInformation/FOF_Mission_Statement_and_Pillars.pdf, August 20, 2008

 Talking Points (Same-Sex Counseling)

 Both the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association call for practitioners to respect the religious and spiritual values of their clients and assert that clients have the right to autonomy and self determination. 1At the same time, however, both groups view the traditional biblical understanding on homosexuality with disdain and actively promote a sexual ethic opposing biblical orthodoxy. The American Psychiatric Association goes so far as to take sides in the theological debate by referencing pro-gay, biblically unorthodox, revisionist writers in its document. 2

  • The resolution by the American Psychological Association also calls into question parental rights to raise children according to their own standards – including those who encourage their children to follow a traditional biblical sexual ethic.
  • Research confirms that permanent change away from a homosexual orientation is, indeed, possible.
  • In 2007, Drs. Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse published a study confirming that long-term change away from homosexual orientation can occur through religious mediation. At the end of three years, 67 percent of men and women who had undergone group discussions, individual counseling, journaling, Scripture reading and prayer either reported a change towards heterosexual orientation or a rejection of gay identity with establishment of successful chastity, or were continuing work towards one of those two goals based on the progress they had already experienced.3
  • In 2003, pro-gay Dr. Robert Spitzer published his study of 200 men and women who had reported some change “from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least five years.” He found that “almost all of the participants reported substantial changes in the core aspects (of) sexual orientation, not merely overt behavior.” 4
  • A major study, released in 1997, of almost 860 individuals and more than 200 psychologists and therapists who treated clients with same-sex attractions, reported that a large number had moved away from homosexual attractions, identity and behavior. 5
  • There is no valid or replicable research demonstrating the inevitability of homosexual behavior based on biological or genetic circumstances. 6
  • Not only does research confirm that permanent change is possible, but numerous testimonies declare the truth of God’s healing and redemptive power – both with and without the assistance of those in the psychiatric and psychological professions. The Apostle Paul noted the reality of change for some members of the early church in Corinth, and men and women continue to find freedom from homosexuality today. 7
  • While the process of changing one’s sexual identity is often a long and difficult journey, it is nevertheless possible for highly motivated individuals.
  • In contrast to the claims of both APAs, competent religiously mediated counseling for unwanted same-sex attraction was found not to be harmful on average, and hence the change attempt is not inherently harmful. 8
  • In America, individuals are blessed with the freedom to choose how they define themselves and to steward their sexuality as they see fit. If people want to change their sexual identity, it is their right to choose.
  • The American Psychiatric Association’s “rebuke” in 1998 of “reparative therapy” and the resolution adopted by the American Psychological Association are not – nor have they ever been – official ethical bans on therapeutic approaches to bring behavior, attractions, and identity in line with a person’s values. Individuals continue to have a right to choose counseling and therapy to help align their thoughts and behavior with their convictions and faith.

Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


1Religious/Spiritual Commitments and Psychiatric Practice, RESOURCE DOCUMENT, December 2006,http://www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/ResourceDocuments/200604.aspx, August 20, 2008; Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, APA online, and http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/index.aspx, section heading ‘What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?” Here, the APA says “Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination;…”

2Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)
POSITION STATEMENT.

3Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press, 2007.

4Robert L. Spitzer, “Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct. 2003, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 403-417. See alsohttp://www.narth.com/docs/evidencefound.html.

5New Study Confirms Homosexuality Can Be Overcome, Findings Indicate that Those Who Want to Change Sexual Orientation Can Be Successful, May 17, 1997,http://www.narth.com/docs/study.html , August 20, 2008.

6Caleb H. Price, “Are People Really “Born Gay”? See http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/are-people-really-born-gay/

7I Corinthians 6:9-11; Personal Pageshttp://www.stonewallrevisited.com/, August 20, 2008; Real Stories, http://exodusinternational.org/resources/real-stories/, August 20, 2008.

8Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press, 2007.

SUFFERING: Not God’s Wrath, But A Loving and Holy Tool

SOURCE:  Jeremy Lelek

How the Mercy of God Flourishes in Suffering

Reality, to a large degree, is constructed subjectively through the processes of the mind.  ”Facts” are perceived, variables of that perception shape an interpretation, and these interpretations ultimately serve to shape a person’s experiential reality.  By no means does this diminish the fact that objective, absolute truth exists, but it is important to recognize that this process of perception, interpretation, and conclusion has a significant impact on the way people experience life.  Understanding this can have a profound impact on helping people walk through difficult seasons of suffering.

A fascinating example of this is seen in the book of Mark:

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.  And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace be still!’  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:37-41).

The disciples and Jesus were engulfed in an objectively shared experience, but subjectively, they each experienced this moment very differently.  The disciples were fearful and panicky while Jesus was relaxed to the point of sleep.  For the disciples, their perception seems pretty accurate:  “We’re in a raging storm, and in danger of going under.”  But their interpretation of the situation completely enslaved them to fear and dread.  From reading the account, their interpretation must have been something along these lines, “We’re in a horrible storm, and we’re going to die!”  Their seeming admonishment of Jesus reflects this, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38).  On the other hand, Jesus responded to the situation with complete power and authority.

What was the missing variable in the disciples’ interpretation of the situation?  It was faith.  Jesus rebuked them for this asking, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?” (v. 40).   The Creator of the cosmos sat in physical form with them on the boat, in the storm, but their lack of faith in him caused them to miss the amazing providential moment of mercy that was unfolding right before their eyes.  Jesus was there, and safety was imminent.

How does this translate into helping others who are going through difficulty and suffering?  Let’s consider two implications:

The Variable of the Gospel Forces a Reinterpretation of EVERYTHING

Typical responses to suffering tend to foster contempt for and doubt in God.  It is not unusual for me to hear statements (from Christians who are suffering) like:  “Why is God punishing me?”  “What did I do to deserve this from God?” Why is God abandoning me?”  “If God is such a good God, why is he allowing such evil in my life?”   “I am very angry with God.”  These responses expose a profound distortion in the flow of one’s perceptions, interpretations, and conclusions.  While the perception that life is difficult, even grueling demands enormous compassion from the counselor, the leap from this to the “God-is-against-me” type thinking demands extensive consideration.  For example, like the disciples, these responses assume God is either asleep or apathetic to the situation.

The interpretation is not simply that life is difficult, but that since it is difficult, God doesn’t care, or even worse, is working against them.  This myopic translation of reality completely expunges the “Gospel-at-work” dynamic from the person’s experience of suffering.  If we help them bring the Gospel variable into the scene, the nature of God, from careless and cruel, is transformed into the realization that He is actually amazing and merciful.  The person with the “God-is-against-me” mentality is going to have a very difficult time responding to suffering with humility and trust unless the light of truth is shed upon their experience in such a way that His mercy is meaningfully revealed.

The truth of the matter is that during moments or seasons of suffering, and particularly in the context of sinful responses to suffering, the Gospel is perpetually at work.  When accusations against God are being catapulted from the heart, waging war against Him, and when anger and doubt are the predominant themes as it concerns one’s attitude towards God, the finished work of the Cross is stunningly active.  Rather than being condemned for such responses, God ascribes to the one sinning the very righteousness of Jesus.  God actually treats the suffering saint (with a sinful attitude) as though he or she is responding with perfect obedience to and faith in God.  God examines all the doubt, anger, fear, and hostility directed at Him through the prism of the Gospel, and treats the individual as though he or she were responding with the very perfection of Jesus.  In essence, in our weakness and sinful responses, we act like the disciples in the boat, but are viewed by God as though we were responding with the perfection of Jesus. Even further, Jesus took upon himself our guilt as though He were the one responding without faith in a loving Father.

This realization of the Gospel in the midst of suffering forces a reinterpretation of the God of the Bible.  Suffering is no longer viewed as His divine lightening bolt intended to punish or curse the afflicted, but is understood as a divine context that is intended to radiate the glory of His love and mercy.  As this reality crystallizes in the heart, people’s view of God changes.  Where their Gospel-void interpretation once influenced their conclusion of God as the arbiter of pain as a means to justice, they now understand their pain as a means to understand His infinite grace resulting in the freedom to genuinely conclude He is truly a God that is good.  They realize His mercy flourishing through suffering in that they were desperate in their weakness for the imputed righteousness of Christ, and that God was eager to offer it as a means to magnify His infinite love for them as they endure life in a fallen world.  As such, the variable of the Gospel completely reinterprets the entire scene of the narrative elevating God as a compassionate Father of His own.  Furthermore, he is realized as a Person who demands absolute honor and obedience compelling the believer to repentance where sin has abounded in his or her response to suffering.

The Gospel is Committed to Actualizing Christ-Like Responses in Real-Time

Not only is the Gospel at work by imparting the righteousness of Jesus to the believer, the message of the Gospel is also about actually changing human hearts.  If we were to put this in modern, western terminology, the Gospel is about conforming believers to the image of Christ, therefore empowering them towards true psychological health; this psychological health not being conceptualized through a Western view of psychological health and research, but understood and determined by the very nature of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was emotionally, mentally, and spiritually perfect.  Therefore, he responded to suffering perfectly.  As believers are conformed to His image, these aspects of human nature are being radically healed and transformed.  Consider the words of James, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:24).  Here, James is touching the same theme as Jesus did with His disciples in the boat:  faith.  Suffering has a purpose, and that purpose is to create people of faith who are complete and lacking in nothing.  It is a means of healing by conforming people to the image of Jesus.  Basically, it is the trial that He uses as His instrument to equip believers in responding with a faith reflective of Jesus.

Can you imagine what life would be like if you or those you serve faced marital struggles, depression, anxiety, or illness with the faith of Christ?  It feels nearly inconceivable as to how this would change the experience we call life.  But this is God’s commitment to His own, and it is through suffering that He is mercifully accomplishing His work of healing and transformation in the hearts of believers.  Therefore, suffering should not be viewed as the wrath of God upon His children, but as the tool He uses to create beings who relate perfectly to Him in glory and honor.  It is a means to help Christians learn to live with their minds set on the things of the Spirit; something Paul taught would bring life and peace (Romans 8:6).

Suffering:  A Delicate Reality

As I write this blog, I recognize it barely touches the complexities of human suffering.  Therefore, as you consider what is written, avoid making these things into formulaic, emotionally insensitive methods for counseling.  The Gospel is rich, and effective for change.  However, we as counselors must always be eager to weep with those who weep, and resist any tendencies of scripting the process of redemption for those we serve.  Human change operates on the divine timetable of a sovereign God, and we must submit to His will as we walk with others.  Biblical truth brings freedom, but we must speak this truth in love with a keen sensitivity to the exterior and interior struggles that influence confusion about God and the human experience.  Even more, we understand that it is God who will bring ultimate understanding, freedom, and peace in the time He has allotted.  May we always humbly walk in light of this reality.

Biblical Counseling: What is it? Do I need it?

SOURCE:  Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC

People have a great many questions about what makes biblical counseling truly biblical. The purpose of these brief FAQs or Q/A paragraphs is to provide relevant, biblical answers to basic questions about biblical counseling.

1.   What is biblical counseling?

First, biblical counseling is not “beating people over the head with the Bible.” Nor is it saying, “take two verses and call me in the morning.” And it is not one-problem, one-verse, one-quick-solution.

While no one person can provide the final definition, here is a working definition of what makes biblical counseling truly biblical:

Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s inspired truth about people, problems, and solutions to human suffering (through the Christian soul care arts of sustaining and healing) and sin (through the Christian spiritual direction arts of reconciling and guiding) to empower people to exalt and enjoy God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40) by cultivating conformity to Christ and communion with Christ and the Body of Christ.

The rest of our FAQs will “flesh out” this definition.

2.   What is the difference between biblical counseling and secular counseling?

While there are hundreds of different secular approaches to counseling, they all have two central features in common. First, secular counseling depends upon human reason and research to answer life questions about people, problems, and solutions. Biblical counseling depends upon scriptural revelation to build a comprehensive, compassionate, culturally-informed approach to who we are, what went wrong, and how to solve the issues of the soul.

Second, secular counseling, especially in our post-modern age, assumes that there is no final answer, no all-encompassing story that explains the meaning of life. Biblical counseling, while appreciating our human limitations and understanding our cultural diversity, believes that in the Bible God has given us all that we need for life and godliness. The Bible provides real answers for real people with real problems.

3.   What can I expect to change when working with a biblical counselor?

A biblical counselor will work with you comprehensively. You can expect your counselor to assist you spiritually to know God better, socially to love others more effectively, and self-consciously to understand and apply who you are in Christ. Your biblical counselor will help you rationally to renew your mind in Christ so that you see your life, God, others, and yourself from an eternal perspective. Your biblical counselor will work with you volitionally so that you understand why you do what you do and so that you find Christ’s resurrection power to live victoriously. Your biblical counselor will engage you emotionally so that you learn to manage your moods, soothe your soul in your Savior, and help others with their emotions. Your biblical counselor will address who you are physically because the Bible teaches that we are a united body/soul being.

4.   How long does it take to see a change?

One current model of secular therapy is solution-focused brief therapy. As the title suggests, the goal is to spot a problem and as quickly as possible find a workable personal solution to that issue. If only life were so easy. Biblical counseling is soul-u-tion-focused therapy. It focuses you on working with God on matters of your soul: on heart issues.

Relationally (with God, others, and self), mentally, volitionally, and emotionally change can begin immediately if change means loving better, thinking more wisely, choosing/acting more unselfishly, and managing moods more effectively. However, soul change is a lifelong process of progressive sanctification:  little-by-little coming to live and love more and more like Jesus.

5.   What are the benefits of biblical counseling?

The benefits of biblical counseling relate to our definition of biblical counseling. Biblical counseling will help you to face your suffering face-to-face with God. While this side of heaven we may not find an end to suffering, we can find God and His perspective, purpose, and power in our suffering. Biblical counseling sustains you so you know that it’s normal to hurt, and it brings God’s healing to you so that you know that it’s possible to hope. You will experience soul care from your biblical counselor.

Biblical counseling will also help you to face your sin face-to-face with God. Instead of running, hiding, and covering up with layer upon layer of self-sufficiency (like Adam and Eve did), you will learn to “return home” like the prodigal son did. In returning home, your biblical counselor will help you to reconcile with God and others—repenting, asking forgiveness, and granting forgiveness. You will learn that it’s horrible to sin, but that it’s wonderful to be forgiven. In biblical counseling you will also find guidance so that you learn how to apply the truth that it’s supernatural to mature. You will experience spiritual direction from your biblical counselor.

6.   When should I consider biblical counseling?

Based upon our definition, we should all be engaged in on-going biblical counseling and spiritual friendship with one another. Biblical counseling is not just what we “do” for an hour with an “expert.” It is to be a natural part of our normal experience of Christian community.

However, the Bible does teach that there is special gifting and can be special training for a more focused ministry of biblical counseling. When should you consider making an appointment for focused biblical counseling? You should see a counselor when you sense that your relationships with God, others, and yourself are spiraling downward despite your best efforts. You should see a counselor when you recognize that your beliefs about life are colored by earthly perspectives and foolish judgments that you can’t seem to correct on your own. You should see a counselor when you find yourself yielding to purposes and actions that defy your core beliefs, but you can’t seem to change. You should see a counselor when you feel that you are less and less able to handle your emotions and manage your moods. In other words, you should see a biblical counselor when life’s suffering and your sin are overwhelming.

7.   Is talking to a biblical counselor different from talking to a close friend?

We began to answer this question in the previous question. Of course, it all depends upon the close friend, doesn’t it? If the close friend is a spiritual friend with biblical wisdom (content), Christlike love (character), relational power (competence), and knows how to connect deeply and honestly (community), then biblical counseling and talking to a close spiritual friend will be quite similar. In fact, a close friend is more readily available and more easily understands and empathizes with you.

A biblical counselor ought to be your spiritual friend who focuses all his or her energy on you to provide you with soul care for your suffering and offers you spiritual direction for your struggle against sin. Unlike your spiritual friend, the relationship is not “mutual.” You are equals, but you are not there to counsel your counselor. Your counselor uses his or her content, character, competence, and community to empower you to connect with Christ and the Body of Christ. It is more of a Paul-to-Timothy mentoring relationship than a David-and-Jonathan peer-to-peer relationship.

8.   What happens in a biblical counseling session? What can I expect in session?

To a large degree, that depends on you, your reasons for counseling, your counselor, and where you are in the counseling process (first meeting or last meeting, focused on hurts or focused on sin, etc.). Broadly speaking, you should expect a process of speaking the truth in love. That does not mean the biblical counselor preaches at you. It means that you engage in trialogues where you, your counselor, and the Divine Counselor seek to apply biblical wisdom to your life issues. You and your counselor will be involved in spiritual conversations where you think about life from a biblical perspective, and you will be involved in scriptural explorations where you discuss relevant applications of pertinent passages to your specific life situations and relationships.

You should expect your biblical counselor to empathize with your hurts, to encourage you with Christian hope, to exhort you with biblical truth that exposes heart issues, and to empower you with biblical principles that equip you to be a better lover of God and others. You should expect the “process” to be “real and raw.” Like the Apostle Paul, the biblical counselor will give you not only the Scriptures, but his or her own soul—caring and connecting deeply.

9.   Are there issues that I can try to address prior to counseling? If so, what steps can I take?

The very “step” of deciding to see a biblical counselor is a vital first step. It is an admission that you need others. This humble admission also automatically adds a new, powerful dimension to your situation—another person who cares and who can bring wisdom principles to your life issues.

Once you’ve made this step, you should continue to fellowship and worship with your church family. You should join a pertinent small group where you can talk honestly about your life. You should maintain your spiritual disciplines that connect you to Christ.

You also should state very clearly why you are coming to counseling. And you should be able to explain how you will know that counseling has been successful. What inner life goals are you pursuing?

By the way, once counseling begins, don’t think for a moment that the fifty minutes when you meet are the only time you “work.” You should be constantly applying to your life what you are learning when you are in counseling.

10. What can I do if I can’t afford biblical counseling?

One of the beautiful aspects of biblical counseling is that it often does not have a fee, especially if it is done in the context of a local church. However, some biblical counseling is done in a para-church or professional setting where fees must be charged so the counselor can make a living. In this situation, be honest with your counselor about your financial situation. Ask if there is a sliding scale fee structure. See if your insurance will cover counseling. Make a budget that prioritizes getting good counseling help. Ask your extended family for assistance. Seek help from your church family. There is always a way.

11. What is biblical marriage counseling?

In biblical marriage counseling, the purpose of counseling is God-focused—to help the couple to glorify God by enjoying one another and empowering one another to be more like Jesus. Yes, the counselor wants to help the couple to resolve conflicts, to communicate, to improve their sexual relationship. But if all that is done apart from the purpose of marriage, then it is simply creating more self-sufficient manipulators.

In biblical marriage counseling, the counselor helps the couple to identify and repent of spiritual heart issues that are leading them to selfishly manipulate (“You will meet my need!”) and retaliate (“If you hurt me, then I will hurt you!”). Problems in the home begin with problems in the heart. Once selfishness is faced, then biblical marriage counseling seeks to help the couple to work together toward the common goal of exalting God by enjoying and empowering one another to reflect Christ.

12. How do I know if I need biblical marriage counseling?

A couple should consider biblical marriage counseling when they find that their efforts to stop manipulating and retaliating are unsuccessful. When you find that selfishness rules, that you are not enjoying one another, that you are not empowering one another, and that you are not helping one another to grow in Christ, then it is time. Symptoms of these deeper heart issues include poor communication, inability to handle conflict, lack of sexual and relational intimacy, and unmanaged moods.

Biblical marriage counseling helps couples to understand God’s pattern for husband-wife relationships, diagnoses unbiblical patterns and their root causes, and prescribes God’s solutions for soul change that leads to relational growth. Biblical marriage counseling should result in enhanced relationship: closeness with Christ, intimacy with your spouse, and a sense of greater peace (shalom) in each person’s soul.

13. What is biblical family counseling?

In biblical family counseling, the focus is soul-u-tions, not simply external solutions. Your counselor will help you to understand God’s design for healthy family living, will assist you to assess unhealthy and unbiblical ways of relating as parents and children, and will equip you to reconcile and grow in your family relationships. The Bible presents at least five healthy keys to family living (dedication, discernment, devotion, discipline, and discipleship), identifies at least three common sinful family ways of relating (Pharisaical, neglectful, possessive), and prescribes how each of the types of families can return to healthy functioning.

14. How do I know that I need biblical family counseling?

When children are consistently dishonoring and distancing themselves from their parents, then family counseling is needed. When parents are consistently failing to balance devotion and discipline (holiness and love), then family counseling is needed. Biblical family counselors will help family members to understand and apply the principles of dedication to God, devotion to one another, discernment of biblical principles, discipline of heart foolishness, and discipleship toward heart wisdom.

As with marriage counseling, the end goal of family counseling is not simply the resolution of surface symptoms. The desire is increased honoring love from children to parents, and increased holy love from parents to children so that the family enjoys one another and empowers one another thus exalting God.

15. In marriage and family counseling, what if a spouse, parent, or child does not want counseling?

No one can force another person to open his or her heart to help. While a parent can “force” a child to attend counseling, the child still can choose whether or not to engage in the counseling process. While a spouse can “guilt” a spouse into going to marriage counseling, the spouse can still choose whether or not to receive counsel.

So what do you do? You pray for your desires and you work for your goals. In other words, pray that your spouse, child, or parent will go to counseling and be receptive. But leave that to God. Then work toward your goals—go to counseling even if you must go alone or work alone. Open yourself to God changing you—your relationships, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, goals, actions, behaviors, and emotional responses. Many times it is these very changes that God uses to soften the heart of other family members.

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