What is Biblical Counseling?

  1. The Ministry of Biblical Counseling: All believers are commanded to minister to other believers through the process of biblical discipleship (Matt 28:19-20), but occasionally there are those situations where accountability or more concentrated discipleship or counseling is needed for a season in a believer’s life. Biblical counselors study the Word of God, not only for their own growth and godliness, but also to be equipped to deal with a wide range of problems within the body of Christ, including broken relationships, problems in parenting, depression, anger, alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, fear, worry, bulimia and other eating issues and any number of other problems. (Col 1:28; Rom 15:14; Gal 6:1-3; 1 Thess 5:14; Heb 3:13).

Biblical counselors “are committed not only to help you overcome the current problem in your life but also to train you to live all your life in a manner that leads to increasing maturity in the Lord.”[1] Therefore, biblical counseling “is a ministry that teaches you to walk in God’s way”[2] even if you are suffering from circumstances out of your control or if you are the victim of someone else’s sin (Eph 4:1-3; Matt 28:19-20; 2 Tim 2:2). The goal of biblical counseling is not to “fix your feelings” or to find a scapegoat to blame, but to learn to live for God’s glory. As you learn to respond to your trials in a way that honors God, you will increasingly experience inner peace, joy and a sense of fulfillment (1 Pet 3:10-12; Ps 34:12-13; Gen 4:3-7; Jas 1:25).

The biblical counselor cannot change your circumstances but as he/she helps you to understand your circumstances from a biblical perspective, you will change as you learn to apply relevant biblical principles to your circumstances and increasingly become a “doer” of God’s Word and not a hearer only. Obedience is a place of blessing (Jas 1:22-25; 1 Jn 3:22; Eph 6:3; Heb 13:20-21).

  1. Sufficiency of Scripture: The Bible says about itself that it is “the only authoritative standard for faith and conduct for the believer.”[3] It also claims to be profitable for teaching Christians what is right, rebuking them for what is wrong in their lives, helping them to make necessary corrections and training them to put righteousness into practice in daily life so that the believer may be “complete” and “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17; Ps 19:7-11; 2 Pet 1:3). Man’s psychological theories are not needed for living the Christian life. In fact, man’s reasoning is generally opposed to God’s standards. True wisdom is hidden in Christ. The Bible is also sufficient to help people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses (1 Cor 1:18-25; Col 2:3-4, 20-23).
  2. The Biblical Counselor’s Training: The biblical counselor is “trained in the use of Scripture and its principles for biblical living.”[4] The counselor is committed to the position that the Scriptures are sufficient to help the Christian through any difficulty that he/she may face. A biblical counselor will often pursue a master’s degree in biblical counseling (MABC) and/or certification by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC), but this is not necessary to qualify a counselor. It is the on-going study and obedience to the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that equips a biblical counselor to help others (Matt 7:1-5, Rom 15:14).
  3. The Counselor/Counselee Relationship: Scripture teaches that men are to counsel men and women are to counsel women so when a situation arises where a male pastor is counseling a woman, there ought to be another woman or her husband involved in the counseling process (2 Tim 2:2; Titus 2:1-5). The counselor is, in no way, an ‘authority’ or above the counselee. He or she is a brother or sister in Christ; a sinner saved by grace, willing to come along side his/her brother or sister out of compassion and a desire to serve the Lord through helping other members of the family of God. The counselor battles sin and the effects of a fallen world just like the counselee.
  4. Finding Hope in the Midst of your Storm: “In Jesus Christ you have a great High Priest who has been tempted in all things, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-16). Even though currently you may be going through a difficult test, God has promised that He will not allow any trial in your life that is beyond your endurance. He has promised to provide a way of escape from sin so that you may be able to endure the problem (I Corinthians 10:13).  He will use every trial for your good as you respond to it in a biblical manner (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).”[5] Allow your counselor to take you down the road toward restoration and stability, which is rooted in Christ.
  5. Homework: To assist you in establishing your life on biblical practice, you will be given weekly homework assignments so that you can put into practice what you are learning in biblical counseling. You will learn biblical principles and practical ideas for putting them into practice in the sessions, but the bulk of your change and growth will take place during the week between sessions. When you are alone with the Holy Spirit completing your reading and writing assignments and as you apply what you are learning to your day-to-day activities throughout each week, you will experience genuine biblical change. Therefore, it is important that you get into the habit of working daily on your assignments rather than quickly completing them the night before the next session.
  6. Length of Counseling: Normally, the weekly meetings will last 60 or 90 minutes, depending upon the counselor’s preference, “the nature of the problem and on your response to the Word of God.”[6] The number of regular counseling meetings will vary from one counselee to another. An average is about 12-16 sessions. It is important that you make the most of your opportunities to meet with your counselor. If you go to your sessions with incomplete homework or an unwillingness to learn and change or if you miss sessions or are late for sessions, this will extend your counselor’s commitment to you, prolonging the wait for those behind you.
  7. Involvement in the Church: “In order to achieve lasting victory over the problems of life, it is vital that each person become established in a consistent Christian walk. The Lord has provided other believers to help in this process (Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25).”[7]  Therefore, it is important that biblical counseling be accompanied by regular worship and fellowship with a goal toward serving within the local body of Christ.
  8. Materials Needed: You will need your Bible, a notebook designated for counseling and a pen at all meetings. A three-ring binder with separate sections for session notes, homework assignments and handouts from your counselor is an efficient way to organize your counseling notes. Be sure to bring them to each session. “Come with high expectations.”  You will receive hope, comfort, encouragement and direction for living from God’s Word.  “As you respond God’s way, you will find trustworthy and biblical answers for the difficulty that prompted you to ask for help.”[8]
  9. Expectations: Because effective counseling “requires consistency and faithfulness in your applying God’s principles, it is important that you reserve the designated time for the regular meetings, barring unforeseen circumstances (based on Luke 14:27-30; I Timothy 4:7).” In addition to faithful attendance to counseling sessions, you will be expected to attend Sunday worship regularly. You will also need to approach each session with a willingness to grow and change and in order to insure genuine change, it will be necessary for you to complete all homework assignments each week.

Additionally, your counselor will expect you to refrain from receiving counsel from anyone else throughout the duration of your counseling. This means that you should attend the church & hear the sermons recommended only by your counselor. It means that you should refrain from attending any other type of counseling or seeking informal counsel from friends and family. It also means that you should only be reading those resources recommended by your counselor. This exclusivity is for the sake of preventing confusion that can delay or short-circuit your growth.

“Biblical counselors are theologians. We look for patterns in Scripture, we notice patterns in people, and we bring those two together. And there are even times when the emergence of a clear pattern in Scripture, spoken at the right time to another person, is enough to make us aware that we are standing on holy ground — a place where God spoke and someone responded.” [9]                ~ Ed Welch

[1] Biblical Counseling Foundation, Handbook For the Ministry of Biblical Discipleship/Counseling (Palm Desert, CA, 2002), 165.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Handbook, 165.

[5] Ibid, 166.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Handbook, 166-167.

[8] Ibid, 167.

[9] Welch, Ed. “Counseling is Theological,” CCEF Magazine (2016 ed.), pg. 11.