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What Is Biblical Counseling?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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Biblical counseling refers to a method of therapy, in which the counselor refers to the lessons and principles in the Bible to offer advice to his or her clients. This may also be referred to as Christian counseling or nouthetic counseling. Some individuals who practice Biblical counseling also have doctoral degrees in psychology; others do not, and may be spiritual leaders of their own churches, or may simply decide to offer counseling services without any additional training. It is the responsibility of the individual undertaking this type of counseling to determine what he or she is comfortable with, and what qualifications he wishes the counselor to have.

Each individual who practices Biblical counseling may take a different approach, so it is impossible to describe a single set of parameters that will be found in all examples of this type of therapy. For some people, Biblical counseling may be similar to any other type of psychotherapy session. The counselor may just use examples from the Bible, or some of the basic principles of Christianity, to discuss certain behavior changes that should occur, and justify the reasoning behind these ideas. Others may approach it from a different angle entirely.

Some people offering Biblical counseling will base it around the concept of original sin; that it matters less what the client has done or is presently concerned about, and more that every person is born a sinner. The counseling will then attempt to address this again through various lessons and Biblical teachings. These individuals may be opposed to current approaches to psychological treatment, believing that these do not address the heart of the issue -- the sin, and the sinner -- and will therefore always be ineffective. This type of counseling is often more focused on helping the individual develop a better relationship with God, believing that it is this relationship that will lead to behavior change, not any direct effort on the part of the individual.

There are, of course, supporters and detractors on both sides of this issue, and it is up to the participants and the practitioners to determine whether or not they want to pursue this type of counseling, and whether it will work for them. Some people find that it is more helpful to them at certain points in their lives than others. Therapy sessions may be scheduled weekly, or every few days as needed, similar to any other type of counseling.

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