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Biblical Counseling: Nouthetic Counseling
I personally received an M.A. in counseling several years ago. The program it seemed at the time was aimed heavily at imparting the knowledge and expertise needed to gain state licensure. As a result the courses and texts were mainly composed of secular texts. Even the it was a Christian Seminary, I cannot remember in three years ever discussing how the Gifts of the Spirit can be brought and encouraged in counseling sessions.
In fact many of the theories that were discussed were not conducive to integrating Christian thought, let alone the Bible. The two I did like were: Dr. Jay Adams Nouthetic Counseling and Dr. Larry Crabb’s "Biblical Counseling." The approach of the counselor is very strongly governed by the theories that back up their counseling. I decided that most counselors entering the areas I am interested in probably would not have a graduate degree in counseling, but like the two men I interviewed Biblical training. With this idea I believe that Dr. Jay Adams ideas capitalize on the biblical knowledge and training of many. The one area that is really lacking though in his system is a more in-depth emphasis on the gifts. I am going to first look at his system of thought and counseling, and then take a further look at how the gifts can be encouraged working from within a modified version of his system.
What is the basic idea behind Nouthetic Counseling? The Greek words, nouthesis and noutheteo, is where Adams gets the idea for calling his system Nouthetic Counseling. Adams (1970) says, "According to Paul, all Christians must teach and confront one another in a nouthetic fashion" (p. 41). People need to be confronted nouthetically. For some, the word "confrontation," is taken in a negative way. For Adams the idea of confrontation involves the authority of God’s Word, and not a shouting match or belligerency. There is an authoritative element in the term confrontation that rightly conveys the idea that biblical counseling has something of importance to say. Because he counsels on the basis of the Scriptures, the counselor’s stance is not that of a mere consultant, but rather that of a servant of God acting as a prophet, speaking forth the Word of God that applies to the need at hand. The idea is that the counselor uses the Bible to instruct and guide the counselee. The counselor is not to beat the counselee over the head with the Bible, but show the counselee the guidelines set by God for dealing with life’s problems.
There are three sources of data or information that a nouthetic counselor can use. Adams lists these as the Scriptures, his and others counseling experience, and the dynamics of the counselors own heart. But he is quick to say, "The Scriptures are the primary and normative source from which the Christian counselor’s presuppositions and principles must be drawn; the other two sources will help him to flesh out these principles in the concrete terms of everyday life" (Adams, 1973, p. 21). The Scriptures are to be the guiding and controlling point of all counseling. Outside systems are not to be read into the Bible. Psychologists often go to the Bible to find what they already believe. "But the Bible is used not to discover what God has to say or what to believe; rather, the viewpoint was already bought and brought to the Bible when the biblical search began" (Adams, 1986, p. 63).
Psychology as a science, in its data collection aspects, is not rejected by Nouthetic counselors. Developmental, and some other forms of psychology, are accepted as legitimate. On this particular point Bobgan (1989) has this to say, "When we speak of psychology we are not referring to the entire discipline of psychology. Instead we are speaking about that part of psychology that deals with the very nature of man, how he should live, and how he should change" (p. 4).
The point where nouthetic counselors disagree with psychology is when it becomes psychotherapy. This extra step involves an interpretation of the data, which from a humanistic base, they feel is unbiblical. The main fear for them is a lack of proper integration by psychologists. Owens (1993) sums up the opinion of most when he says, "Although Christian psychology claims to integrate Scriptural truth with "discovered" (i.e., scientific) truth, integration is not occurring . . . "Christian" psychology sets aside the historical-grammatical method of interpreting Scripture and replaces it with a hermeneutic centered on pathology . . . Such a hermeneutic views man not as a sinner but rather as a victim. . ."(p. 18). One integrationalist says, "Should theology continue, as in the past, to be predominantly a white, male, Euro-American enterprise" (Farnsworth, 1985, p. 54). It is Farnsworth’s idea that maybe if women and non-white people were to get involved in theology it would change. Farnsworth feels that if others get involved, Christian theology can be changed and brought in line with psychology. If the hermeneutics that white males are using disagrees with his psychology, just change it. This same author also feels that the lay people need to get involved and not just "ivory tower" theologians. Could the same thing be said about psychology? If people of other races and more females were involved in psychology in the beginning would it be closer to what the Bible says? Are psychologists willing to give up what they believe just because white males developed most psychological theories? One last quote on this topic by Hunt (1987) says, "All this because a ‘new reformation’ that psychologizes Christianity has uncovered new interpretations of Scripture never before known in the history of the church, thus bringing Christianity into line with the theories of men such as Rogers and Maslow" (p. 136).
Nouthetic counselors normally hold to the traditional Christian view of man being inherently sinful. Sin is viewed as the cause of all problems. This is not to be taken to mean that a particular person’s problem is caused by their own direct sin though. Adams (1976) says, ". . . all problems are the consequence of sin, if by that one means that ultimately they have the sin of Adam (or Satan) as their ultimate cause . . ." (p. 29). He also says, "I have stated clearly that not all problems of counselees are due to their own sins" (Adams, 1979, p. 140).
Nouthetic counselors normally make a big distinction between how they approach counseling a believer and a non-believer. They feel that for a non-believer, the most appropriate counseling is evangelism. The Nouthetic approach places a major emphasis on the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit in helping a counselee to change. They believe that since an unbeliever rejects God and his word, significant change (change that brings godliness), cannot be made. So the number one priority is to bring them into a saving relationship with Christ. If the person rejects the evangelism effort, some will counselors will refuse to counsel further and terminate the counseling relationship. Their feeling is that without a change toward godliness (which they feel only a Christian can do), the counselee will only be exchanging one form of sinful pattern for another. The idea is that if the counselee is able to "work through" their problems without depending on God, they may never see their need for Him. The Nouthetic counselor is more concerned about the person’s eternal destiny, than their temporal life.
In most, but not all cases, the Nouthetic counselor expects to find some form of sinful pattern, belief, or attitude as the cause of the problem in the person seeking counseling. They tend to place a very strong emphasis on personal responsibility. Adams (1973) in discussing the effect of man’s environment upon him says, "The environment is of great influence upon man" (p. 83). He admits that environment plays a strong part in influencing a person’s life patterns and choices. He would also emphasize th
Adams believes that theology is very important to counseling. He believes that psychology and the Bible cover the same subject areas. He says, "The Bible is the basis for a Christian’s counseling because it deals with the same issues that all counseling does" (Adams, 1979, p. xiii). Both give the ways or means for a person to change and meet life’s problems.
Because of the emphasis on the Bible and theology, Adams emphasizes the cognitive, learning aspects of change. The counselee is shown how the Bible specifically, either by actual verse or by principle, deals with the problems at hand. The first step in the counseling process involves the collection of data.
A counselor may gather data basically in two ways: overtly and covertly. One communicates primarily in two ways: Non-verbally and verbally. Another way to describe what he means is core data and halo data. Halo data may include visual and auditory cues, tactile cues, and olfactory cues. The point is that more is involved than just the exact words that are said. The way the words are said (harshness, etc.), gives the counselor a lot of information. "At this point this halo datum is much more important than her words themselves" (Adams, 1973, p. 258). How the data is delivered or spoken tells a lot about the persons attitude. Halo data can be seen, felt, or smelled. Adams (1973) says of the counselor, "He watches for signs of embarrassment, nervousness, tension, blushes, evasion, redirection’s of conversation, appearance, clothing, etc." (p. 259).
Core data is usually more substantive and specific than halo data. The data gathered during the first session will be used in conjunction with the personal data inventory the counselee fills out prior to counseling. The P.D.I. includes biographical, health, religious, and personality information.
During the first session the counselor will also try to determine whether the underlying problem is organic. If the counselor is at all unsure, the counselee is to be referred to a physician to receive appropriate exams and tests. If the counselor does not get all the data he needs, he may assign homework that is designed to obtain the data.
The counselor needs to separate usable data (facts) from emotionalism and what if’s. He has to ask specific questions in this process. Constructive action aimed at understanding the problems involved is impossible until their true sizes and shapes have been determined. Often the counselee will make the problem greater in their minds, through worry, then it actually is. Adams (1973) also says, "attempting to solve problems that are unclear because the facts are not yet in is the height of folly" (p. 263).
The data is to be recorded for both immediate and future reference. Notes are taken each week. The counselor can write his notes down as he wishes, but one recommended fashion is a weekly counseling record. Facts such as an evaluation of last’s weeks homework, drift of session, and agenda are usually included. This helps in keeping track of the counselees homework assignments, important phrases of the counselee, and subjects to come back to.
Collecting data can be a means of holding the counselee responsible. Counselees frequently confuse responsibilities. Like Adam and Eve blaming each other they will begin with the attitude that "the problem is not my fault it is hers (or his)". Sinful people like to shift the blame and responsibility to others. One of the first sins was Adam passing responsibility and blame on Eve. It is very important to find out early who is responsible for what. An example would be if a husband blames his wife for his anger or bad attitude.
Adams (1973) speaking about the issue of responsibility says that, "That a counselee is responsible to do what God says regardless of what others may or may not do often is one of the hardest things for him to understand" (p. 268). Some counselees have excused themselves by blaming someone else for a very long time. These counselees have a hard time comparing themselves to God’s Word instead of other people.
Asking questions is a vital part of data gathering. The three most basic questions to be asked are: what is your problem, what have you done about it, and what is your goal or what do you want us to do and accomplish? The first question is to find out why the person has come to you. What is the specific problem that the counselee is seeking help with. The second question is to find out what the counselees have already tried to do to fix or help the problem. The last question is to understand clearly what it is exactly that the client wants you to do. If the counselee has a different expectation from the counselor, unless the two expectations are adjusted, they are likely to work against each others goals or miss the point of what the other is saying.
Data gathering is not to stop with the first session though. Data gathering will continue up to the last session. The counselor has to evaluate and re-evaluate each session to make sure they are on track.
The counselor is to avoid yes and no questions. It is easy for a counselee to avoid issues by answering yes or no. Yes or no questions would also limit the counselee since they would not be able to elaborate or give qualifications to a question. The counselor also should ask questions that will eliminate extra possibilities. They can narrow the field of possibilities this way. The questions, normally, should also be concrete and as specific as possible.
Having learned very briefly, and in a general manner on how to get data, we will now see the four main stages that are involved in helping someone change a negative, sinful habit, to a godly pattern of living.
Adams bases this approach on 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Verses 15-17 says, "and that from childhood you have known the Holy scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration from God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (NKJV, 1982). The process of counseling involves these four steps. Phrased in a different fashion they are, teaching, conviction, correction, and disciplined training in righteousness. The Bible is also to play a large part in this process. The Holy Spirit uses it to bring change (sanctification) into the counselee’s life. Adams warns us though that not all change is good. The change has to be according to biblical standards, if not it is harmful. Adams (1986) says, "The direction of all change is toward God or away from Him, and therefore change is moral" (p. 17). The Bible includes every thing that is needed to live a godly life. It is able to "equip him fully for every good task."
The Holy Spirit also plays a strong role in Biblical change. The holy Spirit will convict and change the counselee as he studies God’s Word. The Holy Spirit brings the understanding, and enables the counselee to obey. The Holy Spirit, through His word, and working through the counselor, both changes and empowers the counselee to change.
Every truth in the Scriptures has implications for living, there is no doctrine given for merely abstract reasons. Adams has a very strong belief that the teachings of the Bible were given to guide and instruct us in the problems of life. He believes that Bible doctrine (a set of certain teachings or beliefs on a subject) covers the same areas as the doctrine taught by psychology. Both cover the nature of man, how to bring about change, what is good or bad, and the importance of God. Some Christians’ believe psychology has no right to change people. McMahon (1985) says, "We have no quarrel with chemistry, medicine, or physics, but with psychology’s pretense to scientifically understand and deal with the heart of man, who is a spiritual being made in the image of God" (p. 191).
A counselor who refuses to bring God or the Bible into the counseling session has already made a judgment about God that is passed onto the counselee. This could include (unconsciously) that a person can change and get along without God. Or the counselee could interpret the lack of Biblical input as meaning that the Bible has nothing to say on the topic or God’s hands are tied. Instructing a person in their relationship with God can help the person to mature spiritually, which will affect every other area and relationship in their lives.
Adams also stresses the importance of the counselor to always be willing to learn more. "If, however you wish to be a faithful minister of the word, you will be constantly "into" the scriptures, untying knots in your thinking, coming to correct interpretations of passages, thinking through the implications of doctrine (1 Tim 4:15)" (Adams, 1986, p.54). A counselor who wishes to counsel from the Bible has to spend a good deal of time learning and practicing the whole counsel of scripture. The first thing we as counselors must understand is that, the entire Bible is important in counseling, no part is to be neglected.
Biblical teaching answers the question of what the final goal should be. Adams (1986) says, ". . . counselors are out to change others, but they can’t agree on what the end product should be like" (p. 59). The Christian counselor with a biblical base is the only one who has a definite, holy, moral standard. If a non-christian is "helped" with a problem without ever being shown God as the source of his help, he may never see his need for God or that God even can help. The non-christian counselor’s moral standards will come through and be known by the counselee. This may happen as a Freudian counselor chips away at persons "super ego", or by a behaviorist treating people as nothing but animals.
Adams strongly emphasizes the need to teach biblical standards. This will aide in helping to hold counselees responsible for their behavior. Because God exists, and has given us real standards, we can know for sure what a person should look like. Giving a firm and certain answer is by no means arrogant when the standard to which we call counselees is the same standard to which God has called us. The goal of christian counseling is to have the counselee move in close likeness to the absolute standard, which is Jesus Christ. The fruits of the spirit such as; love , joy and peace, listed in Galations, are the results of a biblical, Christ led life.
As the counselee is taught what the Bible says about specific sins, he must pray for assistance because the Holy spirit ". . . is producing in you both the willingness and the ability to do the things that please Him" (NKJV, 1982, Phil 2:13). "This battle is waged not by education alone, but also by prayer, reproof, and encouragement" (Adams, 1986, p. 65). It is important to let the counselee know that the Holy spirit empowers him to change and the Bible lays down the standards on how.
The counselees, depending on their backgrounds, may have to be taught how to use the Bible in devotions, studies, and applications to everyday life. The christian counselor is to point the counselee to God, who will meet our needs. The christian counselor is to be an expert in one thing only; in teaching the counselee how to become more and more dependent on God and less and less dependent on anyone else. He must become an expert in pointing counselee’s away from themselves and to Christ. The counselor has a distinct advantage, in ways, over a pastor giving a sermon. During a counseling session, the counselee is much more tuned into what is being said by the counselor then he probably would be if it were a sermon. Since it affects him or her directly, the counselee will struggle with how the verse affects himself. The concepts become very pertinent to the specific problems at hand. "So often that change doesn’t take place because biblical doctrine is taught merely as a fact to be known and not to be lived" (Adams, 1986, p. 85).
The counselor needs to become personally involved with his counselees. A couple of verses are used to support this by Adams: 2 Cor. 11: 23-29, and 2 Cor. 12:21. The thought of Adams is a little similar to Carl Rogers. The counselor is to enter into the circumstances and pain of the counselee. The counselor is to become deeply involved with his counselee. The counselor will have to learn how to let his emotions go, and, probably through earnest prayer for each counselee, how to carry others’ burdens as Paul the apostle did. The counselor is to share and allow Christ’s love to flow through them to their counselees. The involvement the Bible requires is an involvement of love. If the counselee knows you love them and are concerned about them, they will pay attention to what you have to say.
The counselor also has to teach with enthusiasm. The message cannot be lukewarm or bland. You have to teach with a strong conviction. "You must work at letting your emotions show and expressing your feelings openly, both in good preaching and in good counseling" (Adams, 1986, p. 98).
The second stage in counseling involves conviction. This stage is meant to bring counselees to an acknowledgment of their failure to meet the standards (teachings) of God’s Word. There are times when teaching and conviction will occur simultaneously, but a lot of the time the person has to be taught new material or re-taught old material in ways that are understandable to him. They have to be shown how certain principles and verses affect
counselees may only need information or help in making a decision, and not conviction, most do require conviction. Why is conviction really important? Because it pertains to the counselee’s relationship to God. A believer must change not to please himself, but to please God. God convicts us of sin because He cares for us. He wants to maintain fellowship with us, His children.
What is conviction? It is a part of divine change, it is an evidence of God’s care for us. Revelation 3:19 says, "I convict and discipline those about whom I care; so be zealous and repent" NKJV, 1982). If a Christian walks in sinful patterns, he will be disciplined by God, for his own good. God does not convict and discipline in order to punish. He does it to bring us back into a proper relationship with Him. Sin in our lives separates us from God. We cannot hold sin in our hearts and approach God, while refusing to confess our sins. This is one reason why sin needs to be called sin in counseling and not "sickness".
Adams (1986) continues saying, "It is possible to acknowledge guilt inwardly or outwardly without repenting of it or changing one’s ways. But there can be no repentance without acknowledging guilt. Until one is convinced of his wrongdoing, he cannot repent" (p. 115). The person who is convicted of his or her sins will agree with God, and the Bible, about his guilt.
Data gathering and conviction go hand in hand at times. The counselor needs to have a good grasp of the facts before he can call for repentance from the counselee. Whenever we sin we are breaking God’s Law. In order to bring a person to repentance and conviction, we must use biblical terms. A Christian counselor would call a persons problem, anger, or lust, instead of terms like neurosis or low self-esteem. How can a person repent and be convicted of a sin if they do not know it is a sinful behavior? The worst thing a counselor can do is to consign a guilty person to a state of non forgiveness by eliminating the biblical standards of law breaking and sin. Forgiveness is exactly what the person needs. The counselee can be pointed to Jesus to receive forgiveness. If the counselor has reached the conclusion that a counselee has sinned, the counselor should point the counselee to forgiveness in Christ through His substitutionary, penal, and sacrificial death on the cross.
What would a nouthetic counselor say about someone who has a bad self-image to bring them to conviction? Say, for example, this person as a child is told they are ugly or stupid. The person with a bad self image has accepted falsehood as truth. They have accepted and believed something false. The Bible holds us responsible for not only what we say and actively do, but also for accepting false doctrine and beliefs. The advise to those who have allowed themselves to be shaped by these ideas and thoughts is Romans 12:3, which requires us to make a sober judgment about ourselves. We are not to think worse or better about ourselves than we really are. By stating and showing how it is a sinful response pattern, it can be approached biblically to see what the Bible says about it. There can be no repentance from sin without conviction for law breaking. The key point to stress is that no matter how others treat a person, he must respond biblically (see Romans 12:14, 17-21 to make this point). So exactly how is a counselor to use the Scriptures to bring conviction for sins? Using the scripture to convict requires at least three factors. The first factor is the counselor must know which passages of scriptures can be used to convict for specific sins. Adams has said that it is the Holy spirit working through the Bible that brings conviction. Without the movement of the holy spirit conviction will not occur.
The next factor holds the counselor responsible to be able to explain correctly and in-depth any of the passages used. The counselee may at points question the counselors interpretation, so the counselor must know, in-depth, Gods word.
The third, and last factor, implies that the counselor must be able to show how the Holy Spirit intends to convict a counselee of his sin.
Adams has this to say about needs (as stated in counseling books), and conviction, ". . .the current tendency among counselors to speak of committing sins as meeting a ‘need’" (Adams, 1986, p. 132). It is important for the counselor to realize that on many occasions on such "needs" will have to be debated scripturally. If a counselee believes that his sinful behavior is somewhat necessary, and therefore excusable, you must set the record straight. No Christian has to disobey the Bible.
For conviction to take place within the counselee, he must recognize that he made a choice in meeting what may have been a "legitimate" desire, in a sinful way. Most of what passes for needs, are really only desires. The Bible says a non-christian is a slave to sin. For Christians though, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability and power to overcome any sinful desires or obstacles. The Bible calls this walking in the Spirit, and the opposite is walking in the flesh, or the carnal nature. MacArthur (1991) says that, "I am convinced that many who submit to various kinds of extrabiblical therapy do so precisely because they are looking for a way of solving their problems without surrendering to what they know God’s Word requires of them" (p.89).
The counseling session is not to be a long drawn out time period of forcing the counselee to ponder and be convicted for his sin. The discussion should continue until the conviction has been carried out by the Word, and the Holy Spirit, no longer. Once conviction has occurred, the counseling is able to continue on.
The third step, in the four step process, is correction. The definition of correction is used in the Bible in the sense of "standing something up" or "making something to stand again" (Adams, 1986, p. 139). Once a person has been convicted for their sins, the Bible is able to help bind up their wounds and restore a proper relationship between the counselee and God. The Scripture is positive and can help fix what is wrong in the counselee’s life.
Correction and repentance have a very close relationship. The vital role of repentance as a biblical prerequisite to correcting a counselee’s sin cannot be denied from a biblical standpoint. Repentance results in a person changing their attitudes, beliefs, etc., and bears fruit in a changed lifestyle.
The counselee cannot change and repent in a godly way, without the correction of the Word. "When the Spirit applies the Bible to the repentant minds of His regenerate people, the fruit of the Spirit is cultivated and grows" (Adams, 1986, p. 144).
Jesus expected to see fruit in the lives of His sheep. The Bible teaches that not only are sins to be put off, but proper habits, conduct, and beliefs are to be put on in their place. Adams refers to this as dehabituation and rehabituation. There are many places in the Bible, such as James 5:12 and Psalm 1:1-2, where a sinful action or attitude such a anger is to be put off or stopped and a new action or attitude is to be put on.
As part of the correction process, the counselee must not only be told what not to do, but shown instead what he should do. Unless different beliefs, attitudes, and actions, replace the old sinful actions, the old likely will reappear especially during times of stress. "Correction is the pivotal point of change, in which the transfer of thought and life from non-biblical to biblical ways begins" (Adams, 1986, p. 146).
Adams places confession of sin and forgiveness under correction. Confession involves the acknowledging of one’s guilt by telling another that one has committed the sin of which he has been accused. The someone else is first God, then, if needed, any one else who has been wronged. In confession the counse
When a Christian violates Gods commandments, the first person he has to seek forgiveness from is God. Only Christ can bring complete forgiveness and cleansing from sin. If the person’s problem is a sin problem, it cannot be fixed or healed by blaming it on their childhood, but only by repentance and the blood of Christ.
After confession of sin, the counselee must forsake the sin. We are to let go of that sin. This is usually described as "putting off" sin. Adams (1986) also describes this as, ". . . abandoning, guitting, forsaking, or letting go of sin" (p. 154). The Christian must eliminate anything or any influence that may cause him to stumble. He, as part of the putting off process, must set up a structure or routine to help avoid having the sin happen again. The Christian also has to have a willingness to say no to sinful attitudes and desires.
What about those who do not receive forgiveness from God or cleansing from sin and yet are helped by a non-christian counselor? Adams (1986) has this to say, ". . . not all help is of the same order, and, in the final analysis, what now may appear to be help, and may actually provide help of a sort, in the long run may turn out to have been more detrimental than good. Smoking will keep one’s weight level down, at a terrible cost: cancer" (p. 157). A person may be counseled and, in the process, become more independent of God. Some of their pain may temporarily be relieved, but they may be lost for eternity. The last stage is disciplined training in righteousness. Disciplined training has to occur, because by instructing the counselee to use the scriptures to train himself in righteousness the gains made in counseling will be kept, and disheartening failure will be avoided. Many christians have previously repented of a sin and yet find themselves practicing it again and again. They become discouraged, and not only feel guilty, but often end up even trying to fight against their flesh (sin nature). This stunted sanctification often is the result of not knowing exactly what steps can be taken to avoid repeating the sin.
This stage involves that part of the counseling process dealing with the "putting on" of righteous patterns. In every passage in which we are instructed to put off the old patterns of living (especially Eph 4 and Col 3), we are also commanded to put on the new patterns of righteousness.
Righteousness is imputed to us the moment we accept Christ as our Savior. Adams seems to have in mind here a growing righteousness or holiness. Many Christians would call this "progressive sanctification". It is the righteousness that comes with sanctification. The goal toward which the counselor is to work is in helping to bring forth the Spirits fruit in the lives of the counselees. Conformity to God’s biblical standards is the same thing as righteousness. Our righteousness must flow from the hearts changed by the spirit, hearts which under his control, produce his fruit for God’s glory. Our lives must show the righteousness that has already been credited to us positionally in Christ. Is it possible to live Holy, righteousness lives.
Romans 6:6 says, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (NKJV, 1982). Paul also says in Romans 6:14,18, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. . . and having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (NKJV, 1982). God is now our master, not sin. The believer is to follow and obey his new master. God has given us the grace, power, and ability to follow God with all our hearts.
Christian counselees will not change though if they chose to go on disobeying God and His Lordship. God has given them the ability to overcome any temptation and sin, but they have to avail themselves of that power before it can become effective in their lives. In this life no one will be perfect, but because of what Christ has done it is now possible to change one’s past ways and live differently in the future. The unbeliever has no guarantee of being able to resist sin. Adams believes that true counseling (other than evangelism or pre-evangelism) can only be done with believers, because unbelievers are in bondage to sin, slaves of sin, and like their master and lord Satan, cannot become righteous or holy. The scripture has many instances of victory over sin and gives us great hope in the fight against sin.
That does not mean that being and living a righteous is easy, or that a believer will always do righteousness things. I am affirming that it is possible for a Christian to follow Christ, as his disciple, walking in righteousness and love. While a persons background may have an influence, maybe even a strong one, on a counselee’s habits and lifestyle, the Christian cannot use that as an excuse. The Bible says they can change and are to be held responsible if they do not. They are to blame themselves and their sinful habits, not shift the blame.
If the counselor understands these principles, that hope can and will be passed onto the counselee. The counselee has the power of God available to help them change sinful habits. Training in righteousness involves learning the biblical alternatives to the sinful acts, attitudes, and lifestyles that need to be replaced with righteous ones. The idea is that if a person stops, lets use as an example lying, he has to replace it with telling the truth. The sinful pattern has to be replaced or it will reappear. The discipleship process deals with helping the counselee to change sinful patterns to righteous patterns. Habits are involved in a lot of the areas of our lives. The counselor will have to work with the Holy Spirit, and the counselee, in restructuring the counselee’s life. As the counselee’s habits are changed and sustained, the counselor can give him more control over structuring their lives themselves.
Now after having looked in-depth at the basics of Dr. Adams Biblical counseling ideas we now need to look more specifically at the connection between the Charismata and Counseling. Dr. Adams has a strong emphasis on the Bible, but his system needs development in relation to the gifts. A Pentecostal who wishes to exercise and develop gifts in his or her counseling sessions will have to build on Adams foundation. Adams would agree that the gifts are to be active during counseling sessions, but for Adams that does not include the speaking gifts such as tongues, and prophecy (when foretelling).
A Nouthetic counselor will already be doing some things that will facilitate the gifts: praying before and during counseling sessions; seeking God’s guidance in applying the Bible in practical ways to peoples lives; etc. The Pentecostal counselor must also have an expectant attitude that the Spirit and Charismata will occur and manifest before, during, and after counseling sessions. The counselor should expect to have the Spirit move in sessions.
Adams, J. , E., (1979). A Theology of Christian Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
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Adams, J., E., (1981). Ready to Restore: The Layman’s Guide to Christian Counseling.
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Counseling and Pastoral Care. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
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Integrating Psychology and Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
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