WHAT IS CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING?
Counsel means to give advice and /or encouragement especially by a professional known as a counsellor
Counselling can be defined as the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social or psychological problems and difficulties, especially by a trained counsellor. A counsellor on the other hand, is a trained personnel by profession who carries out counselling responsibilities or services.
Counselling can also be referred to as “talking therapies” which allows people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. The term counselling may mean a different thing to different people but it is generally a process whereby people seek to want to change something in their lives or simply explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth. It is however a process where, by talking to a professional (counsellor) about how you feel, you can work out, or try to change the things that cause you distress.
James C. Hansen (1977) defines counselling as a process that assists individuals in leaning about themselves, their environment, and methods for handling their roles and relationships’ counselling is an applied field in which the counsellor uses behavioural knowledge to help the client – with decision making process in educational and vocational matters as well as resolving interpersonal concerns.
Counselling maybe seen as both an applied social science, and a profession that rest on an interdisciplinary base composed of knowledge from the field of psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, education, economics, and philosophy (Ghanz, 1974). Counselling is the application of mental health, psychological or human development principles through cognitive, affective, behavioural or systematic interventions, strategies that address wellness, personal growth or career development as well as pathology (ACA, 1997). Counselling helps the individuals discover their potential weakness, which after the counselling process, changes may/is expected to abound.
Lelek, Jeremy (2014) defines Christian counselling as a pastoral counselling that draws upon psychology and Christian; practitioners approach psychology through the lens of the Bible. It is specifically geared not only towards the members of the Christian faith, church worker, but an avenue for the church to affect its environment positively. It bears in mind the tenets of the Christian faith, hence ministers and other Christian social workers are the ones that are saddled with the responsibility of giving Christian counselling.
Otobrise (Lecture Note, 2016) define Christian counselling as a process where a trained Christian counsellor carefully, skilfully, and sensitively, listens to and understands a person’s problem, those counselled can then be given advice on how to approach the issues of life and experience solutions to the problems.
Christian counselling has been referred to as “Biblical Counselling” by other authors. According to John Henderson (2011), “Biblical Counselling is a fluid event and process, as part of the great commission, whereby one or more theologically and relationally qualified persons provide spiritual, emotional, and behavioural services, comfort, and guidance in love to one or more persons through the truth and power of God’s word under the ministry of the Holy Spirit”. The implication of this definition is thus; the Christian counsellor must have the basic knowledge of the word of God and possess right application of the same under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to bring about the descried and meaningful change in the life of the counselee. Rick Thomas (2011) is of the view that Biblical counselling is “Compassionately and completely bringing relational care to others through the means of God’s word and the local church”. Rob Green and Wayne Vander Wier (2011) gives similar definition thus: “Biblical Counselling is the process where the Bible, God’s word, is related individually to a person or persons who are struggling under the weight of personal sin and or the difficulties, with sufferings, so that he or she might genuinely change in the inner person to be pleasing God; “Biblical Counselling is the action or process in which a believer (or group of believers) lovingly confronts and scripturally instructs a (sinning or suffering) fellow believer for the purpose of affecting God – glorifying charge”.
For Bob Kellemen (2011), Biblical Counselling is, “Christ-centred, Church-based, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally- informed one-another ministry that depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s word to suffering and sin by speaking and living God’s truth in love to equip people to love God and one another. It cultivates conformity to Christ and communion with Christ and the Body of Christ leading to a community of one-another disciple – makers” (Matt. 22:35-40; 28:18-20).
Christian Counselling responds to the need of someone, caring for the troubles of those in Church fellowship and even those who love no church, but turn to a minister for help when crisis strikes. Christian counselling focus on the care of the whole person, body, soul and spirit as it is sometimes called “Soul-Care” and maintains the values taught in the bible. The aim of Christian counselling is to help people regain a sense of hope for their life that is found in Jesus Christ. The outcome of Christian counselling however is that the counselling lives are transformed and changed in a positive way. Christian counselling believes that at the core of what they do is to help others achieve a better understanding of themselves and God which is rooted in the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
The Christian counsellor should not only know the gospel, but know the person; not only the “What” question of the individual, but also the “who” question of the person in order to get at the person’s identity and uniqueness. By implication, the Christian Counsellor should know the culture, the norms, their personal values of the cure of souls, of the parishioners or those who come for such purpose in order to receive holistic recovery which can stand the test of time and eternity. In conclusion, the counsellor should have a deep faith; counsel with excellence; hold a Christian world view; be guided by Christian values in choosing the means, goals and motivation of counselling activities; seek the presence and work of God; and actively utilize spiritual interventions and resources with ethical guidelines.
TYPES OF CHRISTIAN COUNSELLING
The following counselling type has been identified to help people overcome their challenges such as anxiety, depression, guilt, etc.
- Secular Psychotherapy
- Integrated Christian counselling
- Authentic Christian Counselling
- Secular Psychotherapy
This type of counselling abounds in the society and is available to a very large population who seek help from the counsellors. The secular psychotherapy counsellors obtain their training by attending a secular institution, and obtaining a high level of graduate degree in the field of psychology and other humanitarian approaches in order to solve or soft pedal or proffer solutions to the difficulties and challenges facing mankind; this is done through human research and analytical tools as guidance. They rely on human reasoning and research to answer life’s questions about people’s problems and solutions. In other words, they don’t use the Bible as a counselling tool rather; they look at issues and provide help that in most cases does not solve the problem. Most a time, they just listen to the counselee and give back to the counselee that which often leads to more frustration. For instance, someone who engages in extra-marital affair and feels guilty about it is asked to keep it a secret. This actually hurts more and increases the guilt feelings, and peace of mind is not restored. This is contrary to the main focus of counselling which the end result should be a positive change.
Integrated Christian Counselling
This type of counselling involves integrating scriptures and secular psychology to help people. The counsellors are trained to obtain certificates or degrees by recognised and established institutions. Integrated Christian Counselling is very much like secular psychotherapy. The only difference is that the counsellors do go to church or are Christians.
However, they do not use the Bible as a tool in their counselling. They do not help the counselee based on the word of God but by relying on the skills and training acquired in the institutions. The result or outcome of these counselling is frustration, depression, loneliness, lack of self worth, etc, because they do not approach the spiritual dimension of humans; they certainly do not bring God into the equation as having any influence on human issues or solutions. The danger this approach seems to pose is that “the end justifies the means”. People must be made to know the truth which brings freedom. The “Truth is the means”, and the “Means is that justifies the true end”. And that “Means” is Theocracy on the other hand, theology and the bible have been around decades of thousands of centuries before the emergence of psychology and as such, the glory goes to Christ Jesus.
In this type of counselling, the counsellor may sometimes encourage the counsellee on the word of God Such as “God loves you”, God is able to handle every situation”, however, they do not seek God’s help to resolve the issues at hand.
Authentic Biblical Counselling
This type of counselling is the most trusted, reliable and effective. It provides the healing, assurance and peace of mind that every counselee desires. It is the beginning and ending of life; it is described as the best because it starts and ends in God the creator of the Heaven and Earth and all that is therein. Its teachings are based on the bible and a belief in God as our creator based on the appreciative fact that God is the one who created us, and not the other way round. In other words, it is based entirely on God’s word, making references to scriptural verses in the Bible that deals with the specific issue. The faith of the counselee is built on the word of God, while providing support or assistance with the love and mind of Christ. Both counsellor and counselee spend time together to read relevant scriptures from the Bible, pray to God for divine intervention and when necessary, take some practical steps in resolving the issues. This type is the tenants upon which scriptural revelation thrives, a comprehensive, compassionate, culturally – informed approach to who we are, what went wrong, and how to solve the issues of the soul. This type of counselling is spiritual and leads to a wholesome healing and restoration; it shows us to possess the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-11), and allows the Holy Spirit to fill and dwell in us (Eph.5:18), gives us direction, and when our journey on earth is over, we will meet our Lord Jesus Christ.
Importance of Christian Counselling
Counselling can be seen as the relationship that exists between a troubled individual and the one willing to offer help or solution. The Christian counsellor has the responsibility to help distressed or disturbed persons with the help of or in line with the word of God. The importance of Christian counselling however cannot be over emphasized. This is because every member of the church like any other individuals are faced with different types of challenges of life for which they seek help daily.
Secondly, the secular psychotherapy which is easily attained or obtained have little or no help whatsoever to render as regards the problems faced by men and women, especially when such problems burdens on spiritual or moral issues. Consequently, to allow such persons (counsellors) handle the problems of the Christians, will only mean compounding their problems.
Thirdly, when members of the congregations are faced with a lot of troubles that takes away their peace of mind, the growth of the church will be inevitably affected, hence the need for trained Christian Counsellors.
Fourthly, a healthy church makes up a healthy society, and a healthy society will certainly translate into a healthy/great nation. Therefore, since it is only the Christian counsellor that can effectively understand and proffer effective, life transforming and permanent solution to the multiplicity of human problems, Christian counselling should be encouraged and practiced.
Christian Counselling is also encouraged to avoid saved Christian members from being “prayed” upon by non-Christian counsellors; for harmonious living; helping the youths in the areas of career choice, marital choice, and for goal setting; guiding the youths from associating with bad friends (peer group influence) who may influence them negatively.
Characteristics of Christian Counselling
The characteristics of Christian Counselling are as stated below:
- Christ centeredness
- Passion Driven
- Total reformation focused
- Prayer Bath
- Faith Accessed
- Theological training required
- Fruit yielding
- Christ-centeredness: Everything about the Christian counselling is channelled or centred on the person of Jesus Christ. The Christian counsellor is an individual with a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ. He is one with the mind of Christ, who is willing to sacrifice his time and talent in helping troubled persons to be free.
- Scripture-based: Unlike the secular counsellor who consults other sources for their practices, and rely on skills acquired from school, the Christian counsellor consults the Holy Bible for guide in counselling. As a result of this, the Christian counsellor is able to effectively help people with problems like anxiety, guilt, depression, fear, etc.
- Spirit-led: The Christian counsellor understands problems which may be spiritually related with the help of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit; and can be able to understand hidden things that may not be known to the person involved.
- Passion Driven: In Christian counselling, the driving force is not to make money but to see the person with trouble free hence the Christian counsellor does not see counselling as a profession to make ends meet rather, a passion to help others. That is why after the counselling section, the counsellor still prays for the client. In most cases, the Christian counsellor sees the troubles of the counselee as his trouble but this is not the case with the secular counsellor.
- Total Reformation focused: The joy and desire of the Christian counsellor is to see a “totally reformed man” at the end of the counselling. This may not be found easily in the secular counselling.
- Prayer Bath: Christian Counselling demands a lot of prayers in two ways; the counsellor prays for himself for strength because the task of counselling can be very demanding. He also prays for the counselee to be sustained by God, so that after the counselling, he/she will not fall back to the early stage of life.
- Faith Accessed: Unlike in secular counselling, faith is key in a Christian counselling. For instance, in the case of person with guilt problem, the Christian Counsellor works on the faith of the counselee to believe and accept that the problem for which he/she is experiencing the guilt problem can be forgiven by God. This cannot be achieved if the faith of the counsellor is in doubt. Therefore in Christian counselling, faith is key.
- Theological Training Required: Theological training is a major characteristics in Christian counselling, of which the counsellor is required to update his knowledge at intervals. His knowledge in other fields of human endeavours may also be required in the cause of counselling.
- Fruit Yielding: At the end of the counselling process, the counselee is expected to experience a positive change. The end product of the counselling should produce fruits that is heart-healing, obstacle removing and mind renewing.
- Ethics and Principles of Pastoral Counselling
The following are the ethics and principles of pastoral counselling:
- Seek the best for the counselee: In pastoral counselling, the counsellor is ethically bound to seek the best for the counselee. He is not expected to do anything against this expectation; it is a fundamental principle.-
- Confidentiality of Information: The pastoral counsellor keeps every information given him by the counsellee during counselling. Only with the permission of the counselee should any of such information be shared with any other person. Betrayal of trust in this regard is unethical in pastoral counselling; it is also against the principle.
- Unprofessional Advice: Ethically, the Christian counsellor or pastoral counsellor is not expected to give any advice in the area which he is not familiar. Instead, he should refer them to the professional personnel involved. This also is guiding principle in pastoral counselling.
- Integrity: The pastoral counsellor must be watchful of his relationship especially with the opposite sex during counselling. Here the principle and ethics forbids the counsellor to be in any form of romantic relationship with the opposite sex (counselee).
- The setting arrangement and place during counselling especially in the case of the opposite sex must be noted. Such places should not be lonely and hidden or too far from people. It is a principle that must be kept faithfully.
- Counsellor should not be emotional with the body movement of the counselee. If the dressing and body movement is suspicious, the counsellor should call the attention of his wife (if married) or call off the counselling and ask the counselee to dress properly on a rescheduled day. As a matter of principle, the counsellor is guided by this as well.
- If prayer is required at the end of the counselling session, such should not be done in the secret, but in the main church, (if the counselling is done in the church environment), or invite a matured person to be around before the prayer.
- The counsellor should not impose his idea on the counselee. The principle and ethics do not encourage that, rather, the counsellor should only render advice.
- Ethically, the counsellor is expected to seek to honour God in carrying out the counselling session; not the honour of self. Honouring God in all we do as Christians is a godly principle.
- Assist and Encourage the Counselee towards Success: Where and when needed, the pastoral counsellor should assist and encourage the counselee to be brave to face the present challenge and or difficult situation to come out of it a success; the focus of the counsellor has always been to render help that will yield positive outcome.
Biblical Basis for Christian Counseling
The Christian counsellor must be sure to carryout counselling services directly based on the bible, God’s Holy Scriptures or in harmony with it. Anything short of this is regarded as working in the energy of the flesh. A Christian counsellor should begin and end with the bible as his basis for biblical counselling foundation and build upon a Christian methodology of counselling.
The biblical basis for Christian counselling is thus:
- The Bible is the Book on Behaviour: The Bible instructs us on “how” and how not” to live, showing us that which is acceptable behaviour and unacceptable behaviour, i.e. it shows us a step-by-step approach on how we can bring about better behaviour and personality change. The bible lays the framework for interpersonal relationships. It gives practical advice on solving family, marital and personal conflicts.
- Real Biblical Foundation: Jesus Christ as the very centre of all Christian counselling is the chief corner stone. Jesus knows more about the human mind, personality, and behavioural change; He is the centre that is why Psalm 139 indicates specifically and intricately, the designer of every single person. He is the master designer of every life.
- We must begin with the Scripture instead of beginning with Psychology: The bible being the word of God, and the final word for faith and practice should reign paramount. II Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 15:4, 15; 1 Corinthians 10:11.
- The existence of God and Theological Truth: We are created by God to live a life after which we will give account of ourselves; hence the consequences for our thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God. Theologically, it is clear that man was created by God using the material and non-material nature. He is from both dust and God. Theologians, Psychologists and Physiologists often find themselves in serious disagreement on this, but the truth remains, and nothing can be done against the truth but for the truth, the Bible and God remains our infallible stand.
History of Christian Counselling
The beginning of Christian counselling can be traced from the 1960s leading into the 1970s with the Biblical counselling movement directed by Jay E. Adams which brought to attention in his book component to counsel, a Christian-based approach which was different from the psychological and psychiatric solutions of the time. Adam was devout protestant who believed that it was the job of the church to heal people who he believed were morally corrupted, but labelled by society as mentally ill. He rejected other models of counselling, such as the medical model, which gave clients a medical diagnosis based on a list of other behaviours or actions. Adams believed the lists of maladaptive behaviours listed under each diagnostic category, were actually behaviours emanating from our volitional nature, rather than illness we were suffering from. Maladaptive behaviours according to Adams, are a matter of sin and therefore subject to confrontation and education in God’s word, exhorting the client to choose behaviour that is obedient to God’s word, thus removing us from complete responsibility for our choices.
According to David Powlison (2010), Adam’s model of Nouthetic counselling identifies many scriptures that a counsellor may use to exhort clients to change their behaviour and come into obedience and away from sin. The term “Nouthetic” is derived from the Greek word “nouthetoe” meaning to “admonish”; critics however point out the complexity of God’s creation and that telling an anorexic to eat because starving themselves is a sin, is not likely to be an effective method of treatment for eating disorders, nor many other issues clients present with, that have intermingled bio-psycho-social-cultural origins as identified in scientific research.
Methods Involved in Christian Counseling
Various methods have emerged in accordance with the proponents’ views of man and his problems; and what they believed is true. This is in agreement with Oludipe who asserts that in counselling, “your method to bring about change, or to deal with a person, will grow out of your basic view of man”. In other words, a counselor’s believe determines his/her attitude and treatment of people in counselling. Among the various methods or Approaches of counselling are:
- Expert knowledge whose proponents are Sigmand Freud and F.J. Skinner: They held that only those possessing expert knowledge are competent to counsel. Freud for instance says only experts can solve perplexing and complicated problems; In other words, the counselee’s past is responsible for his problem. F.J. Skinner – will rather see the counselee’s environment as responsible for his maladaptive behaviour. Therefore to him like Freud, the Counselee is not responsible for his problem, but should be held responsible for their actions.
- Common Knowledge: the proponent of this method is Carl Rogers. He believed that all men have adequate knowledge and resources to handle their own problems; therefore, there is no need for expert knowledge at all. To him every person has the potential to do right, and that deep within man lays the solution to all his problems. He fails to know that man does not have adequate resources to help himself. He also fails to understand that mankind at the core is sinful, inherently evil; and that man needed God to save him from problems.
- Divine Knowledge: This is the sole method involved in Christian counselling. Dr. Jay E. Adams said, “Christian counselling must start with a Biblical foundation and build from it a Christian methodology of counselling which rests upon and is consistent with the foundation”. Adams, who based his method on the scriptures and God’s revelation through the Holy Spirit, can be referred to as the Father of Pastoral psychological counselling or Divine knowledge. This method of Christian counselling highlights the following procedures to be adhered to in carrying out Christian counselling.
- We must begin with the scriptures: This is because the Bible has been referred to as the Book on Behaviour; as the Bible;
- Instructs us on how to live and not to live;
- It shows us what is acceptable behaviour and unacceptable behaviour. It shows us step-by-step on how we can bring about behaviour and personality change; and
- The Bible lays the framework for interpersonal relationships. It gives practical advice on solving family, marital, and personal conflicts (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11).
- Too often in the past, counsellors have begun with external date, like B.F. Skinner; Sigmund Freud; Carl Rogers, and others who never truly found solution to human problems, as they have not been able to link man back to God. Therefore, Christian counselling must have a methodology that is Christian or Biblical in order to be Christian counselling.
- Too often in the past, Christians has been guilty of building upon the sinking sand of psychology. Oludipe posits that in the past, many have tried to find scripture tests to support the foundation already laid from the teachings of the world.
- Christian counselling must begin with the scriptures instead of beginning with psychology if the Bible is the word of God, and if it is the final word of faith and practice, then it should reign as the final authority to the solution of human problem.
- Christian Counsellors should know the word of God so well that they can properly evaluate teachings of psychology in the light of the “thus saith the Lord”. They should know the scripture thoroughly enough as to use it to help the suffering persons come out of their problem. Jesus Christ is the centre of all Christian counselling; He is the chief corner stone. This incontestable fact simply proofs that Jesus Christ is the Master designer of every life. He has the solution to every human problem, whatever it could be.
Ken Wooldridge (2006) highlighted six tools used in Christian pastoral counselling as follows:
- The Bible – God’s word
- The personal experience of the counsellor
- Counsellor’s Training
- Reference Counselling Material
- The help of trusted family or friend of the counselled person.
GUIDELINES AND PRESUPPOSITIONS
For effective, result oriented and God glorifying adjustment in the life of the counselee, the following guidelines and presuppositions are very important to the Christian counsellor.
- Ability to maintain confidentiality: This is very crucial for the confidence of the counselee. The only exception to this regard is when it involves ethical or legal reasons; such as suspicion of child abuse.
- Avoidance of counselee’s manipulation: Every pastoral counsellor must avoid playing upon the intelligence of the clients; do not manipulate the counselee.
- Avoid making decisions for the person seeking help: Though people see the pastor (the Christian counsellor) as an authority with the knowledge of the Bible, he or she need to be careful about simply making decisions for the counselee.
- Do not be a Voyeur: In the area of sexuality in particular, the pastor must be careful not to seek directly or indirectly information that is not germane to the issue at hand. Seeking information for sexual gratification is inappropriate, unfair and counterproductive.
- Never become romantically or sexually involved with a counselee: It has been observed that, a one-on-one counselling relationship with a person of the opposite sex can be very seductive; hence Pastors carrying out counselling should ensure that someone else is in the office area when counselling an opposite sex counselee.
- The Bible is the inspired, inherent word of God, the final authority regarding faith and practice.
- Man’s basic problem is a sin problem. If we must bring about the behaviour and personality change that God required, which is possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit, then we must begin with the right basics and foundation-man’s problem is sin, so the remedy is Jesus Christ.
- Man is responsible for his actions; because God created man to make responsible choices, any failure therefore on the part of man should be traceable and blameable on man and never God.
- The Christian counsellor should assume the person is suffering from spiritual maladjustment or sin. The spiritual problem will evidence itself in improper thinking or improper behaviour, and doubtless both are involved.
- Biblical Counselling is directive in nature. The Bible, which is the main tool in the hand of the Christian counsellor, should be used and applied as such.
- American Counselling Association (1997) – Sourse:
Gladding, S.T. (2004): A Comprehensive
Profession (5th edition). Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall. P 6-7
- David (2010): The Biblical Counselling Movement:
History and Context. New Growth Press.
- Counselling Directory (2016): Retrieved from http: //www.google.com/counselling.
- George, Timothy (1984): Competent Christian Counselling, Colorado Spring, Colorado: Water Brook Press.
- John Henderson (2011): Association of Biblical Counsellors http:/www.christiancounselling.com
- Ken Wooldridge (2006): Good News Church of Knoxville.
- Lamber, Health(2012): The Biblical Counselling Movement After Adams. Crossway
- Lekk, Jeremy (2014): “Biblical Counselling Defines” Association of Biblical Counselling.
- Otobrise, E.A. (2016) Lecture Note
- Rob Green (2011): Faith Biblical Counselling Ministries (http://www.faithlafayette.org/counselling)
- Rotimi Oludipe (2016) Lecture Note
- Rick Thomas (2011) Counselling Solutions Group (http://www.competent counselling.com
- Tim Lane (2011): Christian Counselling and Education Foundation (http://www.ccef.org)
- Wayne Vander Wier (20ll): Overseas Instruction in Counselling (http://www.Discover O/C.org)