Biblical counselling #1 What is counselling?

Biblical counselling #1 What is counselling? August 23, 2004

Well, I don’t think I can avoid it any longer. After a brief conversation that begun ‘how can you be a Christian and a psychiatrist?’ I went back into my self-imposed silence on the subject of counselling.

This is kind of strange as oviously it is an area that interests me. So here goes with a series on Biblical counselling. I want to start by speaking of the boundaries of counselling, and how it relates to other things we do. What is counselling? This depends entirely on who you speak to!

Psychologists might define it as follows-

The practice or profession of applying psychological theories and communication skills to clients’ personal problems, concerns, or aspirations. Some forms of counselling also include advice-giving, but the dominant ethos is one of providing facilitation without directive guidance. Counselling psychologists work with individuals, couples, and families in a variety of settings, including counselling agencies, general practitioners’ surgeries, educational establishments, business organizations, and private practice.

counselling n.” A Dictionary of Psychology. Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.


A method of approaching psychological difficulties in adjustment that aims to help the client work out his own problems. The counsellor listens sympathetically, attempting to identify with the client, tries to clarify current problems, and sometimes gives advice.

“counselling n.” Concise Medical Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2002. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.

These definitions are rather different from an older way of using the word which is defined as follows

Advice, guidance, direction, recommendation, information; opinion, suggestion, warning, admonition, caution or consultation, discussion, conference, deliberation, dialogue

The Oxford American Thesaurus of Current English. Ed. Christine A. Lindberg. Oxford University Press, 1999. Oxford Reference Online

One immediate problem that a Christian has with counselling as defined in the first way is that we do not really believe that people can work out their own problems. The essense of Christianity means that we are helpless and needed someone to come and not even just tell us the way out of our problems (something many counsellors would never dream of doing!) but actually pick us up by the scruff of our neck and do something to us to make us change.

A Christian counsellor will often find themselves telling their fellow Christian ‘This is what you need to do…..’ To me true counselling is actually closely related to preaching. Rather than saying ‘Don’t preach at me’ when we are in trouble, a preacher is exactly what we need (provided they are able to sympathetically communicate on a one to one level!)

Eph 2:8-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [1] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But [2] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Part two now available

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