Journey to Biblical Counseling: An Interview with Howard Eyrich
What is your current involvement in Biblical Counseling?
My involvement can be summarized in four categories.
- Teaching—there are three venues for teaching. I direct and teach in a DMin program at Birmingham Theological Seminary. I teach/train approximately a 20 member class each year from September through May. I participate in a 32 hour intensive weekend training program each summer designed to provide the basic training for ACBC certification.
- Counseling—my counseling load is usually 13-16 cases weekly.
- Supervising—I supervise a team of twenty-five plus Lay Counselors in our church counseling program at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. As a Fellow with NANC, I provide the required mentoring for a number of people annually who are pursuing counselor certification.
- Writing—includes five books and several pamphlets. I contribute to a somewhat weekly blog on marriage and marriage and family counseling at Howardeyrich.com
- Connecting—I am privileged to serve on the Council Board for the Biblical Counseling Coalition which includes contributing to both blog and book projects. I connect congregations to biblical counseling through conferences and seminars across the Southeast.
In 50 words or less, how do you define Biblical Counseling?
Biblical Counseling is the process of dealing with human suffering in the context of God as creator, designer, savior, and enabler. The counselee is introduced to the richness of God’s life design and the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to live in sync with this design thereby being able to glorify God and enjoy Him and life in the midst of living in a broken world.
How does your definition, today, differ from your thinking 5 or 10 years ago?
My definition does not differ, but it certainly is deeper and richer.
hat people, circumstances, influences, etc. did the Holy Spirit use to move you from your former thoughts to your current convictions?
When the Lord placed me as Dean of Men in a college it seemed imperative to gain a better grasp on counseling. I enrolled in a secular university to pursue an Master of Science degree. After nine graduate hours I evaluated the program with my theological grid and prayerfully determined there must be a better way. Shortly after that I read Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams and said to my wife, “I want to study with him because he has worked out what I’ve been concluding.” Thus began my journey in Biblical Counseling. Jay Adams and John Bettler were my first mentors and then my peers as I worked at CCEF for the next five years. Along the way many of the leaders of the movement became iron sharpening iron. My counselees became my instructors as the Holy Spirit worked in their lives sometimes in surprising ways.
What do you see as the relationship of Biblical Counseling to the local church?
The local church is God’s intended shepherding vehicle. Counseling is the twin-sister of discipleship. Counselors are rather like coaches. They look carefully at how the counselee is playing on the field of life. They pull them off the field and hands-on instruct them using the Playbook. Then they send them back on to the playing field of life. The local church is the whole team and the team is always supporting, coaching, and encouraging each other day to day. On the Lord’s Day the pastor calls the team together for worship and teaching thereby preparing them for the next week of play. (Sorry, but I’m a picture guy. I find it helps counselees see what I am trying to teach them.)
Is Biblical Counseling for every believer? Why or why not?
Yes! I sometimes tell a counselee that I’ve not sat on that side of the process, but I’ve had 1000’s of hours of counseling because every time I lead them through a counseling process using the Scriptures it challenges me about the way I am living. Our Lay Counseling team sometimes deals with families with autistic children, oppositional defiant teenagers, bipolar, OCD sufferers and people with other various diagnoses. People are created in God’s image. The Bible is written about people and their suffering and it is about God’s message of redemption regardless of the impact of sin in their lives.
If you had the power to immediately change one thing in the “Biblical Counseling Movement,” what would it be?
That question is like asking a Presbyterian or a Baptist if they had the power to change one thing about the church what would it be. Obviously one would say lessen the water and sprinkle the baby and the other would say get more water and dunk the professor of faith. In other words, each would desire unity around his/her own perception of right. Well, if I could change one thing in the biblical counseling movement it would be to have unity around personal change being effected through implementation of the Word of God resulting in transformation of the counselee.
If someone wanted to be equipped to better serve the Lord through the ministry of counseling, what do you suggest should be their first few steps?
I would recommend that they find a church that teaches and practices biblical counseling. The equipping that I would recommend they seek is threefold:
- Classroom—necessary for guided reading and interpretative discussion
- Supervision—necessary for personal development of the process and careful application
- Participation in shepherding—involvement in a small group or Sunday School Community where shepherding is a normal process that actively includes every sheep in the church and therefore the practice of biblical counseling is on-going not just a ten week remedial program
Obviously, if there is a seminary or other formal teaching program available this would be ideal. However, I would warn, you cannot fully learn biblical counseling in a formal training program. It must be practiced in the context of the church.
Thanks, Howard, for sharing with our readers your journey to biblical counseling. May the Lord richly bless your continued ministry!