Counseling Is Not a Formula

[Today’s post is written by Joel James, a pastor in South Africa, and is excerpted from the Introduction to a new resource, Counsel with Confidence.]

Counseling Is Not a Formula

There are aspects of every counseling situation that are the same—God, Christ, the gospel, sin, repentance, forgiveness, and so on. However, there are also things about each person and counseling situation that are unique. Therefore, a paint-by-number approach to counseling will never be successful.

That’s the inherent weakness of a book like this, and I want to acknowledge it up front. Therefore, avoid using the guidelines in this book as if they were Mr. Fix-It formulas that, if followed exactly, will guarantee success. As you use the principles in these pages, you’ll need to be prayerfully reliant on the Holy Spirit—flexible, wise, creative, and compassionate—carefully applying God’s Word to each person’s particular problem.

Furthermore, you’ll need to direct the people you’re helping to Jesus Christ, rather than just help them follow a “formula.” Counseling is first and foremost about encouraging Christians to pursue a vital, living relationship with their Savior: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). Both faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross and daily dependence on Him are essential to biblical change. In order to make this book a quick reference guide, I haven’t restated those truths under each topic. To do so would be gloriously repetitive, but repetitive nonetheless. Therefore, I’m trusting you to keep in mind that all the principles and guidelines in the world won’t help a counselee if Christ isn’t at the center of his or her life. In fact, before you put this book on your shelf to await your first  counseling emergency, I urge you to read the chapter entitled “A Biblical Theology of Change.” It’s only a few pages long, and in it you’ll find a summary of the essential theological truths that underlie all the individual guidelines and principles of this book. In fact, if you aren’t an experienced counselor, the whole section, Counseling 101, might give you a valuable survey of the counseling and discipling task.

Counseling 101

Counseling 101 is the title of Part 1 of this new book. It includes chapters about a biblical theology of change, the centrality of Christ, the sufficiency of Scripture, wrong approaches to justification and sanctification, and other important topics.

Common Problems Addressed

In Part 2 of Joel’s new resource, he includes biblical guidance to counsel yourself and others about a number of common struggles, including:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety, Worry, and Fear
  • Bizarre Behavior
  • Chronic Fatigue or Pain
  • Crisis Counseling
  • Decision-Making
  • Depression: What Is It?
  • Depression: How to Counsel It
  • Eating Disorders
  • Forgiveness
  • Growing Old
  • Homosexuality
  • Money: General Principles
  • Money: Requests For Financial Assistance
  • People with Painful Pasts
  • Pornography
  • Repentance: Real or Not?
  • Self-Esteem: When Low Is High
  • The Unpardonable Sin
  • Work

If you are new to the ministry of counseling, or need a fresh reminder of how sufficient the Scriptures are for personal ministry, check out Counsel with Confidence.

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