Nouthetic counseling is gaining popularity around the world. The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) recently rebranded itself, changing from the National Association for Nouthetic Counseling (NANC) and using the more familiar word biblical in place of the Greek word nouthetic, which also means biblical. Their website boasts over 1,300 counselors in 29 different countries with 60 training centers that help certify more biblical counselors.
ACBC oversees a process that equips biblical counselors through reading, counseling, theological exams, and coaching to ensure adherence to doctrinal statements and policies. The training was established in 1976 by Dr. Jay Adams. The goal was to provide a “rigorous… process [to] become the backbone of the biblical counseling movement.”
Nouthetic counseling is centered around the Word of God. This counseling believes in a literal translation of II Peter 1:3” “[God] has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” In biblical counseling, solutions to a counselee’s problems are sought out in the Bible, rather than through medication or modern psychology. One biblical counseling center describes three core beliefs behind biblical counseling:
- The Bible, given by God, is sufficient for life in that, when properly interpreted, it reveals to the believer all the data necessary for one to understand his need for Christ, how he can please the Lord, and how to live in a God-honoring way regardless of the circumstances, whether comfortable or oppressive.
- The Bible is also the authoritative source with which all truth claims—including claims made by science and history—must be evaluated. As a result, we reject all counseling theories that use presuppositions, principles, and/or methodologies that are inconsistent with the proper interpretation of the biblical text.
- Genuine heart change is totally dependent on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Summarized, the biblical view of counseling “includes the importance of prayer, dependence on God, a thorough knowledge of the Word of God, and an understanding of ministering to people.”
Biblical counseling views God’s Word as the authority, not a supplement.
ACBC describes their view of the Bible this way:
The inspired and inerrant Scriptures, rightly interpreted and carefully applied offer us God’s comprehensive wisdom…No other source of knowledge thoroughly equips us to counsel in ways that transform the human heart.
A biblical counselor prescribes time studying Scripture, hiding it in one’s heart and steps to apply the Scriptures as the means for change, instead of a breathing exercise or a positive affirmation. While God’s Word may be mentioned or included in another form of counseling, biblical counseling makes the Bible the main event, rather than the side show.
It is important to note that biblical counseling is not the same as seeing a Christian counselor. Just because a counselor is a Christian believer does not mean he or she is a nouthetic counselor. When psychology conflicts with the Bible, there is no guarantee that a Christian counselor would yield to God’s Word as the chief tool for change, unless he is committed to biblical counseling.
Biblical counseling is more than behavior modification.
Many forms of counseling look to the emotions troubling a counselee. They may trace those emotions to a behavior causing them, but often the counselee is given suggestions to simply change their behavior. A biblical understanding of emotions begins with our beliefs. What a person truly believes is what directly impacts his or her behavior. For instance, if I truly believe in gravity, I will not walk on a rooftop without a harness. My belief in gravity changes my behavior, it keeps me from doing some things and insists that I partake in other activities. My beliefs dictate my actions and my emotions stem directly from my actions. Biblical counselors know that changing behavior only brings a temporary relief. The wrong beliefs must be addressed and altered to truly solve a problem and have lifelong change.
The nature of biblical counseling demands digging past surface level problems. “The goal… is spiritual, relational, and personal maturity as evidenced in desires, thoughts, motives, actions and emotions that increasingly reflect Jesus” (Ephesians 4:17-5:2). This kind of change impacts much more than behavior.
Biblical counseling is discipleship.
Church attendance and a summary of the sermon are a regular part of homework when seeing a biblical counselor. The reason is that counseling is not meant to be the sole opportunity for spiritual growth and discipleship. Imagine a canoe floating down a river. Naturally shallow water and deeper rapids will come during the trip. At times the rushing water may require the canoe paddler to pull ashore to keep from sinking. That is what biblical counseling is—believers are traveling through the river of spiritual growth (the end being glorification when we see Jesus and are made like Him) and they need to be taken from the rapids (consequences of sin, illness, loss, relationship problems, etc.) for help. Biblical counselors realize that many of the rough waters believers may be called to traverse will still be there when the counseling is over. While ashore, a counselee is purposely discipled to know how to navigate those trials in a way that honors God and holds true to His Word.
Biblical counseling is usually free.
Most biblical counselors do not charge for their time. Some require a refundable deposit if there is a wait list, but many counselors have no need for that charge. If you are looking for a nouthetic counselor in your area, click here and begin working toward becoming more like Christ today—no matter the circumstances God has placed you in.