Biblical Counseling is too focused on big truth?


Haven’t had much time to write of late since the pressure is on for more formal writing assignments. But, in prep for a presentation in a few weeks I have been thinking about this question. Is the biblical counseling model of change too much focused on truth? Heretical thought for some I’m sure. (For those who don’t remember I consider myself both a biblical counseling and a Christian psychologist).

Let me start with some shoddy diagrams of two classic models of change.

1. Presenting problem –>Diagnosis Made–>Counselor generated insight (reality/truth) –> Corrective action (counseling as troubleshooting ways to cement corrective action outside of session). Counseling in this model focuses on truth/reality applied to counselees life outside of session. Benefit? Problem/solution focused; objective change. Drawback? Feelings and Relational activity is minimized (though not denied). The relationship is used to get to the activity of change.

2. Presenting problem  –> Diagnosis Made (but may not be told) –>Counselor generated insight (NOT given) –>Introspection via counselor generated questions. Counseling in this model focuses on introspection and counselee generated insight. Benefit? No pressure to perform, feelings encouraged. Drawback? No real relationship focus as it is purely 1 way. No focus on objective change (assumed it will naturally happen).

So, model one is more cognitive. Model two is more dynamic. Both models want or respect the valuate of relationship but usually see it as a necessity to get to what really heals (truth or insight).

The biblical model is most like model one. In many respects, the focus on truth is good. We fallen creatures need constant reorientation. We are easily deceived. And yet, which truth? Notice Jesus with the woman at the well (John 4). He doesn’t start out with the biggest truth (she’s an adulterer). Notice that we often need more immediate truthes to be the focus. Peter needs the hand as he sinks, not a lecture. David needs Nathan’s story first. We learn that God doesn’t tell us all our sins right off the bat. We couldn’t take it. Do we in the biblical counseling world over-focus on the big truths of faith, trust, sin, idolatry, etc. that we miss the “smaller” truths that God is with us, that his hand is present right now in some small tangible way?

So, how about this model for change that is both solution focused AND interpersonal.

Presenting Problem –>Collaborative Diagnosis/Goal setting –> *[empathy ->validation ->here/now ->collaboration on meeting goals/objectives and responding to thoughts, feelings, behaviors] –> small habit change attempts –> post hoc insight.

In this model the primary work is in the interpersonal dynamics (the stuff in the brackets) and insight is more what happens after change takes place: “Oh, that’s what I was thinking then and this other way helped me to change that.” If this alternative model is a bit more accurate in portraying how people actually do change via God’s grace then this is my big question: how might this model change how we use the Scriptures in counseling.

Make any sense?  If anyone has artistic capability to render these diagrams I’d love to see how you’d do them.

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Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling science, Psychology, teaching counseling

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