Christian counseling: Nouthetic vs. Biblical

Last night, I spent some time on the phone with my husband’s friend’s sister (aka my former pastor’s sister). We’ll call her Natalie.

Natalie was very sweet and kind, really encouraging and strengthening me by sharing her testimony of faith in God. She suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, which has led her to take Paxil (on and off) for the past 7 years. She says the drug has helped her tremendously and who am I to knock the drug (knowing what I know about Paxil/Seroxat) when she has seen the wonders that it has worked in her life?

I briefly explained my story of depression, history of suicide, and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Although she couldn’t fully relate, she was very sympathetic and understanding. In fact, our conversation was so fruitful, I ended up taking notes!

Jay AdamsWe briefly touched on the issue of Nouthetic counseling (NC). She has undergone the course and simply needs to be certified. The counselor I currently see is associated with the Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF), which has roots in NC and was founded by the man—Jay Adams—who developed the method. However, CCEF is now known for what is called biblical counseling. The organization has since moved away from pure Nouthetic methods and become more a bit more varied, taking bits and pieces of psychology (and perhaps psychiatry) that line up with the Bible. Adams, disagreeing with the organization’s approach, founded the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and uses the Bible as the sole counseling textbook. According to the wiki entry on Nouthetic counseling, Adams developed the word Nouthetic based on the “New Testament Greek word noutheteō (νουθετέω), which can be variously translated as ‘admonish,’ ‘warn,’ ‘correct,’ ‘exhort,’ or ‘instruct.'”

NC was developed back in the ’70s as a response to the popularity of psychology/psychiatry. Many Christians reject some of the teachings of such popular psychologists as Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, etc. Adams’ highly successful book, Competent to Counsel, criticizes the psychology industry and counters its teaching with a Nouthetic approach.

But NC has its Christian critics.

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CCEF 2008 Annual Conference: The Addict In Us All

CCEF 2008 Annual Conference

I’ve previously mentioned that I receive (currently weekly) counseling at CCEF in Glenside, PA. They hold a conference every year on various topics. Last year’s subject was overcoming fear and my husband and I found it to be immensely helpful. This year’s topic focuses on addiction. I received a PR from them and am posting it below.


Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) Announces
2008 Annual Conference – The Addict in Us All

Addiction sounds ominous, and it is. Addictions to drugs, alcohol, and gambling tear families apart and ruin lives. But this conference is about more than the junkie scoring dope or the alcoholic hiding vodka around the house. Even the average person gets stuck in negative behavior patterns. Overeating, shopping, sexual temptation, people’s approval, even love…everyone struggles with something. And everyone faces moments of despair and thinking that change is not possible.

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CCEF: Ed Welch on Self-Injury

I’ve talked about how I get biweekly counseling from CCEF (Christian Counseling Education Foundation) in the past. I attended the foundation’s annual conference last year and have since received their bimonthly newsletters. This month, Ed Welch, licensed psychologist and author of more than more than six books and booklets (some of which are on my Helpful Reading list to the left), wrote an article about self-injury and the relief that comes from the pain. Obviously, he doesn’t advocate it but delves into the thought processes behind it and how to work on controlling the urge with God’s help. Here’s an excerpt.

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Assisting those who are suicidal

I attend biweekly counseling sessions at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). I've been going there for close to two years and had the privilege to attend their last conference that focused on overcoming fear. Since then, I've been receiving their perodical newsletters. David Powlison, one of the people who teach Biblical counseling at the foundation, wrote an article on Help for the Suicidal that I found helpful. It mainly speaks to those who are Christians and puts great emphasis on reliance on God. He doesn't say that God will suddenly "deliver" you from all of your troubles or take away your suicidal feelings, rather he identifies triggers that might bring about suicidal thinking such as personal failure, failed dreams, and false hopes. While suicidal behavior can stem from depression, much of the triggers lie in cognitive behavior.

Ed Welch, also a counselor at the foundation and an author on Biblical counseling, has an article on Loving Those Who Are Depressed (PDF). I enjoy Ed Welch's writing. He doesn't dole out pity on depressed people but at the same time, he's not heavy handed with his advice. He finds the right balance in dealing with the sensitive subject of depression even when it comes to the tricky area of the "chemical imbalance," normally a touchy subject among evangelicals. Then there's this random article on procrastination (PDF) that I have yet to read but I can always have time to procrastinate by reading an article on how not to procrastinate. 🙂