Tag Archives: biblical counseling

Pastoral Counseling for Sex Offenders: 3 Dos and 3 Don’ts

As the church does a better job in understanding the epidemic of sexual victimization (1:3 women, 1:5 men report unwanted sexual contact by age 18), the church also faces the challenge of understanding how to care for sex offenders in the community. Gone (hopefully!) should be the days where a congregation just ignores offenders and acts as if their sins are in the past needing no further follow-up. And we don’t want to swing to the other extreme of making it impossible for sex offenders to be part of the church community. Rather, the church will best represent Christ to victims AND offenders when it exemplifies the grace of limits to offenders.

The local pastoral counselor (whether in the church or in a para-church organization) will be called upon to participate in the care and counsel of a sex offender. In preparation for this eventuality, every pastoral counselor should embark on their own continuing education. Read books (start with the difficult book Predators by Anna Salter), meet your local ADA who prosecutes sex crimes and find out what is required of offenders after they leave prison, find local clinicians who specialize in treating the various kinds of offenders (e.g., adolescents, adults, Internet based, those who have been incarcerated, etc.)

Dos and Don’ts

After improving your understanding of the nature of sexual offending and the available resources, consider these three dos and don’ts in order to avoid some serious pitfalls

  • Do treat them as fully bearing the image of God, just as you would a victim of a sex crime. Your relationship with the offender should not be a barrier to their ongoing growth and sanctification. Do you share the same mercy and grace as you would to someone you may feel more compassion? Do you see them as less human? Your compassion should lead you away from an adversarial or judgmental approach to them (this does not mean you won’t be firm or even skeptical!). Accusations, no matter how accurate, rarely lead to transformation in another. Instead validate their feelings and experiences. They will have lost much: friends, family, finances, standing. While it came at their own hand, you surely want to validate this experience.
  • Don’t treat all sex offenders the same. Recognize differences between adolescent and adult offenders, Internet only offenders and direct contact offenders. You do not want to have a one-size-fits-all approach for supposed fairness reasons. If you don’t have training in understanding these differences, do not assume you already know how to counsel these individuals. Get training, supervision, and consider referrals.
  • Do assess on a continual basis. As with all clients, a competent counselor never stops assessing for treatment readiness, commitment to change and growth, commitment to the grace of restriction, insight and more. Does your client show a growing evidence of empathy towards victims and the community? Does your client evidence a thirst for community supports and accountability (vs. passive acceptance)? Does your client give evidence of being solely focused on personal experience; give evidence of resistance and bitterness that others do not offer blanket trust?
  • Don’t use words, time, or other factors in determining growth and repentance. Far too frequently, churches use the right words, a few tears, and the passage of time to indicate when they reduce oversight over an offender. These are not good indicators of change! In addition, do not confuse repentance with a requirement for reconciliation. Do not neglect the matter of restitution but do not hold requirements of victims to return to a former level of intimacy with the offender. Not all that is broken in this life can be fixed in this life. Do not fall prey to the fantasy that all things are restored and reconnected in this life. Yes, our God can work miracles, but he also gives grace to us to continue with our thorns in the flesh.
  • Do set specific goals. Whenever we provide counseling for chronic issues, it helps to set goals that can be evaluated even as there may be a long road still to go. A competent counselor agrees upon goals with a client. Some of these goals might include (a) growing in empathy for others, being able to sit with the experience of others without bringing up one’s own, (b) deepening Gospel understanding about sin and impact of evil without either despair or superficial repentance, and (c) accepting limits and little trust as a way of life.
  • Don’t be caught off guard by common concerns of the offender. In my experience, offenders often have these questions that repeat on a fairly regular basis: Where can I worship? When can I come to church? Why can’t I worship with my family? When will I be done and be treated like anyone else? Doesn’t [victim] bear some blame? Why does [victim] get to make decisions about my worship? Why am I treated as a leper?  These questions are important and being prepared for them means the counselor can more likely respond with compassion and clarity. This can only better serve the offender and reduce the bitterness that comes from unanswered questions.


Additional links to check out:

1. Church Ministry to Sex Offenders 

2. Sex offenders vs. Sex Abusers?

3. Search “sex offender” in search box in the upper left for more blogs on this topic


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, Uncategorized

The origin of the biblical counseling analogy: the bumped cup

Amy Carmichael with children

Amy Carmichael with children (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have heard several biblical counselors use the following story to teach about the true source of our sinful anger.

If you are holding a cup and I bump your arm and so the contents spill out on the floor, what caused the spill? You might be inclined to blame me. It wouldn’t have spilled except that you bumped me. But, really, the only reason why it spilled is that you had contents in your cup. If the contents weren’t in the cup, it wouldn’t spill no matter how hard I bumped into you. When we get sinfully angry, it is easy to blame the other as the cause. In reality, the true source of sinful anger is the one who is expressing it. The one who bumps is not the cause, only the situation that uncovers what was already there

This little analogy finds its basis in the book of James (3:9f)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water

Origins of the cup story?

But, where did this cup story find its origin? In all of the times I heard this little story, I never heard it attributed to someone. As a result, I assumed it originated with someone in the biblical counseling movement.

While I still do not know the FIRST time it was used, I can tell you that it appears in Amy Carmighael’s little book, IF, published first in the 1930s. I have an undated copy of the book (published by CLC). Page 37 says this,

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love.*

*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water however suddenly jolted.

Is this the origin? Anyone know if someone before the 1930s used this example?


Filed under anger, biblical counseling

Better objectives than reconciliation?

When you experience a broken relationship, do you long for the day when what is broken is made new? I do, even when I know that the chances of restoration and reconciliation are slight.

However, I’ve written a post over at our faculty blog suggesting that as good a goal as reconciliation is, it makes for a poor objective for us. Wonder why I think little of reconciliation as an objective? Click the link to find out and to consider some alternate objectives.

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Filed under Abuse, biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, christian counseling, Christianity, conflicts, Relationships

The Journal of Biblical Counseling is Back!

Those of you familiar with the wider field of Biblical Counseling and of the leading role played by the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation may be interested to know that they have re-launched their popular journal after being on hiatus since 2007. the Journal of Biblical Counseling (v. 26) is available for FREE here on their website. You can download individuals articles or the entire issue for free, OR…you can order a print version for a fee if you would rather touch the pages.

I would especially point readers to Mike Emlet’s helpful essay on psychoactive medications, Julie Lowe’s essay on counseling children, or any of the book reviews. All well worth your time!

It may not be free for long so take advantage of this resource.


Filed under CCEF, christian counseling, counseling, counseling skills

How to evaluate a counseling model or technique: Step two

In my last post, I discussed the importance of evaluating the next “great” counseling method or technique with a good dose of suspicion. What is the author (or disciple) trying to sell us? Why? What is the basis of their model?

However, I do not want you to think that we ought to dispatch every counseling intervention with a snooty once-over. Rather, I want you to immediately follow-up your suspicion with an opening of your mind!

Step Two: Read with an Open Mind

Even the shakiest of ideas, models and techniques provide opportunities for us to grow. No matter our wisdom and intellect, we will always see life (reality) from a particular vantage point. Every human vantage point contains bias. This is why we should read outside our own disciplines and family groups. I especially encourage readers to listen to their loudest critics. They will have a point or two that we ought to take to heart.

So, find the originators of the model or technique you want to explore (often, original authors praise their ideas a bit less than their disciples do). As you read, ask these questions,

  1. What does this author observe about their world, the way it works (or doesn’t)?
  2. How do they envision the purpose and goal of life?
  3. What human problems are most significant to them?
  4. What solutions do they seek? What techniques or interventions are most prominent?

While you may disagree with their interpretations (save that for a later step), work hard to view the world through their eyes. Can you see what they see? You want to make this effort because you recognize you do not see the world entirely as it is. You see in part. Your humility here will help raise to your mind questions that you mint not thought were all that important.

Let me give you an example. In my first semester at Wheaton College (PsyD program) fresh out of the biblical counseling world of CCEF, I wrote a paper for Stanton Jones defending/critiquing a model of biblical counseling. At the end of the paper, Dr. Jones asked me to conduct a thought experiment,

Would [this] model urge medical research forward? After all, if worship is our primary end, and we can give glory to God with a serene death, why try to eradicate disease? If suffering is a human trial that gives us opportunity to glorify, should the concrete contributions to the suffering be addressed? I know this can be answered, but oh the subtleness of emphasis!

I have to tell you that these words were powerful to me at the time (and still are!). He knew I would say, “of course we should eradicate suffering.” But, in promoting the human end of enjoying God, even in suffering, I had emphasized suffering well to the point of de-emphasizing concrete helps that often come through psychological and medical research.

The goal of step two is to challenge our own assumptions to see if they need tweaking. Once we have concluded exploring the observations of the model builder, next we move to evaluating interpretations and assumptions.

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Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling science, Psychology

Good Read! New book out for lay counseling training

I am frequently asked about the best materials out there for churches interested in building a lay counseling ministry. There are materials out there that help to teach people to be good listeners. There are materials out there that give lay counselors an education on the nature of problems and how God is in the business of changing hearts and minds. These same materials help readers realize that lay counseling can be a credible and highly important ministry in the church. While professionals are needed for difficult cases, many counseling needs can be handled “in-house” if the church supports and supervises wise lay counselors.

Well, a new book is out and though I have not read it all, I have gotten a flavor of it, enough to recommend it to you all if you are looking for such a book. It is written by Robert Kellemen, author of a number of counseling texts and frequent blogger. Don’t miss his answer to a question of mine at the bottom.

Why is this an important book?

Here’s why:

  • Most prior books on this topic present lay counseling either as an anemic listening only task or speak only in theological terms and fail to actually train lay counselors to listen well. This book considers both the biblical basis for lay counseling AND is concerned about listening skills as well.
  • Most prior books forget to bring the WHOLE church along in the vision of biblical counseling. Bob has the readers consider the church culture and health. If the church (leaders) aren’t buying in to this, there won’t be a counseling ministry.
  • Bob focuses on the character of the counselor. This is HUGE. What’s worse than a poorly trained counselor? One who is well-trained but arrogant and un-reflective.
  • Bob covers practical matters of a counseling ministry including the ethics of lay counseling. This is extremely important if a church doesn’t want to make mistakes that could lead to lawsuits.

Click here for more on the book including a table of contents, video trailer, and sample chapter.

So, I asked Bob this question:

Most churches seem divided between those who support lay biblical counseling and those who think counselors should be specialists outside the church. How does your book speak to both?

Bob’s answer is extended but helpful:

That’s an excellent question. Anyone who knows the focus of my ministry knows that I tend not to be an either/or person, but rather a both/and person. I believe God calls both biblical counselors in the church and those who counsel outside the church.

Equipping Counselors for Your Church, by the very nature of the title, is much more focused on local church-based equipping. However, in chapter one I address More Than Counseling: A Vision for the Entire Church. Here I outline seven different “styles” of meeting counseling needs in the Christian community–including the “specialist model.”

A main reason I choose to focus on equipping counselors for the church is that very few others are doing so. While we have scores and scores of books about training professional Christian counselors, the last book written on equipping counselors for the church was Tan’s 1991 book–based upon his 1980s dissertation which in turn was based upon research from the 1970s. We’ve gone an entire generation without a book on equipping counselors for the church! Frankly, that’s inexcusable given the Bible’s clear mandate that we equip God’s people to speak the truth in love so that we all grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Further, we have 100s of counselor education programs in Christian colleges, graduate schools, and seminaries, but in my research, few of those programs have required courses in equipping counselors. In the one course I took on the topic in my seminary MA, we were told that it was not possible to equip counselors for the local church! I couldn’t disagree more. I always tell pastors, counselors, and students that if you are going to obtain a Master’s Degree that means you have so mastered the topic that you not only are able to do the work of counseling, you should be able to equip others also.

So, we could debate the issue forever (biblical counselors in the church or specialists outside the church), but the fact is, there’s a dearth of biblical, best-practice material available for those who are committed to equipping one-another ministers for the church. Equipping Counselors for Your Church brings together two-dozen best-practice churches who are doing it successfully now, plus my experience launching and leading biblical counseling ministries in three very different churches. It provides a biblical, logical, theological, relational, field-tested, practical step-by-step “4E” process: envisioning, enlisting, equipping, and empowering.


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, counseling skills, Doctrine/Theology, Good Books

When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work

Today is the first full day of the CCEF annual conference in Valley Forge, PA. The conference is entitled, “Sex Matters” and so all plenary and breakouts are on said theme. It is not too late to drop by if live in the area and want to register. I believe they will still take walk-ups.

Besides the faculty-led plenary sessions, Lauren Winner (Girl Meets God; Mudhouse Sabbath, & Real Sex) will speak on Saturday. For those of you who can’t come, CCEF sells mp3 downloads on their website.

I will be providing an hour long seminar entitled, “When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work” at 4 pm today. We will focus on desire, arousal, technique, and relationship problems (whether perceived, physical or emotional) couples sometimes encounter. Slides and an additional home-grown sex therapy questionnaire is available here (#16 on the list, scroll to the bottom).

The best part is that after I’m done, Biblical Seminary is hosting a pizza party for current students and alums (5:30p) at our information table.


Filed under "phil monroe", biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, CCEF, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling skills, Sex, sexuality

On-line counseling courses through Biblical Seminary

Those interested in taking an on-line, graduate-level counseling course might wish to consider this new joint offering from my school, Biblical Seminary, and the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).

Counseling in the Local Church (2 credits)

The course is taught by Dr. Tim Lane, Director of CCEF and runs from 1/18/2010 to 3/19/2010. It is completely on-line with mp3 lectures, assignments, and threaded discussions with others in the class. You can register here for this class. If you have Internet access and an undergraduate degree, you can take this class.

Later in Spring 2010 we will offer David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change.

CCEF started Biblical’s counseling program back in the mid 80s and has continued to lend their faculty to courses here and there at Biblical. They have been offering on-line and residential courses (non-accredited credits) for 25 years. In my personal opinion, our joint venture brings together quality biblical counseling and theological expertise with practical and professional counseling expertise!

Now, we have a chance to work together to provide on-line students with quality teaching from CCEF but now for academic credit. (You must have an undergraduate degree already)

What can you do with these credits? Well, for one, you could apply them to a number of Master’s degrees at Biblical. They could count as elective credits in our MA Ministry, MDiv, or MA Counseling program. Second, you might seek to have them transferred to your own local graduate school program. Biblical Seminary is ATS and Middle-States accredited and so will be considered a legitimate institution. However, you should know that every school sets its own polices regarding transfer of credits. Usually they look to see if the course fulfills a course they would have required in their own program. Remember that it is up to you to find out if they will transfer.

Or, you can just take them because you want to be enriched! We’d love to have you as a student!

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Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, CCEF, christian counseling, counseling, counseling skills

Dialog between Christian Psychology and Biblical Counseling

Yesterday Robert Kelleman made a comment on an old blog post of mine about my model of counseling. In that comment he said the following:

Your readers might find of interest my summary of last week’s symposium on biblical counseling where Eric Johnsons (SCP), myself (BCSFN), David Powlison (CCEF), and Steve Viars (NANC, FBCM) discussed with Jeremy Lelek (ABC) the state of biblical counseling/Christian psychology:


To me, true biblical counseling and true Christian psychology should be the same thing. They use biblical psychology (understanding people, diagnosing problems, and prescribing solutions) theory to guide their biblical counseling (sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding) practice.

Bob Kellemen

The link takes you to Bob’s own site and has links to christiancounseling.com where DVDs of the dialogue will be available. It is good to hear of the unity among these cousin models of counseling.


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling skills, Psychology

Breaking down Christian Counseling barriers

Maybe it’s a stage of life, maybe I’m hallucinating, but it seems to me that the divisions withing Christian forms of counseling are exploding. And to that I can only say hurrah!!

Let me give you the clifnotes version of American Christian counseling history (minus many important details) starting with the 20th century:

  • Fundamentalist/Modernist fallout after the turn of the century builds division between fundamentalist/evangelicals and academics, including psychology. Division over naturalism
  • Christians authoring psychology related books (Boisen, Clinebell, Hiltner, Narramore) in 30s-50s
  • Creation of Christian Association of Psychological Studies in 1956 by Dutch Reformed pastors but later broadened to include those wacky Californian evangelicals interested in psychology. Writings at this time were broadly evangelical but often contemporary psychology models with bible verses attached. Beginnings of the integrationof psychology and Christianity movement with creation of doctoral training programs by Fuller Seminary and others.
  • Jay Adams counters in late 60s and early 1970 (Competent to Counsel) with nouthetic counseling model to return to the power of the Scripture to change people and to throw off the humanistic clutches of psychology. Numerous models of biblical counseling birthed. Most prominent: CCEF
  • Divide between Biblical counseling models and professional Christian Psychology widens in the church. Much maligning of each other. To associate with one meant no possible association with the other. Biblical counseling avoids professional jargon; integrative psychology pushes for meeting state licensing standards
  • Biblical Counseling moves in 1980s from predominantly deconstructive and critique oriented to more positive model building
  • 1990s: some beginnings of dialogue between key thinkers/authors in biblical counseling and integration movement. Integrative clinicians see benefits of the biblical work done by biblical counselors, see problems with many superficial integrative models, and both sides seem to be less separatistic and more open to learning from each other
  • Now in the 21st century: A new version of Christian Psychology willing to embrace biblical counselors, psychologists, theologians, etc. and desiring to build a robust, biblically founded understanding of people informed by psychological research.

Okay, that’s in broad brush strokes and I left out huge developments and individuals. But yesterday I received a survey about biblical counseling programs. It’s clear our old divisions and categories no longer work. Now, today I get an advertisement for a biblical counseling conference that includes a wide variety of speakers. We are truly crossing lines! I’m interested to see what comes of this in the next 5 years.

FYI, interested in a fuller history? Start with the 1st chapter in Eric Johnson and Stan Jones’ “Psychology and Christianity: 4 Views” book. Follow their reference list. Then check out David Powlison’s U Penn PhD dissertation on the history of Jay Adams. Neftali Serrano published his PsyD dissertation on the beginnings of CAPS. That will whet your appetite.


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, History of Psychology, Psychology