Tag Archives: Stephen Farra

Some critical thoughts about Biblical Counseling


For those reading this site interested in christian counseling and more specifically, biblical counseling, I have a quote below for you to muse about. I’d like to hear your reactions to the author. Is he right? If not, what is wrong with his critique of the biblical counseling movement or wrong with his insistence on producing evidence of the effectiveness of biblical counseling?

The quote comes from the website www.christiancounseling.com (The Association of Biblical Counselors) which publishes an ejournal for paying subscribers. On occasion they publish interviews with those outside (but friendly with) biblical counseling. Some of their interviewees, like myself (November issue) have a foot in their world but also one in the professional world. FYI, there are more and more of us who reject the necessity of separating clinical care from biblical care but do not believe the integrative attempts of the past were all that useful either.

In September they interviewed a Dr. Stephen Farra, professor at Columbia International University and director of their psychology or counseling program. You can find him and his writings at www.ciu.edu/faculty/bio.php?id=12. He has one work there on his model of counseling called Accountability Psychology, a biblically based CBT model.

After lauding the biblical counseling movement for its deconstructive work of then accepted notions of christian and secular counseling, he says, 

…the biblical counseling movement has been better at critique than positive creation, however. Whenever I seek for an answer as to whether Biblical Counseling has developed clinically powerful counseling methods to help meet the needs of most of those suffering from severe psychological disorders, all I find are a few anecdotal accounts of counselor-reported recoveries for a few individuals… To “get it right,” we do need to move from “integration” to biblical consistency, but we must also move from anecdote to evidence. The Biblical Counseling movement needs to squarely face up to its need to provide solid, empirical evidence of effectiveness and efficiency. Without a solid evidence-based, “best practices” approach, Biblical Counseling will continue to be seen by most Christian counselors in the country as primarily a theological-critique society, making some interesting and valuable points along the way, but without practical means for helping many of the suffering souls who come to us seeking help.

Theological consistency and doctrinal purity is vital, but it is half the battle. The other half is showing that the recommended procedures really work for most people suffering with particular disorders.

Well, what do you think? I’m not looking for anyone to trumpet the superiority of biblical counseling or trash it. In fact, I think biblical counseling has one of the best understandings of biblical anthropology out there. But, should it seek empirical evidence for its methods? While empiricism isn’t the only means of truth, it does tell us something. How would one test the effectiveness of biblical counseling? That all would depend on the outcomes sought–which raises a good question: Does biblical counseling seek to reduce anxiety and depression or sinful or immature responses to it? Is it primarily discipleship or is it counseling to reduce the experiences of what has been commonly known as mental illness?

Good questions to mull over.

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