In today’s hectic lifestyles, it is common for people to experience circumstances that are very difficult to handle. No individual is immune to challenges and it is these problems that enable people to grow and mature. The manner in which people deal with these problems differs markedly. According to Crabb (1977), people react to difficulties in life with feelings of guilt, anxiety or resentment. Counseling can help an afflicted person to deal with life’s challenges. The American Counseling Association’s mission is to improve the societal quality of life through enabling professional counselors to develop, advancing counseling as a profession and utilizing counseling in the promotion of respect for diversity and human dignity. Crabb (1977), notes that those people being counseled usually have self-centered goals of wanting to be happy and to feel good. However, the true purpose of counseling, according to Crabb (1977) is self-sacrifice through service and the fulfillment of God’s plan by freeing people so that they can serve and worship God. This is achieved by helping people become more and more like God, in what may be described as attainment of maturity. This paper examines the practice of counseling through highlighting the commonalities and differences between Crabb’s biblical counseling model and the accepted counseling theories, standards and techniques.
Part I: Goal of Christian Counseling
Crabb (1977) asserts that the goal of counseling is to free people to enable them worship and serve God better. This is achieved by making people more and more like God in what is known as the process of maturity. This is according to the teachings of Paul which state that his interactions with people verbally were always geared towards promoting Christian maturity. The predominant strategy of Biblical counseling is promoting psychological and spiritual maturity. According to Crabb (1977), to be mature and psychologically whole, the first step a Christian goes through is justification, which is the process through which God declares the individual Christian acceptable. Individuals seeking counseling are usually those looking for approval from fellow man. However, Crabb (1977) asserts that if one is accepted by God, they do not need human acceptance. Christian counseling takes the path of examining whether the client is obedient in responding to the circumstances he is experiencing. The goal of counseling according to the American Counseling Association is different from the Christian goal of counseling. This is because unlike in Christian counseling, counselors focus on trying to understand the cultural backgrounds of their clients. They also examine their own cultural backgrounds to determine how these impact their beliefs and values during the counseling process.
Part II: Basic Concepts
Basic concepts of counseling as espoused by Crabb (1977) differ from those of modern professional counseling. This is because Crab (1977) asserts that counseling cannot be treated like a discipline such as medicine or dentistry that largely depends on technical knowledge delivered by a professional who is highly trained. He proceeds to write that counseling can only be centrally and critically based on a relationship between two people who care about each other. This concept is fundamentally different from modern cognitive approaches to counseling which employ the services of a highly trained professional counselor who uses scientific approaches such as Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) (Andrews, 2012). CBT is a type of psychotherapy which uses two related approaches: Behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is all about helping people identify and eliminate self-defeating thought processes. On the other hand, behavioral therapy is all about helping people recognize and eliminate maladaptive behaviors. Both of these approaches have been used as effective treatment methods for depression. This explains why CBT has also been effective as an approach against depression. Crabb’s idea of who should be a counselor is different from that help in modern counseling practice (Andrews, 2012). He states that since effective counseling calls for an understanding and a caring relationship, mature believers who have the love of Christ should be sourced from the church and trained in counseling skills and insights.
There is a similarity between Crabb’s Christian approaches to counseling and those employed in professional counseling today. This is because both of them recognize the role played by interpersonal care, acceptance and trust. In addition, both approaches recognize the role played by understanding human functioning.
Part III: Basic Strategy
Crabb (1977) explains how problems develop using a model. He highlights the concept of need stating that people are both personal beings and physical beings. Personal needs are those things the individual requires to survive personally. Significance and security are used as a basis of self-worth. He claims that we must have purpose in life and love if we are to survive as persons. Crabb writes that for intelligent counseling to occur there needs to be a good concept-based understanding of the root course of the problem. He notes that most psychological problems develop from a failure to reach an objective as a result of some obstacle. There are three categories of obstacles: unreachable goals, external circumstances and the fear of failure. In terms of basic strategy, there are similarities between biblical and secular counseling. The idea that most psychological problems that need counseling originate from an individual need is accurate in professional secular counseling. A major similarity between Christian counseling and secular counseling is that both of them recognize the need for the individual counselor to obtain some training. Crabb (1977) writes that biblical counseling requires a responsible member of the church who has some training on basic principles of counseling.
Part IV: Developing a counseling model for the church
Larry Crabb talks about how to counsel in the Christian community. He emphasizes the need for individual care, stating that it is of utmost importance. He highlights three levels of counseling: level 1: Encouragement; Level 2: Exhortation and level 3: Problem thinking. Crabb (1977) writes that all body members should be involved in level of counseling. Other members of the body such as the clergy (pastors, elders, deacons and Sunday school teachers may be trained at level 2 counseling while a few select individuals may be trained in level 3 counseling. In level 1 counseling, the counselor has the initial awareness of the problem. For example, a brother may notice that his sister is unusually quiet. His compassion and need to convey Christ’s love leads him to encourage. Level 2 (counseling by exhortation) entails employing a scriptural strategy to handle a situation. In level 3 (counseling by enlightenment), after recognizing and empathizing with an individual’s problem, a level 3 counselor looks deeper into the individual’s thought process and attempts to change the thoughts through biblical intervention.
A point of divergence between Biblical and secular counseling is that secular counseling does not recognize the levels concept on Christian counseling in the church. The role of Christ in people’s lives is not recognized professionally by most professionals in the psychology field. Similarly, some Christian counselors do not accept the strategies and benefits of psychological techniques and theories. However, Hawkins (2010) provides a model of counseling in which he attempts to conceptualize human personality. He uses concentric circles to represent different levels of an individual’s personality. He places the Holy Spirit centrally to explain how the one’s personality is impacted. The contrast in methods used by Hawkins and Crabb is in that Hawkins emphasizes more on functioning with the client to establish the best manner in which to deliver the intervention.
According to Crabb (1977), people respond to difficulties in life with feelings of guilt, anxiety or resentment. Counseling is a form of psychological intervention that can help an afflicted person to deal with life’s challenges. There are commonalities and differences between Crabb’s biblical counseling model and the accepted counseling theories, standards and techniques such as those documented by the American Counseling Association. This paper serves this goal by examining the three major parts of Dr. Lawrence Crabb’s book which include (1) Goal of Christian Counseling; (2) Basic Concepts; (3) Basic Strategies and (4) Developing a counseling model for the church.
Andrews, L. W. (2012). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Encyclopedia of Depression, 1(2), 112-113.
Crabb, L. J. (1977). Effective Biblical Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House.
Hawkins, R. (2010). Week 1, Lecture 1: Strategy for Intervention. Retrieved on March 28, 2010, (Liberty University): http://bb7.libety.edu/courses/1/COU507_D01_201020/cotent/_7395960_1/dir_!53747261746567796664696f6e576b2031.zip/index.html