In How to help people change, Dr. Jay Adams (1986) does not present a model of counseling per se. Instead, he provides an analysis, better yet and interpretation 2 Timothy 3:16. The interpretation is presented definitively as the sole method of acceptable counseling from a Christian and biblical context. One major flaw in his work is the underlying theological presupposition that only Christian people utilizing the framework he outlines can offer a process for counseling that results in what he calls acceptable change. Another unreasonable position held by Adams is the idea that change is only acceptable if it is “toward God” (p. 6).
While this is certainly true in regards to salvation and the biblical directive to be a living sacrifice before God (NASB, Romans 12:1), even Jesus acknowledged that both the righteous and the unrighteous live under some measure of God’s grace and benefit (Matthew 5:45). It is unsustainable to hold a position that unredeemed persons are not able to observe God’s purpose and design in humanity and offer some level of help, in the context of counseling, even if it is not totally in alignment with God’s Word. I admire Adams stance and value on Scripture.
In his book, he presents a view of the Bible that is an essential inhabitant of the Judeo-Christian worldview and value system. Nevertheless, he does not allow for elements of God’s truth to be discovered or evaluated from a perspective outside of the pages of Scripture. Adams says that “if it is a truth that is necessary to counseling, it will be found already in a purer form in the Bible” (p. 39). Honestly, one nearly has to reject intellectual credibility to formulate this type of statement because the Bible simply does not address a lot of issues tackled in the therapeutic sessions today.
I wonder what would be Adam’s solution for a client’s disorderly and unrestrained sexual addictive behavior. The first solution would be to direct them to the Bible verses that as a Christian, they already know. Another solution would be to remind them that they should be reading the Bible and praying more than ever. In reality, if neither of those approaches work, then the nouthetic counseling approach would conclude that a person is one whom God has turned over to their own “degrading passions” (NASB, Romans 1: 26) thus breaking fellowship with them.
Logically, one could see and would reason that sexual addictive behavior is rooted in an intimacy disorder, therefore once that is understood, biblical principles and theological understandings should under-gird the counselor’s approach to helping a counselee work towards healthy healing with the dilemma. According to Adams (1986), “…people must first hear the gospel, believe, and be saved” (p. 12). Seriously, this cannot be the first step in a counseling model. I believe that it would be a desired goal and that it could even be the best.
Conversely, the counselor must meet a person where he or she is in life. Furthermore, it may be that a therapeutic relationship of trust must be built before the counselor even has an opportunity to introduce the idea of a relationship with Christ. In addition, even though it sounds unspiritual to say, the counselor must accept that some people are able to adjust and live well as non-Christian persons. They may not end up going to Heaven, but we cannot deny that some non-Christians live seemingly fulfilled lives.
Dr. William Backus and Marie Chapian (2000) offer a good biblically based cognitive-behavior resource for dealing with feeling based concerns where cognitive awareness exists or is readily accessible in their book Telling Yourself the Truth. In addition, this writing provides a good dialogue about a Christian perspective concerning a person’s self-worth. However, there are some basic flaws in the model of Christian counseling as presented by Backus and Chapian.
It is not acceptable to present the concept of “attitude” as if it only involves cognition (p. 16). In addition, Backus and Chapian offers a very simplistic understanding regarding triggers. It is doubtful that a counselor who works with persons involved in addictive behavior and sexual brokenness concerns would agree with Backus and Chapian’s etiology of self-hate. The most troublesome aspect of this model is their idea that “misbeliefs are the direct cause of emotional turmoil and maladaptive behavior” (p. 17).
This statement alone demonstrates that Backus and Chapian do not understand developmental processes and that their perception concerning the impending impact of childhood experiences is feeble, at best. It is almost an absurdity to conclude that the primordial mental representations, including feelings, which are the basis for the characterological development of a person, language and socialization, are “caused by what we tell ourselves about our circumstances” (p. 17). Even with such flaws, it is agreed that Backus and Chapian’s model is useful in a cognitive-behavioral context concerning many adult concerns.
In positioning their model of counseling as more appropriate than secular methods, Backus and Chapian state that “many excellent scientific investigations have demonstrated that it is entirely unnecessary to uncover the childhood antecedents of current behaviors in order to change them” (p. 25). However, there was no citation or reference provided to document existence of such scientific studies. Consistent with Adams, Backus and Chapian ascribe to the theological position that “Jesus taught that the truth has freeing power” (p. 181).
However, Jesus actually said, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free” (NASB, John 8:32). While Jesus was referring to His spoken word, it is also important to remember that according to John 1:1, Jesus is the Word and the context of John 8:32 presents Jesus as the light of the world. Both writings overemphasize the importance of the Word of God to the point of minimizing the importance of a relationship with Jesus. Backus and Chapian’s model, as does Adams’ models, fall short in a range of areas with scores of rationales.
One area where the two counseling models are inadequate is in working with trauma-based concerns. There is no consideration for fear-based trauma memories resulting in cynical planning which bypasses cognitive function. Further there is no consideration in either counseling model for understanding concerns where the etiology of a problem is rooted in an attachment disorder. Of course cognitive-behavioral methods are appropriate in dealing with such concerns. However, it is inadequate to conclude that the sole method of treating attachment pathology is a focused effort towards changing one’s thinking process.
It is interesting that neither Adams nor Backus attempted to provide a framework for personality organization when presenting their counseling model. Rather, they both expend a great deal of effort in standing against the writings and views of others. It would be desirable that evangelical authors would stop writing about what everyone in the Psychology field is doing wrong. Instead, it would be helpful to develop a theory or model of personality and counseling that all Christian persons could work towards maturing and developing.
It seems wasteful to continue presenting emotionally charged views against others at the expense of building our own Christian understandings. References Adams, J. E. (1986). How to help people change: The four-step biblical process. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Backus, W. & Chapian, M. (2000). Telling yourself the truth: Find your way out of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and other common problems by applying the principles of misbelieve therapy. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.