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Foundational Biblical Counseling

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The purpose of this course is not to transform the student into a counselor, but rather to give the student the basic foundations on which that student can eventually become a counselor that offers hope and help to others through sound Biblical referencing and advice.

We all need to be careful about liabilities involved in practicing the profession of counseling. Be very leery of going into a private practice clinical situation, especially if this course is all you have to claim as an educational base. A professional counselor needs a comprehensive and thorough education with hundreds of hours of role play and mentoring before stepping into a clinical situation alone.

Let’s define what a counselor is. A counselor is a person who gives advice, guides or makes recommendations. A good counselor is also a good counselee. That means that the counselor must have had the experience of being a counselee. This should produce genuine humility in the counselor. A Biblical counselor is a person who gives sound Biblical based advice that will guide the counselee back to spiritual health, recovery and/or safety. A Biblical counselor is not one who necessarily is trained to corrective or realign cognitive (thought related processes) in the counselee. That is a whole other counseling genre.

Proverbs 19:20-21 says “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the counsel of the LORD, it will stand.

There are several specific Biblical counseling fields which a Biblical Counselor can participate in. They are; Pre-Marital counseling, Marriage counseling, Family counseling, Behavioral counseling, Relationship counseling, Financial counseling, Spiritual developmental counseling and Career counseling.




A counselor is not a “Savior”. The counselor’s job is not to rescue the counselee from the situation or circumstance they are in. The counselor did put the counselee where they are, so there is no obligation to get them out of it. There is only the task of the Biblical counselor to give sound Biblically based direction for the counselee to follow.

 A counselor cannot change the counselee. No one else can change them either. The counselee can only change when they choose to. The only true change comes when the counselee makes a cognitive choice to make spiritual changes based on the counselors Biblical advice that can affect their own life situation and/or circumstance in a positive life giving way.

 A counselor is generally nothing more than a tool box. A tool box is not worth anything unless it contains tools. And even containing tools is not really enough. They must be reliable tools that have been tested and tried by past experiences. The tools must be known to work. The Word of God (The Bible) is your primary and most affective set of tools. Therefore to be a good Biblical counselor, a counselor must know God’s Word very well.  




Effective counseling is 95+% listening and 5% or less talking. Procedurally, counseling is the opposite of counseling is teaching. This really takes the pressure off of the counselor. Listening is easy. James 1:19 “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;”

Many people, when given the opportunity from a good listener (counselor) will “counsel” themselves in some way or another, especially when coached through appropriate questions.      

So as the counselor becomes a competent listener, he or she should practice the tree  “Ls” of effective counseling. First, “Listen”. As the counselor listens he or she should be collecting and categorizing information and data.

Second, “Learn”. The counselor should learn what issues need to be addressed, and learn the best ways to scripturally address them. This is a process of learning that will never end for as long as the Biblical counselor is counseling.

Thirdly, “Love”. This means that the counselor should display the unconditional love of Christ in the counseling relationship. This love is best described in I Corinthians 13:13:1-8 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. (NAS)





The Biblical counselor’s speech needs to be enforced by personal knowledge and experience. This does not mean that the counselor must have personally experienced a particular situation, but it does mean that having had previous counseling experience with that situation can be very helpful. This is why it is always good to start Biblical counseling in a mentoring relationship with another counselor.

Words mean things. They really do. Every word means something. Definitions of the words we use are important. Many times the explanations of words will help illuminate the main issues. Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

Words often create feelings and emotions. These feelings and emotions are often very accurate expressions of the inward person. These expressions often indicate shifting thoughts and moods from former positions in the counselee.

Words can also form liabilities in and with the counselee. Many times people will hold very strongly to what a counselor may tell them. It may offer them the only real security they can cling to at the moment. That is why what the counselor specifically says at any point in the communication is very important.



People think through four basic filters. These filters help them interpret the stimuli (input) in their lives on a daily basis. Every person has all four filters in their psychological make up, but generally one of them is the primary filter that they see and interpret the world around in.

The following four filters are not listed in any specific order. One primary filter is not better than the other in any person. It takes people who have any one of these four filters as their primary filter to balance out societal thinking and balance communities and culture. 


Analytical Filter  “I need to know.”       

These people are often called “THINKERS” 

What makes this function?

How does this function?

Why did this happen?

Luke’s Gospel is a great source to start from when counseling.


Emotional Filter “I need to feel better”     

These people are often called “FEELERS” 

Why do I feel this way?

Why did they do this to me?

What did I do to deserve this?

John’s Gospel is a great source to start from when counseling.


Motivational Filter “I need to finish this”     

These people are often called “DRIVERS” 

Why can’t I move on?

Why won’t this end?

Why won’t they cooperate?

Marks’s Gospel is a great source to start from when counseling.


Plausible Filter “I need to know the options”

These people are often called “DREAMERS” 

Will this help me?

Will this fix my problem?

What are the other potential issues?

Matthew’s Gospel is a great source to start from when counseling.




Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The reason there are problems in people’s lives and in the management of any issue in this world is sin. The Bible tells us that no one, except Jesus Christ has lived without sin in their lives. Problematic issues are generally connected in relationships between two or more people and are incased in grief because of the loss of perfection.

There are three primary attitudinal issues created in all of us by sin in our lives. They are; My expectations are not met; Those are not the rules I live by; That doesn’t benefit me. In these three issues we find the problem. The key to solving sin issues is exposing the “unholy trinity” which is “me, myself and I”. The basic sin issue always comes back to our own selfishness. John the Baptist set an amazing example of how the Christ centered life should be lived when he said to his disciples in John 3:30 "He must increase, but I must decrease.”(NAS) 

But because we are all born into the sin of a sinful world, we have and face these issues. The Biblical texts are obvious to these facts. Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. Proverbs 21:2 Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.

Over 90% of all counseling issues require some grief counseling and care also. The psalmist said in Psalms 119:28 “My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Thy word.” Grief is the sense of expression when experiencing and acknowledging loss.

God created us so that grief is normal in the fact that everyone experiences it as much as they allow the experience to be a productive one. God created us so that grief is natural because He built into all of our psychological process for our own benefit.  God created us so that grief is necessary in that it is an adequate tool that God has given us to help us handle the loss we encounter in this human experience.  




A Biblical counselor should use God’s Word first and foremost in every situation. The counselor must have a practical knowledge of the Bible and be able to navigate through Scriptures comfortably. The effective Biblical counselor must also know God intimately to understand what He has written in the Bible. No one understands the Bible completely, but we should all strive to know it better.

The Biblical counselor must also be able and willing to draw from personal knowledge and experience. This means that the Biblical counselor must also experience a certain amount of vulnerability. The Biblical counselor should use his or her own life experiences as an example when applicable. The Biblical counselor should also know how to use first hand anonymous illustrations when applicable. These are illustrations and/or life stories that  the counselor knows personally to be true that can be shared without the counselee being able to identify who the counselor is referring to in the illustration.   

The Biblical counselor should always support and define knowledge and experience with Scripture. In other words, the Biblical counselor should always have a scripture reference to support the illustrations or examples he or she gives to the counselee. The Biblical counselor should use the illustration to point to the referenced scripture and vice verse.

A competent and compassionate Biblical counselor should always exercise strict confidentiality with everything they hear. The Biblical counselor should not share anything with anyone else unless the counselee authorizes you to. The Biblical counselor should never break this confidence with the counselee unless there is an undeniable and proven potential of physical harm or loss of life to the counselee or the other people involved in the counselee’s life situations or circumstances.

When we use the word “proven” is used, it does not mean “possibly” or “maybe”. It must be proven by convincing evidence that can be transferred onto someone else. This would include such things as the spoken words of a counselee that express a genuine threat or harm to something or someone, or actual tangible evidence such as (but not limited to) a gun, knife or other instrument of real physical harm. Usually it is very wise for the Biblical counselor to bring in more help at such a time as this. This may include making a referral to more qualified counselors in the arena of cognition and human psychology.  




In conclusion there basically three primary problematic areas that Biblical counselors address in their counseling work. They are: 1). Fears and Anxieties 2). Complicated and/or layered grief 3). Moral failures which include sins of omission (things we don’t do that we should have done) and sins of commission (things we do that we shouldn’t have done).

Understanding this will help the Biblical counselor define more accurately his or her role and be very effective in their listening skills and Biblical based advice they yield. Remember, biblical counselors are not teachers and preachers, they are a tool box that uses God’s word to guide, restore and correct others on a more productive and fruitful journey in this life.


Central Institute of Theological Studies
P.O. Box 750491
Dayton, Ohio  45475