“When we fail to respond in Christlikeness to the disappointments of life, it’s usually because we’ve forgotten all he has accomplished for us.”― Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life (This is posted as example of the over-simplicity offered by biblical counselors.)
Updated 12/16/2017 to add more info to Elyse Fitzpatrick’s bio which does not change my original assessment.
Today, my sweet foster grandson was admitted to the hospital for a extended stay. My wonderful daughter and son in law care for children who have been seriously wounded. This past week, some of that previous life began to surface and he needed intensive help. He calls me *Mamie* and my husband *Bubbie.* I spent some time visiting him today and would ask you to remember him in prayer. He will be hospitalized over the holidays. Our family is so sad. Some things just don’t get fixed with a lot of love. It takes time and he needs far more than a biblical counselor could offer him.
I want to be totally fair to the organizations which are involved in training biblical counselors so this is the first part of probably several posts on the training. I want to avoid the complaint that I just picked and chose the really juicy ones.
Last week, one commenter critiqued me claiming that I didn’t know the facts. Well, that dog won’t hunt. I am quoting directly from the crème de la crème of the so-called biblical counseling movement (BCM.) I am open to being proved wrong.
This past week, one couple sent me the form that they were required to complete before commencing with biblical counseling. They were so concerned about the intrusive nature of the questions on the form that they sent it to me with permission to print it.They refused the counseling and I think that was wise as you will see when we discuss this form in another post.
I am actively soliciting true personal stories of readers’ experiences with this type of counseling. I would ask that you put together your story in as concise a form as possible. I will get back to you in the New Year. I will try to include all of the stories if it is at all possible.
Dee will be used as the real life guinea pig as an example of a person seeking biblical counseling.
For purposes of many of these posts, I am using myself as the guinea pig. My daughter, Abby, was diagnosed with a large brain tumor when she was 3. At the time, I had a 4 year old daughter and my son was born in between Abby’s two surgeries. She was given an exceedingly poor prognosis and we were also told that brain tumors can come back even beyond 5 years after remission. The doctors informed us that puberty would be the time frame we would need to get through because puberty can sometime *turn on* dormant tumors. So we had to wait many years, each day fearing the tumor would return.
Over time, I developed an anxiety disorder and eventually sought help but I did not do so through biblical counselors. Instead I sought the help of a Christian psychiatrist and a Christian MSW. I also took medication for a period of time and I can truthfully say that I do not experience such anxiety now nor do I still take medication. So, think of my example as we explore the paradigms endemic to the BCM. For example, the focus on sin…
Where to go to get training to become a bonafide (certified) biblical counselor?
Since I am focusing specifically on the oft stated belief of the BCM that *anyone* can be a biblical counselor, I searched for programs that would allow for the average church member to get training. Eventually I will discuss the training they give seminary students.
Pastoral Counseling.Org discusses the requirements for becoming a counselor. Note the focus on sin.
It really is all about sin.
Becoming a Biblical counselor first and foremost requires studying the Bible and the scriptures. You will need to be very familiar with this text because it will form the basis of your counseling. In many cases, you will need to be able to identify the sin that the person is committing and know which of the different characters or stories in the Bible is the best to use when approaching the person. By drawing parallels between the Bible and the person’s behavior, it’s often easier to help highlight how and why they are acting inappropriately.
As long as you know the Bible, you should be able to counsel.
Because everything comes from the Bible, there is no educational program or training to undergo to become a Biblical counselor.
- You may want to take a training course that is available online and you should join a Bible study. They recommend the following groups.
These online courses are offered through several different groups, including the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), and the Biblical Counseling Institute.
- You need to be a good conversationalist because that is what most of biblical counseling involves.The counselor would be especially proficient in discussing sin.
You need to be a good conversationalist—much of Biblical counseling is simply talking. This skill can be learned, but until you’re really comfortable talking about faith and sin, especially pointing out someone else’s sin, your counseling may be awkward and, in the end, fairly ineffective.
This organization identifies the following groups as those that train biblical counselors.
- Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
- Association of Biblical Counselors
- International Association of Biblical Counselors
- American Academy of Biblical Counselors
- American Association of Christian Counselors
- The Institute of Nouthetic Studies
So lets’ go on over to the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, arguably the most well known of the group which has Heath Lambert as the President. They have varying ways for you to become a Biblical counselor. They also have three phases of training in order for a person to get certified to counsel.
Phase One Training at ACBC
1. Basic Training only takes 30 hours.
The lengthy list of lectures, which are available online and in training centers, appears comprehensive at first glance. However, this entire training only takes 30 hours. So how does this shake out? Not well at all.
For example, note that the 3 lectures which involve psychotropic drugs, medical issues and physical illness, are squeezed in amongst over 30 other subjects! Seriously?? This very concerning. Compare this with a psychiatrist who goes through 4 years of medical school and must do another 4 years of psychiatric training. Yet, somehow, biblical counselors are more equipped to counsel a client than a psychiatrist?
I. Orientation to and Dynamics of Biblical Counseling
A. Basics of Biblical Counseling
1. The Need for Biblical Counseling
2. The Definition and Goal of Biblical Counseling
3. Progressive Sanctification
4. Process of Biblical Change
5. Qualifications of a Biblical Counselor
6. Getting to Heart Issues
B. Key Elements in Biblical Counseling
1. Gathering Data
2. Discerning Problems Biblically
3. Establishing Involvement with Counselees
4. Giving Hope
5. Providing Instruction
6. Giving Homework
II. Critical Reflection on Various Theories in Counseling
A. Secular and Integration Theories
B. What Makes Biblical Counseling Biblical?
III. Husband and Wife Relationships
A. God’s Purpose for Marriage
B. Roles of the Husband and Wife
D. Biblical Sexuality
IV. Parent and Child Relationships
A. Goal of Parenting
B. Parental Instruction
C. Parental Discipline
V. Frequent Issues in Counseling
A. Guilt and Repentance
C. Trials and Suffering
D. Fear and Worry
G. Sexual Sin
VI. Medical Issues in Counseling
A. Physical Illness and Biblical Counseling
B. Psychotropic Drugs and Biblical Counseling
VII. Case Studies
A. Total Casebook, Role Plays, and other Practice Case Discussions
2. Observe a biblical counselor for 10 hours and keep a log.
either in person or via recorded counseling sessions.
3. Grow through reading.
Only 1,000 pages of approved reading is needed.
Increase your understanding of biblical counseling and theology by reading 1,000 pages from our Approved Reading List.
At least 300 pages will need to be from the “Biblical Counseling and Theology” category on the Approved Reading List.
Tip: Be sure to select at least one Systematic Theology from the list to read from. This will be very helpful for you when you write Theology Exam. Also, track your reading as you go by completing the ACBC Reading Log.
What sort of books are on this reading list?
Unfortunately I became quite concerned. Here is the entire list.
Biblical Counseling & Theology
A Theology of Christian Counseling by Jay Adams
A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert
Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof
Systematic Theology by John Frame
Christian Theology by Millard Erickson
Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns
The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield
Words of Life by Timothy Ward
Created in God’s Image by Anthony A. Hoekema
Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare by David Powlison
A Fight to the Death: Taking Aim at Sin Within (Strength for Life) by Wayne Mack
Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
God’s Greater Glory by Bruce Ware
When People are Big and God Is Small by Ed Welch
Counseling & Anger
Uprooting Anger by Robert Jones
Anger & Stress Management by Wayne Mack
The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo
Counseling & Sorrow
Out of the Blues by Wayne Mack
Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones
Counseling & Anxiety
Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear by Wayne Mack
Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Counseling & Avoidance
Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert
Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch
The Heart of Addictions by Mark Shaw
Counseling & Conflict
The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns
Pursuing Peace by Robert D. Jones
Introduction to Biblical Counseling
The Christian Counselor’s Manual by Jay Adams
How to Help People Change by Jay Adams
Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically by John MacArthur
Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams by Heath Lambert
Counseling the Hard Cases edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert
Counsel Your Flock by Paul Tautges
Blame It on the Brain? By Ed Welch
How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp
Putting Your Past in Its Place by Steve Viars
Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams
Speaking the Truth in Love by David Powlison
Counseling & Family
Peacemaking for Families by Ken Sande
This Momentary Marriage by John Piper
When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott
Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware
God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Köstenberger
The Faithful Parent by Stuart Scott and Martha Peace
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
You Never Stop Being a Parent by Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick
Marry Wisely, Marry Well by Ernie Baker
The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women by John and Janie Street
I would like to discuss this list in depth but for today let us look at two authors
1. Elyse Fitzpatrick has no accredited degrees, including undergraduate, listed on her resume.
Elyse Fitzpatrick, who signs her name with an MA and is often cited by the BCM, Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition, does not have a degree in counseling from an accredited university. I do not see a valid undergraduate degree listed either. So, how does she have an MA?
Elyse holds a certificate in biblical counseling from CCEF (San Diego) and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She has authored 23 books on daily living and the Christian life.
CCEF (San Diego) (Christian Cousin and Educational Foundation
This is a non degree granting organization which grants *certifcates* of counseling. It is not a university or college. Here is what they have to say for themselves.
While CCEF is not an accredited institution, we do offer a robust certificate program. Certificates represent that a student has completed courses in our program. The School of Biblical Counseling awards three different certificates: Foundations of Biblical Counseling, Topics in Biblical Counseling, and Counseling Skills and Practice.
Students must complete all courses towards a particular certificate in a five-year period. All three certificates can be completed in one calendar year.
Even then the student is not *certified* as a biblical counselor.
If you wish to refer to yourself as a “certified counselor” or “certified biblical counselor,” you should pursue certification through an organization that provides this type of certification. Some organizations will accept CCEF courses as part of their training requirement.
Trinity Theological Seminary
Fitzpatrick apparently went on to earn an MA from this institution. This seminary should hang their head in shame. Read what they say about their accreditation. Be sure to read it all the way through. It’s pure baloney. This is an online, unaccredited college and it sounds suspiciously like a diploma mill which I am sure will be hotly debated. Let the swords be drawn.
Trinity College of the Bible and Trinity Theological Seminary is authorized and approved to grant degrees in the State of Indiana under Article I, Sections 2, 3, and 4, of the Indiana State Constitution and is recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization as stated in the Internal Revenue Service letter of determination dated February 24, 1970.
We are not affiliated (accredited) with any regional or national accrediting agency and have operated, successfully, as a school of ministry for over 45 years with students graduating and serving in a variety of areas including teaching, preaching, missions, and counseling. Trinity clearly understands the purpose of accreditation. However, as noted by the US Department of Education, and all US DOE recognized accreditors, accreditation is a voluntary process.
For Trinity, and many other good schools that seek to serve the adult learner population, the true measure of the quality of an education, and the institution itself, is the extensive experience and credentials of its faculty, the integrity of its courses and programs, and ultimately the ministry and professional achievements of its students and graduates. Trinity has provided access to Christian higher education for over 47 years, has approximately 1,2000 students currently enrolled in its distance learning programs, and has been blessed to have graduated over 6800 learners who serve to further the cause of Christ all over the world.
This school lists Elyse Fitzpatrick as one of their distinguished graduates.
- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Biblical Counselor, Valley Center, CA
In her bio she says the following:
Please note that Elyse does not, under any circumstances, counsel over the internet.
For the life of me I cannot figure out why she doesn’t. That seems to be how she earned her *competent to counsel* certificates….Frankly, this is gravely disappointing to me. I assumed she was an expert because she is oft quoted by the gospel™ crowd.
Update: Thanks to Jerome 12/16/17
It is rather odd that Fitzpatrick does not mention this on her bio on her own website which is where I usually go to get information directly from the source. Jerome found she may have an BA from Berean Bible College from Living Way Church’s tiny ‘Berean Bible College’ outfit in Poway, California. This does NOT add to her credentials and this may be why she didn’t add it.
“Berean Bible College is a Charismatic Christian bible college located within Living Way Church. The college claims educational accreditation through the Accrediting Commission International for Schools, Colleges and Theological Seminaries, an unrecognized accrediting organization based previously in Beebe, Arkansas now based in Sarasota, Florida.”
2. Ted Tripp and Shepherding a Child’s Heart by spanking babies.
I was quite surprised that this book is being recommended as a resource book for biblical counselors in training. Tripp is an advocate of spanking babies as young as 8 months old,
Children are old enough to be disciplined when they are old enough to show resistance, Tripp says in “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.”
“Rebellion can be something as simple as a small child struggling against a diaper change or stiffening his body when you want him to sit on your lap,” he writes, relaying an anecdote about how his 8-month-old son was old enough to be disciplined.
A particularly thoughtful critique of this book can be found at ONE MOM’S LOOK AT TEDD TRIPP’S BOOK: SHEPHERDING A CHILD’S HEART
For brevity, I focus here on my disagreements with Shepherding a Child’s Heart—its application of some Scriptures and its overall emphasis.
My main concerns are these:
1. The book’s focus on requiring obedience as the primary component of the parent/child relationship and emphasis on parental authority as the right to require obedience.
2. Tripp’s teaching that spanking is the means the parent must use in order to bring a child back into “the circle of blessing.”
3. Tripp’s interpretation that the “rod” in Proverbs equals spanking, that spanking is even for young children, that spanking is the God-ordained means of discipline (which parents must obey) and that use of the rod saves a child’s soul from death.
4. His portrayal of any other style or method of parenting in a derogatory manner and training parents’ consciences that failure to discipline as his book teaches is disobedience to God.
There are other authors who raise red flags for their lack of scholarship and one day I hope to do a thorough review of this list. Perhaps our readers will have something to add.
Phase Two: Exams and Applications
Whoa…I was going to gloss over this and finish up the post. However, a number of questions came to mind as I was reading this section. So, I guess this is it for this week.
Oh, and I wonder what sin my foster grandson committed that caused him to be admitted to the hospital to be cared for by highly trained and truly *competent to counsel* professionals?
Big question for ACBC
Does ACBC believe in counseling parents to spank 8 month old babies who squirm while having their diapers change? In fact, do they advocate spanking babies for any reason?