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In Hebrews 4:12, we read: "For the word of God is living and effective" (HCSB), and in Isaiah 55:11, God says: "My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it [to do]" (HCSB). Therefore, pastors can seek in the Bible confidently divine principles that deal with the problems their counselees face.

Where should you start?

You will need to study the Bible passage carefully to discover biblical principles applicable to the counseling situation at hand. Even though counseling is neither preaching nor teaching, it does have elements of both, such as the proclamation of God's truth and the explanation of God's principles. Consequently, you will need to be creative in how to use the Bible in each counseling session.

Many methods of using the Bible in counseling exist. You should determine, with the discernment of the Holy Spirit, which methods to use in each situation. However, in order to be most effective, you will need to conduct a thorough spiritual assessment of your counselee.

Spiritual assessment

Spiritual assessment is an essential part of the evaluation of any counselee's issues. Therefore, in addition to examining a counselee's psychological, emotional, and social areas and inquiring about his physical health, you must conduct a thorough spiritual assessment.

1. Assess your counselee's spiritual condition.

  • Is your counselee a born-again Christian?
  • If not, what is his religious background?

2. Assess your counselee's spiritual maturity.

  • What kind of Christian is your counselee?
    • New believer?
    • Immature or infant (Hebrews 5:11–6:3; 1 Corinthians 3:1; Ephesians 4:14)?
    • Worldly or "of the flesh" (1 Cor. 3:1 HCSB)?
    • Mature or spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1)?
  • Does he practice spiritual disciplines consistently?
  • Is he actively involved in a local church?
  • How much Bible knowledge does he have?

3. Assess your counselee's Bible knowledge and ability to use and apply Scriptures in his life.

  • What methodology does he use to study the Bible?
  • How does he interpret Scriptures and apply them to his life?
  • Does he have a tendency to misinterpret Scriptures?
  • What assumptions does he bring to the biblical text?

4. Assess your counselee's openness to spiritual/Biblical interventions.

  • Is your counselee receptive to your Biblically-based counseling?
  • Is your counselee willing to apply Biblically-based principles (interventions and homework assignments) to his life?

5. Choose a Bible passage to address your counselee's issues and study it in depth.

  • Use principles of Biblical hermeneutics.
  • Discover Biblical principles that address his issues.

Here are some creative ways to use the Bible in your counseling ministry.

10 creative ways to use the Bible in counseling:

1. Read the passage to your counselee and explain it to him.

  • Describe biblical principles.
  • Explain how they relate to your counselee's issues.

2. Read the passage to your counselee and ask questions.

  • Have questions prepared in advance.
  • Allow time for your counselee to think and respond.

3. Read the passage with your counselee and discuss it together.

  • Give him time to think. This allows for your counselee's own insights.
  • Let your counselee ask questions.

4. Summarize Bible stories to illustrate biblical principles.

  • Highlight examples in the life of a particular Bible character (e.g., you may use the life of Joseph in Egypt to illustrate God's sovereignty, God's providence, forgiveness, etc.).
  • Engage your counselee as you share the Bible story.

5. Give your counselee a list of Bible verses that speak to the issue and then discuss them with him.

  • Prepare a list of verses that address the issue your counselee struggles with.
  • Ask your counselee to read them during the week and discuss his understanding of those verses in future meetings.
  • Ask you counselee to identify which verses speak more directly to him and this issue.

6. Articulate and explain the Biblical teaching/worldview on a particular issue.

  • Share the basic Biblical understanding of the issue your counselee is facing.
  • Let your counselee respond to the Biblical view.

7. Give activities (homework assignments) that involve Scriptures.

  • Have your counselee memorize specific Bible verses.
  • Have your counselee carry cards with specific Bible passages.
  • Have your counselee study a specific Bible passage and bring his findings to the next session.
  • Assist your counselee in coming up with a specific way to apply the Biblical principle to his life.

8. Engage your counselee in spiritual discussions.

  • You may ask the counselee to share how he became a Christian.
  • You may ask the counselee to share about his daily devotions.
  • Your may ask the counselee to share a passage of Scripture that has been meaningful and helpful to him.

9. Use Bibliotherapy, Internet articles and devotionals.

  • Use biblically-based and theologically-sound Christian books, Internet articles and devotional resources to help your counselee strengthen his faith and develop insights into how to face his issues from a biblical perspective.
  • Read the resources before recommending them.

10. Use Christian videos or DVDs.

  • Recommend biblically-based and theologically-sound VHSs, DVDs, and Internet videos to your counselee to watch and discuss with you in sessions.
  • Watch the resources before recommending them.

Elias Moitinho, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology & Counseling at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Lisa Donald

commented on Jul 30, 2011

Thanks for these needful thoughts. The Bible is indeed SUFFICIENT: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" 2 Tim 3:16-17. I do believe we need to be diligent to know the entire counsel of Scripture and consider it prayerfully in someone's life-context. Often it's the passages you wouldn't think of immediately that a person needs.

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