This past weekend I had the privilege of being one-half of a
speaking duo for a wonderful group of women in Tallahassee, Florida. At the end
of the conference, we participated in a question and answer session and several
of the questions had to do with the topic of how biblical counselors serve those
diagnosed with mental illness; specifically clinical depression. 
It is important at the outset to understand the difference
between the secular and integrated counselor and the biblical counselor because
there are enormous differences in beliefs, paradigms and methodology. 
The secular and integrated counselor believes (with few
exceptions), that any question that can reasonably be asked about human beings
and our behavior falls within the field of psychiatry or psychology which
offers a plethora of theories (currently over 250) as to why we behave the way
we do. These theories have led to the diseasification of many emotions and
behaviors.
One popular school of thought known as the medical model,
largely attributes negative feelings and behaviors to a deficiency or imbalance
of chemicals in the brain and to hormonal imbalances (although numerous secular
professionals are now denying the chemical imbalance theory). This model labels
many behaviors as diseases, disorders and illnesses without any objective
scientific proof to support such conclusions. The solution is to prescribe
medications that alter brain and body chemistry to attempt to relieve the
negative emotional or behavioral problems the client is experiencing.
The numerous books, medical and psychological journal articles
written on mental illness and its treatment are full of contradictory
statements and data about these theories. Their conclusions are often based on
the use of flawed data sets, and their papers are full of statements such as,
“it is suggested”, “it is hoped”, and “often seems inconsistent.” 
There are some apparent similarities between biblical
counseling and other methods of counseling. For example, in both biblical
counseling and psychology, we see a problem, we know behaviors need to change,
and talking with and listening to the person with the problem are part of our methodology.
However, even though there are some similarities, they do not justify the use
of secular theories and methods in helping troubled people. Biblical counselors
do not apply psychological labels to problems, nor should we, because our
understanding of what has caused the problem is based on biblical truth not
psychological theory. 
To be clear, biblical counselors are not against physicians,
medical research or even the use of medication to treat those who are ill. If a
medical condition can be proven by objective, reproducible medical testing
within accepted norms and values as is found in blood work, then a proper
course of medical treatment (medication, surgical intervention etc.) must
ensue. Medical causes for odd or negative behavior can be proven in a laboratory
(hypo or hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cancer, Lupus, etc.) unlike psychological
theories. 
Because psychological diagnosis are based on subjective data and
unproven theories, the diagnosis is faulty. Therefore, the treatment will be
faulty. In light of a lack of medical evidence to prove a person is
“sick” we view them as a fallen sinner who has developed sinful habits, and has
begun to live for self rather than God’s glory. 
In contrast to the secular route, biblical counseling was
not devised or contrived by man; God has designed it. We take the counselees
problems seriously and rather than excusing, justifying or rationalizing them
away, we examine their problems in light of and what God’s Word says directly
or indirectly about them. We show them the biblical perspective on their
behavior and actions and attitudes of the heart. Because God created us in His
image and likeness, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He wrote a
Book that is useful for application to all aspects of our lives. 
Contrary to the medical model, that saddles a person with a
disease or disorder they can never overcome, the Biblical model gives them hope
that they can change! Our counseling methodology should be different from
secular and integrated counseling methods. After spending 15 minutes with a
biblical counselor, the counselee should be able to say that no other
counseling experience they have had is like this one. They must be able to tell
that our counsel is not centered on their esteem, feelings, or their past. 
The message from the first prayer uttered must be about God –
who is the central focus of life. All our counseling is God-centered (Jer.
17:7-8, Rom. 12:1-2). My counselee’s hear repeatedly that it is not about them,
it is about God. It is not about their feelings; it is about God’s glory. It is
not about worshipping self, it is worship of God. I stress that there is accountability for sinful actions and
thoughts. The responsibility for them cannot be pushed off on people. 
The
counselee also hears she is accountable for change! Many people want change,
but they want the changes to take place in others so they will be happy. So
often women tell me they want me to help them change their husband. The emphasis
in biblical counseling is on change of heart that will lead to life change. We
believe that before actions and words can be glorifying to God, the heart has
to be changed to one that seeks after God. Once the heart undergoes
change, then great strides can be made in change of life. We do not encourage lifetime
counseling. Our goal is to help the person understand and implement change on
one or two levels and then give them the tools to apply it to all other areas
of life.

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