Why I am A Nouthetic Counselor

When I first began doing biblical counseling, me and those like me were known as nouthetic counselors. Nouthetic is a word that means to admonish or instruct with an eye toward change. The problem with the word, is that no one outside of biblical counseling had a clue what it meant! So, we adopted the user friendly term of biblical counselor instead.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of the word noutheteo over the past few days, and I once again am reminded of its importance. Noutheteo is what sets me and my colleagues apart from therapists and other forms of spiritual counselors. Noutheteo has the particular emphasis on internal change that leads to changes in outward living.

This understanding is very important to me, and it becomes crucial to the women and men we meet with in our ministry. So many of our counselees come looking for changes in their marriages, in their relationships with their kids and parents; and they are initially wanting us to provide steps or methods they can use to make their circumstances better. Ironically, most have already tried that through other counseling or therapeutic relationships. They have come to us because what they learned lasted as long as their willpower to keep doing it.

With nouthetic counseling they come to understand that when the goal is merely external change or alteration of circumstances, their aim is wrong and they will continue to miss the mark. I have seen this over and over in marriage counseling cases where one spouse grasps the idea that the goal must be to glorify God by how they live their life, and the other spouse wants to fix the visible problem with God’s help. There is a distinct difference in how the counseling proceeds in such situations. The spouse that understands that nouthetic counseling is a complete and total overhaul of the inner man makes tremendous progress! Homework is welcomed and thoughtfully done. The discussion in the session is Christ-centered and Spirit-led, with the counselee experiencing breakthrough after breakthrough. It is a joy to meet with such people because their problems are no longer their only focus; what God is doing in their problems is more important. They understand and are amazed at how He is using their trials and disagreements to reveal the contents of their heart and shape and conform them into women and men who desire to love, honor, serve, and worship Him more than anything else in life.

My own faith is encouraged as I watch these dear saints being transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2). They become sacrificial in their marriages and relationships, considering the other as more important than themselves (Phil. 2). Their prayer lives are vibrant! They look forward to spending regular time in the Word, and they apply what they are learning. They receive instruction with the goal of internal change, and this leads to changes in every area of their lives. They make changes that last because they are not self-focused, they are fixing their eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of their faith (Heb. 12:2)

You don’t get this result with any other kind of counseling.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:7