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Competent to Counsel Hardcover – June 20, 1986
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From the Publisher
%This is a classic in the field of Christian counseling. It has helped thousands of pastors, students, laypersons, and Christian counselors develop both a general approach to Christian counseling and a specific response to particular problems.
%Using biblically directed discussion, nouthetic counseling works by means of the Holy Spirit to bring about change in the personality and behavior of the counselee. As the author points out in his introduction. "I have been engrossed in the project of developing biblical counseling and have uncovered what I consider to be a number if important scriptural principles. Immediate problems been resolved, but there have also been solutions to all sorts of long-term problems as well.
%First published in 1970, this book has gone through over thirty printings. It established the bases for an introduction to an approach to counseling that is being used in pastors' studies, in counseling centers, and across dining room tables throughout the country and around
From the Author
Dr. Jay E. Adams is Director of Advanced Studies and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California. He received his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, his B.D. from the Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary, his S.T.M. from Temple University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. In addition to having served as a pastor and then a Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Dr. Adams has been the Dean of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, Laverock, Pennsylvania, since its founding in the early 1970s. He has written over fifty books, translated the New Testament into English (The Christian Counselors New Testament), and lectured throughout the world. His books deal with many aspects of pastoral ministry and counseling as well as Bible study and practical Christian living
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Top Customer Reviews
Dr. Adams is a counselor, writer, pastor, and the founder of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Competent to Counsel, written in 1970, is his most well-known book, though by no means his only work on the subject of Nouthetic counseling. His own failure at counseling one of his church attendees led him to seek to be a better and more effective counselor to those who seek him out as pastor. It didn’t take long for him to realize that modern psychoanalysis and counseling techniques as taught in the secular world did not offer much relief or assistance to the hurting either. Life altering experiences such as teaching practical theology and Westminster Theological Seminary, working with Christian psychologist O. Hobart Mower at two state mental institutions in Illinois, and his own personal in-depth study of Scripture all led Adams to the realization that “all concepts, terms and methods used in counseling need to be re-examined biblically” (xviii), which is exactly what he set out to do in his first work, Competent to Counsel.
In Competent to Counsel Adams explains that practices of modern psychoanalysis are self-defeating because they are based on the assumption that man can heal himself, right his own wrongs, and change his own behaviors. However, the Bible teaches the believer than man is depraved and sinful from birth and has no means within himself to change this fact. Therefore, Adam argues, that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit counseling, convicting, and renewing a person, man has no hope of escape from his problems, hence the need for nouthetic counseling.
Nouthetic counseling is biblical counseling. It sees the Bible as its main resource or guide to overcoming the source of mankind’s problems – sin. God has revealed truth to man’s nature, need, and salvation within its pages. Nouthetic counseling also relies on the fact that true, life-changing, healing, counseling must be done by the Holy Spirit, that no man can change himself or another. While a pastor or counselor guides, admonishes, teaches, or rebukes another according to the truths of the Scripture, only the Holy Spirit can affect any true lasting change.
Adams also challenges the indoctrination of our culture that believes that only those properly trained in psychological disciplines are capable of counseling those with severe problems. They claim that only psychology has the answers to man’s problems. This humanistic philosophy has been proven wrong in the fact that the world and man have not gotten better since the advent of psychology, but in fact has gotten worse. Adams demonstrates through various illustrations and through Scriptural support that “the work of counseling should be carried on preeminently by minister and other Christians whose gifts, training and calling especially qualify and require them to pursue the work” (268). He lists what these gifts and training encompass as well as suggesting methods as to how they may put their calling into action within the counseling process.
Realizing that this book was published before the existence of scientific data to support his claims, I believe Adams was a man of God who boldly took a step into a relatively ignored part of the pastor’s calling – the area of pastoral counseling from a biblical foundation. While definitely not a new idea, since the advent of psychoanalysis, the role of pastor as counselor had been relegated to the back burner. I applaud Adams for having the courage to sound the wake-up call to Christian ministers everywhere. This book is insightful, thought provoking and convicting. Pastors need to realize that part of their calling is to walk beside the sheep, protect them, correct them, teach them, and guide them into all truth through the application of the Bible in everyday life. It is the calling and the privilege of the pastor to shepherd the flock and not abdicate his or her role to the wolves waiting outside the gate. Jay Adams, in Competent to Counsel, has shepherded the shepherds in the area of biblical counseling and their personal responsibilities to their flock.
If you are a Christian, your answer should be "No! The word of God!" The Bible is the Christian's basis for wisdom in living. The Bible addresses the most fundamental issues of mankind. The Bible has the answers for life's most perplexing problems. Therefore, Christian counseling must be BIBLICAL counseling. In this book, Jay Adams provides a general introduction to this topic of Biblical counseling. I found this book to be a helpful introduction to the subject with many "golden nuggets" of practical advice.
Sadly, many pastors and other leaders have ceded ground to Psychology and Psychiatry. Under the guise of "mental illness," these theories attempt to shift responsibility from the counselee and blame outside influences (pg 1-19) (By this assessment, I am NOT including legitimate "organic" problems, such as brain or chemical damage). Freud's principles are based on the belief that religion is invented to fulfill man's needs. Furthermore, his views "encouraged irresponsible people to persist in and expand their irresponsibility...and made it respectable." (pg 17). Christians, on the other hand, understand that the basic problem in man is SIN (Romans 3). Only the Bible provides the solution to the problem of sin - the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible's message is that all people are utterly sinful and deserve judgment and hell. However, sinful men can find salvation and reconciliation to God through faith in Jesus Christ through His atoning death on the cross. Thus, Biblical counseling is Gospel-saturated counseling.
Adams uses the term "nouthetic counseling" to describe Biblical counseling. The term "nouthetic" is derived from the New Testament term for "admonish" or "warn" in such passages as Colossians 3:16 and Romans 15:14 ("...I [Paul] also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to ADMONISH one another"). The basic idea in the New Testament is that Christians must CONFRONT each other. The term includes the following elements: 1.) Concern for the benefit of the counselee, 2.) something is wrong that must be confronted, 3.) thinking and behavior must change, 4.) Verbal instruction must be used, 5.) the goal of this instruction is for the counselee to confirm to biblical standards, and 6.) Scripture is sufficient for this advice (2 Tim 3:16... "All Scripture is God-breathed and is USEFUL or PROFITABLE for teaching, reproving, correction, and training in righteousness") (pg 44-50).
The book does an especially good job of modeling biblical counseling. As I read the book, I made note of the following helpful tips for the biblical counselor:
- Watch for the counselee's harboring resentment as the source of physical and mental problems (Prov 26:23-26) (pg 26-34). Psalms 51, 38, and 32 show that there can be physical effects of unrepentant sin (pg 115-122)
- Don't feed the counselee's avoidance patterns. Instead "speak the truth in love" and call a spade a space. "It is not merciful to be nonjudgmental"(pg 33-34) Don't minimize their sin with compliments (Prov 25:20) (Pg 140).
- Be careful of becoming so sympathetic that you fail to hold them responsible (pg 58) and fail to think straight about their problem (pg 59). To say that "Your problem seems basically to be the result of sin" will not discourage the counselor, but rather will give him hope (pg 139). Sometimes the direct question may be in order, "Where has the present sinful behavior (or attitude) gotten you?" (pg 210)
- Don't act as "neutral" in the counseling environment. Instead, be intensely concerned (2 Cor 2:4, 11:29, 3 Jn 4). (pg 53-54)
- Stress to the counselee the need to stop running and hiding, but, rather repenting (pg 55).
- Remember the goal of counseling is conformity to the likeness to Christ (Eph 4:13). "By His power the Spirit then enables the client to begin to put off the old man with its old patters of life, and to put on the new man with its new biblical patters." (pg 74). [side note - I do not like the term "client"...it sounds too professional and uninvolved]
- Spend less time finding out how people feel. Instead, look for behavior. Ultimately behavior determines feelings. (pg 93) (c.f. Genesis 4:3-7)
- Use the book of Proverbs to exhort the counselee to wise living! (pg 99-100)
- Don't be afraid to provide loving rebuke of sinful attitudes and actions (pg 101-102)
- Look for "I can't" kind of speech. Remind them of the faithful God of 1 Cor 10:13. Set this tone early in counseling (pg 132, 135) Once they see progress, also remind them of 1 Cor 10:12 - "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."
- After you model Biblical problem solving, send them home to discover a solution to a particular problem and report what they find. (pg 193-195)
- Assign "homework" based on bible study, prayer and introspection. The Problem-Solution worksheet on pg 197 might be helpful: "What Happened, What I Did, What I Should have Done, What I Now Must Do"
- Use the "Iceberg" method to discover the underlying issues. "Whatever is protruding above the surface...is material for counseling. As the counselor chips away at the topic, more and more of the iceberg rises, until eventually the bulk of it is in sight." (pg 203)
- Point the counselee to Scripture to understand Godly communication and anger resolution(Ephesians 4) (pg 217-224)
As complements to this book, I also highly recommend "Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands" by Paul David Tripp and "How People Change" by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp.