How Is Biblical Counseling Different Than Other Types of Counseling?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There are three general categories of counseling.

  1. Traditional psychological counseling
  2. Integrated counseling
  3. Biblical counseling

Traditional psychological counseling makes an earnest attempt to help hurting people find wholeness as it employs over 200 different, sometimes conflicting, psychological approaches for diagnosis and treatment. Psychological counselors will select from Freud, Jung and Adler’s differing approach to Psychoanalysis, Skinner’s Behavioral Modification, Rogerian Reflection, Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, etc…, or even mix and match differing psychological approaches as they attempt to assist those in need. It is important to note, however, not only were these well-known psychologists and psychiatrists not Christians, but in many cases their moral foundations and approach to the human condition were the antithesis of Biblical thinking.

Integrated counseling attempts to integrate Christian principles into the plethora of psychological approaches. The resulting counsel often neither resembles the original model nor the biblical principles which are being mixed into the stew.

The Biblical counseling movement is founded on the premise that God, as Creator, has solutions to man’s brokenness and that His solutions are more effective than those devised by man (Colossians 2:1-10). The solutions for man’s brokenness and the guidance for living a full, abundant life are found in God’s Word. The Biblical counselor’s dependence on the Holy Spirit and prayer and the use of Scripture as his reference guide make Biblical counseling distinctively different from the other approaches and ultimately, more effective.


Some of the theological and philosophical differences between Biblical, Integrated/Christian and Psychological counseling are best seen in what we believe.

In Biblical Counseling we believe:

  • Faith and beliefs are the foundation of actions rather than feelings and desires (James 1:14-15).
  • Morality and ethics are defined by the Scriptures rather than by society, the individual or the experience of the moment.
  • Man is simultaneously body and soul.
  • Man experiences fullness only in relationship with God rather than freedom from God.
  • Man answers to God as revealed in Scripture as the higher authority rather than to himself.
  • All truth is not God’s Truth. Many of the “truths” as defined by mankind contradict God’s Word, which claims to be THE source of God’s Truth.
  • Sin exists. It is part of our very nature rather than something we experience.
  • All counseling is based on a belief system involving man, God, values and ethics. Accordingly, no counseling is neutral.
  • Reality, truth and experience are not synonymous.
  •  Man is responsible for his behavior, responses and attitudes. This is contrary to psychotherapy which says he is a victim and merely a product of primal urges or unconscious responses to parents, environment or childhood traumas, and is therefore not responsible.
  •  It is more important to align one’s thoughts, words and deeds with the transforming power of God through prayer and Scriptural application than to merely modify behavior.
  •  People find hope in the mercy and grace of God rather than inward, investigative self-knowledge.
  •  A Biblical self-judgment and self-esteem is found only when the focus of life is on God, service to God and to others, and on what lies ahead through Christ-esteem (Philippians 3:10-16), rather than an inordinate delving into the past and focusing on building up the self.
  •  The Scriptural path to fulfillment is in obedience to God, encouraged by hope, guided by faith, motivated by love rather than probing the depth of your own heart, i.e. your self.

Some of the practical differences between Biblical, Integrated/Christian and Psychological counseling are best seen in what we believe.

In Biblical counseling we believe that:

  •  The basic problem of hurting people is sin, either committed by or against the person. Sin causes separation from God, whether it is an act of commission, omission, or a sinful response to another’s sin against them. Their pain in and of itself is not the problem, but only a reflection that there is indeed a root problem.
  •  The purpose for counseling is for each individual to become more like Christ, godly in all spheres of life (2 Peter 1:3-10; Romans 8:28,29). God often uses trials and suffering to accomplish this (James 1:2-4).
  •  The counselor guides the counselee into a closer relationship with God and others (Matthew 22:36-40) rather than being a mirror to reflect, verify and affirm the counselee’s thoughts, feelings or actions.
  •  Counseling is a face to face meeting motivated by love and concern for another individual who is struggling with a problem for the purpose of restoring him to God and others. God has always provided a way to handle every circumstance in which a person finds himself so that he may respond in a righteous manner (1 Corinthians 10:13,14).
  •  The majority of our emotional, mental and physical difficulties have spiritual roots (Psalm 1).
  •  A dependence on the Holy Spirit and the use of Scripture is essential to teach, rebuke, correct or train (2 Timothy 3:16) the counselee toward a full and abundant life.
  •  The counselor’s role is to discern the spiritual root being manifest emotionally, mentally and physically rather than affirming the counselee’s innate goodness (Jeremiah 17:5-10).
  •  The struggles people carry with them are frequently very involved, difficult and complex, while the root of the problem and the process that leads to healing is simple (Psalm 119:133; Proverbs 3:5-8).
  •  While many Christians have not been fully trained to counsel all types of issues, all are qualified to counsel one another at some level, based on their knowledge of the Word and their experience in application of that Word to their own lives (Galatians 6:1-2; John 5:22-30).
  •  Counseling is to be sensitive, caring, encouraging and at times confrontational (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
  •  Significant progress can take place in weeks and months rather than months and years.
  •  Medication is a secondary and temporary option rather than a primary solution.