Nine Recommended Books on Biblical Counseling


Competent to Counsel | Jay Adams – Jay Adams had been serving as a pastor for only a short time when he was met with a crisis that would dramatically change the course of his ministry. After evening service, Adams spoke with a man who eventually broke down in tears, unable to continue the conversation. Adams found himself without a word in response, unable to console or counsel this man. “I simply did not know what to do,” Adams writes in Competent to Counsel. “I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I had failed him. That night I asked God for help to become an effective counselor.” The fruit of Adam’s effort to educate himself with the best modern psychological and therapeutic tools available soon led him to determine that such resources promoted worldviews and counseling techniques that were in direct conflict with biblical truth. These crises, combined with other providential movements in his life, led Adams to develop what he considered a biblical approach to counseling, an approach he would eventually label Nouthetic Counseling. Competent to Counsel is Adam’s attempt to expose the anti-Christian presuppositions of modern-day psychiatry and psychology, challenge the notion that secular professionals are uniquely qualified to counsel, and equip Christians with the theological framework they need to effectively counsel one another.

The Christian Counselor’s Manual | Jay Adams  – Adams expands on some of the theological themes he began in Competent to Counsel, while also focusing his content on counseling methodology, including pre-counseling preparation and post-session reflection. Adams spends several pages addressing the importance of love in the counselor, how to convey hope to the counselee, and understanding the centrality of sin in assessing a counselee’s problems. The latter fourth of the book provides chapter-length discussions on how to counsel specific issues: anger, sexual difficulties, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, fear, envy, and self-pity, along with a chapter on how to effectively assign homework to counselees. Adams includes an appendix entitled “Cooperating with Physicians” to help counselors preclude any unnecessary hindrances that may arise due to an un-diagnosed medical problem.

A Theology of Biblical Counseling: Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry | Heath Lambert – “Counseling is a theological discipline,” Lambert states at the beginning of his book. Because this is so, counselors need a thorough grasp of every major Christian doctrine if they hope to effectively help people to overcome their problems. Christians, regardless of their current troubles, need a right view of Scripture, God, Christ, the Spirit, their sin, their human nature, and the fullness of their redemption in Christ, including the truths of justification and sanctification. Lambert even touches on the doctrine of common grace and addresses how Christians should evaluate and utilize scientific discoveries. This is a must-have for every counselor’s library.

Sufficiency: Historic Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture – The distinctive of the Biblical counseling movement is its methodological commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. In this four-article compilation, authors Heath Lambert, Wayne Mack, Doug Bookman and David Powlison offer compelling arguments for the sufficiency of Scripture for the counseling task while demonstrating that integrationism is philosophically, methodologically, and ethically flawed.

Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World | edited by Bob Kellermen and Jeff Forrey – Also in the category of Scripture’s sufficiency for counseling is this compendium of articles that touch on a variety of topics, including how Scripture’s Christ-centeredness relates to counseling, the value of biblical counseling in small groups, how to use Scripture’s various genres in your personal ministry of the Word, and much more. In his chapter, “What is Psychology,” Jeff Forrey concisely summarizes the psychology’s foundational deficiency in light of what Scripture offers the biblical counselor. “Secular psychologists can make potentially valid descriptions of human experiences, and they can raise questions to spur our thinking. However, they cannot offer complete explanations for those experiences, no can they offer prescriptions for living” (93).  

Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert – “The Biblical Counseling Movement,” editors Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert comment, “has long been caricatured by its various critics as shallow, superficial, and largely ineffective for the greater challenges men and women face in this life.” But is such a characterization valid? In this book, each of the ten chapters provide real-life examples of how a biblical approach to counseling proved sufficient to help people with what the world deems as “serious” problems that require the intervention of trained professionals.

The Biblical Counseling Movement by David Powlison – The first six books in this list deal with the theology and methodology of counseling. The next two books provide an historical account of the biblical counseling movement. Powlison’s book explores the sociological and theological context of the movement’s founder, Jay Adams. By tracing Adam’s development as a biblical counselor, Powlison also provides clarity into the growth of evangelical integrationism and why the biblical counseling movement was a necessary application of Reformed theology in an area that the church had heretofore neglected.

The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams by Heath LambertIn this book, HeathLambert picks up the story where Powlison leaves off. The biblical counseling movement didn’t end with Adams. Many Christians had become disillusioned by the promises of psychology and what they perceived as the ill-advised blending of psychotherapy and Christianity, and they had found substantive help in Adam’s trailblazing efforts. But Adams’ system wasn’t perfect, and he even anticipated future generations building upon what he had established over the past decades. Lambert traces what he calls the second-generation of the biblical counseling movement. While demonstrating deep respect for Adams and his work, Lambert also notes the places where the movement needed to grow and learn.  

Psychology and Christianity: Five Views edited by Eric Johnson – This book provides five perspectives on how Christianity should relate to psychology. I recommend this book because (1) it allows readers to read the claims of integrationists for themselves in an easy-to-access format; and (2) David’s Powlison’s chapter on biblical counseling and his responses to the other perspectives are particularly illuminating. By placing the biblical counseling position alongside of these other perspectives, one is able to see with greater clarity how robust and well-nuanced the biblical counseling position is.

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