Becoming a Biblical Counselor

What is Biblical Counseling?

Biblical counseling is a form of counseling that has been around for centuries. Originally called Nouthetic counseling, it is practiced by church members without any special training or certification. Being a Biblical counselor means following in the footsteps of the apostle Paul. He wrote that one needs to teach, instruct, and correct one’s fellow Christian. The basis of Biblical counseling is that everything a person needs to understand life and work through any difficulties can be found in the Bible. Biblical counseling is practiced by a number of groups. Not all of these groups provide formal instruction, but some, such as the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, does offer a certification.

The reason the term Biblical counseling is often used today instead of Nouthetic counseling is because it’s less intimidating. The word “Nouthetic” is not immediately recognizable, even by those who have read the Bible, and many may think that they’re required to hold a degree in religion in order to offer Nouthetic counseling. Biblical counseling, however, is a friendlier term that is not as intimidating. The two terms are, however, interchangeable and refer to the same thing.

Biblical counseling is not a licensed form of therapy or counseling. Being a Biblical counselor does not mean you’re qualified to offer any sort of formal counseling.

Who Can Be a Biblical Counselor?

Quite simply, anyone who wants to be a Biblical counselor can consider themselves one. Biblical counseling is based on the idea that all one needs is a deep understanding of the scripture to offer counseling. While it’s true that many who consider themselves Biblical counselors are ministers or other types of church leaders, this isn’t a requirement. Any person who feels as though they have been called to offer Biblical counseling to another may do so.

Because all Biblical counseling is to be based on the Bible and the scriptures, there is no need for any courses on behavioral study, counseling, therapy, or psychology. Because of this, few Biblical counselors hold degrees in counseling. In fact, the practice of Biblical counseling is expressly against bringing these secular studies and treatments into the discussion. All counseling should focus on identifying sin, changing behavior to overcome that sin, and making one’s life more in line with what the Bible outlines.

A person who practices Biblical counseling will often work through the Three C’s with someone they feel is in need of counseling.

First, they will confront the person. This should actually be done in a very non-confrontational way, despite what it sounds like. Someone who is acting as a Biblical counselor has a duty to point out to another when they are committing a sin or acting in a way that goes against Biblical teaching. This confrontation should be based on the Bible and religious teachings, not on personal feelings. It’s important to do your best to refrain from judging the person or feeling superior—that’s just as sinful in the eyes of those who practice Biblical counseling.

The confrontation should come out of concern, the second C. Being concerned for another member of the congregation should always be the driving force behind a confrontation. Biblical counselors are concerned about the consequences of sinful actions and do their best to reach out to them by using the Bible to illuminate any sins the person appears to be committing. Unlike with traditional counseling or therapy, Biblical counselors make no attempt to be detached or emotionally uninvolved. Biblical counselors show their concern and their love for the person they are counseling.

The third C is for change. This is the goal of every Biblical counseling session. The idea is that, by showing concern and by confronting the other person, you can convince them to see the sins they are committing and change their behavior. This change will come from within and from their faith, not from any type of therapy.

In some cases, you may not feel qualified or confident enough to engage in Biblical counseling with another member of the congregation. That’s perfectly fine—in this case, it’s important to speak with a minister or other church leader. They may be able to guide you on how to approach the person, or they may approach the person themselves.

Since all members of a congregation can practice Biblical counseling, it’s often true that the roles will reverse themselves at some point. The person you confront out of concern and hope to change may be the person who later comes to you offering Biblical counseling for behaviors they’ve seen in you that have troubled them.

Requirements to Become a Biblical Counselor

Becoming a Biblical counselor first and foremost requires studying the Bible and the scriptures. You will need to be very familiar with this text because it will form the basis of your counseling. In many cases, you will need to be able to identify the sin that the person is committing and know which of the different characters or stories in the Bible is the best to use when approaching the person. By drawing parallels between the Bible and the person’s behavior, it’s often easier to help highlight how and why they are acting inappropriately.

Because everything comes from the Bible, there is no educational program or training to undergo to become a Biblical counselor. You may want to take courses in religion, and many ministers who hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees do practice Biblical counseling. However, you don’t necessarily have to have a degree or even be ordained. Doing so often means gaining much of the knowledge of the Bible that you would need in order to provide effective Biblical counseling, but that knowledge can be gained in other ways.

For example, you will most likely want to join Bible study groups, and you may want to work through some of the courses in Biblical counseling available online. These online courses are offered through several different groups, including the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), and the Biblical Counseling Institute.

You’ll need to have a few specific personality traits to be a good Biblical counselor. First, you’ll need to be a good listener. Much of Biblical counseling is listening to the other person and responding to them in the most helpful way possible. You need to be a good conversationalist—much of Biblical counseling is simply talking. This skill can be learned, but until you’re really comfortable talking about faith and sin, especially pointing out someone else’s sin, your counseling may be awkward and, in the end, fairly ineffective.

Finally, you’ve got to be very strong in your own faith and do your best to practice it in all ways of your life. Many religions stress that all people sin, and as a Biblical counselor, it’s important to remember that you’re not better than the person you’re counseling. Judging them or feeling superior is going to make the person feel antagonized, which will quickly end the session.

Earning Practical Experience

To gain practical experience as a Biblical counselor, simply provide counsel to others. If you want to study the Bible and become a more experienced Biblical counselor, you may want to work with your minister or other church leader. You may then have the chance to sit in on counseling sessions (with the permission of the other person, of course) so that you can get an idea of what Biblical counseling involves.

Of course, this isn’t completely necessary—you don’t even have to consider what you’re doing as formal Biblical counseling, and many don’t. They’re just talking to others about problems and using the Bible as a way of solving those problems. Some people have years of practical experience as a Biblical counselor and don’t even realize it.

Is There a Biblical Counseling License or Certification?

While you can become certified as a Biblical or Nouthetic counselor through the Institute for Nouthetic Studies or through the ACBC, the certification is not an official certification or license recognized at the state or national level. The certification simply demonstrates that you have completed a Biblical counseling program. You will not be able to use one of these certificates to meet the requirements for a job as a licensed counselor, therapist, or other position. However, these certifications do hold some weight with a number of churches and others who practice Biblical counseling.

Organizations Who Support Biblical Counselors

Many who want to connect with other Biblical counselors and learn how to provide high quality care may do so by joining the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Members can take advantage of the different resources offered online and attend an annual conference where they have a chance to connect with others in the field. The Institute of Nouthetic Studies also provides resources for those who wish to base their counseling on the teaching of the Bible and Christ. Other notable organizations who support Biblical Counselors are listed below:

Organization/AssociationContact Information

Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280

Association of Biblical Counselors

209 N. Industrial Blvd. Suite 237
Bedford, TX 76021
(877) 222-4551

International Association of Biblical Counselors

11500 Sheridan Blvd.
Denver, CO 80020

American Academy of Biblical Counselors

5100 N. Illinois
Fairview Heights, IL 62208
(618) 416-7334

American Association of Christian Counselors

P.O. Box 739
Forest, VA 24551
(800) 526-8673