In a day and age where “mental illness” is being medicated more and more frequently, and thus leaving Christians with the idea that counseling is best left to professionals, Jay Adams’ book is like a glass of ice cold lemonade on a summer day, for those of us who have been insisting that the Bible should dictate and govern our approach to counseling. He advocates for, what he terms, a nouthetic approach to counseling. He derives this term from Scripture, as he states, “My method is presuppositional. I avowedly accept the inerrant Bible as the Standard of all faith and practice.”
From this position of submission to God’s Word, he has derived the term nouthetic (coming from the greek noun and verb nouthesis and noutheteo), which in biblical usage has the range of meaning confront, counsel, admonish, even warn. Adams makes the case that Christian counseling, if it is to be faithful to the Bible, must be confrontational. By this he does’t mean argumentative, but that it needs to get to the root of the problem and endeavor to correct the problem quickly. Modern therapists end up with a client/counselor relationship that can go on indefinitely; not that the therapists don’t want to help their clients, but their clients can easily become a revenue stream. This can result not necessarily by a psychiatrist being greedy, but can result from the client feeling like therapy is the only way to treat their illness.
Precisely because we have redefined many sins into simple mental illnesses, we have ceded ground that should have been defended. There is much greater hope to be able to identify the sin that is at the root of depression, anger, bitterness, etc. than to simply try to accommodate a venting of feelings. Shockingly, many Christians are afraid to affirm, as Adams’ does, that sin is really at the heart of every counseling situation. Now it may not be the “counselee’s” sin, per se, but sin is always the issue (either theirs or someone else’s). Thus, it would be unloving to not go after the sin. Further, Adams makes the case that by identifying the sin, we are actually able to get somewhere by simply asking, “What does God’s word command?” This gives actionable steps of obedience, which God promises to bless.
A few of his many examples were overly simplistic, I thought, but overall very interesting, insightful, and useful book for shaping a biblical view of counseling.