A couple of weeks ago, I revealed that I was researching a shocking expose’ to feature on the blog. I am now far enough along in my research to begin the series.
Let me tell you how this series came about:
As you may recall from an earlier post, my dad confessed to being a sex addict a few years ago. My dad attended pastoral counseling and a 12-step program, but eventually fell off the wagon – which lead to my parents’ divorce. Their pastor, desperate to get him help, suggested an out-of-state, 9-month live-in rehab program for sex addicts. “It is a Christian program,” he said.
I was less than thrilled at that little revelation. My father had already attempted pastoral counseling multiple times, and it had not helped to resolve his core issues. At the time, I was encouraging my dad to seek a professional, state-licensed psychotherapist. But whenever I expressed my doubts about the program, the pastor assured me (via my mother) that the center was staffed with “certified counselors.” That was enough to reassure me and support his attending the program.
My father graduated the program sometime around July this year. About a month ago, he asked if he could contact me. Wanting to evaluate where he was in his recovery, I agreed. He called one night, and we talked for about 40 minutes. I wasn’t satisfied with how the conversation went and mentioned it to my therapist. He asked, “What do you know about this program he attended?” I confessed that I didn’t know much; the program’s website had been somewhat vague about the method of treatment. So, I decided further research was needed.
What I uncovered was the Biblical Counseling Movement.
The Biblical Counseling Movement (hereafter referred to as BCM or ‘the movement’) is advanced by a handful of men in the Reformed Calvinist tradition. The movement’s stated purpose is not to bring healing to the hurting, but to confront a counselee’s sin and restore him or her to a ‘right’ relationship with God. Because that, in their estimation, is what’s really wrong with struggling people: not that they’re traumatized or suffering a chemical imbalance, but that they aren’t living according to biblical principles.
The BCM takes the concept of sola scriptura to extremes. Because the Bible says that “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3), BCM leaders teach that modern psychological knowledge, theories and practice are not only unnecessary for healing, but also an affront to God’s sovereignty in the lives of people. And anyone who seeks a professionally trained, state-licensed counselor – or even attends a 12-step program – is being led astray by “deceptive philosophies.”
The result of this view is that the ‘counselors’ produced by the movement have virtually no medical, psychological or professional counseling training. To put it bluntly, I have more of a scientific education than the Master’s degree-holding founder and leadership staff of the rehab center my father attended. And my degree is in English.
After examining the philosophy, education and literature of these counselors, I have concluded that they are dangerously unqualified to counsel trauma victims, addicts and the mentally ill. The leaders of the BCM are fundamentalists whose agenda is to spread their particular dogma throughout the evangelical Church through the counseling of desperate, troubled souls. In other words, their goal is not to counsel, but to indoctrinate.
What’s most disconcerting to me is that this movement is crossing denominational lines and finding its way into all kinds of churches. Its leaders are Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, Nazarene, independent and nondenominational. The BCM’s brand of biblical counseling was most likely behind the recent rape counseling scandals at Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College. And a few years ago, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced that it would be replacing its traditional pastoral counseling program with a program that embraces the principles of ‘biblical counseling.’
“But didn’t you say these were ‘certified counselors’?” Yes. Yes, I did. They are educated, trained and certified through organizations that the BCM’s leaders themselves created. Anyone with a few hundred dollars to spend on training materials and a willingness to sign the BCM’s doctrinal statement can be ‘certified’ to counsel in a year or less. Theoretically, a ditch digger with a GED could become a “certified biblical counselor” as long as his pastor agreed to oversee him. These certification agencies go by different names, but their origin and training materials are the same.
The certification agencies’ training manuals warn counselors to refrain from presenting themselves as having titles or qualifications that they do not possess. However, the word “certified” itself implies having received a certain level of training or qualification from a professional authority or governing body. The BCM’s certification agencies are neither. The result is that many people seeking counseling are misinformed about what they’re getting from a biblical counselor – occasionally with dire consequences. And the reason it’s permitted? Religious exemption.
You may find this information shocking, disturbing, and maybe just plain unbelievable. You may think I’m exaggerating. But over the next several weeks, I will take you through my research, detailing what the movement teaches, how it operates, who its leaders are, and how it came about. This information was not difficult to find. The BCM’s leaders are forthright about what they believe – if you know where to look.
Just to be clear, this is not a slam against faith-based counseling. Pastoral counseling has been a beautiful and integral part of the Church for hundreds of years. It should continue to be so. This movement, however, is jeopardizing traditional pastoral counseling. It encourages ignorance of trauma and its effects and, by the nature of its theology, fosters a lack of compassion among its counselors. That’s why it needs to be exposed for what it is. Stay tuned.