Practices in Biblical Counseling – Part 1

This post is simply a summary post on chapter 22 “The Central Elements of the Biblical Counseling Process” of Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.  Randy Patten and Mark Dutton submit that there are six practices that summarize the counseling process:

  1. Gathering pertinent information
  2. Sorting out the problems
  3. Involvement
  4. Hope
  5. Instruction: the path forward
  6. Homework

What follows is a brief summary of the first three practices.

Gathering pertinent information:

  • Solomon tells us “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov 18:13). Just two verses later he writes “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Prov 18:15). Therefore, it is important for the counselor, pastor or discipler (whatever term or title you want to use) to actually know what is going on.  They suggest several approaches in gathering information. First, ask the counselee to give you a seven-to-ten minute life history.  Second, “go wide” in terms of understanding that though a major issue may have prompted them to seek help, the major issue is typically associated with many other issues; issues are multifaceted. Third, “go deep.”  A prudent counselor will seek to go beyond the surface and delve into the deep waters of the heart (Prov 20:5). Lastly, “go open-ended.”  Utilize questions that avoid a yes or no answer.

Sorting out the problems:

  • As a counselor has gathered information the next step is to sort it all out.  Again the authors give several aspects to this stage that are helpful in putting your arms around what to do with all of this information.  First, “the presenting problem,” which are the problems that motivated an individual or couple to get help. Second, an understanding of “behavior” will be indispensable. Third, try to understand how an individual or couple is “thinking” about the issues at hand. Our thinking propels us to do.  Fourth, the counselor should seek to understand the “motivations” behind what they are thinking and doing. “Lasting change that places God begins with understanding and purifying one’s motives” (329).


  • They define this as “building a relationship with the counselee where you put yourself in a position to help” (330). Verses to substantiate this pastoral practice are Acts 20:28, 20:31 and 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. They specify this with six statements: (1) be available, (2) be sensitive, (3) be your own person, (4) be willing to take the counselee seriously and address the problems with biblical answers, (5) don’t be manipulated by counselees and (6) be a model of the very truth you are presenting.

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