The most damaging counseling mistakes

This could also be called, “Lessons from Ignaz Semmelweis.” He was a fascinating man. He was the first one to suggest that doctors wash their hands between patients. He was ridiculed and soundly mocked, put down, and outcast for it. Everyone knew that sickness came for spirits, bad air, bad joojoo, or God’s curse. What did handwashing have to do with it? He’s just being worldly. There’s got to be Bible verses about the evils of medicine. Isn’t it “trusting in man” or something like that?

I used to think the same way. I was taught that anything learned about counseling from a (hushed gasp) secular counselor, or, the most shocking of all, the psychologist (!) was just one step away from inviting the devil to dinner. I heard of a sermon where the pastor said that anyone who goes to a psychologist is denying Christ and the sufficiency of scripture. Stupid hand-washers!

I say this to my shame, for I used to believe and counsel the same way, and have since repented of my ungodly, unbiblical attitude.

If we will put aside our pride and listen to the voice of simplicity, and just “wash our hands” we will learn from our mistakes and quit killing the souls of those who come to us for help.

Here are the biggest mistakes we still make – soul killers – in no particular order. By the way, for you “nouthetic” people out there, each one of these mistakes is a mistake because it contradicts scripture, not because unbelievers say they are wrong. I agree with you that scripture alone is our only guide. So let’s hear what it says. So here is my list. I suspect there will be more to come.

  1. We say, “It takes two to ruin a marriage”. Or “It takes two to fight”. No. The Bible nowhere teaches this. Abel didn’t cause Cain to sin. David didn’t provoke Saul. Jesus didn’t provoke Judas. Joseph wasn’t to blame for his slavery. Stephen didn’t cause his stoning. And on and on. In fact, David said, “I am for peace, but when I speak they are for war.” (Ps. 120:7). There is a difference between David and those who sought to kill him. They wanted him dead because they “were for war”, not because “it takes two to fight.” Quit making this completely unbiblical statement. It simply isn’t true.
  2. When we hear of pornography use, we say, “Are you satisfying him in bed?” This one astounds me. Everyone listen up: Pornography and marital sexuality are as different as night and day, dark and light, good and evil. One is an expression of our one flesh intimacy, an act of love and mutual dignity and honor. The other is assault. A man who assaults doesn’t learn how to not assault by being taught to assault his wife instead. Just stop. Porn is death, murder, darkness. It isn’t “sex with the wrong person”. It is as far from the love of marriage as death is from life. Just stop. Now read Ephesians 5 again – from the beginning, not just the “submit” part. Fornicators need Christ and repentance, not a “porn-star wife”. Sheesh.
  3. (Similar to 3) We hear of a man committing adultery, and assume it is because the wife isn’t loving him enough. This comes from a horrible interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7. If you want to know what it really means, you can listen here. But, again, adultery is not simply sex with the wrong person. It is death, folly, madness – assault. The same applies, by the way, with the sexes reversed.
  4. When we hear the cry of the soul against injustices done, and we say, “You are just bitter.” Not only is this NOT the meaning of “bitter” in the scripture, the hatred of sin and the cry for justice is NOT sinful. It is what it means to be in God’s image. Jesus will not come in justice because he is bitter, but because he is just. We long for that day. We long to see our enemies destroyed, and justice reign. It is what Psalm 72 is all about. The promise of the kingdom is NOT that we should quit being “bitter” but that Christ will come with justice and righteousness in his hands. This is how we learn to put off anger, wrath and malice. Not by pretending that injustice is OK. You can learn more here.
  5. When someone is weeping, we assume that they are trying to manipulate us. Very common, but again, contrary to scripture. I am so glad that Jesus doesn’t treat us like that. Paul said to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Can someone show me the passage that says, “Beware of those who weepeth, for they are seeking to manipulate thee.”? Compassion with wisdom can only be taught by the Holy Spirit.
  6. We automatically assume that depression is a sin.  Depression is sometimes medical – an imbalance of chemicals.  Counselors, learn the signs of depression and get people to medical help if needed. But sometimes, our sighs and tears are just the proper response to living in a cursed world, far from the shores of the celestial city. We aren’t home yet, and sometimes that makes us sigh and weep.
  7. We make the same assumptions with every medical condition we don’t want to deal with. Chronic illness? Just laziness. Bipolar? Just rebellion. Adhd? Just a scam. Tourettes? Just looking for attention. They could stop if they wanted to. This one makes me want to scream at people.
  8. We assume that every problem that anyone can have can be fixed if we just find the right thing to rebuke them for.

And so we have turned into the most heartless bunch. Cruel, unkind, uncaring, fools. Heaping burdens of shame on those who come to us for help. It is no wonder that people won’t see pastors for guidance anymore. We forgot how to be compassionate. We look for the simple fix, when maybe we just need to listen, to stop and hear, to offer a kind word. Maybe point someone to Christ, who sweat great drops of blood, who was afraid,  who wept at the tomb of Lazarus – KNOWING that he was about to raise him from the dead.

Weeping doesn’t mean I don’t believe the promise; fear doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God; sadness doesn’t mean I am unthankful. These things mean I am human, just like my Lord. And he came to redeem this flesh and this blood. He suffered with every infirmity, and was without sin, to redeem me, body and soul. The day will come when every tear will be dried, but that day is not today.

So excuse me if I weep now and then. Don’t mind me if I get afraid sometimes. Don’t sing “joy, joy, joy” at me when the infirmities of the flesh are sometimes too much to bear. Yes, I know that God is good. Yes, I know that he is coming again. Yes, I know that all things work together, and so on. But right now I’m sad. If all you can say is “All things work together for good!”, then just go away.

These are some of my thoughts today. What are yours? What is the worst thing you’ve heard? It seems like I am missing some. I expect that this blog will be continued…

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78 Comments

Filed under counseling, Grief, Pastoral ministry

78 responses to “The most damaging counseling mistakes

  1. Tonya

    Thank you! Love it 🦋

  2. Leanne

    Thank you!!!!!

  3. Krikit

    When deep in personal soul-rocking grief for several months, I was chastised with the words, “You’ve lost your joy. Being without joy is a sin.”

    What I discovered was that my church of 15 years was no place to find solace and comfort for that depth of devastating grief, no place to find someone to sit in the ashes with me, no place to be truly safe.

    What I further learned: “Whom but you do I have, Lord?” A lesson of greatest value to me.

  4. Z

    These points you make Pastor (and more to come, I too suspect!) are probably why Proverbs begins with Chapter 1 loosely translates saying:
    “attaining WISDOM, discipline, insight, prudence, discretion, discernment & guidance-ALL to UNDERSTAND:
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
    And the rest of Proverbs talks about getting WISDOM as absolutely essential to a Godly walk.

    I’ve been subjected to the counsel of TOO MANY Christian “fools” who distort Scripture & lack even the most basic common wisdom as well as all the other Scriptural attributes listed from Proverbs. And who’ve made the abuse I suffered & the natural depression that comes as a result of childhood of being abused>even WORSE! For too many years, until I woke up.

    What woke me up? I come from a family wherein there was every type of abuse-my abusers were/still are “professing Christians”. Both of my parents physically brutally abused all their children regularly. Verbal, mental abuse too. Father brutally abused mother in front of us terrorized abused children regularly. Father sexually abused me covertly & overtly. Mother tried to kill me when I disclosed this sexual abuse.

    My siblings all lived this same nightmare. I chose to get away from this evil ASAP & get professional help after years of going to my church for their “help” for all my younger years. The church’s “help” was less than ineffective-it was actually harmful. It led to more abuse for me. I was called a “willful”, “difficult”, “rebellious” child by church people>because I disclosed the abuse! I was supposed to stay silent according to them. A license from the church for parents to abuse me even more. So I got away not only from my evil family but, sadly, I ran from Jesus too because of this further harm “sanctioned” by church people. I felt so betrayed. (I was betrayed!)

    Yet, my also-abused siblings, who chose to cope with their abuses by “super-bonding” & being “super-loyal” & “pleasers” to their abusers, had it better than I did. They didn’t “tell” people about the abuse as children nor do they now even as adults. As now-adult abuse victims/survivors, they still choose to rally around & cater to their abusers, rewrite their abuse history so grotesquely that they all now elevate their abusive parents to “idol” status, cover up ALL the abuses, enable continued mental, verbal & even still some physical abuses by parents now in their aging years (with me & my husband as their constant targets), ostracize me for my truth-telling, even abuse me by-proxy for their parents carrying out their retaliatory vicious smear campaigns, lies, constant plots & schemes to try to ruin & disrupt my now happy married life…& much, much more evil.

    But the real wake up for me involves the disgusting perversion that occurred in recent years. One sibling-
    THE MOST: maladaptive, codependent, super-bonded & super-pleaser to abusers, blatant liar/rewriter of her history with parents as “saints” & pillars of the church, engaged in ongoing vicious retaliatory acts towards me-for telling the truth & for trying to heal & get help for my PTSD & other scars from my horrific childhood-mental & trauma-related physical illnesses
    >this evildoer recently became a “Christian Counselor”!
    And, she “specializes” in “counseling” batterers & abuse victims! She has never sought help for her own severely dysfunctional, maladaptive coping mechanisms still heavily at play in her own completely false, very disordered life.
    She is an abuse enabler.
    And an abuser herself.
    (to me-when I’ve continued to tell the truth that contradicts all the lies she tells everyone in church & elsewhere.)

    How in this world is this even possible?
    The lack of any standards, never mind WISDOM, where this evil, dysfunctional, dangerous person is given a license to “counsel” anyone? It is beyond comprehension.

    When I think about the poor, innocent, unknowing victims, going to what they think is “Christian counseling” to try to get real help to heal, wanting to include the Lord Jesus in their journey to that healing, but instead, they are in this wolf/person’s evil clutches, I get sick to my stomach.

    I can’t even imagine how she “counsels” batterers, when she is the chief promoter & cheerleader of her own & her siblings’ batterers/abusers! And she also chooses to identify with & have an abuser’s mindset & engage in many covertly abusive behaviors. Living a lie & hating the truth.

    This kind of situation should have a place somewhere on your list, Pastor. I don’t even know what to call it. An evil spirit, an infecting virus in the church that no one seems to be willing to discern. Believe me, it’s really not hard to see through this person’s abnormality. She’s “off” in many other behaviors too. Many from her church (also her parents’/abusers’ church but not mine) have noticed it & commented to me. I tell them the whole truth. None are willing to address it. They obligated by Scripture to address it! I don’t get it. God’s obedient people? Where are you? God’s protectors of the weak & hurt & broken? Where are you?
    And how do the “neutral” Christians think their God will judge their neutrality on evil in their church?
    Only FOOLS don’t fear the Lord!!

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going to re read it when I get a chance. I want to be able to give it the attention it deserves.

    • I’m familiar with what you’re talking about too. I know of several who are respected “Biblical” counselors, whose family members or alleged victims have told me about things from their past. And the public is unsuspecting.

    • Mhmc

      Hopefully what she hears from others during “counseling” triggers her own memories and starts to help her see the truth.

    • Lyndyn

      I would report what you know to any state and professional licensing agencies so they can monitor and ideally revoke this “counselor”’s licensr to practice.
      Further, and you have to weigh the consequences to you of doing this, I would report your history with thesr people of influence to legal authorities. They need to be put on a registered sex offenders list. Sadly, as we have learned from Willow Creek, the secular systems can be better at protecting victims and the church may further injury.

      • Z

        Dear Lyndyn,
        In case you were referring to my story above of abuses (sexual included) by parents being reported to law enforcement & the “Biblical Counselor” sibling’s enabling known abusers (her own as well as mine), lying and covering up for known abusers, even abusing, victimizing me for them by proxy..to the licensing board-
        I’ve long wrestled with both these issues. Mainly because I’ve called law enforcement on my family for a recent weapon physical attack on me and my husband. The outcome was disastrous! No justice for sure. Incompetence, laziness, lies of the attackers, hiding the weapon used…it all was successful enough to keep the attackers from charges. And the victims were put through hell in the process. Police HATE family abuse calls. Resent them & shove them off to the courts. The courts try to “split the baby” and assign the “two to tango” myth to resolve things most easily for THEM. Yet, they retraumatized the victims. Without blinking.

        So, would the licensing board listen to me? What physical or written proof do I have? Same with reporting her even to her pastor to begin with. I’d need “witnesses” or “evidence” of the abusive mindset & things she does & all she lies about and denies for her own codependent, dysfunctional reasons. I’m the witness. I’ve seen it & lived it. Not good enough though.

        There’s no criminal statute of limitations on sexual abuse in my state. I haven’t reported it to police because I don’t feel emotionally strong enough for the grueling process it would be for me. I’d be the one under scrutiny. Again, no proof of what happened behind closed doors. Just me standing alone as the living witness. All the other victims are codependent liars or dead.) My history of a wrecked life of diagnosed PTSD since age 13 not good enough either. (That Dr died long ago-he knew, in part.)

        I did disclose to a secular counselor when I left that house as a young adult. The rest of the people who were eye and ear witnesses-lived in same building-knew of the physical abuses. Not the sexual. Telling church people when I was still a child at home led to my being more abused.

        And even now, so many Christian “friends” encourage me to “move on” & focus on letting Jesus heal me. That reporting them would just cause me more distress. That God would take care of the retribution. I know all this. (These are no longer the kinds of friends I want to share my life and past with!)

        And for some reason I can’t explain, I’d never wanted to “blow up” my former “family” with criminal sexual abuse jail terms. Yet I struggled with my duty to expose them however I could. Fell on deaf ears always. So somehow, my getting away & staying away was my focus instead of the “possibility” of criminal charges. Maybe some dissociation on my part to cope?

        Also, I’d been shaped by the constant indifference of relatives, church people,..all who knew of all the kinds of abuses & did nothing to help keep me safe. I’ve always felt that no one would help me. Except Jesus.
        That’s where my mind is right now. I hope that makes sense.

        Even the secular counselor I saw as a young adult when I got away from that house did not “strongly” encourage me to report it criminally. He felt my getting away from them was the better option. Maybe he felt I’d be completely crushed by more injustice in my life-by the official systems this time.

        How many victims really get justice? More get viciously torn apart/smeared/eaten up alive /revictimized by the very systems that are there to “help victims”. That had already happened to me all my life to that point by everyone else. I guess he was trying to protect me from further trauma based on his past experiences of too many injustices for real victims.

        I’ve contacted many DV and CSA agencies more recently. They were willing to help me report but less than optimistic about my success all these years later without tangible proof and the (indifferent) witnesses all dead now. They too are worried I’m not mentally prepared for another injustice in my life.

        I really hate evil getting a free pass after what’s been done to me all my life by these people.
        I spend all my time seeking Jesus’ peace & healing.

    • Dear Z – One of the most crushing thing to the human spirit is the lack of justice, and you have had it in spades. I wish I knew what to tell you.
      But what I can say is this – Jesus is not only our savior, he is also the heir to David’s throne, and he WILL come in justice and righteousness. (Psalm 72).
      There is so much in the Psalms about vindication and hope and justice – Jesus knows exactly how painful injustice is and he will set it right, maybe on this earth, but certainly in the world to come.
      It is OK to pray that the wolves be destroyed, that those who hurt and abuse be torn down, that God will bring justice.
      Add that to your prayers, as well as your prayers for healing.

      • Z

        Thank you Pastor. Your wise words have always encouraged me-I read every blog post & your comments to others & I listen to your audio sermons-and this response to me is no less encouraging.
        Your fearless recognition & calling out of evil wolves & their enablers (also evil)
        in our church communities has been SO empowering & illuminating to me. Crucial “untwisting false doctrines” after my lifetime of being surrounded & falsely indoctrinated by the worst “Holy Hypocrites”. “Cheap grace” peddlers to excuse their own & their followers’ continued wicked arrogant sinning. (“I said the Sinner’s Prayer 40 years ago. All my continual & future sins are ‘covered under the blood’ so I know I’m going to heaven.” But strangely, after merely repeating the words to the Sinner’s Prayer, they never ever had any life changes as a result. Still rotten fruits. This was “Christianity” in my clan of origin & still is. Sweeping everything-including all the known abuses-under the rug (under the blood) Sexual & physical abuses of children? (Under the blood.) Sinful responses to rampant evil? (Under the blood.) Most routinely done by the “Christians” who are no longer welcome anywhere near my life. But even by police, courts..all duped by lying wolves. That’s the most crushing-when you do everything a law-abiding victim is taught to do & you get an epic failure of justice. A truly fallen world for me on all counts.
        What a freedom though in your “Pastoral OK” for me to pray for the many wolves who continue to harm me, even from my No Contact distance, to be DESTROYED (biblical in Psalms I know) & for them all to meet with the Real Jesus (for the 1st time for them) of Righteousness, Truth & Justice-SOON! I long for the day our Majestic Conquering King of Kings returns in all His Glory to mete out His Justice! Woe to them! And I will finally be fully released from their evil & be fully truly FREE & in the Arms of the One Who loves me best.
        Yes, the piled up injustices have been crushing & have taken their toll on my health. I’ll continue to pray also that I heal physically & mentally from their damages. I’m on my way-walking by faith.
        Now I know that I can & I WILL pray, as you refer to in Psalms, that they all get just repayments-destruction- for their actions. And I am progressing at being more wise as a serpent. That’s where people like you & Rebecca Davis & Pastor Jeff Crippen are helping me so much with that. I’ve always been as harmless as a dove as I could be, imperfect though I am. Though the liars see me-a truthteller-as a “danger”. And for that, I’ve been so targeted constantly, for even a recent plotted brutal physical attack with great harm done by the wicked in retaliation for my wanting truth, peace and safety in my life & for setting protective boundaries. So some protective isolation is necessary for me for now. As I learn and heal & get untwisted & get to know the Real Jesus.
        God bless you Pastor.

  5. This is good stuff, Sam. Well done. You nailed it.
    The hardest thing for me is this “curse of Eve” stuff. That is what I have named this attitude I often encounter that suggests Eve is, by virtue of being female, dangerous, deceitful, manipulative. “It takes two to tango” really means, “what did Eve do to cause it?” When women are crying, obviously it is crocodile tears, feminine wiles, a sure attempt to manipulate people. Adam was allegedly deceived by the manipulative Eve. So your last sentence really applies, “every problem that (a woman) can have can be fixed if we just find the right thing to rebuke (her) for.”
    But don’t say “we,” Sam! Honestly I’ve never met a crappy pastor. Every last one of them was kind and listened. I know there really are some who are “cruel, unkind, uncaring, fools,” because I’ve met some of them on the internet. They’re real enough. For the most part however, pastors are just wonderful and many of them are actually alert to abuse issues, too.

  6. Bunkababy

    Being told I have demons. Then a nasty group of people trying to demand they come out of me. At ywam, in our small group because they said I was rebellious. ( longstory short, no rebellion just leaders who should have never led)

    Being told I have demons, but having to wait for a suitable time slot to remove them. Then waiting for weeks wondering if I’m insane, going crazy believing I have things inside me. It was terrifying.

    Then after being diagnosed properly, having church members still say my problems were demonic.

    *****because God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear*********

    • NG

      I’m so sorry. Knowing what I know today, based on what many people have told me, I would not recommend Ywam. no matter how spiritual they look and sound. Their practice and doctrines lift up leaders in an abusive, hierarchical way.

    • Jesus said that wisdom is justified by her children. Nouthetic counseling has born some ugly children, hasn’t it? If it were wisdom, its children would be a lot more beautiful.

    • Lyndyn

      I’ve had parallel experiences with a different group. Without a doubt, thesr people genuinely and deeply love me, and I did see personal growth and progress under their care. But progress went to a new level when I entered licensed professional psychological care.
      Now in a current unraveling of my circumstances and at the end of my resources, these old friends literally moved me out of a harmful living situation, two days ago. Their solutions are deliverance and to gradually turn away from “idolatry” (dependence on psychologists and prescribed drugs, replacing these at my own pace and willingness). In three weeks I’ve had three prior ministry-leading friends distance or cut themselves off from me because they took offense at my troubled and inability to surmount them.
      I may join the ranks of the many who put church behind them, after all.

      • Bunkababy

        Lyndyn
        Although my church did help me to a certain extent what I needed was not deliverance prayer, or more inner healing. I needed strategies to cope. Answers to trauma and my reactions to it. I found the answers in the pschiatry community by way of my family Dr. And a MSW, social worker who was one of the only ones around willing to take me on.
        It was a God send.
        We left our church, for many reasons and not one family ever caught up with us, or called. It was as if our family never existed.
        For being so close and a part of the inner circle of popularity it meant nothing to them. Out of sight out of mind I guess.
        I guess it was all superficial.

      • I believe that learning to understand the way the brain works, which would include terms like “triggers,” “flashbacks,” and “dissociation,” is vitally important for recovery from extreme abuse. Learning coping skills is very important too. I’d also say that deliverance prayer and inner healing both can be part of a full picture of healing from some of the worst kinds of abuse. (For example, I had a friend who saw and heard the demons that were harrassing her, so she needed someone who knew how to deal with them.) This would be a full-orbed treatment and healing that would respect the entire self, the brain-mind-body-spirit interconnectedness. (And no, I’m not a New Ager! I’m a Christian!)

      • Bunkababy

        Rebecca I know you know your stuff and have had success with demonic influences.
        What I am speaking of is people who read a book and think there is z demon behind every bush. Every visible action or trait in that persons behaviour is viewed through a denomic lens. If there is resistance from the counselee it is then considered rebellion which then is considered witchcraft and it continues down the line to destruction after destruction.

        I myself fell victim to that teaching at 18 when my friend an I found a homeless youth of 16,17 and sat him down to mi ister to his “demons” we scared the crap out of him and he left the house in the night running down some country road.
        We did find him after a few days and my friends parents offered him safe haven, for a period of months. He checked in periodically over the years.

        But our ignorant training, our assumptions that we were hearing from the Lord was a grave grave error. Our ignorance laced with spiritual pride must have been devastating for him.

        He was a child of alcoholiics, he was neglegted ,probably had FAS, an assortment of learning didabilities, heaps of rejection and abuse of every kind. He probably had bad ptsd.
        And we boiled it all down to demons.
        A few years later I experienced what we did to him. It was devastating. We thought we had done good by him. As an adult I look back in horror and shame at my ignorance and pride. As a kid myself now I look back at out “spiritual” parents at that time, and as well meaning and kind and more spiritually mature they too took hold of a doctrine that blew in by way of a book called Pigs in the Parlour.

        I am very well versed in dissociation, and understanding the dark side of the spiritual realm and the dark side gets a heck of a lot of credit where credit is not due.
        Andcthere are doctrines of demons in the christian sphere that would live to take credit for our ignorance because it has the chance of further damage, further ways to destroy that persons walk with the Lord.

      • I agree. I once had a discussion that came pretty close to an argument with someone who believed there was no such thing as dissociative identity disorder, and that all the “voices” a person has in her head are demons. That kind of thinking can do a whole lot of damage, I believe.

    • Wow, bad theology really messes people up. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that.
      We have a great deal of this kind of bad theology in our area, coming from one church in particular. This is that Bethel type teaching. It isn’t Christianity. It is more akin to Baal worship than Christ.
      I’m sorry you had to suffer through it.

      • Bunkababy

        Ha! Bethel teaching! Crazy nutjobs. Unfortunately what goes on there now is an extended version of what I was caught up in.
        The healing/counselling model done on me was a combination of John and Paula Sandford’s teaching of Inner Healing. Elijah House Ministries which was run by them, and Vineyard Prayer Model.

        So essentially it was a free for all for whomever was praying for the prayee to hear from God, via words of knowledge about the prayee. What damage can be done! And what input can be infused into the prayee by well meaning people.
        The problem with that model is the power of suggestion, and the trust and belief that the prayor is hearing from God.
        I have been damaged by this model. And things that were prayed over me or about me, and things they had me pray were not biblically sound nor were they acurate or helpful. But I would go along with them as not to upset them.

        But, and this is a huge but, if the people praying for me were dilligent seekers of God who carried wisdom, and had the ability to sense what the Lord was doing things sometimes had a positve affect. God does and he uses those people and sometimes they get it right.
        But figuring that out is a mess.
        But the margin for error is great. And the subjectivity is wide open. And the prayee must be on top of discernment which creates a huge problem because usually they are broken looking for any answer to fix the problem. What happens now is hypnosis.

        So we left that Vineyard movement just prior to it becoming a part of The Toronto blessing where things got majorly out of hand.
        I mean given my past I found many things happening within the Vineyard movement and healing model alarming, and at times it sent me into full on paralyzing fear/PTSD because I had seen it before, in a completely occultic environment.
        But it must be God right? Everybody said it was.

        Anyhow after we left, it progressively morphed into what you see at Bethel, at John Crowder’s church, at Morning Star ministries, at IHOP with Mike Bickle, not the breakfast chain at Pail Cain, and the late JohnPaul Jackson, whom I have friends with who became best friends with him and his wife. They are in deep. And there is no convincing them otherwise.
        I have a slew of old friends so deeply involved in this nonsense, I mean they believe Heaven is going to be filled with lollipops and rollercoasters, via Kat Kerr’s bazillionth trip to heaven.

        So this all slowly morphed over the last 25 years into what you see as Bethel’s SOZO’S healing model.
        And the casualties just keep rolling in.
        Those fortunate enough to get hurt and fall away are the lucky ones.
        Those still roling around on the floor shaking , quaking, and slitherin are true victims.

  7. Thanks Sam. I totally agree with you on all this. : )

  8. Bunkababy

    Oh I forgot. Being told I needed to repent for the sins of the father to the 3rd 4th or 5th generation. Because what they did carried on to me.

  9. ChrisAU

    Thank you for sharing your insight. I definitely agree that when someone comes to us for help we should never do any of those 8 things. And my own personal experience is relevant to several of them (I’m divorced, he was a porn user and an adulterer, I’ve suffered from depression, and I’ve spent considerable time praying the prayer that starts, “Oh God, why is this happening to me?!”)
    I would add to point 5 the observation that sometimes people who cry *are* trying to manipulate. Not those who come to us for help, but those who are the reason someone comes to us for help. I was in an abusive marriage for many years, and my husband used to cry “at” me regularly. There was nothing real behind his tears, except possibly genuine resentment that I had called him out on his behaviour.
    I look forward to the continuation of this blog 🙂

  10. Leanne

    I have seen the crocodile tears – my ex can produce them any time he wants, and would do so during some of our counseling sessions. I have a hard time crying (even when it would be a relief), and I was judged hardhearted and unloving because I wouldn’t cry or respond with sympathy to his crocodile tears.

    I got sooooo sick of hearing “it takes two” – I finally have the courage to now respond, “No, it doesn’t when abuse is involved!” Love the Biblical examples you gave Sam, I will use them in the future if this type of comment comes my way again.

    • Yes, the crocodile tears are real. Esau didn’t find a place of repentance, though he sought it with tears. Tears are not the same as godly sorrow. Many nouthetic counselors, though, use the possibility of manipulation to never have to deal with the tears of a woman. the easiest way to make this uncomfortable subject “go away” is to rebuke the woman for crying, assume she is manipulative, and dismiss everything she is saying.
      That’s normally how it works.
      It feeds the gaslighting that abusers do. By the time the pastor hears what is going on, the victim is a mess – crying, confused, scattered, defensive…the abuser is calm, serene, logical.
      Make it all go away – call the woman hysterical, manipulative, and rebuke her. Sympathize with the husband who has to “put up with her in love”, say a few prayers, and go back to your college football game.
      (How to be a nouthetic counselor, 101)
      I might be cynical about the whole thing…

      • A

        My abuser constantly accused me of using tears as manipulation. I was not “allowed” to cry in front of him, even though he was doing such horrible things to me that all I wanted to do was cry.

  11. Sam, this is excellent. Thank you. I hope it’s okay if I post a link to my posts on nouthetic counseling–I have so many of them. https://www.heresthejoy.com/?s=nouthetic+counseling

  12. Something that I think is really hard is coming up with a one size fits all solution, like a recipe or something. Counselors of any sort need to be practicing other centered love that treats people as individuals and responds to their particular situation correctly.

    “It takes two” can be a concept used abusively or it can be a simple truth, like it takes two, one abuser and one victim who tolerates far more poor behavior then they should. So sometimes leading people away from abuse requires pointing out that there is someone else in the equation that a victim cannot control and they are not responsible for that person’s behavior.

    The bible speaks of, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love….”

    For me, that gets to the root of the problem. The words used, the phrases, the counseling style, are not nearly as important as the heart behind it. If the heart is right and motivated by love, everything else will be right too.

    “Sins of the fathers” is another concept that can be quite beautiful for someone trying to break some generational cycles of family dysfunction. Or it can be used to unfairly burden and blame someone for things they have no hand in.

    • I agree. This is why it is impossible to counsel without wisdom. And it is impossible to ask for wisdom without knowing your need for it. And it is impossible to know your need for wisdom when you are too prideful to seek.
      Wisdom is only available for those willing to seek after it (Proverbs 2).

  13. Suzanne Jackson

    Quick question… how is chemical imbalance tested (as in the kind that causes depression)?

    • Dunno. I’m not a psychologist. They are the ones that spend years studying it.
      I know that they have done remarkable work together with neurologists on the chemical firings in the brain, but it is beyond my expertise.

  14. sue

    Dear Sam and Friends, i know people who have walked AWAY from Christ, because of the mean-spirited, busy-bodying of His supposed followers. Makes me want to vomit.

  15. Katie

    Thank you for this!

  16. Kim

    I now live near a large training church for nouthetic counseling. Oh the stories…. And it’s interesting how many people I know that went to it, or forced their spouse or children to go, and it didn’t help. I guess just being told to pray more doesn’t help after all. Their favorite line while training people is that people “do what they do because they want what they want”.

    But from personal interactions, my husband was told he had a temper problem and the issue we had with friends (super long story) was completely our fault. Immediately after he was accused of some of the most ridiculous things ever, he did express anger. My husband is not perfect, neither does he have a temper problem.

    They also called into doubt his salvation because when asked what his purpose in life was, he responded, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

    We went there to process what had just happened in our family regarding our friends and former employers. They immediately assumed we had marital problems and only wanted to counsel that. Everything else was irrelevant. Having just gone through a hard time, we were stronger together than ever before! The whole things was a waste of time. Thankfully, it wasn’t a waste of a lot of money. They allow their trainees to sit in on sessions so it only cost us $50 to get in, but nothing weekly.

  17. Kristen Bridgan-Brown

    “Toxic people” “negative thinking” prosperity teachings vs real life Job catastrophes.

  18. Susan Ormsby

    it is a relief to me to hear these stories. for years i thought i was hopelessly bad because of how church people regarded me and spoke to me. now i know i am loved by my Redeemer and He is all i need.

  19. Dj

    I’ve actually been through training for nouthetic counseling..now called Biblical Counseling. The training is good and I’ve learned a lot of ways to help myself and others but I do agree that some of the counselors do some of the things you mentioned. The things you mentioned are not taught in the counseling classes but people take what they learn and interpret it from their own backgrounds.

  20. >>If all you can say is “All things work together for good!”, then just go away.<<
    Yes, I've wanted to say this to my fair-weather friends. I wish they would just stop asking me, "How are you doing?" … when they don't really care.
    Thank you for this post and the many valuable comments.

  21. YES YES AND MORE YES. I wish I could mail this to every pastor/ counselor of every church, just to make sure everyone sees it.

  22. YES yes and more YES. I wish I could mail this to every pastor/ counselor everywhere, because it’s so good. Thank you for explaining this so clearly. Bless you!!

  23. Yes, yes, yes!

    I found (it is not mentioned here) that even texts about innocent things can be done wrong. For example, you are depressed/ lost a spouse a month ago and reminded of a “be joyful” text as if to imply you are a big sinner for not being happy at this stage.

  24. G

    I saw a Biblical counselor last year (woman) after I finally was able to stand up to my Dr. Jekel/Mr. Hyde Christian husband. I went only because my husband had decided to go “get help” and my son begged me to go at least once so that our side of the story would be heard. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Do you understand the sovereignty of God?” I know all about some people’s view of God’s sovereignty, but I’m here to say that God does not sanction sin.

    • You are exactly correct. I believe fully in God’s sovereignty and that his providence is over all, that nothing comes by chance but by his fatherly hand.
      I also know that God HATES sin and injustice and wickedness (Isa 1) and that he is against those who practice it, and he will destroy the abuser and the molester and the rapist and the judges who take bribes.
      I don’t need to understand how these two things fit together. I can simply Praise him for who he is, and at the same time cry, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

  25. My ex is from Africa and he is physically abusive. He has been in Canada over 30 years so some would argue he is canadian now.
    A friend I was discussing this with blurred out “it’s cultural”, as though physical abuse is something I and my daughter need to put up with because he is from his country!
    Honour killing us cultural, so is FGM, that doesn’t mean crime should not be dealt with by our laws in our country.
    Our CPS is tiptoeing around him and my daughter is in a cast from a mysterious injury and I and her voices have been silenced because it’s cultural and she has to go and see him because he really does love her and he really does have her best interest at heart.

    • That is the beauty of Christian ethics, summarized in the Ten Commandments, and the universality of the gospel. Culture doesn’t come into it when we are talking about sin. Sin is sin.

  26. Kati Naatus

    A friend of mine confided about 18 months ago that she was really struggling in her marriage. Because the husband wanted to save money, they say a biblical counselor in the area at a local church in the neighboring town. At that time, our family attended that same church and had even attended three-weekend intensive on the foundations of biblical counseling. We began to have some concerns when we learned about the controversy surrounding CJ Mahaney and some other names that were heavily promoted within the circle. To be honest, we found it quite hypocritical that the church we were attending seemed to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings of many of these men, but had no problem being openly critical of other Christian denominations that held to orthodoxy.

    Fast forward to Labor Day weekend. The couple I mentioned above had long since been released from biblical counseling and was supposedly on the path to recovery having what they called “maintenance checkups” from time to time. It was clear during the camping trip that my friend was suffering from depression. I won’t go into details, but her behavior/demeanor was very troubling. She seemed to exude a message of defeat. Her husband, on the other hand, was great. We had a wonderful time playing with our kids and many good talks. When we arrived home, the two of us started talking on FB messenger. She shared with me that her marriage was in trouble again and that they were looking for a new counselor and had no desire to go back to biblical counseling…although her husband was open to it in hopes of saving money.

    Both of us have been married to 20 plus years to career military men, have families, and have been walking with the Lord for a long time. It is pretty common knowledge that men at times, require intimacy that is physical and women desire emotional intimacy. One of the issues addressed in counseling is that this man genuinely loves his wife and can’t get enough of her. Basically, he expressed that he felt closer to her when they had physical relations on a more regular basis. He was labeled “sex addict” because of this and the couple was told that no intimacy can exist outside a marriage apart from reading the bible and praying. Anything else is fleshly and should not be desired more than those two things. Also, the topic of masturbation was addressed. This man was told that masturbation was the closest act to homosexuality that a man could participate in by putting his hand on “a” penis. (Nothing like scaring the crap out of people.) They were also told that if anything ever happened to his wife, he would just have to resign himself to the fact that he would never have any type of sexual interactions again. Needless to say, I was shocked by these statements. It’s no wonder that my friend was feeling defeated!

    I could go into detail about the reasons why I feel these statements were damaging, but I won’t because I believe it’s quite obvious. I’ve helped my friends to find Licensed Christian Counselors who are local. A husband and wife team that work together with couples. I’m really hoping that my friends will get the help that they need and unlearn some lies so that they can enjoy a new chapter.

  27. Barb

    I was counseled that Genesis 3:16 is similar to Genesis 4:7, – that wives desire to control their husbands, but husbands are supposed to control their wives. Ephesians 5:22-23 – wives submit to husbands as to the Lord/husband is the head of the wife. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 – women to submit, the woman was deceived.

  28. Jan Ebel

    Your closing question, What are some of the worst you’ve heard? “You have a victim mentality. “ this was said repeatedly to my daughter who left her husband for downloading child pornography and searching on the Net got young boys with whom he could perform sexual acts.

  29. A

    One of my biggest pet peeves is “Christians” casually throwing around, “God hates divorce” implying that someone is obligated to gut it out with a “spouse” who chooses all manner of evil behaviors. And, that the sin lies with the spouse who leaves and not the spouse choosing the evil behavior the spouse is fleeing from. Every time I hear that I want to scream, NO!, what God really hates is abuse, adultery, addiction, and abandonment. Thank God that he allows for divorce to protect the poor souls trapped to someone choosing these horrible sins.

  30. Schari

    I went to Christian counselors, both individually and with my husband, on and off for 30 years. My now ex husband abused me in every category. He cheated, hit me, kicked me, shoved me to floor, pinned me against the wall, threatened to kill me and tried to do so, constantly lied, stole marital monies, opened secret bank accounts, refused any responsibilities, threw dresser drawers, power tools and suitcases at me, drove the car 100 mph in heavy traffic while the kids were screaming and I was begging him to stop, had a road rage incident where he pulled a gun and I was his passenger, OBSSESSED with guns, carried and slept with a loaded gun, broke my possessions in rages, smashed our TV, smashed 3 cell phones, threw furniture, blame shifted, denigrated me, sexually rejected me completely for 13 years, abused the children…well you get it. AND NONE OF THE CHRISTIAN COUNSELORS TOLD ME IT WAS ABUSE! The last Christian counselor, after 6 months of trying to reconcile the marriage and telling me to do different things to cater to him, FINALLY realized what he was dealing with. He actually helped me break free. The secular counselors I have had in my recovery recognized and understood immediately. I have suffered with severe major depression, self harm, suicidal behaviors, anxiety, panic attacks and C-PTSD. This could have been avoided with proper counsel. I nearly died during that 40 year marriage and the first 2 years of my recovery. How could all those Christian counselors be so blind? I stayed 40 years trying to be a godly wife. I will tell you though, when God decided to rescue, he miraculously led me out and provided every step of the way.

    • Bunkababy

      Schari
      May I be so bold to sayGod was trying to rescue you all along but nobody was listening to his call to acheive it for him , except for the ones who finally gave way to work with him?
      You can totally tell me if I am out of line and incorrect. I’m just wondering because it was a pattern with my own abuse and recovery. People were in the way, and God will not change freewill in people to get them to move….so he looks and looks for people willing to listen and act to acheive his rescue plan for us.

      Would you say it was like that or different?

      But holy crap woman! After reading your horrific acount and the sheer length it took, to see you on the road to freedom and recovery it is music to my ears! It makes my heart glad, and tears to my eyes! And I rejoice with you!

  31. Bunkababy

    I find this whole topic sad.
    So many wounded.

    If a person goes in with a flesh wound they end up coming home with a head trauma and a heart attack. All metaphorically speaking of course.
    And the source of all these daggars, arrows and biiting teeth are christians.
    Wolves in the sheepfold.
    I get the feeling that with neuthetic counselling the counsellors don’t have the schooling, understanding or will to deal with the trauma of domestic violence, sexual sin, habitual sin, or any sin. They are taught to believe they have the answers but soon realize they are in over their heads, and shut down, become abrasive and aloof, or burn out reverting to standard quotes , quips and verses to blame the victim so they don’t have to deal with them.

    Worse yet become arrogant.
    The same is true for the inner healing model.
    Except there they think they do have the answers and a magic genie called the holy spirit is going to shake, shimmy, or soak that problem away.
    I’m not sure I can name one friend of mine or myself who came away from inner healing Fixed.
    It was either a temporary high, or they just kind of faded away still suffering.
    One friend in paricular spent the last 30 years seeking help for depression.
    They tried every conceivable ‘christian’ way to see her well.
    She progressively became worse and worse.
    They tried something called Healing in Him and spent thousands! To no avail.

    You know what finally did the trick?
    A young progressive pychiatrist who took her off her mood stabilizers and adjusted her anti depressants , created a safe place for my friend to express herself about the most significant wounds she had. Over a two year period my friend is a transformed woman! I have never seen her more alive and vibrant!
    All the bitteroot judgements, all the nonesense inner healing did didly squat.

    As for myself? I would say my biggest bestest healing came from crying and having people listen to me cry, and having a counsellor hear me. Someone willing to hear my darkest deepest abuse and facilitate a safe place for me to do so. A counsellor helping me navigate the trauma, and telling me I was not crazy, insane, at fault, and God didnt hate me.
    Not everyone is like me. I have learned that. And some need more direction and more help. But the gist is we need someone to weep with and somebody to mourn with.

    And instead we are going to the slaughter house.

    • healinginhim

      Bunkababy, you really get it! I wasn’t a part of the whole Inner healing episodes, however, I witnessed enough damage in others that convinced me that this was not of the Lord.
      The Nouthetic counselling played a big part as I was led to believe that these folk were the only ones trained to deal with any spiritual issue. There were many red flags in my ‘lack of a marriage’. A major one being that I was always the one seeking help to see if I was doing something Scripturally wrong or to have joint counseling to help both of us.
      The man I married often admitted that I was the true Christian giving much more to the relationship. Even then, the onus was on me to being a loving wife, etc. ‘He’ was encouraged to reflect more deeply on the Word and even to realize his lack of conscience, etc. Long story, shortened. Years went by and like you, Bunkababy it came down to, “I would say my biggest bestest healing came from crying and having people listen to me cry, and having a counsellor hear me. Someone willing to hear my darkest deepest abuse and facilitate a safe place for me to do so. A counsellor helping me navigate the trauma, and telling me I was not crazy, insane, at fault, and God didnt hate me.”
      I knew God didn’t hate me but I was definitely grieving the death of so much of what I thought the Lord was fulfilling in our lives. God was obviously wanting to show me the ‘wolves’ because when He first saved me I thought everyone professing to be ‘in Christ’ was truly a nice Christian and could be trusted… Oh, this was a very difficult lesson because I have always been one to trust until blatant deceit is revealed. (sigh)
      Sounds terrible but the best thing that happened was leaving the local churches that didn’t really care about me. It caused me to keep searching the Scriptures and eventually discover ministries like My Only Comfort who get it.

      • Em

        Thank you!
        I, too, thought everyone professing to be ‘a Christian’ was truly a Christian. My parents both taught us this! Our church taught it, after all, who would say they were a Christian if it was not so? (Wolves in sheep’s clothing, that’s who!)

        What I learned was that talk is cheap (like FREE!) and if talk is not backed up and proven/demonstrated by how a person lives and behaves, how they treat others and their own families, they are BIG FAT LIARS! And there are so, so many of them…

        The beginning of my healing came when a life-long friend listened, believed, and let me cry for months without ever once getting sick and tired of me. It helped me remember who I was, and who I will be again – only stronger and wiser. The next year he remarked that it was good to see me smile again – it was working! There’s nothing quite like a good Christian friend. They are few and far between, sadly, but oh so priceless.

  32. Diane

    Nouthetic “Christian Counselors” (As well as those connected to other such organizations) get this status by attending training conferences on the weekends, copying down Power Point information in a syllabus, and if they put in so many hours of attendance, they get rubber stamp approval and a certificate allowing them to counsel others. I don’t believe they have the credentials to be licensed by the State, but they are allowed to practice within a church/non-profit setting. If I’m wrong on that, someone please correct me.

    I have been told by such certificate bearers that my OCD was a spiritual problem, not a chemical imbalance and that seeking medical help was a sin; that my children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (Which they considered a hoax) was because we did not discipline them correctly. Fortunately we didn’t buy into that and continued the outside help, but that sweeping judgement on their part about my spirituality and our parenting was still hurtful at the time.

    The caveat was when I addressed with my parents (Who have certificates and proudly boast about it!) their past abusive behavior and their ongoing hurtful and dysfunctional relational patterns in the present. There was no acknowledgment of any wrongdoing, no taking personal responsibility, not even an apology. It was all turned back onto me and MY problem because my bringing it up was evidence I had an unforgiving heart.

    In my experience with this so-called Christian counseling, Perpetrators of abuse/harm/dysfunction are not held accountable but excused, but the victims are the ones held accountable and shamed when they express difficulty in coming to terms with the experience. It is not only sad and harmful, but also a totally unbiblical way of dealing with problems.

  33. Sharon B

    When we finally got up the nerve to go to our minister and elders about the offenses and emotional pain that we felt, we were chastised for letting it go for so long and told that they didn’t remember anything. There was no admitting of wrong.

    • rainbaby100

      We have seen it used like this too, sort of like a “biblical” get out of jail free card. When we are commanded by Scripture to be easily entreated. Can you imagine Christ ever saying those words to His people.

  34. Janet

    Sam, I just re-read this entire thread. Thank you so much for writing this. To all of you who have suffered at the hands of “Job’s counselors”, I am so sorry.

    I first must tell you that I have been very blessed by the teaching from our nouthetic counselor. It was from him that I learned that God is interested in the heart, and that we should live “Coram Deo”, with our hearts turned to God. I learned that God is Sovereign, that He is always in control, and that He will work all things together for good to those who love Him. This principle has stuck with me and I know it to be true. I trust my Heavenly Father.

    I also learned the doctrine of Repentance (see Thomas Watson’s book by that name), and that there needs to be work done in the heart to see sin, to truly repent and turn from it, to hate it and to kill it. This deepened my dependence on Jesus. I know that I cannot live a godly life apart from my Lord, who died on my behalf and freed me from the power of sin. For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

    The problem with the counseling I received (along with my abusive husband) is that it treated us equally. Husband was the wolf, and I was the sheep. I desired to serve the Lord, to love my husband and children, to live a godly life. Husband desired to shirk responsibility, to just get along, to take the easiest road, and to continually molest children while doing so.

    In counseling (1992) I was encouraged to “die to self”. To love well meant to pray much, to bear all things, to watch my words, to accept my husband’s flaws. Of course, hubby assured the counselor with all sorts of godly, biblical principles, that he had repented and turned from his wickedness.

    I will give you one example: Hubby was a smoker. I have multiple chemical sensitivities and am severely allergic to cigarette smoke, along with fragrances, diesel fuel, etc. Hubby refused to stop smoking in the house. Counselor asked me to die to self on that issue, and to consider it a “cross to bear” to just go forward, accepting that hubby was a smoker.

    So, I stayed in the marriage another 25 years, and was so done by January of 2017. I was tired of the loneliness. When you are married to a very messed up, self-centered, self-protective person who lives most days for himself, it is a very lonely, depressing existence. I was suicidal and depressed for years…yet because of my faith in God I could not carry out my desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. I lived for decades with a deep sadness, a cloud over my head, longing for that better day when Christ would call me home.

    In January 2017 I had decided to file for divorce. My friend, married to the Biblical Counselor, saw something online. Counselor came and spent four days here, intensively counseling us.

    This is the problem: He was counseling a wolf and a sheep.

    One of the things taught by nouthetic counselors is that the problem is always within you…in YOUR heart. You must examine your heart, figure out what is happening, and what your efforts are in response to the circumstances. Then you must discern your aims (what are you working toward, what are your goals), your response to the trial or difficulty, and put your trust in God completely.

    That’s all very good when you are dealing with problems between two people who love the Lord and desire to do His will.

    But when one is a wolf, it simply doesn’t work.

    Think of it this way. The wolf has been circling for years, taking bites out of me, and worse, out of my precious children. Little nibbles sometimes, and great gaping wounds at other times. Of course, there are the times when the wolf cuddles up and comforts me, the sheep who is trying her best to love him well, to understand his needs, to defend him to my lambs… the wolf was good at making this sheep second-guess herself, too. His words were laced with Bible verses, and he told me he loved me and that I was his best friend, just enough to keep me in the marriage. (Reality is that best friends actually live for each other and spend time together…my daughter asked me to look at his actions rather than his words, and my eyes were opened to the truth about our fake marriage.)

    So, the wolf was biting, devouring me…ripping off my skin, pulling out my muscles, working his way up my leg. Worse, he was devouring my children and I didn’t know enough to protect them.

    The problem wasn’t WITHIN me. The problem wasn’t my own heart before God. THE PROBLEM IS THAT I WAS BEING DEVOURED BY A WOLF.

    Because of that counseling, I stayed another two years.

    My wonderful children intervened. They wanted to rescue me. They met with me and told me some truths that were horrible to hear, but I needed to know.

    My husband was arrested and jailed. I have filed for divorce.

    I can tell you that the truth has set me free. I am no longer depressed or suicidal. I have hope for the future. God, the source of hope, is filling me completely with joy and peace, because I trust in Him. He is making me overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

    The worst things said to me by a counselor: “the problem is always in your own heart.” And, “you must die to self and accept the pain the Sovereign Lord has ordained for you.”

    I cry bullshit.

    (and yes, I’m a Christian, and I don’t usually use that word. But it is appropriate here.)

  35. I’ve been re-reading the comments. So grieved at those who’ve been scarred. Praying. ((hugs)) of understanding to all. ❤

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