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What is Christ-centered Counseling?

Over the past few months, my wife’s car has steadily gotten louder near the engine. Recognizing this as a concern, I brought her car to the mechanic only to have the problem diagnosed as having a hole in the exhaust manifold that required rather expensive repairs. The problem had to be identified, the old manifold had to be removed, the new manifold had to be installed, and the car had to be put back together. The problem was quickly identified and easily fixed in a few steps, but at a great cost.

As human beings, our problems or concerns are more complex than a vehicle. We can’t simply fix the past, remove negative feelings, install happy feelings, or make problems go away in a few hours or days. We are complex beings created in His image. As so, when we have struggles or recognize that we can’t figure things out or fix ourselves and need help, we turn to others for wisdom, insight, and practical help. We know we can’t do it alone, and our faith will play a role in where we seek counsel.

In the counseling field, there are many avenues one can take to approach struggles in life. Some approaches include reality therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR, and psychodynamic therapy, to name a few. Each approach attempts to diagnose the issues through an interpretive lens and proceeds to implement core strategies to help the struggler overcome and have a better life. 

At Foundations Christian Counseling, which I have had the privilege of leading for over 20 years, our approach to helping those in need is Christ-centered counseling. What is Christ-centered counseling? Let me share a few thoughts with you to help define our approach.

Christ-centered counseling is “a gospel-centered, grace-based, and heart-oriented approach to counseling primarily directed by the Scriptures and guided by the Holy Spirit to bring healing and hope to fellow strugglers and sufferers for the glory of God.” Let’s break down each italicized point in the above definition to explain Christ-centered counseling better:

“Gospel-Centered”: The Gospel is all about the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, laid down his life so that we may have abundant and eternal life through him (Jn 10:10, 3:16). Through Christ, our sins have been forgiven, and the power of sin and darkness within us has been defeated. Growing in our relationship with Jesus helps us to live out our freedom from negative thoughts and behaviors. Once we have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we aim to become like Christ and bring glory to Christ (Rom 8:29).

“Grace-Based”: We are saved by grace through faith (2:8-9). God’s unmerited favor for His children is a gift of God that impacts every aspect of our lives and relationships. As we grow in our understanding and application of God’s unmerited favor (Rom 6:14, 2 Pet 3:18), we recognize that God’s grace plays a pivotal role in saving us daily and empowering us to live godly lives.

“Heart-Oriented”: We believe genuine & lasting change begins from the inside - in the heart - where desires, motives, emotions, idols, beliefs, and trust manifest (Mt 15:1-20, Prov 4:23, Rom 10:10, James 4:1). Behavior change without heart change is temporary and falls short of what God desires most from His children, a heart for Him (Is 29:13, Mt 15:8). For hearts to change, we often need to seek repentance from sin, surrender our wills and desires to Him, and allow His truth to permeate in our minds and change our hearts (PS 51:10-12).

“Primarily Directed”: Scripture remains the final authority in all things. Period. God’s Word is infallible, inerrant, inspired by Him, and active in our lives (2 Tim 3:16, Heb 4:12). We believe that certain clinical and scientific insights and methodologies that do not contradict God’s Word and reflect certain truths of Scripture fall under the category of “Common Grace.” These clinical and scientific insights and methodologies are carefully sifted through the lens of Scripture and may direct a portion of our counsel as these may aid in our ultimate goal to lead people in healing and toward Christ (1 Tim 4:8).

“Spirit-Dependent”: We rely on the Holy Spirit, the Wonderful Counselor, to guide our sessions and direction of counseling. We choose to seek out how God may be moving in the lives of our clients and cooperate with His leading. This is why we pray for and with our clients regularly in and outside sessions (Jn 16:13, Rom 8:14, 26-27).

“Healing & Hope”: The truth and practical application of the Word of God brings healing to the hearts and minds of those who seek it. Christ’s death and resurrection bring freedom and hope to those who believe so that burdens are not carried and a purposeful life may be lived (Gal 5:1, 13, Jn 8:36, Col 1:21-23).

“Fellow sin-strugglers & sufferers”: Counselors and clients share the burden of having a sinful nature and suffering from living in a fallen world (Rom 3:23, 1 Pet 5:9, Rom 8:17). We are all on the journey of living on this earth as sinners, sufferers, and saints. We come alongside fellow sin-strugglers and sufferers in humility and compassion to point to a Savior who was tempted and suffered, even unto death (Heb 4:15, Php 2:5-8).

“For the Glory of God”: Our life's purpose is to glorify God in all we do (Is 43:7, I Cor 10:31). Our counsel is to help others fulfill this purpose.

Christ-centered counseling is working within our faith to work out our faith amid our struggles to become like Jesus and bring glory to God in our lives and relationships. Each aspect of the definition above helps to unpack how Christ-centered counseling approaches the struggles of all who walk through our doors. And if you or someone you know is struggling, we are here for you. 

Human beings are more complex than cars. We are physical, emotional, spiritual, and thinking beings…and together, they all make up, well, us. And because we are wonderfully made by God (NLT states we are “wonderfully complex”), seeking our Creator’s Word and counsel to help us in our personal and relationship struggles is not only wise but a necessary practice of our faith. Though not all people will need counseling services, Christ’s love and grace compels us to seek Him and read His Word so that our faith may grow and our lives transformed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

- Fred Jacoby, MA


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