|Two Discrete and Unique Christian Counseling Models
According to the Bible, “All [people other than Jesus Christ] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
(Rom. 3:23). That is, there is something fundamentally wrong with humans—as wonderful as we are, being
made in God’s own image. We are all born alienated from God and are also, therefore, in some measure distant
from each other. This biblical truth has five important implications for every baby born into this world,
regardless of when or where or to whom.
First, no child is born to perfect parents in an uncorrupted family. Consequently, every young person will
suffer the results of being cared for by others who have relationship deficiencies to some degree with God,
others, themselves, and the rest of creation. These relationship imperfections can be called intimacy issues,
where intimacy with another is defined as the mutual, consistent, sustained, and significant sharing of thoughts
and feelings, love, trust, and respect, verbally and non-verbally. No mere human child has been blessed with a
perfect capacity or opportunity for relating intimately with God, others, self, and creation.
Second, the Christian Scriptures warn, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Evil destroys, whether its
effects are readily apparent or more insidious. Therefore, every child born and raised in an imperfect
environment will suffer the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual results of inherent, individual, and
systemic sin, impairing his or her own biopsychosocial development. Every child’s self-content (objective self)
and self-concept (subjective self) is compromised and damaged by the negative effects of sin. As the child
develops, intimacy issues inevitably take their toll on his or her self-content (all objective features of the
personality) and self-concept (certain subjective elements of the personality), leading to a wide range of self-
content and self-concept problems. Such injurious effects sooner or later include physical and psychological
problems (infirmity), as well as self-esteem and self-confidence issues. This cluster of concerns (also evidence
of ignorance and immaturity) may be called self-content/self-concept issues.
Third, just as normal babies will instinctively suckle when hungry or thirsty, every capable young person will
reflexively (and later at times reflectively) seek to meet some (not necessarily all) intimacy and self-
content/self-concept needs by turning to other people, things, situations, or parts of themselves. What kind of
people, things, situations, or parts of oneself do people turn to, rely on, think they need, or depend on for
help? Work, sex, money, drugs, alcohol, material possessions, the Elks Club, church, friends, family, God,
children, food, physical attributes, political power, intellect, and so on. The list is endless, and many of these
dependency objects often become what the Bible calls “idols,” because they wrongly displace God in a person’
s search for wholeness. This neediness for something or someone to compensate for interpersonal and
intrapersonal deficits can be called dependency issues.
Fourth, when people turn to, rely on, need, or depend on someone or something to compensate for
interpersonal and intrapersonal deficiencies, we defend against the implications and effects of such deficits or
distortions by trying to control for that on which we are dependent. Our thoughts and actions are, to some
extent, committed to protecting our supply as we engage in many different behaviors to get what we think we
need. When we cannot control for what we are dependent on, or when our struggle for control leads to
instability in other areas of our lives, we have the sense of being out-of-control. Such motives and efforts may
be called control issues.
Finally, in our drive to control for that on which we are dependent because of self-content and self-concept
issues due to a lack of intimacy in our past and present, we act out in a wide variety of destructive ways. Such
destructiveness is inevitable because every child has a vulnerability to and propensity for moral wrongdoing
(iniquity), whether inherent in its human nature or inevitable in its learning. Iniquity, combined with ignorance,
immaturity, and infirmity guarantee dysfunctional behavior in some manner to some degree for everyone at all
times. These dysfunctional impulses, practices, and habits (inevitable manifestations of any sinful internal
state) can be understood as destructive adaptive behaviors (DABs), and demonstrate their destructiveness both
by their attack on life and their alienating consequences, for when we engage in DABs we create more intimacy
issues as our current relationships are damaged and potential relationships frustrated, thereby closing the loop
of problems and aggravating a vicious downward spiral of core issues.
Core Issues Theory (CIT) recognizes that all human problems occur in the context of a fallen world with sin-
affected individuals and social systems. Alienation and attachment issues that begin at birth inevitably lead to
damaged and distorted individual self-content and self-concept formations, resulting in dependency and control
issues that are manifest through destructive adaptive behaviors—or what the Bible often calls sin. All people
have Core Issues, though how they are evident varies from person to person, depending on multiple individual
and ecological factors.
CIT counseling or therapy primarily consists of interventions that involve well-timed efforts to (1) help
people develop intimacy with God and others, (2) foster revision and development of people’s self-content
and self-concepts, and (3) assist people to replace destructive adaptive behaviors with constructive adaptive
behaviors (CABs)—or what the Bible would call godly living. As intimacy, self-content, and behavioral issues
are addressed, dependency and control issues automatically decrease accordingly.
Core Issues counseling emphasizes quality relating, skill development, feelings management, thought revision,
and behavioral change—all within a Christian worldview and consistent with the best of the human sciences.
Core Issues Theory is comprehensive in its scope of concern, universal in its application, and sensitive to
contextual considerations. It lends itself to falsifiability and verification through empirical research,
philosophical analysis, and biblical exegesis, and sets a research program that largely overlaps with current
psychological research as well as with recent “Christian psychology” efforts. CIT takes into consideration
biological, genetic, and physical factors in the etiology and remediation of human problems, while also
acknowledging the critical role that psychological, social, and spiritual realities play in such understandings and
interventions. CIT can function as a meta-model that accounts for the best insights and people-helping
techniques of all other reputable models of soul care, while offering a unique paradigm for analysis and action
that both transcends and integrates those other theoretical constructs.
Hopefully, Core Issues Theory answers Eric Johnson’s call for “something more.”
Copyright 1987 Richard L. Sholette [Revised 2007]
|Something more is needed if, after forty years of integration, Jones and Butman's (1991) call over fifteen
years ago for a second stage of integration work that produces 'new and different theories' has hardly been
attempted, let alone realized. (p. 103)
Eric L. Johnson. (2007). Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal
|Helping People in Jesus' Name
The Helping People in Jesus’ Name (HPIJN) Christian counseling model is built from an exegetical
understanding of Colossians 3:17. That passage of Scripture mandates Christians to comprehensively live and
minister “in Jesus’ name,” meaning in such a way that His character is manifest, His truth is promoted, His
authority is asserted, His power is evidenced, His purposes are advanced, and His reputation is protected.
Christian counselors have the same overarching mandate in their work and ministry. This model fits nicely with
Core Issues Theory (CIT) and places emphasis on Kingdom values in the personal formation and conduct of
the minister, as well as on the counseling process and the sources of content for Christian teaching.
Based on this metaperspective, every Christian counselor should constantly ask:
- How can I better develop and demonstrate Christ-like character in my life and ministry?
- From what sources can I learn truth that will equip me to be a wiser, more understanding, better
informed, and more discerning counselor? Is any source of knowledge off-limits or useless? How will I
ever know the potential usefulness of a knowledge resource if I reject it a priori?
- How can I better manifest godly authority through my speech and actions in my life and ministry?
- How can I become more spiritually empowered as a Christ-follower and people helper?
- How can I better promote God’s various Kingdom purposes in my life and ministry?
- How can I as a Christian more responsibly protect Jesus’ good reputation before men and angels?
- How can I help Christian clients better learn to live and minister in Jesus’ name?
- How can I best prepare non-Christians to live and minister more successfully in Jesus’ name, should
they eventually become Christians?
- How can the standards of the HPIJN model contribute to the evaluation of other counseling models,
methods, and materials, especially those that claim to be biblical or Christian?
In practice, the HPIJN counseling model is only as technically and informationally detailed as the counselor is
knowledgeable, skilled, and creative in people-helping. All biblical wisdom, any personality theory, any
developmental construct, any view of psychopathology, and any approach to spiritual formation can be useful
to the extent that it promotes Christ-like character formation, approximates the truth about reality, can be
communicated with divine authority, releases the power of Jesus Christ in the relationship, advances God's
purposes, and protects Jesus’ good reputation. Many counseling models and psychological constructs may
partly satisfy these standards and so are useful to that extent.
Ultimately, the HPIJN metamodel is most potent when the counselor or therapist is most like Jesus. How
someone becomes more like Jesus is the key concern for counselor, theory, methods, and materials
development—and various perspectives may be reasonably considered. However, any valid answer to the
question of how to best help people must embrace the far-reaching implications of Colossians 3:17.
Copyright 1999 Richard L. Sholette
|Christian counseling has perpetually searched for a comprehensive theory--a metaperspective that can
help integrate biblical wisdom, personality theory, developmental constructs, psychopathology, and
spiritual formation. (p. 51)
Tim Clinton, Archibald Hart, and George Ohlschlager. (2005). Caring for People God's Way.