Christ-Centered Christian Counseling – Part 2

The first half of the book I am currently writing, Making Christian Counseling More Christ-Centered, will be about the theology of Law/Gospel distinctions and how this essential theology applies conceptually to Christian counseling. The second half of the book will be chapters about specific, practical counseling strategies that flow from that theology. One of those chapters will highlight what one other Lutheran pastor, Rev. Daniel Lee Krueger, has already written on the subject in his book Gospel Therapy: A New Vision of Life Through Christ (2004). In his book, Rev. Krueger has developed an eleven-week study program for his parishioners that addresses the physical, mental and spiritual components of their depression.

The first one-third of his book helps Christians understand the physical/mental interplay and helps convince them that medications can and do work on the physiological aspects of depression (and other disorders).

The last two-thirds of the book uses Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a diagnostic framework, but then encourages Christians to realize the implicit Law messages (“fuzzy thinking”) they are holding to. Christians can then hear (or read) the word of the Gospel reality (which is more real and more true than any of our fuzzy thinking) to replace their mental distortions that conflict with God’s worldview of grace and love. Below are a few of the Cognitive Distortions he identifies (with the “fuzzy thinking” made explicit):

All or nothing thinking: If it’s not perfect it’s no good at all!  My worth as a human being is based upon what I achieve by my own efforts. If I’m not perfect in what I do, or can’t make everyone happy, I’m worthless and so are my efforts.

Overgeneralization: Once a negative experience, always a negative experience!

Jumping to Conclusions ~ Negative Prediction: Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong!

Emotional Reasoning: I feel, therefore it is! My feelings and emotions are the best guide to follow in all decision-making.

Personalization: It’s all about me, myself or I!

Then Rev. Krueger developed “Law-Gospel Thinking Cards” (a typical CBT strategy), but cards that lead Christians to consider and practice pondering the “Gospel Realities” that our Lord promises and encourages us to trust. Below is one example of a Law-Gospel thinking card:

Jumping to Conclusions ~ Negative Prediction

Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong!

Phrase Watch

I’ll never…; What’s the use…; Why should I even try?

Fuzzy Thinking Problem

All experiences and actions draw their value from the final outcome events, and I can predict the reaction to, or the outcome of, everything I do or say.

Law Reality

Apart from our relationship with Christ, everything we do will be destroyed or forgotten. (Eccl. 2:11 NIV) “When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Gospel Reality

What we do for Christ may not always have earthly benefits, but it brings eternal blessings. (John 15: 5-7 NIV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit”

I am pleased to highlight Rev. Krueger’s book in one chapter of my upcoming book because I think that his is an excellent example of how important counseling strategies can flow from our understanding of Law-Gospel distinctions. He is not trained or licensed as a professional counselor, but his pastoral heart and willingness to learn has led him to find ways to help those hurting from depression.

I am currently planning on having TEN other chapters of counseling strategies (see my July 7 post). If you have suggestions for strategies that you have used in Christian and/or pastoral counseling that flow from our understanding of Law and Gospel, and would be willing to share them, I would love to see them and consider highlighting them in the book (with proper credit going to the suggester, just as I am giving Rev. Krueger credit here).

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