A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Abuse and Nouthetic Counseling: A Firsthand Analysis of the Harm it Does

Nouthetic counseling (fathered by Jay Adams) finds widespread reception in our conservative, Bible-believing churches today.  It is not appropriate for abuse victims in our opinion.  In fact, we think it isn’t appropriate in most any case!  It is too simplistic, it employs people who simply are not “competent to counsel,” and naively confronts essentially every issue as a moral failure (sin).  I have seen nouthetic bullies in action, frankly.

The following personal account comes from a very fine Christian woman who has been to hell and back in an abusive marriage.  She has suffered personally at the hands of supposed fellow Christians who should have helped her get free long before.  She has a degree in counseling and tells about the radical paradigm change she had to undergo to get free of what she was taught by proponents of nouthetic counseling.  Thanks sister!!

We were married in 2000. While on our honeymoon, my sister, who lived next door, went into a mental hospital. Out of sheer grief and instability . . . .. coupled with pure jealousy over what she thought was my perfect life, she tried to kill herself. I watched and agonized with her as the doctors put her on several different kinds of medications that did not help her. She continued to “try” to kill herself several times over the next few years . . . . gaining weight and losing all concept of reality while doped up on psychotropic drugs. 😦 I thought there had to be another way.

I wanted to get a masters in music but my then husband’s “calling” to ministry trumped any desire of my heart so we went to a conservative Seminary. I found they had a Master’s in counseling. It was anti-drugs; it was “nouthetic” counseling. [“Nouthetic” is from the Greek word for “admonishment.”  It is a therapy of admonishment]. It seemed like a better concept of soul-help than what my sister went through. I received a full scholarship. I spent 3 years working on classes there. I learned some incredibly oppressive practices in that program, and I often counseled others in these practices. I regret this deeply.

Some of the ideas we learned were:

1. Feelings are not to be trusted. Truth comes before feelings. God does not appreciate our feelings.
2. Suffering is a way of life for the Christian. We are to imitate Christ and He suffered . . . . so we must suffer.
3. There is a Bible verse for every problem. We were given books that had certain sins at the top of each chapter like . . . . “gluttony”, “divorce”, “anger” . . . . underneath were pat answers for everyone’s sin issues.
4. EVERY PROBLEM was actually a sin issue.
5. We cannot change anyone else, we can only change ourselves. So . . . . if, say, my husband were abusing me . . . . MY job was to work only on my reaction and make sure it is not sinful.
6. Marriage was held as the highest, most important entity. It was considered higher than our right to live.
7. ALL psychotropic drugs were bad, sinful and harmful.
8. A woman’s job is to submit to her husband, NO MATTER WHAT he is doing to her.

I bravely (I know how difficult it was for me) went to two counselors while at seminary and told them the horrific abuse that was going on in my marriage. They always managed to get me to focus on my own sin issues. For example, when I told them about my husband’s pornography problems, they suggested that I wasn’t available enough to my husband. That maybe I didn’t allow him to see me naked. I was often scolded that I came in to see them without my husband. I always left their offices feeling discouraged, dirty, sinful and at fault. They threw me back into my marriage over and over. I truly believed that this was God’s will. After 9 years of this . . . . I believed that God only created me to be used and abused by my husband and I went into a deep depression. I was given lengthy studies to look at my own sin issues such as “Heart of the Problem” and “The Self-Confrontation Manual”. The depression got worse. I had just had my third baby and I was losing my will to live.

Somewhere during this time, I dropped out of the program. Miraculously, I received a full scholarship to finish my masters degree at a different seminary. These classes were more balanced. I saw an integrationist view. I began to understand that this was a much MUCH better approach to counseling. It began to open my eyes, although my husband hated it. I worked very hard to finish . . . . . right as I had my fourth baby.

I had several friends along the way who helped me. It really is a miracle that I was able to climb out of the paradigm that had shackled me for 11 years (understatement). I worked HARD to shed the lies I had been taught. It was painful; it was agonizing. I felt like I was trying to gain perspective after leaving a cult. I felt cloudy and unstable and needed an enormous amount of reassurance after I left my husband.

I haven’t counseled anyone in 3 years. I just have felt so much confusion and have needed so much truth and counsel myself that I don’t feel like I could help anyone. I don’t know how/if God will use this degree but I definitely know He wanted me to get it.

I think that true humility means that one is willing to say “this isn’t right . . . . this doesn’t work . . . . . every book I read . .  every sermon I heard . . . every lecture I heard . . . . EVERYTHING I thought I knew was wrong. I am willing, Lord Jesus, to start over from scratch. Teach me.” I am still learning.

I have counseled people poorly. I thought if I had to suffer, others should, too. I threw women back into their own abusive situations because that is what I was told to do. Oh, the regret . . . . Now, I choose to work tirelessly to help free women. If I am not raising money, I am helping a friend. I am careful. I do not assume every woman is being abused or project my own issues on others (I hope!). And it is not some sort of penance. It is because I know how it feels to be enslaved. And Jesus came to set us free.

85 Comments

  1. Bev

    Thanks for allowing Jeff to share your story – I am certain than many of us can identify with what you were being taught and the damage that it can cause…

  2. LorenH

    My wife and I facilitate Christ centered divorce recovery groups and we have run into issues with this type of counseling. After sitting in on some similar type of counseling sessions at our church we decided we could not recommend counseling from our own church to our participants. This and other reasons led us to move to a different church. The pastor at our new church sends people to professionally licensed therapists when it goes beyond his pastoral counseling abilities.

    • Well done to see the writing on the wall and leave that church, Loren!

  3. Desley

    “I believed that God only created me to be used and abused by my husband and I went into a deep depression.”

    Boy, do I resonate with that! I used to ask God why my husband’s sexual satisfaction was more important to Him than my psychological health, since I had to give in to sex with a man who constantly betrayed and hurt me – and not only that, but I was commanded by God to like it too! It felt like God-sanctioned rape for the benefit (and ego) of my husband.

    My church is starting an eight-week bible study from Peacemaker Ministries called “Resolving Everyday Conflict,” which seems to maintain that the root of all conflict in relationships, particularly in marriage relationships, is your own sin (or ill desires). It teaches you to assume a self-sacrificial disposition in order to be a peacemaker. I think this is true sometimes, but to assert that selfishness is the root of all relational conflict is certainly a grandiose claim. I haven’t yet been able to access Ken Sande’s (the President of Peacemaker Ministries) message on domestic abuse, “Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Solving Conflict and Resolving Everyday Conflict,” to get a feel for where they stand when it comes to dealing with domestic abuse and if they make a clear distinction between “every day conflict” and domestic abuse. For this reason I am afraid I have decided to opt out, because, although it might be good teaching in all other scenarios, I am too vulnerable right now to expose myself to indoctrination again which maintains that I will be empowered by God to sacrifice myself on the altar of marital permanence in an abuse situation. Been there, done that, failed

    I am going to keep this post on file for future reference. Great stuff!

    • Desley

      And I just found your August 13th post about this very book. Good to know my intuitions are getting more astute. 😉 Perhaps I will pass along the post to my pastor along with a written explanation of why I will not be attending…

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes, we wrote that earlier article after hearing some firsthand horror stories of Peacemaker methodologies being forced upon a woman whose church abused her virtually as much as her abuser husband! In fact she is right now researching a possible civil lawsuit against her former church and the counseling center that teamed up on her in a really sorry mess of spiritual malpractice. Thank you very, very much for your insights here and blessings on you as you continue to advance in the light of Christ’s truth.

    • Just Me

      I too have wondered if God’s purpose for creating me was to be abused by others. My mother was abusive and so is my husband. I’ve never known an emotionally close relationship that’s safe.

      I agree about the Peacemaker book. My husband and I went to marriage counseling for 18 months. Sometimes we went together, many times I went by myself (because I was the bigger mess) and rarely he went by himself. I acknowledge that I’m the bigger mess, but it’s because I can’t fix him and he’s full of lies. Anyway, the counselor would regularly talk to me or us about Ken Sande’s 4 promises of forgiveness. I won’t bring this up to you again. I won’t bring this up to others again. I won’t bring this up to myself again. I will work on a renewed relationship. I think that’s the 4 things. I was going crazy trying to do this. Husband would do something atrocious. He would refuse to acknowledge it. He would tell me that the problem was that I was too sensitive or that I can’t take a joke. He would apologize after the counselor backed me by saying “I’m an idiot. I don’t know any better. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I’m sorry. If you can’t forgive me, that’s your problem.” The counselor never once (that I recall) discussed with him how unrepentant that apology is or the concept of making amends. And he never talked about the promises of repentance. He went from accepting that garbage apology to jumping to the promises of forgiveness. Example, husband had sneaked a lot of money out of our accounts to give to his money mooching brother (probably about $50k over the years and we don’t have a lot of money). This had gone on for at least 10 years. For many of those years, I was working full time while desparate to be home with our child. It was one of the reasons we sought counseling, although there was so much more. So we started counseling, he gave me his classic non-apology. I was told that I needed to forgive him with these 4 promises–this was for lots of issues, not just the money. Husband kept saying he was sorry, and the counselor kept harping on the 4 promises. I kept privately telling the counselor that he didn’t understand my husband. That I’ve been dealing with him for a long time, and that he wasn’t repentant and he was only saying what the counselor wanted to hear. This went on for at least a year. Finally, I found another account and discovered that in that year, he had given $10k more to his brother. I confronted him in counseling. He lied through his teeth. I gave several forms of proof. He finally gave a non-apology, and the 4 promises of forgiveness started again. I completely fell apart.

      I have since found another counselor who I see by myself. She’s great. When I mentioned the Sande thing, she said there are promises of repentance that need to be made first before the promises of forgiveness are made. I’m slowly working out of feeling so crazy. Husband still sees the other counselor. I no longer go with him. My final straw was when my husband yelled at and berated me for an entire appointment in front of the counselor. I couldn’t do anything but cry and then I had to ride home with him in the car. But I am glad that he let the crazy show in front of the counselor. If he wants to waste his time and money lying to this man, that’s his issue. I found help for myself.

      • Diane

        “I’m slowly working out of feeling so crazy.”
        “I found help for myself.”

        Rejoicing with you in that, Just Me.
        Hugs.

  4. LorenH

    cont’d.
    At my former church the counseling pastor when advised of violence in the home of the married man seeking counsel “admonished” him to stay in the house to assert his authority because he had not yet “bled for Jesus”. He had already suffered an injury that required surgery. What he needed was an intervention to prevent violence. Instead he got bible verses and shaming. The counseling was worse than useless and the marriage ended.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Loren for these insights and your experience. By the way, if you want to see nouthetic “bullying” in action, read chapter 12 of Jay Adams’ book From Forgiven to Forgiving. If you do read it, I would be very interested in your comments on it. You could just put your comments under this article and we will see it. Thanks again!

      • LorenH

        Sorry, but I do not have access to a copy of “From Forgiveness to Forgiving”. Nothing in our library and I doubt our church has a copy. Any online resources you are aware of?

      • sjr

        My pastor several churches back(2004ish?) gave me that book to read. I can’t remember anything about it specifically, but it was triggers from beginning to end.

  5. It is also worth noting that you do not have to go to Nouthetic counseling sessions to be impacted by this stuff. I was never once encouraged to go to a Nouthetic counselor (though my marriage counselor’s practice was called into question for “encouraging me to say things that caused my wife to want to kill herself “- said “things” were that I didn’t trust her when she said my pain was important to her), but the theology drove a lot of my interactions with the elders. And I do remember a marriage retreat they wanted us to go to (and were even willing to foot part of the $1600 bill) where we both had to go with a willingness to change even if our spouse did not- I felt like I was going to vommit when I read that. What change could I alone make that didn’t involve a total abandonment of my sense of self?

    I only found out about Nouthetic counseling proper when my ex started to go through sessions at the church’s insistence- the things they told her made my skin crawl (I have a photo of one of the materials where she was working on letting go of her “rights”, including the rights to have a happy marriage and the right to be loved). I can see how that type of thinking drove my own interactions with the elders. Whether directly stated or not, we could infer the “right to feel safe in my home” was something we do not have according to Nouthetic counseling. And as for the “right to be loved”- while I don’t think in terms of being loved as a “right”, I DO think we were created with a need to be loved and not just by God but by other people- how can the entire law be summed up as loving others if we were not created with a need to be loved by people?

    It’s worth noting that I addressed this with my (secular, and very much opposed to Nouthetic counseling) therapist and said I was uncomfortable with my suicidal ex wife being told she “didn’t have the right to be loved”, especially when she has visitation with our son- he told me that she probably needed to have her attitude of entitlement addressed and that my issue was that I was internalizing the advice to be about me. He didn’t necessarily endorse Nouthetic counseling in her case, but he pointed out that if anyone needed such a perspective, it was her. He then said that I, on the other hand, did not.

    It was after talking about Nouthetic counseling with my therapist that I realized how much these perspectives had undergirded the advice I’d gotten and why I was having trouble trusting the authority of the church, even to the point I was struggling with a loss of identity. I felt like the end goal of faith was for me to remove all “Jeffness” from myself as I offered myself as a living sacrifice- anything that sought to protect “Jeff” was in the flesh and unchristlike. This is such a distortion of the Christian faith- our God is intently interested in us as individuals. The idea of losing our uniqueness and identity has far more in common with eastern religions than it does Christianity.

    • I’m composing a pretty long response to this post, but I just want to respond quickly to Jeff S’s comment. Yes, my experience is also that you don’t have to go to an official nouthetic counselor to be told this stuff. Versions of it were rife in the churches I have attended, from Pentecostal to Presbyterian. The simple (Pentecostal) version was this “We live by faith, not by feelings.” (I took that to mean that I’m supposed to ignore anything from the neck down.)
      The Presbyterian version was more intellectual and subtle: uncomfortable emotions are most likely due to one’s own sin (hint hint, say no more), and they are not much to be trusted because they are *experiential* – and we Reformed Presbyterians’s know how dangerous experiential theology is. Case closed.
      I got the impression that when Jay Adams first wrote his stuff about counseling, conservative churches grabbed hold of it like it was gold. because prior to him they had no understanding of counseling at all.
      But the tragic thing is, the Puritans understood emotions very well, much better than many current Reformed Christians do. The Puritans called them ” the affections”, and they didn’t denigrate them in a blanket way: they discussed the spiritual affections in very positive terms, as well as discussing other kinds of affections (= emotions) in complicated detail and long, mightily complex sentences! 🙂

      • Laurie

        Its in the Mennonites, too. Actually, more pronounced in an off-shoot from Mennonites called “Charity.” Always making someone feel guilty because someone else has a conviction about something. Teaching that we still owe a debt for our iniquities and forgetting that the blood of Jesus paid our sins and relieved us of our debt so we could be free to enter into a deep, loving, trusting relationship with Him.

      • Absolutely! I internalized the message that I wasn’t supposed to have negative feelings about the things he kept doing to me. If I felt anything but love for him, I was sinning. I eventually had a nervous breakdown before I realized how wrong that was.

      • Oh Jodi. ((((hugs)))

      • Pastor Johnson

        As a Pentecostal pastor I noticed that you said “The simple (Pentecostal) version was this “We live by faith, not by feelings.” (I took that to mean that I’m supposed to ignore anything from the neck down.)”

        I have heard this phrase for years and have used this phrase myself in preaching many, many times. But it does not mean that you are supposed to ignore anything from the neck down.

        It means that if you trust the Lord Jesus with all your heart and your sins are covered under the blood of Christ and you know that you are saved, then you need to hold on “by faith” to that truth. Satan will try to tear you down in many ways… friends and acquaintances may try to make you doubt your salvation because of something you may have said or done… children are especially good at trying to bring you down when they don’t get their way… “Well if you were a Christian like you say you are you would not ground me!”

        Many times after hearing our friends or children saying things like that we do not “feel” very Christian. And the enemy will take advantage of those comments if we allow him to get away with it. That is when it is when must stand on faith and not our feelings…

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thanks Pastor Johnson. Very good. By the way, I recently read the statement on marriage, divorce and remarriage by the Assemblies of God (I assume you are with a Pentecostal group, not necessarily AOG), and actually it is pretty good in my opinion. Certainly better than many others I have read.

      • Pastor Johnson, I really appreciate a pastor coming to our blog and commenting on it. Thank you so much.
        I understand your explanation about what we live by faith, not by feelings means. I just wish more preachers, and more lay people, would explain it properly.

        As a survivor of domestic abuse, and childhood sexual abuse too, I can tell you that I have had that phrase told to me many time, usually in a curt, lecturing tone, as if the person were trying to shut me down by throwing that saying at me to stop having to hear any more my problem. And I always took it as a total discount of any emotions I might have had.
        Maybe you were not aware of how this phrase is often (mis)used this way, to victims of abuse?
        It’s right to say that we ought to resist Satan’s attempts to make us emotionally doubt our salvation. But I don’t believe it is right to discount ALL our emotions, especially when they are emotions of pain, fear, anxiety, etc that are due to having suffered abuse or trauma. To avoid or discount those emotions is very unhealthy, in my opinion. It’s not a path of spiritual growth, but rather, a path of double-mindedness. When we suppress or deny the emotions that ensue from trauma, healing cannot progress properly. The thing just festers in us. We may put on a better mask and learn to play the role of Christian hypocrite – and thus fit in at church better – but we won’t be growing in Christ. And we may end up being Pharisees who ultimately wound others.

        I do hope you keep coming to our blog. I would like to hear more of your comments.

      • Janey

        Most people don’t realize the Puritans allowed divorce for cruelty. In 1660 a statute in the Court of Assistants accepted “female adultery, male cruelty, bigamy, desertion, failure to provide, and impotence as grounds for divorce” (p. 13). Anyone interested in this subject should read one of the three academic histories of divorce in America. All of them are out of print, but the late Dr. Glenda Riley’s _Divorce: An American Tradition_ is easy to find on Amazon. It will open your eyes. Basically, we’ve been misled about divorce in America. We had such a high divorce rate in the 1800s that Europeans were astonished. Judges started accepting verbal abuse as grounds for divorce in the 1840s (p. 82). By 1886 all but 6 states accepted cruelty as a ground for divorce (p. 81).

      • Janey thanks so much for sharing this info. I wrote in my book (Not Under Bondage) about how some Puritan divines allowed divorce for cruelty, making reference to a few from Britain or Europe. But I did not have time to research how the American Puritans dealt with it. So your info is new to me, and I am very grateful for you tipping me off on this. I have not had time to read a lot more on the history of divorce since I completed my book, being busy with so many other things.

        I’ll try to get hold of that book you refer to as I would like to quote from it in any presentations I do, especially those I do in the USA.

        PS, It’s interesting how you seem to refer to “the Puritans” meaning the ones who emigrated to America. Being an Aussie, when I hear the word Puritans I tend to think of those who were in England, Scotland and continental Europe. Different perspectives!

    • mlieder

      “I felt like the end goal of faith was for me to remove all “Jeffness” from myself as I offered myself as a living sacrifice- anything that sought to protect “Jeff” was in the flesh and unchristlike.”

      Yes! I know what you mean! What a good description of what nouthetic counseling does. It strips our identity and individuality. It slaps God in the face as we distort and discard His creative creation.

    • Wow! Indeed, it does!

  6. “I felt like I was trying to gain perspective after leaving a cult.” That is it in a nutshell.
    The Nouthetic counseling paradigm is cult-like because it teaches serious untruths.
    Look at that list you gave:
    1. Feelings are not to be trusted. Truth comes before feelings. God does not appreciate our feelings.
    None of these statements are wholly true.
    Feelings can often be trusted. Feelings do need to be scrutinised and perhaps distrusted to the extent that the person’s emotions may be motivated by their own sin, or by trauma responses that were once vital for survival but are now no longer helpful. (I’m thinking of responses like numbing or blocking, or conversion of shame into hostility).
    But feelings can often be trusted: they can signal to us whether a situation is safe or unsafe, what we might need or benefit from in our Christian walk, and what other people might be feeling (empathy). And sometimes feelings signal the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the path we most desire (like a career choice) is the very thing God wants us to do to serve him. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4) I think he often gives us a heartfelt desire to engage in exactly the good works which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)

    2. Suffering is a way of life for the Christian. We are to imitate Christ and He suffered . . . . so we must suffer.
    Not true: see Jeff’ Crippen’s recent post on suffering.

    3. There is a Bible verse for every problem. We were given books that had certain sins at the top of each chapter like . . . . “gluttony”, “divorce”, “anger” . . . . underneath were pat answers for everyone’s sin issues.
    While there may be a Bible verse or verses that can bring wisdom to every problem, it’s not an automated prescription service. Wisdom and empathy is needed by the counselor, and much harm can be done by applying verses wrongly.

    4. EVERY PROBLEM was actually a sin issue.
    This sentence is garbage if it means every person’s problem stems from the person’s own sin. It’s only a true sentence if “sin issues” include the possibility that the person’s problem is that they’ve been sinned against, or is a problem stemming from the curse of the Fall under which the whole creation groans (Romans 8:22-23) – think of tidal waves, hurricanes, drought, malaria…

    5. We cannot change anyone else, we can only change ourselves.
    This is true, though we can sometimes influence others to change themselves.
    So . . . . if, say, my husband were abusing me . . . . MY job was to work only on my reaction and make sure it is not sinful.
    Garbage. If my husband is abusing me, my job is to set boundaries and if necessary end the relationship, to protect myself and my kids.

    6. Marriage was held as the highest, most important entity. It was considered higher than our right to live.
    Idolatry, claptrap and codswallop! We’ve covered this in all our discussions of divorce on this blog.

    7. ALL psychotropic drugs were bad, sinful and harmful.
    Tell that to a person suffering from schizophrenic hallucinations or suicidal impulses. Or tell that to the secular courts that handle psychiatric criminals every day of the week.

    8. A woman’s job is to submit to her husband, NO MATTER WHAT he is doing to her.
    So if he makes me bleed after every time we have intercourse, or if he has incest with my daughter, I should say “Would you like me to change the sheets now you’ve made them dirty, darling?” ?

    • mlieder

      Wow! I LOVE that, Barbara! Thank you! I soaked up every word!

    • Barbara, I am glad that I slept on this a bit before posting a reply, as your clarifications above more clearly explain your first list, of which I personally had some issue with. With concern to not define another individual ‘s reality, rather to share how my life (my sanity literally) was saved by the counseling that I received which sounded somewhat similar to your first list. But as I said your elucidation helped address most of which I heard that concerned me.
      If I may share what I learned that saved me:
      1. Feelings and emotions are not to be the engine of the train of my life as they can often be fickle. My facilitator used a different take on the Karpman Triangle to explain this, ie. in the toxic dysfunctional relationship I was re-acting rather than acting which kept me in the drama of circular crazymaking. In the triangle example I was taught to look at the truth of the current situation, then choose to act on that truth, not re-act out of the emotions of the moment. God gave me the idea of wearing a broccoli rubberband around my wrist to catch myself in the beginning and remember to use my one-liners to keep myself out of the crazymaking circular arguments that the abuser delights in, AND to the end of keeping oneself safer with the physically violent. My old responses fed into the lies, justification, that my ex played in his head as to the why of what he was doing.
      (There is much more to all of this than can be covered in one response.)
      2. I didn’t read Jeff’s post on Suffering, however, we are told that as Christ suffered for His stand for the Gospel so shall we expect to suffer for our faith. However!, that suffering is not to remain in the presence/close proximity of the abuser. (That will look different for every individual and situation.) We are to have healthy boundaries. We are to detach from the abuser. We are not the cause of the abuse but we are a part of the equation and continuing on as we have in the past is not a loving act. Not loving to ourselves nor the other party as remaining in it status-quo, so to speak, enables the same behavior to continue.
      3. agree with your elucidation on this point.
      4. we all have sinned and fall short of the glory….and that includes my behaviors towards the other party. Yes, being sinned against. However, while I was not the cause of his behavior and could not fix it nor control it, my own Adamic nature was very much a player in the toxic dynamics. That is, until, I learned different tools to use. That is, until, I was ready to Trust the Lord to lead me. To Trust the Lord to listen and obey that voice of the Holy Spirit in changing my responses…AND THAT change in my behavior was the beginning of the saving of my sanity. His behavior did not change and even as cautioned, it has escalated, but I am able to stay sane and for the most part calm in the midst of an increasingly (seemingly to my human perspective) tornadic spiral of my ex.
      5. Yes. I can only change myself. I am only responsible for my behaviors. Yes, I am to choose behaviors that glorify God, no matter the circumstances that I am in at that moment. What does happen when I change my behavior is that either the abuser changes too or they leave. Unfortunately, it will always escalate in the beginning of my changing as the abuser tries to return the relational dynamics to what they had been…where they obviously feel most comfortable.
      6. I personally believe that I am called to exhaust all options to honor my covenant relationship before God. Another however, as I am NOT saying that an abuse victim is to stay in the home…within reach of the abuser. Rather that I am called to honor that covenant as it was covenanted before God and thus not to be taken lightly, thus warranting my every effort to uphold it. Tho it takes two to make it work and there ARE clear premises for the dissolution of said covenant.
      7. right on
      8. Agreed.

      I am glad that you moderate before allowing comments to be posted as it is my sincere intent to only share that which proved to save my life and not interfere with the journey of another individual via the life-saving, life-giving transformative truth that is found in the work of the Cross alone by the power of the Spirit within.
      Blessings, Sheryl

      • Oops, in #1 I didn’t finish the triangle. When I made the choice to act rather than re-act, soon the healthy feelings would follow. So I chose to act in truth despite how I felt and then new healthier feelings would follow. AND I failed to mention how the Holy Spirit does speak to us in our bodies to what is truth. i learned to listen to where in my body I felt that….for many of us it was in our guts, others our heads. I had stuffed or ignored that voice for too long and had to learn how to discern the truth that the Spirit (interpreter) was telling me. ie., yes. this was abuse,; no, I was not imaging this; no, it was wrong, that is why it felt wrong; and, no, it was not just my perspective that needed to change and it would all be okay!

      • Dear Cordelactatio, thanks for all your comments and I’m sorry that I caused you to have some issues by the way I put things in my first comment. I probably could have phased it better, and I think you have put it a lot better than I did when you said, “choose to act on the truth, not re-act out of the emotions of the moment.”

        I remember that saying: ” Feelings and emotions are not to be the engine of the train of my life as they can often be fickle.” I think it’s a helpful principle. When I was battling my addiction years ago (bulimia) I had to apply that approach. And yes, when I applied it, my feelings generally came into line with my actions. I used to attend twelve step programs and one of their sayings is “Act as if.” That means, act as if you HAVE the motivation, act as if you CAN do something, act as if you DO believe something…. and you will find you CAN do it! When I was trying to break the chronic habit of addictive escapism to avoid my problems, the “act as if” method me helped a lot.

        But “act as if” in that kind of context, is not exactly the same as what they prescribe in Nouthetic counseling, I would think. And “act as if” would be terrible advice to give a woman who was feeling guilty because she had no sexual desire for her husband because he was abusive. We should never tell such a woman “Honey, make yourself more available to him, act as if you relish his advances.”

    • no name please

      yes, you said it perfectly, Barbara!

    • You said it all so well, Barbara!

    • BARBARA

      I AM PRESENTLY GOING TO BIBLICAL COUNSELING.
      WORKING ON ME AND MYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY SIN!
      WE ARE GOING THROUGH THIS……….
      #5. We cannot change anyone else, we can only change ourselves. So . . . . if, say, my husband were abusing me . . . . MY job was to work only on my reaction and make sure it is not sinful.
      BARBARA’S REPLY:
      Garbage. If my husband is abusing me, my job is to set boundaries and if necessary end the relationship, to protect myself and my kids.
      THANK YOU, BARBARA!!!!
      THEY HAVE RESPONSIBILITY ALSO!

  7. This type of counseling is absolutely RAMPANT in Christian circles. It is often the ONLY kind of counseling “allowed” to be considered, any other kind being tainted by worldly thinking and therefore sinful and self or “man” centered. I have seen this attitude in my own assembly, though the term “nouthetic” has yet to be used. Instead the term is “Biblical” by which they mean the same thing.

  8. Anonymous

    I, personally, after having been counseled this way by unlicensed people, believe that Nouthetic counseling is a joke and a complete twisting of Scripture, set up by the devil himself. All we have to do is read our Bible to see, that David was not confronted by God to look at his own sin, when Saul was trying to kill him. We don’t have to look much further to see Nehemiah refuse to go down when sent letters to come for a visit, because he knew they intended to harm him. We don’t see Nehemiah fall on his face before God and start crying, “What did I do to cause this?!?!” No we see him stand firm and stand his ground and just say that the others were planning to harm him. With no confession from the others that they were going to harm him, Nehemiah, according to Nouthetic counseling, was making huge ASSUMPTIONS! We see a whole long list of people in the Bible, get away from their abuser, including Jesus Himself. We are told to love our enemies, etc., but we are not told to allow them to abuse us. Nouthetic counseling needs to be brought into the light for what it is, great harm to all. I believe that from the counsel I have received by so called Nouthetic counselors, that there never is any truth! Truth cannot be found! It is a constant he said, she said, situation, where even if someone lies, you are told, “well, you cannot say that someone is lying if they just forgot”. It never really addresses the sin of the one sinning, but rather is there to get the innocent party to bear all the sin of the one sinning and make the real sinners’ sin easier for him to continue in. That is not Christ! I do also believe that Nouthetic counseling is the one that uses “we are all just sinners”, to its advantage and encourages its use to keep us all on this even ground. However, the Bible clearly gives different punishments for different types of sin, so we do know, that we are not all on a level playing field. Yes, we are all sinners, but those of us who have truly been covered by His grace, are no longer under the condemnation. It seems that Nouthetic counseling wants us to come back down with them in the murky waters and mirey path we used to walk in. It actually sounds as if they do not know or understand true Redemption and Salvation in Christ. Nouthetic counseling, in my humble opinion, is nothing more than a license for abusers to continue abusing. I believe it actually can drive people to mental illness, because there is never any truth. It is the truth that sets us free. You can’t be set free, if you can never get to the truth.

    • BARBARA

      THANK YOU!!!!

  9. I am so glad you are drawing attention to Nouthetic counseling. It’s interesting that the Peacekeepers and Nouthetic counseling both are highly recommended in Sovereign Grace Ministries circles, family integrated church groups, conservative Christian homeschooling circles. I’ve seen some of the materials in homeschool catalogs as well. When you look at those churches and groups, they are the ones in which people are telling their stories of spiritual abuse or other abuse (spousal, sexual). Go figure!

    They’ve also been taught that this is the only kind of “true Biblical counseling”, that all other forms of counseling is of Satan because it is man-made psychology. If they go to a Nouthetic counselor, they most likely will be told it is their sin that is causing their root problems and they could be re-victimized with this counsel: ie, they are not submitting to the authority that God placed before them (let’s say pastor or husband). What if the pastor or husband is abusive???

  10. They’ve also been taught that this is the only kind of “true Biblical counseling”, that all other forms of counseling is of Satan because it is man-made psychology.

    Yep.

    • LorenH

      The two great opponents of modern pschological counseling today are the conservative Christian church and Scientology. Ouch!

      • Oh…my….

      • Janey

        Loren, add Christian Science to your list. (“There is no pain, no sickness, no death. They are all illusions.”) At least the other two religious groups can admit to *some* reality.

  11. Diane

    Thank you for sharing this story.

    Barnabasintraining 3:33 wrote~

    “This type of counseling is absolutely RAMPANT in Christian circles.”

    I have seen a lot of the “God is not interested in your marital happiness, but holiness” stuff being reinforced in articles by TGC, 9Marks, cult-like groups such as SGM, and websites like Leadership Network that so many evangelical pastors read, to name a few.

    A quote from this horrible, imo, article by LN’s Ed Stetzer promoting this Lutzer statement:

    “Erwin Lutzer correctly stated “in marriage, the goal is holiness, not happiness.” Marriage was intended to be a God-ordained commitment between one husband and one wife for one lifetime as one flesh. Sin has broken that, and we see those effects all around us. However, we have the Power in us to overcome. Christ is faithful to hold marriages together when they are centered on Him and His redemptive work on the cross. If our marriage is focused on holiness, happiness will inevitably follow. I’ve never met a couple who has divorced because they were pursuing God too much.”
    http://www.thechurchreport.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=siteContent.default&objectID=161134

    Anonymous 4:45 wrote~

    “I do also believe that Nouthetic counseling is the one that uses “we are all just sinners”, to its advantage and encourages its use to keep us all on this even ground.”

    That way there are no victims…a counseling method used by some SGM pastors/churches. If no “real” victims (because we’re all just sinners so get over it already), then the problem can more easily go away. They tell you that you (victim of abuse) are an even worse sinner than your abuser (because at least he/she is “sorry” and said as much to the pastor), and you?….you are not even forgiving him/her (what kind of Christian are you–is the implication) which makes you worse. Abuse all over again. Quite devilish, imo.

    • SJR

      “They tell you that you (victim of abuse) are an even worse sinner than your abuser (because at least he/she is “sorry” and said as much to the pastor), and you?….you are not even forgiving him/her (what kind of Christian are you–is the implication) which makes you worse. Abuse all over again. Quite devilish, ”

      Definitely has been my experience also! There’s only so much additional blame you can carry before you crack under the weight. Once multiple counselors have all basically told you how much you’re sinning and refuse to look at the trauma behind it; you begin to believe you deserved the abuse.
      There’s only so many outcomes to Nouthetic counseling, and none of them are good.

      Surviving abuse is hard enough; but the greater danger is surviving this twisted view of Scripture called Nouthetic counseling or Death by Counseling.
      (I don’t have a strong opinion on this of course:-)
      Has anyone tracked suicides, or attempts, of those who had this sort of counseling? Those would be some sad statistics.

      • Surviving abuse is hard enough; but the greater danger is surviving this twisted view of Scripture called Nouthetic counseling or Death by Counseling.

        neat expression — death by counseling

    • Katy

      every conversation I ever had with my husband went like this:

      me: “How could you do this to me?”
      him: “You’re just as bad as I am”
      me: “But – I would never do anything like that to you!”
      him: (shrugging shoulders) “You’re no better than me”
      me: silence.

      The end. The story of 7 years of my life.

  12. Anon said “Nouthetic counseling is … a complete twisting of Scripture, set up by the devil himself.”
    And another of our Anon’s said “Nouthetic counseling is nothing more than a license for abusers to continue abusing.”
    I woke up this morning thinking this:

    If I were an abusive man who felt entitled to power and control and believed that women were lesser beings than men, if I abused my wife in secret but was squeaky clean in front of the church, if I colluded with other abusive men to keep their wives oppressed, and if I wanted to invent a system of psychological counseling which would assist my goals, I would invent something like Nouthetic Counseling.

    Now, I’m not saying Jay Adams was such a man (how could I know for sure?). My wish is not to ascribe personal qualities to Adams, but to point out how Nouthetic counseling is a perfectly tailored set of weapons for abusers to make their victims feel even more crazy.
    It gives abusers the right to tell the abused:

    Trigger warning – abuser language coming up

    1. Your feelings are not to be trusted. You are crazy to be having those emotions. Truth comes before feelings – and I define what truth is! God does not appreciate your feelings. He doesn’t care. He thinks you’re an idiot!
    2. Suffering is a way of life for all Christians. You should rejoice that I’m chastising you the way God chastises believers for their sanctification.
    3. There is a Bible verse for every problem. And the verses that will fix your problem are “Submit to your husband! Submit to your leaders.”
    4. Every problem is a sin issue – and you have so many sins you’re almost un-fixable. You should be grateful that I stick around, because nobody else would be willing to put up with you!
    5. We cannot change anyone else, we can only change ourselves. Stop trying to make me change: you should be looking to God for all your needs.
    6. Marriage is the highest, most important entity. You have no right to live if you leave this marriage, and I’ll make sure you don’t!
    7. ALL psychotropic drugs are bad, sinful and harmful. Don’t you even think of going to get anti-depressants! If you get really bad, I’ll send you to the funny farm; they can lock you up till you come to your senses.
    8. A woman’s job is to submit to her husband, NO MATTER WHAT. So what’s your problem?

    • As I understand it, Adams was reacting to an extreme with another extreme. That is, he saw people with spiritual needs not being addressed under the guise of secular therapy. It’s quite easy for spiritual needs to masquerade as emotional or mental needs.

      The problem is that Christians in this age are terrible at nuance. We see a problem and think the answer must be polar opposite. We label imperfect things as “Man’s Wisdom” and then reason that “God’s Wisdom” must have nothing of “Man’s Wisdom” in it. This makes me think of Docetism and the idea that everything material (not God) is evil. These are heresys that continue to infect.

      In the end, I give Adams credit for his observations, but the “cure” seems as bad as the cancer. We would do so much better in this world if we viewed it as broken and in need of Gospel influence, but not as so completely broken that we need to replace the things of it entirely.

      Nouthetic Counseing to me seems like a form of Asceticism- those who who manage to apply it certainly feel they have reason to boast- they have denied themselves the easy way out and insead have wipped their own emotional being with the chains of legalism.

      Asceticism is always going to be a safe haven for abusers- and that’s where your points come in. Wherever humans afflict themselves and revel in suffering, the Gospel is not lived out and the path enlightenment is forged with tools of suffering- and who is more interested in tools of suffering than the abuser?

      • Thanks for filling me in on the background about Adams and what he was reacting to. I didn’t know that. It makes a lot of sense. And yes, nuance is not a highly prized quality in conservative evangelicalism! There is a book lamenting the rejection of intellectualism in the evangelical church; it outlines various historical and sociological reasons why American evangelicals rejected rigorous thinking and intellectual analysis
        Intellect is by no means all we should cultivate as Christians, but we make a grave mistake when we reject it, because when we do so we become unable to see nuances.

      • LorenH

        Very insightfull analysis. I think that you are exactly correct about the tie-in to asceticism. It is a “works” based mentality masquerading in spiritual clothing.

  13. LorenH

    I believe the book you are thinking of is, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” by church historian Mark Noll. As he puts it, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Pretty harsh , but well supported in his book. I would recommend reading it. Anything Mark Noll writes has been well researched and vetted.
    This is another reason we left our previous church, a conservative evangelical Calvary Chapel affiliate. We loved much about this church; biblical based teaching, wonderful music and a really dedicated congregation and staff. But it was just dripping with anti-intellectualism. They already knew the “truth” and no amout of scholarly research and facts were going to influence their understanding. None of the pastors were seminary graduates and they had consistant disdain for learned opinion.
    I received some good teaching there, but I am glad to have moved on.

    • I think anti-intellectualism is a huge issue in the church- actually even the non-church. We live in an era of pragmatism where we look at what works in the short term but avoid taking a long view. And in fact, I think most people look at what works FOR THEM and don’t think too hard beyond the next few days or weeks. It’s no surprise to me that we can ignore abuse or the effects of twisted teaching like Nouthetic Counseling because as long as our beliefs work for us (including beliefs that are untested) we can keep moving forward with our pragmatic ways.

      And what did Jesus have to say about pragmatism?

      “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36 ESV)

      We need to take the long view, the eternal view, for everything we do. We can’t just look to the next five minutes and we cannot ignore stuff that doesn’t immediately affect us.

      And I think that’s why we NEED to be intellectuals. We have to be able to think critically and not just understand that things like Nouthetic Counseling are flawed after they fail to work, but to think through and understand why they will fail before we even try.

      This idea of critical thinking is why I still like RC Sproul so much. Yes, he has some stuff I disagree with, but it isn’t for lack of effort or taking the subject seriously. He is trying to teach the Christian world to think critically, and then to use that critical thought to serve God passionately. I LOVE this quote from him about the philosophy of Kierkegaard:

      I believe that theology should be rational, cogent, coherent, logical, and all of that, but that our response to that which is objectively true should be a response of unrestrained passion and care as we show our love for the things of God.

      And I think that is the real issue in the church today- we often aren’t “rational, cogent, coherent, logical, and all of that”, and what we DO believe does not come out as “unrestrained passion and care as we show our love for the things of God”. I certainly cannot apply that description to Nouthetic Counseling.

      • Anonymous

        This struck a chord with me as I have just finished reading a book on critical thinking. It’s not something promoted much in Christian circles. That is rather ironic, considering that a person doesn’t come to a knowledge of Christ without going through a huge paradigm shift, challenging entrenched worldviews and considering a very life-changing alternative. Obviously, critical reflection must have taken place to accept the message of the gospel, even though it naturally goes against the grain of human thinking. While that acceptance doesn’t happen without a work of the Holy Spirit, the mind is involved in considering all that is at stake.

        How in the world then, does a Christian stagnate and refuse to grow after a while, preferring to remain in a position that cannot be justified, and cannot only be embraced with the head in the sand? Maybe it’s just human nature, maybe it’s what is modelled to us. Certainly, the pain of remaining the same is often not matched by the pain of changing. Not until the pain becomes unbearable anyway.

        On another note, the Christian tendency to gloss over painful realities by ignoring feelings and proclaiming the Word seems to have taken a leaf out of secular methods of psychology, e.g., acting “as if” (promoted by early psychology spearhead William James) and dealing with one’s responses, aka Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. Translated to Christiandom, this looks like the teaching that insists that we only need to look at our responses to what happens to us, we need to put away bad thoughts (eg unforgiveness – anything negative is “unforgiveness”) and replace them with the Word of God. While there is truth in these arguments, the inability to really face the painful realities of abuse often pushes the application of these truths in a way that denies root causes of problems, blames victims and lets perpetrators off the hook.

      • Song

        Jeff S., I really like that quote you posted from Kierkegaard. I think it addresses the problems I’ve experienced in churches which was, in my opinion, an imbalance of teaching that ignores the fact God has given us beautiful minds with which to think. In Genesis 2:19-20, God brought the animals to the man to see what the man would name them, and what ever the man named them, that was what they were called. What a beautiful picture of God engaging the man to use his mind. In the Psalms and Proverbs are many passages that speak of getting wisdom, which is again using our minds.

        Anonymous said it well, “This struck a chord with me as I have just finished reading a book on critical thinking. It’s not something promoted much in Christian circles. That is rather ironic, considering that a person doesn’t come to a knowledge of Christ without going through a huge paradigm shift, challenging entrenched worldviews and considering a very life-changing alternative. Obviously, critical reflection must have taken place to accept the message of the gospel, even though it naturally goes against the grain of human thinking. While that acceptance doesn’t happen without a work of the Holy Spirit, the mind is involved in considering all that is at stake.”

      • When we see practices that “gloss over the pain” I think we need to take a serious pause. Christians should never lack empathy. We may be misguided and not see this as we ought, but one thing Jesus never did was ignore the pain of those who suffered. He was perfectly righteous AND perfectly empathetic. In fact, isn’t His empathy graphically illustrated for us in the incarnation?

      • Song

        “The quote was from R.C. Sproul- I transcribed it from his lesson “Kierkegaard” in his teaching series “The Consequence of Ideas”. Sorry it wasn’t so clear”
        Thank you, Jeff S, for the clarification below.

    • Yes, that’s the book, Loren. Thanks!

  14. mlieder

    There are also other authors that are strong proponents of “biblical” or “nouthetic” counseling, although they might not use those terms. One is called “Psychobabble” by Richard Ganz . . . . . another frightening book is called “Only God Can Heal the Wounded Heart” by Ed Bulkley. Wayne Mack is another one.

    • Thanks, I think it’s really helpful to our readers to know the names of these books and authors, especially since the teachings may not have an over label: “nouthetic counselling’ or ‘biblical counseling’. The thing comes in many packages, or many disguises.

      • Anonymous

        Man, I suspect it might be a case of spot the book that doesn’t promote biblical counseling theories!

  15. Jeff S. Is this quote from Kierkegaard or R.C. Sproul? I am a little confused “I believe that theology should be rational, cogent, coherent, logical, and all of that, but that our response to that which is objectively true should be a response of unrestrained passion and care as we show our love for the things of God”. I like it but I want to make sure to attribute it correctly.

    • The quote was from R.C. Sproul- I transcribed it from his lesson “Kierkegaard” in his teaching series “The Consequence of Ideas”. Sorry it wasn’t so clear 🙂

      • Ok- thanks for the clarification Jeff!

  16. Laura

    I am thankful that the secular justice system does not operate by the standards of the nouthetic counseling that I received from the church. If it did, society would not be able to exist as we know it. It is pitiful that truth and justice are absent from “biblical” church counseling. Reformation on this issue is greatly needed.

  17. The Persistent Widow

    I had the privilege to leave the first Amazon review for Domestic Abuse by Powlison. Would anyone care to vote my review as helpful or leave their own review? It is interesting that where a victim of Nouethic counseling has left a critical review of a Nouthetic counseling book, cruel comments appear. Look at the comments on the Sexual Abuse book by Powlison, for example. I have seen the same on one-star book reviews for Competent to Counsel. The Nouthetic counselors seem really sensitive to criticism!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Done! Thx PW!

      • Desley

        I voted. Great review!
        Has anyone reviewed or critiqued the chapter on Domestic Abuse in “Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood (Foundations for the Family Series)”?

    • An excellent review, Persistent Widow. The fact that you can speak from your own experience of having been a recipient of the kind of counseling that Powlison, Welch and Tripp teach, makes your review even more powerful. Here is the review if anyone else wants to read it and perhaps vote on whether you found it helpful.

    • Velour

      Several years later and I just voted on amazon for your review. And I voted “yes” for the supportive comments beneath it too. Good job!

  18. kind of anonymous

    I read the self confrontation manual excerpt on Amazon and that alone horrified me. It is written by a dentist and widely touted by many as pretty much the most excellent biblical tool for spiritual growth ever. I am surprised at how ignorant christians are about abuse and trauma.

    The portion I read has the author insisting that all recovered memories of abuse are false, the victims are sin-denying liars and the therapists are unscrupulous manipulators who plant ideas. He then pompously directs victims that their biblical response is to apologize to all they have “harmed” by their “sin’ of false allegation. I wonder how he managed to become omniscient and know the truth of the hearts and lives of all therapists and all victims? Neat trick. Not sure if I am recalling exactly right but I think he may have made some reference to false memory syndrome. There are legit stories of false memories, some implanted by irresponsible therapists and harm done, people fleeced, etc. But I wonder if folks are aware that the False Memory Syndrome Foundation was founded by one Ralph Underwager, who also wrote a pedophilia sympathetic article for a pedo magazine in Europe called ” Paedika”. When this became known, Underwager stepped down. I think this info can still be found on the internet.

    Now, I know that there are people who make stuff up and create false histories of dramatic abuse for attention or for revenge and I myself had a therapist insist to me that I had suffered SRA though she could not give me any objective evidence as to why she thought that beyond a hunch. I think that was at the very least, careless of her, if not unscrupulous. But just the same I think most therapists sincerely want to help and are truthful and fairly ethical. Wish the same could be said for pastors and churches as far as the level of integrity went.

    The supposedly biblical crowd like this dentist, and I think others, insist that people don’t suppress memories of genuine trauma and that if the trauma is real they always remember it in detail. Oh, PLEASE. I had a seriously blocked out trauma that occurred at the age of three or four. I felt horribly responsible for causing severe harm to someone and thought was my fault and that everyone hated me and I didn’t deserve to live. Who would want to remember such a thing, esp if they had no way to process or understand it? It is well documented that repressed trauma is common depending on type and severity. I wasn’t able to allow this info to surface until I was around 35; it was that upsetting and fearful to me and it took me that long to develop a sense of self to manage it.

    What really blew my mind though, is how christians just eat everyone up that they are told is biblical or is God’s opinion, without any real critical analysis. Sad to say that this is my problem also but I am slowly learning how to think and look beyond the surface.

    • I was abused in a sexualised way as a child, and that memory didn’t come back till I was in my mid 20s. It was utterly terrifying when it came back, in full 3D so to speak. No wonder I’d put a veil of amnesia over it while I was a kid!

      That abuse screwed me up badly … long before the memory came back I was off the rails in various forms of addiction.

    • And I agree with you about the origins of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

  19. kind of anonymous

    Oops, got the title of the biblical counselling book mixed up, the one I was referring to about false memories and repressed trauma is actually the christian’s guide to psychological terms by a couple of the last name Asher I beleive. Sorry about that.

  20. Velour

    Good blog article about Nouthetic Counseling, which I just found here. I haven’t seen it succeed with any thing. I was subjected to this form of *counseling* by my former church’s pastors/elders, along with other church members, but not for issues related to domestic violence.

    In my experience, Nouthetic Counseling was simply untrained, uneducated, and even unlicensed men who ran their mouths about serious problems, gave opinions, expected everyone to be grateful, and who explained everything in terms of “sin”. When it didn’t work, the pastors/elders would say that they “had tried” and that a member was in disobedience, destined for Hell, obstinate, etc.

    My pastors/elders failures at my ex-church were many including:

    *demanding that church members be *in unity* with an older woman who was a practicing alcoholic and acting out, forcing members to apologize to her. She needed to be in treatment, under a physician’s care, for alcoholism. The pastors/elders failed her,
    her adult children (she was a widow), and church members.

    *let another older woman with lots of emotional problems and verbal abuse act it out on men and women church members and attenders, causing many people to not attend church, church events, and even leave the church altogether because of her verbal abuse to them. She should have been ordered to see a professional, licensed therapist to deal with her problems.

    *the pastors/elders did not get a woman church member with Dyslexia, which isn’t just a reading problem but a memory problem to medical care to deal with her genetically caused brain disorder. She had short-term memory problems and accused other members of “lying.” The pastors/elders agreed and said that others were “in sin”, when it’s actually a brain malfunction problem. Many relationships were damaged by pastors/elders bungling that and so were good peoples’ names.

    • Hi Velour
      we’ve published your comment as is, but we were not quite sure about doing so because there is a potential that the details you gave might identify you to your abuser or the abuser’s allies. Can you please contact TWBTC if you want any of it removed or airbrushed? Thanks. twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

  21. Velour

    Thanks, Barbara. I appreciate the blog’s care and thoughtfulness. Just to confirm my situation: I am NOT a domestic violence victim and I don’t have an abuser. I am safe.

    Having suffered through the horrors, however, of Nouthetic Counseling at my ex-church on other issues, I would feel for any domestic violence victim subjected to such heartless incompetency.

  22. Oh my word…….I could have written this post! I was also a certified nouthetic counselor – trained directly under Jay Adams himself. I agree with what Jeff said. What the author here describes about addressing her ‘sinful response’ to her husband’s abuse is EXACTLY what my church tried to pull on me!! My conviction now is that the only ‘sinful’ response to abuse is NO response.

    • You were trained under Jay Adams himself… and now you’ve renounced all the foolishness that Nouthetic Counseling teaches.

      That’s quite something!

      • Marie Notcheva

        I’ll never forget his lecture, the one and only in which he touched on marital abuse (in 185 lecture hours), and he said “There’s no such thing as ’emotional abuse’, because emotions cannot be abused.” I should have dropped out then and there.

        In the book mss I am working on, I address why ‘nouthetic counseling’ makes the problem of churches (such as mine) re-victimizing us even worse. This blogger hit it right on the head. Jeff S has written a lot of helpful stuff on the whole mindset of “you don’t matter” that pervades it, as well.

  23. DTH

    Nouthetic nonsense is responsible for more grief on already greivious situations.
    It needs to be reviewed with a great deal wisdom.
    I have experienced many of the negative elements as described above.
    There is a great deal of truth here.

    • DTH,

      Welcome to the blog and thank you for commenting! We like to encourage new commenters to read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      Again, Welcome!

  24. Misti

    Sadly, some circles nouthetic counseling is defined as the only legitimate form of counseling, with all other forms of counseling being called “worldly” or “secular”. 😦

    All part of the game to hide abuse in plain sight.

  25. Anonymous

    Wow!
    i am a man who was being verbally / emotionally abused by my wife when newly married
    I fell into the same NANC pit.
    You can imagine the field day they had with me.
    NANC is steeped in legalism due to the theology of Jay Adams.
    This is the root of the Nouthetic Counseling movement.
    I ran from them after two weeks.
    Sorry it took you much longer.

    NANC counselors have no clue that they are rooted in a shame based, guilt tripping legalist theology
    I pray for them and those they counsel that they hear and understand God’s free grace extended to all through the life death and resurrection of God’s son Jesus.
    I forgive them….they do not know what they are doing nor the lives they are destroying.

  26. Dan

    Nouthetic Counseling – Sad thing for the abused
    Satan has a handy Army in NANC
    The really sad thing is NANC Counselors are deceived by Satan into thinking that they are doing good.
    In reality he is using them as a tool to aid the abusers and keep the abused “suffering”.
    The real madness comes when NANC says that Christ suffered, so we must suffer too.
    They neglect to see that Christ suffered for a very worthy purpose and cause-
    OUR SALVATION!
    The abused suffering is needless, purposeless, harmful suffering- the only “cause” is for the abuser to feel better.
    We are truly fighting principalities of darkness here.

  27. Karen judd

    Excellent article!!! Unfortunately I have relatives that adhere to the crap of nouthetic counseling or as I call it pathetic counseling. It is definitely a message of bondage in the name of Jesus. Definitely not what He taught. Thank you for your courage.

    • Haha! I love this:

      …nouthetic counseling or as I call it pathetic counseling

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