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Ep. 317 The False Assurance of Knowing Something

Ep. 317 The False Assurance of Knowing Something

Shows Main Idea – It’s time for the biblical counseling movement to rethink our assurances about how we train and continue to educate biblical counselors. The old, standard strategy is to provide training, have the student complete fifty hours of counseling, reviewed remotely—typically—by a busy Fellow, and then grant the finisher of the training certification. This process is inadequate. Will we talk about our problem?

Show Notes

You may want to read:

The False Assumptions

There is no worthy discipline that anyone can enter into and acquire credentialing easily and have the skills to function at a competent level,  e.g., certificate for completing a gun class, swim class, driver’s education, or summer cooking class does not make you competent. When Jenn Chen received her doctorate in clinical psychology, she gave me a list of the things she had to do to become a psychologist. I won’t list all of them here because it is so much, but here are a few bullet points.

  • You must get accepted into grad school, i.e., GRE scores, past grades, shown interest in psychology, and recommendations.
  • 1st year: intensive supervision
  • 2nd-5th years: 16-20 hours a week practicum, with one-hour supervision and two hours of group supervision
  • 6th year: 40-hour week internship
  • If you pursue licensure, you add 2,000 hours under a licensed psychologist.
  • Every two years, you complete 36 hours of continuing education.

Some would argue that it’s comparing apples to oranges, and I would agree. They are peddling false integrated teaching, and we are ministering God’s Word to broken souls. Who should be more zealous and thorough in their equipping?

Equity Is Not Possible

Every certified counselor receives the same certificate. There is no way to distinguish good ones from bad ones. Thus, we send Christians out certified, but there are virtually no checks and balances that assess or calibrate how they are doing. There is no mandatory process for continuing education or a feedback loop for assessment and further recommendations.

The primary means of knowing how competent the counselor is at their trade is from the feedback of the people they counsel. In many of these instances, it’s after something tragic happens. It’s similar to lowering the standards to enter a university for equity reasons but not admitting or planning for a graduate’s subpar, long-term consequences in the workplace. There are several false assumptions made because of this inferior process that we have created in the biblical counseling movement.

  • The certified counselor may assume they are ready to counsel formally.
  • The certifying organization may assume this person is ready to counsel others.
  • The certifying organization provides a growing and glowing list of certified counselors—an assumption of quality counselors.
  • The counselee assumes the certified counselor is competent at counseling.
  • The counselor’s local church may similarly assume about their newly-minted, certified biblical counselor.

Direct Message with Rick Thomas

We Seized and Ceased

The biblical counseling community “took back” the counseling burden from the world by saying God’s Word is sufficient and anybody can do this. We universally misapplied Romans 15:14 by implying that every Christian is filled with goodness and knowledge and can counsel. This poor rendering of God’s Word is confirmation bias: I have a bias and read into the Bible to confirm it. It’s also eisegesis.

Though we were correct to retrieve counseling from the culture, we had no plan to move beyond creating a movement that says, in essence, all counselors are equal. With no strategy to distinguish the good from the bad or develop the good to realize their potential, we have a fifty-year-old movement stuck in cognitive inflexibility.

There is an element of mental miser-ness happening here. We don’t want to exert more mental energy on this problem because we’re too busy to create space to think through what we’re doing. It’s similar to the busy Fellow certifying someone with a limited process for doing so. He does not have the time to vet a counseling candidate thoroughly.

A Counselee’s Burden

We placed the burden on the counselee to find the needle in a haystack so that they can experience adequate help. Because every stalk in the field is the same height, though each stalk’s quality is wildly different, we’ve done a disservice to the Christian community by placing the burden on hurting souls to find and vet the proper stalk for them. Frequently, they are more disappointed than helped.

Because our process is inadequate, we are barely equipping while pushing the result and potential accompanying calamity down the road for someone else to fix. Sometimes the counselee will look outside a sufficiency of Scripture camp because pragmatism is more vital to them than standing on God’s Word. I’m not faulting a counselee for lowering the bar. I would do the same. There are times when the pain level is so intense that you’ll settle for any cure, whether it’s pseudo, quasi, or true. These inferior organizations and counselors gain a foothold, which sets us back to pre-Adams‘ days. Ironically, the biblical counseling movement creates growth for the integrationist and secularist.

  1. The first step is for biblical counseling organizations to clearly state the problem with our training methods that deploy too many inferior counselors.
  2. We must recognize and communicate that becoming a competent biblical counselor is not what you may think. We did take counseling “from the world,” but we’ve had no good plan to separate the good from the bad and develop and deploy the competent ones to plant and water more effectively.
  3. We must do more than certify and create training centers.
  4. There must be a vetting system that creates a stratification (levels) of counselors, i.e., Certification I, II, III, IV, etc.
  5. There must be a feedback loop, plus mandatory ongoing training for Level One Counselors (formal counselors).

Call to Action

The title of this episode is “the false assurance of knowing something.” I’m applying it to the biblical counseling movement. We are assured that we’re right in that God’s Word is sufficient. Still, we have not developed that knowledge adequately, and we’re hurting souls while giving credence to inferior counselors and organizations. As you think through this dilemma, what will you do to bring change to the biblical counseling movement?

Perhaps this problem is not your interest. Okay. What passion do you have? Have you settled for half-baked outcomes because you’ve not done the hard work of evolving the practical methods that could have a better impact on your sphere of influence? How would you apply these six things below to your life, marriage, family, church, work, or passion?

Illustration: The apostles saw 5,000 people, five loaves, and two fish. They had the false assurance of knowing something that was not true. Jesus thought differently. He did not succumb to their myopia, which permitted Him to minister in other-worldly ways.

  1. Mental Miser: Are you a lazy thinker? It works well enough, and you don’t want to spend more mental energy thinking about improving.
  2. Seize and Cease: Have you captured a good idea but stop changing, evolving, and reinventing?
  3. Cognitive Flexibility: Is it hard for you to flex because you think in a linear or black and white way?
  4. Mental Agility: Do you get stuck in the “this is how we’ve always done it” mode?
  5. Intellectual Curiosity: Do you lack imagination, settling for the status quo, hindering sanctification, church maturity, and gospel advancement?
  6. Intellectual Humility: Are you open to change in areas that need your consideration?

(I heard these six descriptors from Adam Grant’s book, Think Again. This book has some troubling points while being helpfully provocative in other ways.)

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