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The Holy Spirit as Counselor

There are many counseling models. They can be classified as directive, nondirective, or facilitative. In the directive model the counselor passes on his or her perspective to the counselee. This is especially popular in “Biblically-based” counseling models where the answers are already defined and lack of knowledge or disobedience are perceived as the main issues. The nondirective model assumes that the answers lie in the counselee. The counselor specializes in asking good questions that enable the counselee to find his own answers. The facilitative model is a middle ground, in which the counselor provides some direction, while encouraging the counselee to work through the specifics.

We can also classify counseling models according to their emphasis on different aspects of the human being. We can think of humans as having three dimensions, body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Th 5.23), even though some would rather refer to just two: the material and the immaterial. Classically, the soul is understood as having three parts: the mind, the emotions, and the will. The diverse counseling schools emphasize these parts like this:
  1. The compartmental school emphasizes the body: they care about our actions.
  2. The cognitive school emphasizes the mind: they care what we think, especially what we understand to be true
  3. The nouthetic school, like that of Jay Adams, emphasize the will: they care about obedience to that which we understand to be God’s will. The classic discipleship model also emphasizes the will.
  4. The affective school emphasizes relationships and emotions, including the healing of memories.
The diverse approaches to what is called Christian or Biblical counseling can base themselves on any of these schools or a mixture of them, creating perspectives that sometimes seem to conflict. Below, we provide a Bible study that will help you form a Biblical perspective on counseling that unites elements from all of the schools.

As you read the texts below, jot down concepts or guidelines that have to do with the counseling process.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:16-18, 26).


7 But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regards to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:7-14).


20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth . . . 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all thing and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 John 2:20-21, 26-27).


Write down some notes about how the Holy Spirit counsels. If you have the opportunity, exchange thoughts with a friend.

“May God himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Th. 5:23, 24).

Within the context of these verses, we offer the following definition of Christian counseling: A relationship between three people where the counselor helps someone with problems (the counselee) to get nearer to the person of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) or to his eternal purposes through receiving his wisdom, grace, presence, or power. This definition can be illustrated in the shape of a triangle, with God at the top, and the counselor and counselee below. If one were to draw a diagram, there would be a two-way path between each of the three characters, showing that counseling is a joint endeavor of all three participants.

The idea of counseling as a triangle, a three-way conversation, goes beyond any of the models listed earlier. Thinking further about this definition, we can say that Christian counseling has the following characteristics:

  1. The relationship with God – counselor, hearing God. The counselor has an intimate relationship with God, seeking to discern what God is saying or doing and his eternal purposes (Jn 5:19, 20a). This discernment is the heart of Christian counseling.
  2. The counseling relationship – counselee, loving. The counselor has a relationship with the person they are counseling, not maintaining “professional” distance. He/she opens her heart empathetically, crying with those who cry. The counselee needs to know that their heart was heard and needs to hear the heart of God and of the counselor.

  3. The relationship with God – counselee, divine encounters. We want the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to enter the scene (1 Jn 2:20-21, 26-27). This may express itself through a divine encounter: a personal encounter where the person’s life is changed by receiving wisdom, direction, or power from God, which is made easier by the intercession of the counselor. Enter various spiritual dynamics such as those indicated in David Kornfield’s book, Introduction to the Restoration of Souls (unfortunately only exists in Portuguese): ministering through listening prayer; laying on of hands; spiritual gifts; spiritual warfare and finding freedom from the oppression of evil spirits; experience with the real presence of Jesus; hearing from God, especially through the Word; a support group; spiritual authority; repentance; asking forgiveness; forgiving; and the power of the cross of Christ.

The counselor does everything he/she can to help the counselee get closer to God, affirming their identity in Christ and the love and acceptance God has for them. It makes a lot of sense to begin and end with prayers that reflect this reality. If we understand prayer to be a dialogue with God with an emphasis on the part of hearing from him, prayer leads to a divine encounter.

  1. The counselee’s relationships – Body of Christ, connection through a small group (1 Co 12:12-27). We want to help the counselee feel well-connected through relationships. After all, the counseling time needs to help the person relate better to other people, focusing on follow-up through others’ friendship (Family Groups, support groups, special friends, spouse, pastoral leader, etc.).

  2. Integration of the whole self that requires discernment: real solutions will take into consideration the person’s body (physical aspects of the problems, the person’s behavior), soul (will, emotions, mind) and spirit (1 Th. 5:23, 24). Among other things, the counselor needs to notice if the counselee needs a method that will focus on problem-solving, like GROW, an experience with God in a divine encounter that reaches the spirit and the whole soul, or something more extensive like a brief amount of therapy or support groups.

  3. Truth sets us free, expressing ourselves at the level of the mind (cognitive knowledge), of the emotions (intuitive feelings or knowledge, of the heart) and of the will (action, realizing the practical difference this truth brings about).

With this background, we go on to talk about the context in which to raise up ministry teams in the local church. You can also go back to read about the GROW mentoring model or to the initial page about TEMA ministry.


MAPI - Mentoring and Accountability for Pastoral Integrity

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