Jay E. Adams Critique Essay

Dr. Adams (1986) falls into the anti-psychology camp, and he stands firm on his convictions that the Word of God is sufficient for counseling. His whole bases for the counseling process is from 2 Timothy 3:16 which states that all scripture is God’s revealed truth and is perfect for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness. Jay Adams (1986) book How to Help People Change, can be considered a controversial book depending how one perceives it. Throughout the book, it appears as if Adams is writing in a condescending style.

At times he appears angry calling people names such as peons (p. 76) to refer to people who think differently than he does. Dr. Adams premise was for the sufficiency of scripture. Christianity never needed counseling before the life of Freud, Jung, Rogers, and other notable psychologists. The world’s perfect counselor is Jesus Christ, and believes in teaching his clients to be more like Christ. Dr. Adams explains that the fundamental problem of “all counseling systems” is that counselors seek to change people but “they can’t agree on what the end product should be like,” (1986, p. 9). The therapeutic process outlined by Adams includes four main aspects are: teaching, conviction, correction, and disciplined training in righteousness. The Word also has a tremendous role in this process. Scriptures are the vehicle that the Holy Spirit employs to transform (sanctification) the counselee’s existence. According to Adams, the Holy Spirit plays a strong role in Biblical change of a counselee. The Holy Spirit will convict and change the counselee as he studies God’s Word.

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The Holy Spirit brings the understanding, and enables the counselee to obey. The Holy Spirit, through His word, and working through the counselor, both changes and empowers the counselee to change. Change attempted apart from God is change in the power of the flesh. If the heart has not been changed, only the surface has been scratched. Adams advises us that for transformation to work, we must turn our attention to God. This is also supported by Backus and Chapian (2000) throughout their book telling you the Truth.

The transformation has to be consistent with biblical principles. If it is not, it is dangerous. Adams (1986) notes, “The direction of all change is toward God or away from Him, and therefore not all change is moral” (p. 17). Scriptures include everything that is required for living a sanctified life. They are capable of “equip him fully for every good task. ” Dr. Adams premise for his model of counseling is based off of 2 Timothy 3:16 that is offered definitively as the sole method of acceptable counseling from a Christian and biblical context.

However, one major flaw in his work is the underlying theological presupposition that only Christian people can utilize the framework he outlines can offer a process for counseling that results in what he terms acceptable change. What about those those don’t claim to be Christian, but are open-minded enough to want to look to other disciplines such as theology? Another premise held by Dr. Adams is the idea that change is only acceptable if it is “toward God” (p. 6). McMinn (1996) calls this a healthy sense of self; one where the client realizes that they are created in the image of God.

While this is certainly true in regards to salvation and the biblical directive to is a “living sacrifice” before God, even Jesus acknowledged that both the righteous and the unrighteous live under some measure of God’s grace and benefit. Believers or unbelievers, we are all God’s children created in his image. It is the job of a Christian counselor to help all clients realize this to help them develop a better relationship with the Lord so that they can develop a better relationship with themselves and others. Nouthetic Counseling and the Process of Change A key aspect of nouthetic counseling is the conviction that Scripture is sufficient to address any and every problem of life. Adams argues that there is an intimate connection between nouthetic counseling and teaching. Sufficiency of scriptures is for teaching everyone with all the wisdom to become more like Christ in every way. Nouthetic counseling recognizes the important role that the Holy Spirit plays in the counselee; even more important than the counselor himself.

The counselor is more of a conduit allowing for the Holy Spirit to make his way in. Change and the heart are central issues and the Holy Spirit is key in changing the heart. Substantial change in a person is tied to the Holy Spirit working from within. No man, no matter how godly or educated, is capable of giving God-glorifying counsel without the work of the Holy Spirit. The scriptures are used as final authority (not the counselor’s opinions, experience, or education).

The Holy Spirit then opens the heart of the counselee so that he or she will be able to comprehend the Scriptures and apply it to their lives. The process of change that Adams describes is a four-step biblical process based on the fact that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV). It has three distinctions to it. First, it involves, the Ministry of the Word, which includes teaching, exhortation, rebuke, encouragement, etc.

Secondly, the Spirit of God blesses and brings it about, and brings the counselee closer to the likeness of Christ (Adams, 1986, p. xiv). It is substantial change that requires the Holy Spirit’s alteration of the heart (ones inner life known only to God and oneself) (p. xiii). The Holy Bible, which is God’s truth, has the highest authority and the entire process that Dr. Adams proposes is built upon this foundation of Truth. This kind of change is significant because it gives the honor and glory to God for changing the person from the inside out (Rom. :28-29). ?Misbelief Therapy: The Way We Think Determines the Way We Feel The premise for Backus and Chapian (2000) is that most of what happens in life happens because of the way we think. Wrong thinking produces wrong emotions, wrong reactions, wrong behavior, which leads to anxiety, depression, and unhappiness! Crabb (1977) mention that the way we think about our life experiences determines our mental health. Backus and Chapian (2000) argue that learning to deal with our thoughts is the first step to being psychologically healthy.

Jay Adams (1986) gives a variety of examples that we must be placing God first in our thoughts. Backus and Chapian (2000) explain this life-changing method which they call Misbelief Therapy can be done without the help of a therapist to solve one’s problems. Adams is an outspoken opponent of such self-help therapy as he calls it unbiblical. Backus and Chapian offer a very simplistic understanding regarding triggers of our misbeliefs (p. 79). It is doubtful that a traditional counselor who works with a counselee would agree with their views of self-control (p. 94).

The questionable aspect of their model of their view is that “misbeliefs are the direct cause of emotional turmoil and maladaptive behavior” (p. 17). They would be better off to replace the word direct with contribute, as misbeliefs will contribute to emotional turmoil and maladaptive behavior. The more that we tell ourselves certain misbeliefs, the more we will tend to believe them as truths. There are other aspects of the developmental process that need to be considered, such as the impact of childhood experiences even recent experiences in one’s life. Personality can change over time.

One may be considered an easy going person and all of sudden turn into somebody that distrusts everybody. Something in the environment caused this person to change their belief system. Even with such flaws, it is agreed that the Backus and Chapian model is useful in developing a cognitive-behavioral therapy in a Christian counseling session for many counselee problems. Consistent with Dr. Adams, Backus and Chapian both ascribe to the theological position that “Jesus taught that the truth has freeing power” (p. 181). However, Jesus actually said, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free” (ESV, John 8:32).


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