A Widely Used and Respected Curriculum
Accompanying the recent growth in the biblical counseling movement has been an increased need for training and skill development in this paradigm. To that end, I am excited to offer this review of Equipped to Counsel: A Training Program in Biblical Counseling, developed by John Henderson, PhD. Dr. Henderson is an experienced biblical counselor in private practice, a counseling pastor at Denton (Texas) Bible Church, and a highly respected supervisor and trainer of biblical counselors.
Many churches, including Mars Hill Church in Seattle and The Village Church in Texas, utilize Dr. Henderson's curriculum to equip pastors and elders, group leaders and coaches, and lay counselors for the work of the ministry. Equipped to Counsel is also used by the Association of Biblical Counselors to train biblical counselors nationally through their certificate program. Equipped to Counsel is such a widely used and respected curriculum because it is extensive in its scope and rich in the power of the gospel and the sufficiency of the Scriptures for the care of the complex human psyche.
A Complete Curriculum
Equipped to Counsel is not a book, but rather a comprehensive curriculum, consisting of a Leader Notebook, a Leader Resource Book, and a Student Notebook. The Leader Notebook contains all of the course content organized in three parts:
- Foundations of Biblical Counseling
- Biblical Counseling & Specific Troubles
- Biblical Counseling and the Family
The Leader Notebook is supplemented by a Leader Resource Book packed with case studies, discussion questions, role plays, hand-outs, quizzes, various counseling tools and assessments, and a counseling journal for use with the counseling mini-practicum suggested for the final 12 weeks of the training. In addition to the Student Notebook, all students are also asked to acquire a bundle of 46 journal articles from the Journal of Pastoral Practice and the Journal of Biblical Counseling that further develop and apply the material presented in each chapter.
The course content is also available in 28 DVDs, which provide 72 hours of Dr. Henderson’s teaching of the material. Equipped to Counsel is a thorough biblical counseling curriculum, suitable for training in the church, as in-service training for practicing biblical counselors, or in the college or seminary classroom.
Extolling the Gospel
Dr. Henderson reminds those who seek to counsel biblically that the heart of biblical counsel is “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). He writes:
“In a way, good biblical counseling is a journey through all the beauties of the gospel message, a never-ending feast along the beaches of a never-ending paradise, for the gospel is the sum of everything that can be truthfully said about Jesus Christ.”
Equipped to Counsel is gospel-rich and Christ-centered, extolling the beauty and efficacy of the good news for all of life, heralding the themes of the futility of man and the power of God, and emphasizing the gospel. In Henderson’s words, as: “the solution for unbelievers and the solution for believers.” Dr. Henderson lays a solid foundation of gospel centrality in the early chapters of Equipped to Counsel, and then applies it throughout the rest of the curriculum to specific troubles and marriage and family life.
Grounded in Scriptural Sufficiency
Equipped to Counsel properly sees biblical counseling as “a process of focused discipleship” that “gets its motivations, objectives, verbal content, methods, and power from God and according to His Word.” Dr. Henderson, therefore, is rightly committed to the absolute authority of Scripture. The God who has “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) has called biblical counselors to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Biblical counselors must be irrevocably committed to both speaking the truth and speaking it in love, remembering that Jesus was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). Equipped to Counsel is a compendium of solid biblical counseling approaches for specific issues such as addictions, anxiety, anger, depression, homosexuality, marital conflict, family violence, sexual, financial and other typical sources of conflict in marriage, family conflicts, blended families, parenting, and work with children and adolescents. For all of these issues, Henderson demonstrates clearly how the Scriptures are sufficient to counsel individuals, couples, families, children and teenagers through the common difficulties of life.
Caring for the Complex Human Soul
With its over 750 pages of printed material (combining the three volume set), multitudes of journal articles, and 72 hours of teaching, it would seem that Equipped to Counsel is exhaustive on the subject of biblical counseling. But, of course, that would be impossible in any one resource, other than the living and active Word of God.
This curriculum has stirred my affections for the Lord as it demonstrates the desperation of the human condition and points to the All-Sufficient One who is able to bring hope and healing. Had Dr. Henderson written ten times as much, he would only have scratched the surface of all that God has given to us through His incomparable Word to address the intricacies of the human soul. While secular models for healing the psyche are all reductionistic and limited in scope, Equipped to Counsel cracks open a door to the all-encompassing heart-focused approach that can truly change lives.