Biblical Principles Taught in Christian Counselling Programs

We reviewed 112 Christian institutions of higher learning that have a counseling program included on their website: 85 (76%) were undergraduate program; 11 (10%) were graduate only; and 16 (14%) were seminary-based. These institutions included 174 programs: 107 (61%) BA or BS; 57 (33%) were MA or MS; and 10 (6%) were PhD programs.

The 174 programs identified comprised of 3794 courses of which we assessed 137 (4%, range 0-16 per program) included biblical counselling principles, 1930 (51%, range 0-34 per program) included secular counseling techniques and 1727 (46%, 0-36 per program) courses did not clearly fall under secular or biblically based courses.

We randomly compared 10% of the course descriptions to their titles. We found after reading the course description in depth, seemingly secular titles revealed very few (n=6) biblical based courses were taught. In contrast, if a title indicated biblical principles were taught then the course description also included scriptural principles in each case (n=4).

Schools most likely to include biblical principles in their counseling courses were: smaller (2,224 vs. 4,343 undergraduate students; P=0.013); less expensive ($18,000 vs. $33,108 per year; P=0.0008); in republican states (11 vs. 8; P=0.342); and were founded later (75 vs. 121 years old; P=0.009).

This study suggests that Christian university or colleges offering Christian counseling programs, the number of courses offered including biblical principles are limited. Most courses appear to teach secular counseling techniques. Further, for students seeking schools for Christian Counseling the course titles appear to be generally accurate. However, differences do exist between schools in the number of biblical based Christian counseling courses.

This study cannot speak to the quality of the counseling programs in terms of clinical effect and utility. Also, this study did not evaluate exactly what was taught in each course.

This research only raises a question to the extent of the differences that exist between biblical and secular counseling methods at the teaching level.

More research may be useful in evaluating Christian counseling programs to determine the best mix of secular versus biblically based counselling methods and the associated clinical outcomes.