A Review of “Counseling the Hard Cases” eds. by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert

Counseling-the-Hard-CasesTo say that the Scriptures are sufficient for “all life and faith” is to say quite a lot. Particularly, it is to say that the Bible can offer hope and help to even the most dramatic, traumatic, and difficult of life situations. It can address everything from surviving sexual abuse, dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder, even to the challenges of Dissociative Identity Disorder. The Bible is competent to help us work through each of these various issues and all their complexity. In Counseling the Hard Cases editors Lambert and Scott demonstrate this over and over again with eleven selective case studies. If you are on the fence about the value of Biblical counseling this is the book you need to read.

It is certainly true that many books from within the Biblical counseling movement have argued for the sufficiency of Scripture. Counseling the Hard Cases, however, does something different, it demonstrates the sufficiency of Scripture. It does so in very compelling, gritty, and moving cases studies from a wide range of counselors. Scott and Lambert have pulled together a great team of counselors to co-author this book and describe the process of applying the Scriptures to a wide range of mental, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues.From the very first chapter we get a sense that these case studies are going to be intense. Mariana is a survivor of sexual abuse, but she also struggles with cutting, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and has serious marital problems. Author Laura Hendrickson, however, walks us through how she uses the Scriptures to bring hope and help to Mariana. It’s a beautiful case study to start the book, and each one that follows is equally as compelling. Brian’s obsessive compulsive disorder is treated with Scripture, such that Dr. Steve Viars doesn’t even have to work on a plan to gradually expose Brian to his phobia of driving on odd-numbered streets. Mary’s paralyzing fear of blood is confronted, Jackie’s Dissociation is challenged, and Ashley is helped through her anorexia. No case is too complicated or too serious that God’s Word cannot be brought to bear on it. This book demonstrates the sufficiency of Scripture in compelling ways.

Such praise should not be taken to suggest, however, that the book and its authors do not also take science and medicine seriously. Throughout the book we find multiple medical professionals, trained psychologists, and family physicians. The authors interact with medicine, psychology, and contemporary medical research in a number of places, and not merely to criticize it. They recommend medicine, full-health examinations, and working in tandem with primary care physicians where appropriate. They are not quick to reduce every issue to a matter of personal sin, and I am thankful for their ability to see the Fall in comprehensive terms. They approach each case and each individual with compassion, sensitivity, and patience. None of the case studies are intended to suggest a script for counseling those who struggle in these ways. Garrett Higbee’s chapter on counseling Tony is not intended to tell us exactly what to do with those who are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. It does, however, give us a guide on how to think about the issue and, again, demonstrates how Scripture can be applied even to a serious mood disorder. The book definitely supports the claims of the sufficiency of Scripture, but it doesn’t support that claim in a simplistic manner.

The great strength of the book is the confidence it can give well-trained counselors in their use and application of the Scriptures to a wide array of people. I don’t know if I have ever read a counseling book quite like this. There are plenty of theory books available but the case studies in Counseling the Hard Cases makes it a rare find in the market today. Readers who take their time to work through this book will be repeatedly confronted with the reality that God’s Word can address anything with which we may struggle, and it can do so without falling into the simplistic, reductionist approaches for which the Biblical counseling movement is often criticized. The book builds confidence in these conclusions with every case study. I have found it of great value in thinking through these individual issues, and we have found it a great resource in training Biblical counselors in our church. We have used it in one of our advanced courses for training counselors and repeatedly those who have been on the fence about Biblical counseling have been reassured of the Bible’s competency in handling tough issues. Read Counseling the Hard Cases, not only will you not regret it, but you will be deeply encouraged in your own ministry.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This book makes such a convincing case for the usefulness of Scripture in counseling even those with the most serious mental, emotional, and psychological disorders. We used it as the textbook for our training program and I found it to be not only edifying but deeply encouraging. I highly recommend this book for counselors. Read my full review here. […]

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