I will be the first to admit it, marriage counseling is complicated. Counsel, in such situations, is compounded by the reality of addressing two sufferers and two sinners who cause problems for one another and who see the cause of those problems from totally different vantage points. There are loads of great volumes out there on marriage, on Biblical marriage principles, and on growing as a couple. There are very few Biblically faithful marriage counseling guides. That’s why Bob Kellemen has chosen to write Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling. This book is a robust “equipping guide,” that all Biblical marriage counselors are going to want to read.
Kellemen is a seasoned counselor, a professor of counseling, and the current academic at Faith Bible Seminary. He has an earned doctorate in Counselor Education from Kent State University, and is the author of numerous books on a wide array of topics, such as: counseling practice, grief, sexual abuse, anxiety, and church history. Now he adds marriage counseling education to his resume.
The book is broken down into two major parts. Part one focuses on what he calls “A Theological Primer for Biblical Marriage Counseling.” Here he provides readers with the theological foundation they need in order to think rightly about marriage, resolving marital conflict, and honoring the Lord in marital union. He walks through many of the common doctrinal convictions that the church has taught for centuries (i.e. that marriage is God’s idea, defined by God, and designed to display the gospel). Part 2 focuses on “Practical Training.” Here Bob seeks to help readers “develop 22 marriage counseling relational competencies.” His role as an educator shines through in these chapters as he uses every tool in his disposal to solidify the major points and make the principles and practices memorable to readers. Those who have read Bob’s work on Gospel Conversations (see Gospel Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations) will find that he takes the practices developed in that two-part series and applies them specifically to the realm of marriage counseling. It is not at all necessary to have read those books in order to benefit from this one, but I was glad to see some familiar concepts specifically applied.
Reading marriage books can often feel frustrating because they all say almost the exact same thing. There are certainly things in this volume that you can find elsewhere, that’s the nature of true wisdom. But Bob has designed this book to be truly an equipping guide, which means that there are a whole host of fresh insights on how to apply truth to the unique dynamics of marital conflict. Bob’s fourfold counseling approach of sustaining, healing, reconciling, guiding applied uniquely to sufferers and sinners in marriage gives readers a wealth of riches for their own counseling practice. The exercises woven throughout the chapter encourage reflection and practice in self-counseling, all of which will indeed equip readers to be better at helping other couples who are struggling.
I loved this book. It is not only the best resource of its kind that I have come across, but it is my favorite of Bob’s books. It should be on every counselor’s shelf and it should be reviewed and referenced often in the practice of counseling couples. Gospel-Centered Marriage Counseling gives more than just truths about marriage as a reflection of the gospel, it gives practical guidance on how to help couples work through their own hearts and move towards each other and towards God in the midst of marital discord. It is indeed a robust equipping guide.