Larry Crabb’s goal of counseling revolves around one word; maturity. Crabb (2013) states that the goal of counseling is “to free people to better worship and serve God by helping them become more like the Lord” (p. 24). According to Crabb (2013), maturity consists of both spiritual and psychological maturity that results in obedience and character growth (p. 25).
Development of Problems and Personal Need
Crabb (2013) suggests that the overarching need of humanity is a sense of value or worth (pp. 62-63). A sense of worth is determined by two inputs, which consist of significance and security (Crabb, 2013, p. 63). Significance is defined as a sense of purpose or adequacy, while security is defined as a sense of unflappable acceptance (Crabb, 2013, p. 63). Crabb’s identification of personal need provides the foundation for the author’s view of problem development. Crabb (2013) asserts that problems develop when significance and security are threatened, and the individual attempts to overcome a sense of worthlessness by believing the lie that worth can be obtained outside of Christ (pp. 70-71).
Crabb (2013) uses the phrase, “spoiling the Egyptians,” to explain his view of the relationship between psychology and Scripture (p. 49). Just as the Israelites used the spoils from the Egyptians when led by Moses to the Promised Land, Crabb (2013) supports the potential utilization of relevant secular psychological constructs (pp. 49-50). However, several caveats exist. According to Crabb (2013), Scripture trumps psychological principles even if empirically supported, Scripture is God’s inerrant Word, Scripture supersedes psychological opinions, and counselors must commit to a deep understanding the Scripture (pp. 50-51). In sum, the Bible forms the basis for counseling without excluding the possibility of psychological integration.
Formula for Change
Crabb provides a seven-step formula for change. First, Crabb (2013) suggests the client needs to identify the problem feeling and then the goal-oriented problem behavior (Crabb, 2013, pp. 146-150). Third, the counselee must identify the underlying false belief causing the unhealthy feelings and behaviors (Crabb, 2013, pp. 150-152). The fourth step is for the client to recognize that his or her belief is false, and then replace the false belief with a new belief that aligns with Scripture (Crabb, 2013, pp. 152-153) Fifth, the client commits to behave in accordance with the new belief and follows a plan to actualize the commitment (Crabb, 2013, pp. 154-156) Finally, the counselee looks for evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (Crabb, 2013, p. 157).
Balance of Theology and Spirituality
For Crabb, theology is a precursor of spirituality. Thus, without a correct understanding of theology, spirituality is rendered impotent. Justification is the core theological principle that forms the impetus for spiritual and psychological maturity (Crabb, 2013, p.25). Justification, according to Crabb (2013), is the declared righteousness given by God as a gift through faith in Christ (p. 25). The gift of righteousness provides the necessary means for significance and security, which undermines the necessity for problem behaviors that attempt to meet these needs (Crabb, 2013, pp. 25-27). In sum, justification empowers spiritual and psychological maturity.
Crabb (2013) views humanity through a dichotomist lens, the physical and non-physical, while maintaining an integrative holistic perspective (p. 90). The functioning parts include the conscious and unconscious mind, the heart, the will, and emotions (Crabb, 2013, pp. 90-105). Eschewing behavioral determinism, Crabb (2013) asserts that the mental evaluation of stimulus, not the stimulus itself, controls emotions (p. 91). The unconscious mind carries the basic underlying beliefs, but the will provides the capacity for individuals to choose correctly, and the heart represents the individual’s intentions to serve God or self (Crabb, 2013, pp. 92-102).
Counselor’s Function and Role
Crabb (2013) suggests that the primary function of a counselor is to assist the client in growing closer to God (p. 136). Depending on the level of sophistication and training, the role of the counselor may be simple encouragement, thoughtful exhortation, or more advanced enlightenment initiatives (Crabb, 2013, p. 163). Encouragement focuses on compassion, caring, and listening, while exhortation centers around guiding, advising, and thinking biblically (Crabb, 2013, pp. 163-178). Enlightenment addresses underlying issues of false beliefs by applying the Gospel to the personal needs of significance and security (Crabb, 2013, pp.179-187).
Major Contribution to Counseling
Crabb was one of the important early contributors to Christian counseling. Recognizing the risks associated with nouthetic counseling’s external behavioral focus, Crabb (2013) provided an innovative approach that applied the Gospel to the internal needs of the individual (p.148). Furthermore, Crabb (2013) provided a unique model for counseling within a local church accomplished by church members at various levels of aptitude (pp. 161-162).
Limitations of This Counseling Theory
Crabb’s counseling theory has certain limitations. First, Crabb’s spoiling the Egyptians concept, by definition, risks syncretism, since judgement is necessary to determine which psychological constructs are appropriate for integration. Second, Crabb’s solution to humanity’s basic problem is the Gospel. However, a cognitive and applied understanding of the Gospel is necessary to adequately assist counselees through the maze of false beliefs. Sadly, an integrated understanding of the Gospel is lacking in many Christian counselors. Third, Crabb’s approach to caregiving requires organizational adoption from the local church and the individual church members, which, from a practical perspective, may be quite difficult.
Crabb (2013) is classified as an integrationist. Crabb is not opposed to integrating psychological theory into his counseling methodology to the extent it does not undermine the inerrant Word of God (pp. 50-51). For example, glimpses of Freudian thought can be found in Crabb’s (2013) basic drives of human personality (p. 73). Furthermore, overtones of cognitive psychology can be found in Crabb’s (2013) formula for change, especially with regards to thought replacement and addressing false beliefs (pp. 152-153). However, regardless of Crabb’s integrationist perspective, he consistently maintains that Scripture governs psychology.
Counseling Utility and Specific Potential Influence
Crabb’s work provides a missing link to the overall discipline of counseling. Secular psychologists and secular trained Christian counselors often acknowledge that a healthy sense of self-worth contributes to the health of the individual. However, psychology has no credible answer to the source of value and worth, and often resorts to encouraging the client to find value in external circumstances such as a new wife, job, or car. However, finding worth in circumstances only exacerbates the problem as they are certain to disappoint. Alternatively, Crabb’s approach, where the client is encouraged to acknowledge the gift of righteousness as the basis for value and worth not only solves the inherent issue of self-worth, but it also provides a foundation for spiritual and psychological maturity.
Crabb’s understanding of justification and God’s gift of righteousness has already had significant influence upon my life and ministry. Twenty years ago, I had a nervous breakdown attempting to find my worth in business success. During this time, I came to recognize that my worth and value comes from God’s gift of righteousness, not my business. As a result, I began coaching individuals which led to starting a non-profit organization, Lives Transforming. Lives Transforming now has five licensed counselors on staff who share the Gospel of justification by faith through Jesus Christ with hundreds of hurting individuals every year.
Counseling Moment Example
Although hundreds of examples come to mind, I will never forget a counseling moment with my son, Connor, when he was fifteen years old. I caught Connor in a bold-faced lie about whether he had practiced his piano. I asked Connor why he lied. Connor explained that he lied because he did not want to disappoint me. In other words, Connor had based his worth on whether his biological father accepted him or not. Although Connor had been baptized a few years earlier, he had not yet appropriated an understanding of the Gospel. I took a few minutes and explained to Connor that his worth comes from God’s gift of righteousness, not from his dad. If Christ in him made him valuable, not my opinion, would he need to lie to me? Connor answered that he would be able to tell the truth. Connor would not have to be afraid of my rejection because he was already completely accepted by God. As Connor and I finished the conversation, I remember praying that Connor would not only remember the lesson regarding not needing to lie to me, but also remember that his worth comes from no other human being. If adolescents understood the basic Gospel message, peer pressure would become a thing of the past, and my son could live for Christ and not the approval of other people.
Crabb, L. (2013). Effective biblical counseling: A model for helping caring Christians become capable counselors. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.